Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recipe Tuesdays: Apricot Jam How-To

Never made jam before because you think it's just too hard? Bah! To that I tell ya, if you can chop and boil something, you can make jam and honestly, once you do you will never go back to the store bought stuff.

You will need the following equipment:

-a non metal ladle
-a wide mouthed funnel (look in the canning section)
-some jar tongs
-canning jars with the appropriate sized lids and rings
-a sharpie pen or some labels
-a canning pot
-a large pot to cook the jam in, and a wooden spoon to stir

First, find a recipe you like and load up on all the fruit, sugar, and other ingredients that you will need. Personally, I like the recipes here and most often I use liquid Certo. It just seems easier to me, for some reason.

1. Get that canner thing going

My canner, when it's full of water, takes forever to boil. I get that started before I even begin to make jam. Plus you could get your jars sterilized and be keeping them hot (along with your lids) while you work (see here for instructions). I like to use 500 ml jars because to me, 250 is too small. I guess it depends on how much jam you eat. Make sure your jars aren't cracked or nicked, and that the sealing lids are new. You can re-use the rings.

2. Prepare your fruit

The recipe will have directions on what you should do with the fruit, whether that be chop, mash, peel, etc. For apricot jam I quarter and pit the apricots, and then pop them in a food processor for a minute to get that nice fine chop.

Kid labor at this point is awesome. I remember being a kid and chopping strawberries or peaches for my mom, and if your child can wield a small, sort of sharp knife you will find them to be a wonderful helper.

3. Cook your fruit

For a cooked jam recipe using liquid Certo, then you mix your prepared fruit, sugar, and possibly lemon juice (if using) into a nice large pot and bring it to a boil while you stir. This is the part that is the most time consuming. I stand and stir so that the jam doesn't burn, until it reaches a full rolling boil.

While you are standing there stirring, get a mug and pop your envelope of Certo in it, with the top snipped off so that you are ready to go when you need it. Once your jam is finished boiling for about a minute, you remove it from the heat and dump in the liquid Certo, stirring. Then you stand and stir for about 5 minutes, scooping off foam if some developed in the cooking process.

It is really tempting to allow kids to do this step, but don't. At this stage the jam is really HOT, really sticky, and should that pot tip it will cause one really nasty burn.

Once the five minutes is up, you can ladle the hot jam into your sterilized jars. I put the jars onto an old tea towel on the counter to contain the sticky spills. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp, tea towel, and then fish the lids out of the hot water, position them on, and screw the rings on until just finger tip tight.

Using the jar tongs, lower your jars one at a time into the canner. This can take a bit of practice to get used to doing, but it's not hard. Try not to let the jars tip over. The water should cover the tops of the jars, and you want to have it at a boil for the time mentioned in the recipe (altitudes affect processing time to check your recipe carefully). I put the lid on and watch it carefully.

Time's up! Remove your jars one by one and set on a tea towel on the counter, and leave them alone. The sweet sound of the lids 'popping' (sealing) will fill the kitchen. I let them cool and when they are room temperature, label them and put them in the cupboard. Resist the urge to screw the lids on even tighter, though. Just leave them loose.

Once you get the hang of it, you'll be jamming all summer!

*I have not been contacted by Kraft Foods or compensated in any way for this post. I recommend Certo because it's the product that I have used for 16 years and have always had a delicious, consistent, end product.

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