As our household creeps toward food self-sufficiency, you would think our decision to keep backyard chickens would incite more concern than canning fruits and vegetables. However, botulism is a big word and scenes from Louisa May Alcott books where women in full-length wool dresses sweat over a hot stove in the middle of August stirring the gelling fruit are writ large in my psyche.
Last fall we canned tomato sauce for the second year in a row, and we did applesauce as well. I learned to bear the stove heat. So this weekend, inspired by the gorgeous fruit at the farmers market, I made blackberry jam – and I used raspberry honey for the sweetener.
I learned several important lessons.
#1 – I need a bigger stovetop or I need to make smaller batches.
It was a precariously balanced stovetop with two water sterilizations going for the glass jars, the large black canning pot, and the pot for the cooking of the fruit.
#2 – When the recipe says “Measured Ingredients: 4 cups mashed fruit” – read it twice.
I had measured out fruit, mashed it, put in the lemon juice, and then read the four cups is measured as “mashed.”
#3 – Don’t wear a white shirt while making blackberry jam.
#4 – The whole house is infused with sweet warm berry goodness – absolutely divine.
I followed the recipe included in the Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which I purchased from Downtown Home and Garden. Based on my experience with applesauce last fall – I thought I did not need pectin. But I was kindly corrected by Mark Hodesh, owner of Downtown Home and Garden, who shared that apple and quince are the only two fruits that have high enough pectin to gel – otherwise one must augment. According to Wikipedia, guavas, plums, gooseberries, and oranges can be added to the high pectin list.
I am happy there are more weeks of berries because I would like to experiment further. I am curious to hear from those of you who have done this before – aside from not wearing a white shirt, are there more things I should watch for as I dabble?
This is the recipe I followed (well, except for the fact that I put in enough lemon for 12 cups and only ended up with 9 cups of mashed fruit). It did gel and it tastes like blackberries.
• Wash and rinse jars; let stand in hot water. Bring lids and rings to boil; turn down heat; let stand in hot water.
• Measure mashed berries into pan with lemon or lime juice (4 cups of mashed berries for every ¼ cup of lemon or lime juice).
• Add proper amount of calcium water (an addition that Pomona’s includes that helps to activate their pectin, 2 teaspoons).
• Measure 1/3 cup honey and mix in 2 teaspoons of pectin.
• Bring fruit to a boil. Add pectin-honey; stir vigorously 1-2 minutes while cooking to dissolve pectin. Return to boil and remove from heat.
• Fill jars to ¼ inch of top. Boil 10 minutes. Check seals – lids should be sucked down. Lasts about 3 weeks once opened.