Shared Jam: Bounty in a recipe exchange

27 11 2009
71370-Jars of Jams

Image by SeattleRay via Flickr

I didn’t find out about Under the High Chair’s Virtual Jam Swap in a straight-line kinda way. I was reading my latest Foodbuzz headlines, and saw a new post called Jam Swap from Coco Bean, a blog from the Montreal food improv team of Ian and Christie. Seems they’d discovered that canning – at first intimidating – could pay off just like a cookie exchange at their friend Aimee’s real-life Jam Swap. I followed their link to Aimee’s Under the High Chair blog (don’t you love the way links are the internet’s version of a bread crumb trail?) At UtHC, I discovered that in addition to her live jam swap, about which Ian had written, Aimee had just posted a round-up of her virtual (blogging) jam swap. Her post includes the links to the adventures (and misadventures) and 25 recipes from jammers who personify the improvisational approach to preserving flavor.

Julie Powell cooked her way through Julia Child‘s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I want to cook my way through all 25 recipes in Aimee’s Virtual Jam Swap. Always on the lookout for unique and new jam recipes, several of the VJS entries caught my eye, and fit right in to the kinds of fruit available at this time of year in central New York:

Apple Pie Jam from Kim at Flavorista (lower sugar, with pectin)
Grapefruit Cranberry Marmalade from Cheri at Kitchen Simplicity (no added pectin)
Coconut Jam (Kaya) from Cheryl at Backseat Gourmet (no added pectin)

UtHC’s jam swap also collected recipes for jams, butters, marmalades and spreads made with plums, rhubarb, apricots, peaches, blueberries, cherries, mint, peppers, berries and apples.

I’ve got a lot of reading and recipe-sorting to do; I definitely need to put some of these recipes into my jam repertoire. Thanks, Aimee, for sending out the call for your Virtual Jam Swap, and then sharing all of the bounty with the world.

What jams will you be making next – for holiday gifts, or when the fresh fruits in your area come back into season? Will you share your jam plans?

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North Carolina State Fair Jam: 2009 jam & canning results

28 10 2009
Image by themaxsons via Flickr

The North Carolina State Fair finishes its October 15-25 2009 run in Raleigh, North Carolina with the following jam-making and preserving results from the official state fair website.

The fair features over 200 jam, preserves, marmalade, canning and junior competitor canning and preserving categories.

Results appear here. I would love to include them all for a shout-out, but there are forty-four PAGES of results in mroe categories than I can count. To see the results in a spreadsheet, which is somewhat easier to download, download the results from the website.

Congratulations to all who entered, and to those who came home with a placement or category winning ribbon.

The 2010 North Carolina State Fair will be held in Raleigh form October 14 – 24, 2010.

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Double Jam: Pears two (more) ways

25 10 2009
A colour plate from The Pears of New York (192...
Image via Wikipedia

In central NY, pears are a transitional fruit – hardy enough to grow in home gardens on special cultivars, but with fruits too fragile to ‘hold’ in cold cellars like apples. They come into the market in October, but are soon replaced by apples, and then citrus and imported melons.

Last week, after a few days basking in baskets on my counter, several pounds of pears filled my condo with their delicate ripening. After a summer of enriching peach, apricot and strawberry jams with balsamic vinegar, chipotle peppers and sweet spices, I wanted the delicacy of aromatic pear jam, recipes that would use pears without enhancements. This Simply Recipes Pear Butter – similar to my own in all but the star anise and nutmeg – is on my list to try with the dark-ripened fruit that is the last of the pear harvest, along with my Pear-Orange Honey. But for my first batch of 2009 pears, I wanted a simpler pear recipe, something slow-cooked without pectin – just enough sugar, a splash of citrus or vanilla to brighten the jam – but all pears, straight up.

On Recipeza’ar, I found #147884 from “dividend” – Pear Vanilla Jam. I reduced the sugar, used all Bartlett pears instead of a mix of Bosc and Asian pears, and used a bit of fresh lemon zest instead of the original recipe’s ground nutmeg – because I just don’t like nutmeg in pear jam! From an old recipe for Spiced Pear Jam, I removed the spices and substituted brown sugar for half of the orginal amount of sugar, improvising on a recipe for Butterscotch Peach Jam. Each of these recipes makes about 5 cups of jam.


