Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer in a Jar ~ Peach-Nectarine Jam



Canning is important to me.  It is not necessary, nor is it particularly cost effective.  I do it because I love it.  I love the peeling, chopping, & mashing, and the smell of pure fruit goodness wafting through my kitchen.

I love using my great-grandmother's million-quart canning pot to process jewel-colored jars of sweetness.  I think about it simmering on the stove in her Louisiana farm kitchen, processing hundreds and hundreds of jars of fig preserves over the years.

Filled jars, lined up on the counter to cool, bring great satisfaction.  A reassuring  POP guarantees that summer is sealed in so we can open it up to brighten a cold winter day.

Pure Joy.



Peach-Nectarine Jam
3 cups peeled, chopped peaches
1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped nectarines
2 TBS lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp butter (to reduce foam)

supplies
canning jars (need enough for about 16 cups), lid rings(the part you screw on), and new lids (the part with rubber seal)
large stock pot for processing filled jars in water bath
large sauce pan or pot for cooking mixture
measuring cups
bowls
wooden spoon
ladle
funnel made for canning (it has a wide mouth that fits perfectly inside the jar to prevent messy spills)


1.  First you need to prepare your jars.  There are tons of articles on the web that tell you how to do this, so I won't go into it here.  Just make sure that CLEANLINESS is a big priority in your canning process...this is how you avoid contaminating all of your beautiful fruit preserves.  I recommend looking at the Ball website or Pick Your Own for basic, safe canning information.

2.  Now, get your extra large stockpot/canner filled with water and starting to heat.  That much water takes a while to get going.  The water level needs to be high enough to cover filled jars by 1-2 inches when submerged in their water bath.

3.  Once your supplies are all clean and sterilized, you can start preparing your fruit.  Peel, pit, and chop the fruit and place in 6 or 8 qt. stockpot.  Stir in lemon juice. Add cinnamon stick.

4.  Carefully measure out sugar into a separate bowl.

5.  In a small bowl, mix powdered pectin with about 1/4 cup of the measured sugar and mix well.  Add this mixture to the fruit in the stockpot.  Also add optional butter at this point.

6.  Bring the fruit mixture to a rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly.

7.  Stir in remaining sugar quickly.  Return to a full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.  **NOTE:  A full rolling boil is such that when stirred, the boil does not go away.

8.  After 1 minute, remove from heat.  Skim off any foam.  Remove cinnamon stick.

9.  Ladle into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 - 1/8 inch of the top (called "head-space").   Wipe any spills on the jar or rim with a clean damp cloth.  Cover with two-piece lids.  Screw bands finger-tip tight (this just means screw on tight, but don't over-do it).

10.  Put all of the filled jars into your large stockpot (canner) of boiling water, submerge either with a canning rack (very handy), canning jar grabber, or silicone oven mitts (don't recommend).  The canning rack is great because it keeps the jars off the bottom of the pot preventing etching, scratching, or cracking the glass.  If you don't have a rack, you need to put a tea towel in the bottom of the pot to cushion the jars and make sure there's space between the jars themselves to allow water to circulate through.  The water should cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches.  Add more boiling water if necessary.

11.  Once the water starts boiling with the jars in the canner, put the lid on and start your timer for 10 minutes.  Boil on medium...not a hard boil, but not too gentle.

12.  Carefully remove jars from canner--THEY WILL BE HOT! Place on a towel on the counter to cool.  When you hear the pop and see that the flat lid is indented, you know you have a good seal.  If any jars don't seal after a couple hours, you can reprocess 10 more minutes, or simply store in the fridge to eat right away.  It will keep there for up to a month.  Let sealed jars stand at room temp on counter for 24 hours.  Store the unopened, sealed jars in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.  Once you open one, store in the fridge for up to a month (any longer and it will start to crystalize).


Canning Equipment Tips

  • You do not have to store processed jars with the screw bands on them.  This is good to know since it is much cheaper to buy the flat part of the lid alone rather than the whole lid assembly.  Once sealed, you can remove the bands and use them again with new purchased lids to process more jam!  
  • You do, however, need a full screw-on lid to store the jars in the fridge once you open them.  Sometimes this can lead to rust on the rim and the lid assembly.  Yuck.  I recommend using Ball's screw on plastic storage caps instead.  These are also great if you use canning jars for other food storage; like salad dressing, leftovers, freezing, etc.
  • Again, I can't say enough about the convenience of a canning rack, jar lifter, and wide-mouth funnel.  In my mind, these are indispensable.  










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