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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
A Simple Guide to No-Fuss Summer Jamming
photo: from “Put ‘em Up!” Copyright Jennifer May Photography

A Simple Guide to No-Fuss Summer Jamming

Katy Morris

We’re strong believers in all-things-seasonal, but we refuse to accept that the sun-kissed summer bounty is soon coming to an end. That’s why we’re planning on saving our summer in a jar.

Before you can ask, wanna go pumpkin picking? We’ll be smearing sunshine-filled strawberry spread over scones and filling hamantaschen with cherry jam for Purim.

We’ve got you covered when it comes to transforming your beloved summer blues – and ruby reds, glowing goldens and vibrant violets – into gooey jewels to lighten up those winter ones.

 

It’s time to get jammin’

Sherri Brooks Vinton at work. photo: from “Put ‘em Up!” Copyright Jennifer May Photography
Sherri Brooks Vinton at work. photo: from “Put ‘em Up!” Copyright Jennifer May Photography

To can or not to can?

Regardless of whether you’re sticking to refrigerator jam for the next few weeks or venturing out to try canning, the first step is to pick out some rhubarb, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, or cherries – whichever fruit you can’t let go just yet. Just make sure they are slightly under-ripe when you’re ready to jam.

Photo: Liz Rueven
Photo: Liz Rueven

Next, know your pectin level. What the heck is pectin?

It’s that natural compound in every fruit that gives jellies and jams that thick, glossy, gel-like consistency when heated with sugar and acid. Citrus, granny smith apples, grapes and cranberries are naturally high in pectin, whereas pears, rhubarb and apricots will need an added boost for the jamiest jam. Quick tip: our popular preserving pal, Sherri Brooks Vinton, uses Pomona’s Universal Pectin* made with calcium powder for lower-sugar jams.

If you prefer to work with the fruit’s natural properties and don’t mind a looser jam, you can skip the pectin. Another quick tip: generally cooking longer will help thicken it up.

Then, grab sugar and some acidic lemon juice – key elements that team up with the pectin to form that perfect gel.

Credit: Copyright Jennifer May Photography
photo: from “Put ‘em Up!” Copyright Jennifer May Photography

Canners: A quick web search will churn out lots of specialized equipment needed to can, but let’s keep it simple. All you really need are some basic canning jars (thick glass jars with two-piece lids like Ball® or Kerr®) a set of canning tongs and a very large pot. For everything you need to know about canning, including a detailed, step-by-step guide to her boiling-water method, pick up Put ‘Em Up!

 

Preserves 101

 

Confused on what the difference all those gooey preserves are? So were we. Sticky situation solved:

Photo: Liz Rueven
Photo: Liz Rueven

Jam: This thick, sweet mixture is a combination of mashed fruit, added pectin and sugar. Liz can’t get enough of those “sweet, fuzzy, sunny and messy” peach gems for jam!

Jelly: Jellies are translucent spreads, usually thinner than jam, made with sugar, pectin, and fruit juice. Jellies can also be derived from tea, wine, flowers or veggies.

Compote: Compotes are distinguished by their chunky pieces of fruit and are made with either fresh or dried fruits simmered in sugar syrup.

Chutney: This classic tangy chutney we relish originates from India and is perfect to pair with savory dishes. It is made with fruits or veggies, vinegar, sugar and spices like garlic, mango, tamarind, onion or event mint.

Marmalade: Marmalades are thick citrus-based spreads made with both peel and seeded pulp. The key here is citrus.

Credit: copyright Jennifer May Photography
photo: from “Put ‘em Up!” Copyright Jennifer May Photography

 

Got a grip? Let’s spice it up a little…

All of these preserves are delectable pure and simple, but don’t be afraid to spice ‘em up to create some amazing flavor depth with a splash of booze (how does blackberry and vanilla bourbon sound?), dashes of spice (try strawberries with black pepper and balsamic), or earthy herbal boosts (think blueberry basil or raspberry rose combos).

Credit: Jennifer May Photography
photo: from “Put ‘em Up!” Copyright Jennifer May Photography

 

Our Top Picks

 

While we love experimenting with flavors and jammin’ out DIY-style, sometimes it’s easiest to scoop some up from our local farmers’ market. We scouted out this year’s Connecticut Specialty Food Winners and found some great CT-made options that are also available for shipping nationwide:

Photo Credit: Melinda Kuzmak
Photo Credit: Melinda Kuzmak

Killam and Bassett Farmstead’s Strawberry and Atomic Hot Pepper Jams both made the list.

Woodstock Hill Preserves won for their Peach Bourbon Chipotle Smoked Fruit Preserves.

Winding Drive’s Blood Orange Marmalade looks particularly enticing as well.

 

Ready to DIY?

Credit: copyright Jennifer May Photography
photo: from “Put ‘em Up!” Copyright Jennifer May Photography

 

Once again, we grabbed Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ‘em Up, our go-to guide when it comes to anything preserved. The book is jammed with pointers and methods (and troubleshooting guidance for the amateur canner), and is cleverly organized by the fresh fruits and veggies you’ll pick up at the farmers market from summer through spring.

Scroll up to see Sherri’s recipe for super simple Classic Cherry Jam. We promised it would be this easy!

*certified OK kosher

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