Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sweet Success

For a few years I have been interested in making my own preserves. I've borrowed books from the library on canning, and have admired the homemade jams and jellies at farmers markets and craft sales. I love the idea of having a pantry filled with neatly labelled rows of jewel-coloured jars. I've even day-dreamed about giving my homemade preserves as gifts to my friends and family.

But I was never brave enough to take the plunge and actually make my own jam ... until now.

I found an easy jam recipe in Canadian Living Magazine and bought a "home canning kit" at Superstore. I purchased a box of pretty little mason jars with sealer lids. When all three of the kids had long naps yesterday afternoon, I seized my opportunity.

I did it! I prepared my own jam and processed the jars in boiling water. I'm not sure if I did everything perfectly right, but I followed all the instructions on the recipe. My jam gelled and my jar lids all sealed. I now have eight ruby-red jewels tucked away in my pantry. Hooray!

Here's the recipe I used. It is a spicy jam that pairs well with cheese and crackers. (But it's also quite tasty on toast!)

Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam
(from Canadian Living Magazine, June 2006)

12 C. strawberries, hulled
1 pkg. (49 g) light fruit pectin crystals
4 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. coarsely cracked black pepper

In large Dutch oven or preserving pot and using potato masher, mash strawberries thoroughly, 1 layer at a time, to make 6 cups.

Mix pectin crystals with 1/4 cup of the sugar; stir into berries and bring to full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Stir in remaining sugar; return to full rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Skim off foam with metal spoon. Stir in balsamic vinegar and pepper.

Using funnel and 1/2 cup measure, fill hot 1-cup canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, readjusting headspace if necessary. If necessary, wipe rims. Cover with prepared lids. Screw on bands until resistance is met; increase to fingertip tight. Boil in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Makes about 8 cups.

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