Saturday, July 21, 2007

Midsummer Jams

No stories or pictures here right now. It is midsummer: slow, hot, and incredibly relaxing. The most exciting thing I’ve done since returning from my trip is chop off my hair. My bare neck feels so good in the heat.

But, slow hot days are great days for jam making. I stay in the safety of my air-conditioned house, listen to good music or old episodes of This American Life, and jam away. Apricots—my favorite jamming fruit—are close to finished for the year, but the rhubarb is here all summer, as well as peaches and berries. Here are three recipes that I’ve had great success with this year. I’ve made several batches of each and certain friends are clamoring for more. The first two jams are my own recipes, but the last comes almost directly from The New Preserves, by Anne V. Nelson.

Rhubarb Blackberry Jam
Makes three ½ pint jars

1 ½ pounds rhubarb
Juice of a small lime
2 ½ cups sugar
1 generous cup of blackberries, picked over for dirt and moldy fruit

Wash the rhubarb, quarter the stems lengthwise, then chop in a small dice. Don’t peel the rhubarb—the peel helps hold the rhubarb together to give the jam body. Mix the rhubarb, lime juice, and sugar together in a medium bowl, cover the bowl (with a lid or simply by placing a circle of parchment paper over the rhubarb mixture) and place overnight in the refrigerator to macerate.

When you’re ready to make jam the next day, place a sieve over the pan that you plan to make the jam in. Pour the rhubarb through the sieve so that the liquid collects in the jam pan. Set the fruit back in the original bowl while you reduce the syrup. Bring the syrup to a boil and cook until it reaches 221 degrees. Once it reaches that temperature, add the rhubarb and the blackberries. Stir to combine and cook for another 10 minutes or less, until it reaches 221 again.

Remove from heat and seal. I follow the USDA’s guidelines on hot water bath canning, which are available here.

Rhubarb Vanilla Jam
Makes three ½ pint jars

1 ¾ pounds rhubarb
3 cups sugar
Juice of one small lemon
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Wash the rhubarb, quarter the stems lengthwise, then chop in a small dice. Don’t peel the rhubarb—the peel helps hold the rhubarb together to give the jam body. Mix the rhubarb, lemon juice, and sugar together in a medium bowl. Stick the vanilla bean into the mixture. The seeds will fall off and into the mixture; they will provide visual interest and great flavor. Cover the bowl (with a lid or simply by placing a circle of parchment paper over the rhubarb mixture) and place overnight in the refrigerator to macerate.

When you’re ready to make jam the next day, place a sieve over the pan that you plan to make the jam in. Pour the rhubarb through the sieve so that the liquid collects in the jam pan. Stick the vanilla bean pieces into the jam pan, then set the rhubarb back in the original bowl while you reduce the vanilla syrup. Bring the syrup to a boil and cook until it reaches 221 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it reaches that temperature, add the rhubarb. Cook for five more minutes then jar and seal according to the USDA’s instructions.

Blueberry Peach Jam
Makes four ½ pint jars

1 ½ pounds peaches (I choose smaller, intensely flavored peaches instead of the really juicy ones for jam)
1 pint blueberries
2 ¾ cups sugar
Juice of ½ a lemon

Wash the peaches really well, scrubbing off their fuzz. Don’t worry about peeling the fruit for this recipe. I promise that the peel will not detract in any way from the quality of this jam. Cut fruits in half, remove pits, and small dice the peaches. Wash the blueberries, removing any stems or spoiled berries. Place the fruit in a bowl, stir in the sugar and lemon juice, cover the bowl, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When you’re ready to make the jam, pour the fruit mixture into the jam pan and bring it to a boil. Occasionally skim the foam off the top—that is where the leftover fuzz and impurities will collect. Stir once in a while to make sure that the jam doesn’t stick to the bottom and scorch, and bring the mixture to 221 degrees Fahrenheit. When it hits 221, it’s time to kill the heat and seal into jars, following the USDA’s guidelines.

8 comments:

knicksgrl0917 said...
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Shaun said...

Christina - The rhubarb and blackberry jam sounds especially delicious. Have you thought of adding a little ginger syrup to it? I really want to make jam but need to really devote some time to reading about the sterilization process first. This may be one of my first kitchen aims once my thesis is over and done with at the end of this year.

Lucy said...

Rhubarb and vanilla jam!

Just lovely. I can imagine the tiny black seeds against that crumpled red.

Christina said...

Shaun: It's funny you mention ginger syrup, because in a batch I did use a relative of ginger, cardamom. While I reduced the syrup, I added a few cardamom seeds in a tea bag (for easy removal), and they added a nice zing to the jam. Good luck finishing your thesis--I know you must be dying to get to your other pursuits!

Lucy: It IS lovely. It's a dark rose color with black specks, and it is beautiful on a plain scone. I think it would also make an elegant filling for a cake.

Julie said...

The blueberry jam is exactly what I was looking for. However ive never made jelly or jam without pectin. Does this recipe "gel" correctly without it?

Christina said...

Hi Julie, yes, it gels well. Blueberries are fairly high in pectin, especially if they're on the less ripe end. It won't be sticky-stiff like a store-bought jam, but instead have a hice, soft texture. I hope you enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

Anyone have trouble with the syrup burning? Just as it approached 221 it started to smell burnt. I immediately turned off the fire. It was ruined. I make jam every year and feel as though I'm a fairly experienced cook. Not sure what went wrong. Too high of heat I'm guessing.

Christina said...

Hi Anonymous. It makes me sad to hear that your jam burned. 221 is the standard temperature to ensure a jell, and one that I use in all my jam making. I think you will find that most people with similar recipes suggest the same temperature. I don't know why yours burned. I am so sorry that it happened though.