Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Realities of a first time jam session

I read a lot of blogs that have beautiful, glamorous pictures of home preserved foods. Like on Food in Jars, or my friend (and amazingly wonderful wedding photographer) Caroline's blog, Coeur de La. I love these blogs (like other non-food blogs) because they have great photography and great information! 

However, my first canning experience looked and felt nothing like this (meaning, I'm totally jealous and hope someday my jamming looks like that! Obviously I should take a jam class!). 

My first jam experience looked like that photo above. And like this:

We have hard water. REALLY, REALLY, HARD WATER. 
I knew this, but I didn't realize how this would affect my canning.
Well, to start, it coated my pots with white film 
(not a total surprise, but this was coating to a whole new level).
It also totally encrusted all of my jars in the same thick, gritty mineral film:

Not exactly jam-dream material! 
When I first pulled them out of the water bath I had to make a worried phone call to my friend/coworker/master food preserver mentor to ask if this had ever happened to her before. Nope. Dang! Just my luck to live in a neighborhood where everything that gets touched by water turns frosty white! 

Alas, while nothing was pretty about the experience, 5 of my 6 jars did seal, and the jam is pretty good. 

I did learn:
*Definitely prefer doing low sugar recipes using the low-sugar pectin
(This first recipe I did was a full sugar version--8 cups fruit to 7 cups sugar! 
WHOA! Probably won't do that again any time soon...)
*After getting my mineral-frosted jars, I looked up a solution online: add 2 T of white 
vinegar to your canner water bath. I doubted this would work (did you see those jars?!), 
but I tried it (experimentally simmered a jar for 20 minutes in the vinegar 
water bath)--NO buildup. VINEGAR WORKS! Amazing! 
Wish I'd known that one before I started...
*I love canning
*I'm on a health kick, and I'm thinking I'm going to use canning as my new 
hobby to replace baking (I'll let you know how well that works...) 
(I gave away almost all of the jam btw)
*My pots at home are too small to do anything larger than 
4 oz (tiny) jars--they are not tall enough, so when processing, 
the boiling water will massively overflow if you have 8 oz jars in there. 
Learned that the hard way. Ordered a water bath canner and rack this evening! 
*Pickles are my next project
*Someday I will be as glamorous (or able to take those glamorous 
photographs) as the blogs I mentioned at the beginning of this post! :)

Frosty. Gritty.
My friend/coworker/master food preserver mentor got me 
The step-by-step directions are awesome for newbies 
and there are tons of recipes. I made the first recipe in the book, strawberry jam, 
but I used their variation to make "Lemony Strawberry Jam" (adding lemon zest). 

My other food preserving interest: dehydrating. I'll keep you updated! 

Not. Glamorous. 
PS The jam is quite good on waffles. I just ate two as my pre-bike-to-work-power-snack! 


  1. Yay for jam! I'm sure it's de-lish! I must confess that I think the glamour in this task comes mostly from the photographs. I'm still cleaning up bits and splashes of strawberry from my project last week. I use a steam canner,, and I really really like it because I can process batches faster than waiting for the whole pot to boil. It's a cheap piece of tin though I'm sure you could improvise something better. : ) And I like Pomona's Universal pectin.

  2. Thanks for the tips and info, Erin!! I'm mentally prepping myself for pickles. :)