Last year, I meant to preserve things. I had such good intentions. I even bought jars… but they disappeared into the cupboard to make up for the glassware I break all the time, into the fridge, into the lunchbox drawer. What can I say, mason jars are amazing.
This year, it’s all different. I’ve started already!
My previous experience of canning and making jam had been marathon sessions in a boiling hot kitchen, working quickly to process kilos and kilos of strawberries we had brought home from the U-pick farm which were literally turning overripe as we worked. It’s tiring at the best of times, but after hunching in the sun picking berries, driving 90 minutes each way, no one is in the mood to then can the jam for four hours. The first time my husband accompanied me on one of these crazy outings was also the last time. He told me in no uncertain terms he was not doing it again!
So I had been reluctant to take on that project on my own, but a chance discovery at a fish canning class offered through my incredible local community-supported fishery gave me the confidence to get back into it.
The instructor mentioned making high fruit, low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin. I was intrigued, because the other thing keeping me from making jam was the truly insane amounts of sugar involved. Pomona’s Pectin is activated by calcium (supplied in the box), not by sugar, so you’re free to keep the sugar levels low – and in fact use all sorts of other sweeteners like honey, sucanat, stevia, or fruit juice concentrate.
For instance, I took advantage of some great sales on organic strawberries lately and made a batch last night of regular strawberry jam. With the Pomona’s Pectin recipe, I used 1 cup of sugar for 2 1/4 lbs of fruit. For slightly more fruit, the Bernardin’s website suggest 7 CUPS of sugar. Strawberries are gloriously sweet already, the idea of adding that much extra on top makes my teeth ache just thinking about it.
I’ve also harnessed the rhubarb abundance and made a very zippy rhubarb jam with ginger and vanilla. It’s a bit tart for toast, but I suspect around January it will be very welcome. Smeared on the edge of a piece of crumbly, aged cheddar though, oh, it is amazing.
I highly recommend checking out the imaginative Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin book, which contains the rhubarb jam recipe, as well as lovely sounding things like peach champagne jelly and strawberry balsamic conserve. Though the instructions inside the box are very comprehensive if you’d like to just start with a basic single-fruit jam.