Berries are in their full glory these days and the prices are low which makes you want to buy more and more eating them fresh on their own or with ice cream, making cakes and pies, sauces for game and salsas. But we all know this is all going to end soon and there will be nothing left till next year. I don’t like jams and confitures much because the ones in the stores are too gelatinous and too sweet and I never buy those, except for special occasions such as making Linzer Cookies or Pie glaze. When I was a kid, store bought jams were rare, everything came from my grandmothers who worked hard, all summer long, making the most delicious preserves in the world. They were not only fruits and berries but mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers etc.
This summer I have decided to give this a try.
Lets start with the basics…
Home Hardware sells them by the dozen with the lids for $12 (I bought the 500ml). Wash with hot water and put in the oven upside down for 10 minutes or so on 170-200F for them to sterilize and dry thoroughly. Be careful when you take them out….When you fill the jam, leave about 1/2cm (1/4 inch) gap between the jam and lid, put the top on and screw the ring with your fingertips – do not over do it. Put a big pot of water, bring to boil and place a few filled jars at a time for about 10 minutes. Take out and let stand at room temperature for about 24 hours. All leads should seal – press on each one and make sure its impossible :) You can unscrew the rings now if you wish. They can be stored for at least six months.
No Pectin preserves:
I made two big jars (1 liter) of no pectin liquid preserves for immediate consumption (they could be sealed and stored as well). Those are great over ice cream, toasts, cakes, yogurt and just with some tea in the evening. The process is quick and simple: 1 pot, berries (small ones – whole, the bigger (i.e. strawberries) -roughly chopped), sugar to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid (a bit) until syrupy. I have made one batch of strawberries only and another batch was of mixed berries -all the leftovers you have in the fridge- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries which I think was even better.
Preserves with Pectin:
I made quite a few jars of jam with pectin to enjoy later in the year which I have properly sealed and stored. It is really not complicated either, so don’t worry. The recommended amount of sugar for two cups (500ml) of jam is 1/2-1 cup or alternatively 1/4-1/2 cup honey; I always use the lower border but your taste might be different. I have used two brands of Pectin; one was far superior to the other. I bought Pomona’s universal pectin, which is a 100% citrus pectin, first and it was great and worked like magic. When I was towards the end with only two jars left I ran out and sent my husband to get some more at the grocery store across the street. The only pectin they had was Certo pectin crystals (the “light” version) which also contains sugar and fumaric acid on top of the pectin. Not only that it had added sugar, the performance was far inferior, it didn’t set at all even though I used almost double the amount I used with Pomona’s.
The process itself is very quick – bring the berries/berry puree to a boil, add sugar and pectin, boil for a couple more minutes. Keep stirring about 5 (a couple more if it is on the liquid side or less if its really dense as it is) minutes after taking of the heat to get the “setting” process going and prevent the separation of the liquid from the solids.
Now for the “recipes”… I have decided to experiment with some flavours and here is what I got (all for 500ml jars):
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam – a winning combination in pies and such:
3 Rhubarb stalks chopped 1/2cm wide (1/4 inch) pieces
1 1/2 cups coarsely pureed strawberries (use your food processor or blender, or just cut with a knife)
Spicy Strawberry with Pinot Gris
1 cup pinot gris (or any other white wine you like), reduced over high heat to about a 1/3, it will become a bit caramely in color.
Mix into the hot reduced wine about 2 Tbsp of sugar, a shake of chili pepper flakes, a shake of ground cayenne pepper and a shake of cinnamon – you can always adjust those at the end.
2 cups strawberries (pureed….)
More sugar to taste (will depend on your wine and strawberries) + Pectin
Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Honey
2 cups strawberries (pureed…)
2-4 Tbsp vinegar – use 2, taste…add more so you feel the acidity
The other ones I made were plain Strawberry, Blueberry, and a mix of the two -classic :)