Pear Vanilla Jam
3 lbs fresh pears (about 6 pears, to create about 3 cups of puree)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • Peel, core and quarter the pears. Toss the quartered pears with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent the fruit from darkening.
  • Coarsely chop the pears in a food processor or chopper, and measure them to ensure that you have 3 cups chopped fruit. Add the pears, sugar, grated ginger and three tablespoons of lemon juice to a large pot, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Grate a couple pinches of fresh nutmeg over the sugar.
  • Simmer about 40 minutes, or until the jam reaches the jellying point (220 deg. F.) Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
  • Remove the fruit mixture from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Pass the fruit through a food mill if you would like a smooth jam.
  • Spoon into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the jar rims and adjust the lids.
  • Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.


Pear Jam

4 cups pear puree (about 3 lbs. whole pears, peeled, cored, put through a food mill)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • In a heavy saucepan, heat all of the ingredients to boiling, stirring constantly until the boiling can’t be stirred down.
  • Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until thickened to a jelly consistency.
  • Skim off foam with a metal spoon.
  • Pour immediately into hot sterilized jars, filling to about 1/4 inch from the top.
  • Remove air bubbles and wipe jar rims. Cover the jars with lids and bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


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Summer-in-a-jar Jam: Italian prune plums

3 10 2009

The first vegetarian cookbook I ever received as a gift came from my uncle Will – a copy of Anna Thomas‘ 1972 Vegetarian Epicure. I was two years into college, and like grad student Thomas, my cooking was mostly vegetarian. My copy of VE was part kitchen bible and encyclopedia and part novel – I read it cover to cover, for both knowledge and fun. I memorized several of the recipes (potato peel broth, asparagus brisee, savory baked garbanzo beans) and improvised and evolved them to make them my own. That dog-eared copy of VE anchors my kitchen bookshelf. I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of Thomas’ newest book, Love Soup, where she’s turned her masterful kitchen touch to one of my favorite foods – soup.

Italian prune plums (with a little help from Azahar)

Italian prune plums (with a little help from Azahar)

Why all this love for a vegetarian cookbook that doesn’t include a single recipe for jam? Mainly because the author, Anna Thomas, is also the inspiration for the plum jam recipe I made today for Linsey Cake’s Summer-in-a-bottle Can-a-rama contest.

While searching for a small-batch recipe for those tiny end-of-summer stone fruits called Italian prune-plums, I stumbled on this improvisation on a prune-plum jam recipe insipired by — Anna Thomas. It must have appeared in VE2 or on her website, because it’s not in my copy of VE. But Thomas brings simplicity and bright summer goodness to this brilliant red plum jam, and like all of her recipes, the ingredients are the stars.

Prune Plum Jam (with a little help from Azahar)

Prune Plum Jam (with a little help from Azahar)

The recipe which inspired me appears on Bryanna’s Vegan Feast Kitchen blog, and is her adaptation of Thomas’ recipe. Like Bryanna, I also boiled my plums and ran them through the food mill. I also added splashes of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest and a teaspoon of grated ginger to the recipe.

Bryanna quotes Thomas:“This is made from the plums that become prunes when they are dried. In some markets I’ve seen them called prunes, and in others Italian plums, or prune plums, but they are the very small plums with the egg-like shape and the dusky purple skin.” Anna Thomas

(inspired by recipes from Anna Thomas and Bryanna)

2 1/2 lbs small dark plums or Italian prune plums (about 20)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated ginger root

  • Wash and stem the plums. Cut in half, discarding the pits, and put the plums and balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook about five minutes or just until the plum puree start to split from the skins. Put the plums through a fine food mill to separate all the skins from the puree.
  • Measure the puree, adding water if needed to make 3 cups. Return the puree to the saucepan, along with the lemon juice, zest, grated ginger and sugar. Stir thoroughly until the sugar dissolves.
  • Continue to stir over medium heat. Keep the jam at a steady boil for 15 minutes (skim off any foam that rises) until the jam reaches the jellying point (212 degrees.) You can also dip a metal spoon into the jam, place it in the freezer for three minutes, and test for consistency that way.
  • Ladle the jam into clean half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Place lids and rings on the jars.
  • To process: seal the jars and process in a boiling water bath according to USDA directions.
  • To freeze: seal the bands and lids on the jars, and allow to cool to room temperature. Jam will keep it in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, and in the freezer for up to one year.

