As some of you may know, I am a huge jam fan. I don't eat it very often, but when I do I love thick, sticky, lumpy jams like my Grandma Betty used to make.
My Grandma used to make awesome jams. I have wonderful memories of staying with my grandparents for the weekend, and when I woke up in the morning my Grandad would make oatmeal, and Grandma would make me toast. There was a little jam caddy that would be brought to the table, usually with either plum or apricot jam, and we'd enjoy breakfast together listening to classical music on the radio and watching rainbows dance across the table. The rainbows were made by a little table lamp with a crystal base that my Grandma would bring to the table every morning just for that purpose.
Until last fall, it had been 20 years since I'd tasted jam like my Grandmother's. Sean & I stole away to Salt Spring Island for a long weekend to partake in their apple festival. The weather was not great, but we stayed at a very comfortable little bed & breakfast (really, you should go there) and drove around to the various apple farms to sample their crops and buy apples & preserves. At one of these little farms, I bought a jar of plum jam from someone's great-aunt and it took me back to my childhood. I even composed a song in honour of the jam, which I will sing for you one day if you get me very, very drunk.
I stumbled upon a blog last week (The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking) with a foolproof Plum Lemon Jam recipe. Later that week at the farmers' market I came across the first of the plums; some tiny red ones little bigger than cherries. I already had some unwaxed apples from the organic grocer (for natural pectin), as well as sugar and lemons. It was serendipity. I picked up a canning kit on the way home and got busy! The aforementioned blog recommended Tigress in Jam's blog for instructions on hot water bath processing which were extremely helpful.
Things I learned from my first foray into canning:
- Pick bigger plums. I had a bitch of a time pitting ten thousand little MFing plums to get enough by weight for the recipe. Bigger plums!
- If using apple peels for pectin, peel the whole apple in one long curl. Otherwise, when the jam is done you're stuck picking through the dark purple goo trying to tell the difference between apple skins (bad) and plum skins (good). The answer; there is no difference. Oh well, this batch might be a bit chewy.
- Steam is hot and steam burns are ouchy. Wear oven mitts even when you don't think you need them.
- Keep a full, boiled kettle on hand in case you need to top up the canner.
- It's very easy to make a horrific mess, so plan your space accordingly, and have everything you need on hand.
- It's not that hard to do. Sure, my jam will not be winning any awards, but it won't be giving anyone botulism either!
Here's the finished product! I'm happy to relate that all the jars sealed, so they should last a little while... so long as I can show some restraint.
By the way, the author of one of the blogs I referred to has their own book!