My Favorite Things: Homemade Jam
by Emerian Rich
Name: Leigh M. Lane
Current obsession: Homemade Jam
A few weeks ago, some good friends invited me over to pick as many cherries from their tree as I could carry. I ended up coming home with over four pounds of the fresh, juicy fruits. I’d played around with previous batches, making pie and other treats, and I made a couple of batches of tarts this time around (and enjoyed many raw and cold from the refrigerator). We’d picked many of them late in the season this year, however, and it was evident that they were going to go bad before I could use (or eat) them all.
I decided to try my hand at canning. Reading up on recipes and proper processing, I felt discouraged initially: Process them incorrectly, and various microbes will end up growing in the jar. It seemed I wasn’t alone in my concern; nearly every first-time canner has fears of poisoning their families with improperly processed foods, and the fear of botulism is at the top of the list.
I researched a little more and learned that botulism isn’t really a threat in acidic foods such as jams; botulism prefers low-acid foods like green beans, potatoes, carrots, and corn. The most common threat to fruit preserves is mold, which is visible (unlike botulism, which can be undetectable by both sight and smell). Summoning the courage and taking a leap of faith, I opted to give it a go.
Not only did I cook and process the most amazing jam I’ve ever tasted, I found it all strangely soothing despite the fact that a lot of work goes into making and preserving the fruit.
Here’s the recipe I followed: http://www.marthastewart.com/339798/cherry-preserves
In addition to the recipe, there’s a strict protocol one needs to follow to ensure the jars are properly sterilized. I was surprised to learn that there are specific tools necessary for efficient sterilization and sterile canning: canning tongs, canning funnel, jar boiling rack (and a massive stock pot it will fit inside), canning measuring stick, and magnet stick for pulling lids out of boiling water.
I have to say, I never thought the day would come when I would seek out advice of any kind from Martha Stewart … makes me feel a bit like my soul is under the threat of possession by Suzie Homemaker or some similar but equally nefarious domestication demon. Of course, I made my batch in a cauldron with eye of newt and an incantation to ensure my horror-writing humanity remained intact.
After my first successful batch, which yielded a little over three jars (one of which I gave to my friends who’d provided the cherries), I realized I’d caught the canning bug. I wanted to try all different types of fruit preserves and found recipes for stone fruit (plums, peaches, nectarines) jams and apple butter. All of them have been delicious, although there seems to be a learning curve to making apple butter (my first attempt turning out more like apple sauce).
Recently, I invited one of my nieces over to make a new batch of cherry jam, and I learned the hard way that the quality of fruit has a huge effect on the final product. Instead of the plump, juicy, freshly picked cherries I’d used the first time, I used store-bought cherries that had the size and consistency of olives. What I ended up with was a blob of candied, dehydrated cherries.
Live and learn.
While I have neither the time nor the energy to make preserves on a regular basis, I’ve definitely found a new hobby in it and hope to have a nice collection of jams and apple butters before my favorite fruits go out of season for the year. Practice makes perfect, and I’m enjoying all the yummy rewards along the way.
Find out more about Leigh M. Lane, go to: http://www.cerebralwriter.com
Don’t miss the next installment of this
favorite things series when my writer friend
will talk about her obsession.
Do you have something you collect or obsess about and would like to share with my readers? Feel free to comment below or if you’d like to do a post on your obsession, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org