Yields about 4 cups

This post is part of the 1st Annual Can-a-rama Summer in a Bottle Challenge at Cake and Commerce.

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NY State Fair Jam ’09 part 1: Apricots & chipotle peppers

28 08 2009
Apricot fruit
Image via Wikipedia

Most people who are bringing jam to the New York State Fair jam competitions today (yes, toDAY) probably made their jams days ago. I’d certainly planned to make mine earlier than 2 a.m. the day the entry was due, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

It was humid last weekend. If you make jam in humid weather, you need to either eat it right away, or freeze it right away — if you don’t , it may mold. Tuesday night I went out to dinner with my cousin and her daughter, who came into town so my younger cousin could start her freshman year at Syracuse University. Wednesday night, I came home from work and crashed, slept straight through ’til morning. Thursday when I got home from work, the old dog had a rough evening and needed a quick bath.

So it’s 2 a.m. Friday morning, and I just finished the jam that is due at the fair for culinary competition at 8:15 a.m.. I am not a morning person, but I think this freezer jam will wake up everyone who tastes it.

Because I was 24 hours short on time, I needed to modify the original recipe for peach jam I found on the back of the Ball Simple Creations (R) No Cook Freezer Jam Pectin. I’d already decided to use apricots instead of peaching (stone fruits like peaches, apricots and plums can be substituted for each other.) But apricots can take a bit longer to set in jams, sometimes as long as 24 hours. That meant I had to use a bit of kitchen magic: if you bring them to a slow boil and hold them there for about five minutes, apricots will jell more quickly. So while I prepared the other ingredients and washed containers, I brought my crushed apricots and juice to a slow boil.

The recipe called for lemon juice; I also added lemon zest and grated ginger root to increase the jam’s bright citrus-y flavor (and sing harmony with the heat of the chipotle pepper puree.) I ran out of white granulated sugar, so used 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar to make up the correct amount — this will darken jam, so use it sparingly with light colored fruits. And for a little kick in the jam, I stirred in a tablespoon of finely pureed chipotle peppers. Fingers crossed that my improvisation of one jam from another wows the freezer jam judges this morning!

Apricot Chipotle Freezer Jam

(makes 3 1/2 cups, or seven 4-oz. jelly jars)

2 lbs. apricots, pitted and quartered (about 3 cups, crushed)
1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
1 /2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon pureed chipotle pepper*
1 package no-cook freezer jam pectin (I used Ball Simple Creations (R))

  • Pit the apricots, quarter them and crush in a food mill or processor until you have a slightly chunky puree.
  • Bring the crushed apricots slowly to a boil over medium heat.
  • While the apricots come to a boil, stir the sugars, lemon juice, lemon zest, grated ginger and pureed chipotle pepper together.
  • When the apricots come to a boil that can’t be stirred down, remove from the heat and stir them into the sugar mixture until well-blended. Let stand 10 minutes.
  • While the apricot and sugar mixture is standing, prepare the containers and their lids. Wash them in hot soapy water, rinse them and dry thoroughly.
  • After 10 minutes, stir the no-cook freezer jam pectin into the fruit-sugar mixture and stir until the pectin is dissolved. Stir continuously for three minutes.
  • Ladle the jam into the prepared containers (suitable for freezing), leaving about 1/2 inch head-space in each jar.
  • Let jam stand in containers for 30 minutes. Confirm that the jam has set, and then cap the containers. Jam can be frozen for up to 1 year, or refrigerate and use within 3 weeks.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups jam, enough to fill seven 4-oz. jam jars.

* Chipotle puree can be very spicy. You may want to stir it into the sugar mixture 1 teaspoon at a time, or to your taste.

