If I were one to make up hokey names for my posts, I’d have lots of fodder for this one: jam session, we be jammin’, jam-boree, the possibilities go on and on…For in fact, not only did I spend much of Saturday making jam, but with my two So Cal food blogging pals in tow, it was a veritable jam party. When not keeping the greater Los Angeles area apprised of the newest eateries and events from her kitchen, Erin must spend time dreaming up creative ways to merge food and socializing. After hosting an inspired soup-exchange-slash-tea-party several months ago, Erin asked if Jill and I might like to get together for a morning of making homemade jam before she moves for the east coast for grad school. Conveniently, Dylan and I had just pulled out the last of the remaining jars of jam we had made last summer as wedding favors and so naturally I was up for the event.
The first jam selection was clear: a plum jam made from the stash of tiny plums plucked off of the tree in our courtyard. For further inspiration, the ladies and I hit the Pasadena farmer’s market, where we picked up two varieties of strawberry (gaviota and seascape) as well as a pile of apricots. Armed with a loaf of Orangette’s delightful chocolate chip banana bread to fortify ourselves, we hunkered down in front of Jill’s stove with piles of canning jars, bags laden with fruit, and a 10 lb bag of sugar (hey, no one ever said jam was health food). The day was long, the Southern California summer was hot, but with good friends and a break for pumpkin ravioli and refreshing gin-and-tonics, we managed to make four large, delicious batches of jam, each of us taking home enough to last us for quite a while. While Jill’s husband Gavin couldn’t wait to top his vanilla Haagen-Dazs with our strawberry-lemon verbena preserves, my first plan is to sample them atop Dylan’s homemade crumpets.
Below are the recipes for plum jam (from Hilaire Walden’s Perfect Preserves) and apricot jam (from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving). I’d imagine that Erin will post the strawberry jam recipes in the near future. If you’re planning to try preserving your jams in jars (i.e. storing them for any extended duration) rather than gobbling them up right away, you MUST check out proper canning tips beforehand to keep things sterile and prevent all sorts of nasty things like botulism. Websites with specific tips include: Canning Recipes for Preserving Food and Farmgal, the latter of which has lots of links to other canning sites. (Please, please, please do your homework before you embark on any canning project!) You can either use a pressure cooker (as Dylan and I did for our wedding favors last year) or just use the boiling water technique, which the girls and I did this weekend. Either way, with a little elbow grease and attention to cleanliness, you’ll have a batch of homemade preserves far more satisfying than anything you could buy in a store.
Plum Jam (makes about 4 cups)
2 1/2 lbs plums, halved
1 1/4 cups water
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar or preserving sugar
pat of unsalted butter
1. Put the plums in a nonreactive pan and add the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the plum skins are soft and the fruit is really tender. The liquid should be well reduced.
2. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add the butter and bring the jam to a boil. Boil rapidly for about 10-15 minutes until the setting point is reached.
3. Remove the pan from the heat, remove the pits and any scum from the surface with a slotted spoon, and let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir the jam gently and remove from the heat.
4. Prepare and fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch-headspace and heat-process in a boiling water canner. Let cool, label, and store in a cool, dark dry place. Keeps up to 2 years.
Apricot jam (pictured in foreground with seascape strawberry-lemon verbena in the back; makes about 5 pints)
2 quarts crushed and peeled apricots (blanching them by putting them in hot water for 1 minute followed by a cold water bath for 30 seconds allows the skins to slip right off)
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 cups sugar
1. Combine apricots and lemon juice in a large saucepot. Add sugar and stir until sugar dissolves.
2. Bring slowly to a boil, cooking rapidly to gelling point. (If you want to be precise, if it gels after you put a little in the freezer for a minute, it’s ready.) As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
3. Ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Ad just two-piece caps and process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.