Today’s guest post is courtesy of my friend Brad. Brad is my oldest friend in life — which is saying a lot for a girl who attended 4 elementary schools, 4 junior high schools and 2 high schools. I have known him since I was 14 years old, where we met under our desks during a disaster drill (remember those?) in Mr. Seifert’s class.
Brad and his BFF Karen (who also attended our old alma mater) are just kicking things off at their new foodie blog Cast Iron Stomach. (Check out his post on The Bad Egg— great primer on how to tell fresh eggs.)
Anyway, I LOVE Brad (and by proxy Karen, too!) The man has always had a great sense of style (Generra and Swatch in the 80’s anyone?), an awesome sense of humor (he once bought me a can of Pringles for my birthday because I loved them so much!) and a flair for the written word (you should see the poems we co-authored in journalism class!)
When the “oh so very rad,” Brad (Yes, I am a product of California circa the 80’s, lol) told me that he and Karen were starting a new food blog and I found out that he’d recently spent a day making homemade jam, I begged for a guest post to share with you all.
So, without any further adieu, I give you my dear friend Brad and his out of this world jam (one jar of each flavor, I hope is on its way to my house right now. Hint, Hint, Brad!)
The Way of the Jam
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve always been surrounded by fresh produce. Every year my parents would plant a summer garden consisting of everything from zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes to green beans, corn and peppers. There was always an abundance of produce when growing up.
When my parents were not growing produce in the back yard of our house in San Lorenzo, the family would often make trips to Brentwood for U-Pick produce: Tomatoes and peaches were always on the list, but we always came home with a trunk full of different fruits and vegetables.
Since we couldn’t possibly eat all this produce before it went bad, my mother would turn to what every mother at that time and before hers turned to; home canning. When she made homemade jam, my brother, sister and I could hardly wait for it to cool. We just wanted to dig in.
Twenty-something years later, I decided to give canning a try of my own. About 10 years ago, I started canning tomatoes and peaches (separately of course) with my mom in my tiny apartment kitchen in Alameda, producing excellent results.
The tomatoes I canned were great in soups and stews as well as tomato sauces for pasta and chili. The peaches were fantastic in peach cobblers or straight from a bowl. Yummy.
A few years have passed since I’ve pulled out the canning equipment, but this past Spring I decided to haul it out and start making jam.
Jam Research & Equipment
I did a good amount of research, turning to my mom for advice as well as talking to others about the process. I had almost all the equipment I needed, but one thing I ultimately desired was a French, unlined copper confiture pan, which I quickly went out and purchased at my local Williams-Sonoma. Note: You do not need a copper pot. A stainless pot, or any non-reactive pot, will work just fine.
Over the next several months, I made several batches of jam: Apricot, Strawberry, Fig and Blackberry. Each batch turned out wonderful. (I credit the copper pan for that.) My favorite, however, has to be Apricot.
As summer 2012 winds to an end, summer’s produce will soon be replaced by autumn’s fresh citrus. My father’s favorite marmalade will be my next canning journey. I hope I’ve inspired you to make some jam for yourself. Jam making is a comforting and enjoyable process — definitely worth the extra effort.
Brad’s Tips for Beginning Jammers
- Be organized. It’s best to lay out all your ingredients and equipment before you start making jam.
- Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Be sure to sanitize ALL your equipment before you start especially the jars, lids and bands.
- Keep jars hot in the dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water until ready to use.
- Buy the best, freshest produce possible.
- Follow your preferred canning instructions precisely. (I use the water bath method outlined in the Ball Blue Book)
- Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
How to Make Apricot Jam
Adapted from The Blue Chairs Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders
- 6 pounds Patterson apricots, pitted and halved
- 2 1/2 pounds cane sugar
- 2 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
Slice the apricots in half and remove the pits.
Divide the apricots and sugar in two separate bowls.
Cover and let macerate in the fridge for at least 12 hours or overnight.
The next day, remove the apricots from the fridge.
Uncover and pour one bowl of apricots into the jam pot.
Reserve the second bowl for your next batch.
Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat stirring frequently.
After the apricots have boiled for three or four minutes, begin skimming off any foam that forms on the top of the mixture.
Decrease heat and continue to cook for about 30 minutes or until thickened.
When the jam seems ready, test it for doneness. (Refer to the Ball Canning cookbook for specifics.)
If not set, cook the jam for another couple of minutes.
If the jam is set, pour into sterilized canning jars and process as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions.
Cool and enjoy.