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E-Z Jam: Frozen Assets

23 08 2009
Image by Chris and Jenni via Flickr

But wait, Pat – I’ve never made jam in my life. I don’t have a water-bath canner. I don’t have the time or space to make dozens of jars of jam. It might taste great but I’ll have to spend a fortune gearing up for a couple jars.

Whoa, slow down – jam is slow food! No experience? Jamming is easy. No canner? No problem; for freezer jams, you may only need to boil a couple cups of water with the pectin — with some recipes, you won’t even need to do that. No space or no time? Scale down – cut the recipe in half, and use smaller or larger jars than called for in the recipe to store your bounty.

I confess, as a kid I hated the kind of strawberry jam that came out of the enormous jars sold at the IGA. But one year, my mom decided we should pick-our-own strawberries. We had a big chest freezer that had plenty of room, and mom made our first batch of homemade no-cook strawberry freezer jam. I became a strawberry jam devotee that summer, and every summer after.

No-cook freezer jams are some of the simplest jams, requiring only the correct amount of prepared fruit, sugar, acid, liquid or powdered pectin and a few minutes of fruit preparation (depending on the type of fruit.) Strawberries need only washing, hulling, and crushing – they’re pretty low-effort. Other berries which don’t require hulling are even lower-effort. Stone fruits like peaches and nectarines do require peeling and pitting and grinding or chopping in the food processor, which takes a bit longer — but it’s still only half the time a cooked jam takes to prepare and process. Equipment is equally minimal: chances are you already own most of the things you’ll need.

  • large non-reactive fruit prep bowl (glass, stainless steel or enameled)
  • measuring cup (for the sugar)
  • potato masher
  • long-handled stirring spoon (I like wooden and stainless steel spoons)
  • ladle (see below for a way you can skip this…)
  • funnel (only needed if you’re using jars; skip it if you’re using square freezer containers)
  • freezer containers

That’s right – although you can use canning jars labeled “Safe for Freezing,” and special plastic freezer jam jars, any container sold at the Dollar Store and labeled suitable for freezer use will work just fine. I have even put freezer jam into plastic zip-top freezer bags (they stored flat in the freezer, but it was too hard to get the thawed goodness out!) Every freezer container that seals airtight is fair game. My favorite fruit prep bowl is an 8-cup glass Pyrex(R) mixing cup/bowl with a pour spout. Amounts are graded on the side of the bowl, so I know exactly how much mashed fruit I have. The pour spout means I can neatly fill my freezer containers without a ladle (one less thing to wash!)

Whether you use liquid or powdered commercial pectin, all no-cook freezer jams start with two basic steps:

  1. wash and prepare fruit (hull, peel, slice)
  2. crush fruit with the masher or grind it finely with a food processor or food grinder, and measure it into the large mixing bowl

At this point, the next step depends on the type of pectin. Liquid pectins usually direct you to stir them directly into the fruit and let the mixture sit for a few minutes. Some powdred pectins direct you to mix the pectin into a small amount of water, bring the water to the boil, and then stir the water-pectin mixture into the fruit. Some of the newer pectins designed specifically for freezer jams (such as Ball Simple Creations (R) Freezer Jam Pectin) direct you to mix the package of pectin with the specified amount of sugar, stir it into the mashed or crushed fruit until all crystals are dissolved, and ladle into containers to freeze. Follow the directions for the pectin product that you’re using.

Most freezer jams are soft-set jams which need time to fully jell. While they’re jelling they still taste terrific, but all need some time at room temperature to come to full texture before you freeze them.

Where lemon juice is called for in no-cook recipes, you can use bottled lemon juice (which has a higher and more consistent acidity level than fresh.) More acied is usually a good thing in jam.

No freezer space? Still no problem! Although they’re called ‘freezer’ jams, any jam can be safely kept in the refrigerator after it’s made — just use it up within three weeks. Cut your recipe so that it only makes 3 pints (6 cups.) After you fill the three pint containers, keep one in the refrigerator, one in the freezer for later, and give one to a friend or neighbor. They’ll think you fussed. You’ll know how simple it really was. Or make one large container for the fridge and four smaller cup-size containers to squeeze in your ‘fridge.

The only problem with my recipes for freezer jam is that they don’t include the best steps: Stand back; admire your work; taste; enjoy!


No-cook Berry Freezer Jam

4 c. crushed berries (about 2 quarts) *
8 c. sugar
2 80-ml pouches Certo ® (liquid pectin)
4 tbsp. lemon juice (bottled, not fresh)

  • Mix fruit and sugar together and let stand for 10 minutes.
  • While fruit mixture is standing (macerating), mix lemon juice and pectin together, and then stir into fruit mixture until sugar crystals are dissolved.
  • Fill 5 pint (16 oz) freezer containers wihin ½ inch of top.
  • Cover and let the jam stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Freeze, or refrigerate and use within three weeks. Makes 5 pints.

(half-recipe: 2 cups (1 qt.) crushed berries, 4c. sugar, 1 pouch Certo (R), 2 T. lemon juice: makes 2 ½ pints, or 5 8-oz. freezer containers.)

* strawberries, raspberries & other seeded berries, and blueberries all work well in this recipe


No-cook Peach* Freezer Jam

1 pkg. (1 5/8 oz.) Ball Simple Creations(R) no-cook freezer jam pectin (or equivalent)

1 ½ c. granulated sugar

3 ½ c. crushed fresh peaches (peeled, pitted & mashed)

  • Stir sugar and contents of pectin pkg. into a bowl; blend well.
  • Add crushed peaches to sugar/pectin mixture and stir for 3 minutes.
  • Ladle jam into clean plastic or glass freezer containers.
  • Twist on container lids and let stand about 30 minutes at room temperature, or until thickened.
  • Refrigerate up to 3 weeks, or freeze for up to 1 year.

This recipe also works with plums, nectarines and apricots; use 4 c. crushed fruit (about 2 lbs. of whole fruit) to 1 ½ c. granulated sugar and 1 pkg. powdered pectin.

* about 12 medium peaches.

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Online Jam: jam-making resources on the web

16 08 2009

My regular bookshelves have several books I use as jam recipe references — but one thing today’s jammers have that wasn’t available when most of my paper references were written is the web. The internet provides easy access to thousands of jam recipes, sites about canning and preserving, and general how-to information. Web resources are a vital part of my kitchen bookshelf. Some of my favorites are linked under blogs and websites. Here are some never-fail resources:

Ball, one of the leading manufacturers of canning equipment and jars, is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a salsa contest and issuing special commemorative jam jars. Find more information and recipes under the Recipes | Home canning link in their menu bar at

Sure-Jell, owned by Kraft Foods, makes powdered and liquid pectins. Look for recipes using pectin and general tips for jamming and jelly-making on their site. Sure-Jell also makes a no-sugar/low-sugar pectin which, while not sugar free (it contains dextrose) makes it possible to create a no-sugar-added jam that has no artificial sweeteners added and adds only about 1g of carbohydrate per finished tablespoon of jam. See the basic no-sugar recipe here.

Certo is liquid pectin also made by Kraft Foods. At the main Kraft site, type ‘Certo’ in the search box to get a refreshed list of recipes. When I created this link, Kraft’s site had over 100 jam and jelly recipes using Certo on the web.

Looking for recipes which are a little more exotic than strawberry jam? Make sure to go to Recipezaar and search for jam (RZ is also linked under Websites). Recipezaar has almost 400 jam and jelly recipes to choose from, many submitted by home cooks. has several hundred jam and jelly recipes in its files and even the Food Network features fresh jam recipes in its files.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has collections of recipes both with and without pectin, and with and without added sugar, along with tips and how-tos for jamming and jellymaking.

At you can view the entire USDA booklet Complete Guide to Home Canning. Guide 7 is the section on jam and jelly making, and contains valuable safety and how-to tips along with a handful of basic recipes.

JamJellyRecipes is listed in BlogCatalog as a jam and jelly recipe blog — and the site does have a large recipe collection as well as links to hard-to-find canning supplies and lots of preserving cookbooks. However, the recipe content can sometimes be overwhelmed by the amount of advertising on the site.

I’ll be sharing other online resources as I find them; what are your favorite sources for new and old jam recipes?

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