A few weeks ago, my friend Rich alerted me that olallieberry season was upon us. We’d previously talked about how much fun it would be to go berry picking, especially for the elusive olallieberry, a hybrid available almost exclusively in Central/Northern California and almost never in the grocery store. So on a sunny Sunday in late June, a bunch of us piled into the car and headed south to Swanton Berry Farms’ Coastways Ranch to pick some berries. We had a great time in the sun, picking strawberries and olallieberries with a central coast ocean breeze whipping our hair about and keeping us cool.
After a day of picking, we headed back to the Mooflyfood, Inc. kitchens in San Francisco. Rich started on a couple of olallieberry-strawberry pies, while I began the process of making jam. The reason I began canning again in 2008 was because I wanted to make olallieberry jam, but unfortunately I kept missing the season by a couple of weeks. I was excited to finally be making the jam I’d been waiting literally years to make. I cobbled together the recipe from a few different sources on the internet, modifying them extensively to suit my low-sugar preferences. This is what I did.
This should work fine with blackberries if you don’t have olallieberries in your area.
In a large pot, crush berries with a potato masher. Stir in pectin and mix well. Heat mixture on high until it reaches a full boil. Add sugar all at once and mix well. Continue cooking on high heat till it reaches a full boil again, stirring constantly. Cook at a full boil for one more minute, skimming foam. Remove from heat. Ladle into sterilized jars and process. For a reminder on how to sterilize jars and process jam, please click here for my tutorial.
Yield: About 6 half-pint jars, maybe a little more.
I know, I know, Thanksgiving is a couple weeks past already. But this recipe is just too good to not share! I brought it to two Thanksgivings this year and everyone was a big fan. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and tart. It’s also incredibly easy to make. Thanks, Martha!
Pictured above on a post-Thanksgiving dinner midnight snack: a tiny turkey & cranberry sandwich, featuring my dad’s delicious dairy-free biscuits.
Cranberry Ginger Relish
From Martha Stewart Living, November 2008
1 12-oz. bag cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
If using fresh cranberries, rinse well and pick out any mushy ones.
In a large saucepan, bring everything except vinegar to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the cranberries have “popped”, 10-15 minutes.
Stir in vinegar.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate up to 3 days. (Personally, I find it lasts much longer than 3 days in the fridge, given the high sugar and acidity.)
Last month, my friend Kai and I went on an epic cherry-picking expedition. We found ourselves at the Seko Ranch in Brentwood, California, high atop ladders, filling 10-gallon buckets with plump maroon Bing cherries. I picked 18 lbs and Kai got 14. We had our work cut out for ourselves.
After countless hours of pitting–with some much-appreciated assistance from my boyfriend Ed–I was ready to make some jam. Once again, David Lebovitz saved the day with his No Recipe Cherry Jam Recipe. I’ve adapted it a bit to suit my needs. I reduced the sugar and am giving you exact measurements. It’s easier than measuring out how much hot pre-sugared jam you have! Because I reduced the sugar, this jam is a bit runnier, but it’s still quite tasty. I really like it on pancakes and ice cream. It’s almost like chunky syrup.
4 lbs cherries, pitted (weigh after pitting)
2 Meyer lemons – zest and juice only
4 cups sugar
Start your water bath canner boiling. Put in 10 jars and rings to sterilize. If you’ve never canned before, please refer to my canning tutorial.
Pit your cherries. I love my Oxo cherry pitter. Be warned: cherry juice will go EVERYWHERE, and it stains. You will end up looking a little like this:
Reserve a couple handfuls of whole cherries, and roughly chop the rest. Put them in a large, heavy pot with the zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons.
Cook for 20 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring often and scraping the bottom to prevent burning.
Add sugar and boil for 10-20 minutes, skimming foam and stirring often.
When bubbles die down and the jam starts to look gelled, go ahead and process it. (I had trouble getting it to gel, so I didn’t bother.) Ladle into hot sterilized jars, wipe rims, put lids and rings on, and boil in water bath canner for 15 minutes. Place hot, processed jars on cutting board or dish towel and allow to cool for 12 hours. If any of the lids don’t “pop” (indicating a proper seal), refrigerate and enjoy within two weeks.
Note: David Lebovitz recommends adding a little kirsch (cherry liqueur) just before processing the jam. I think its a great idea, but I didn’t have any on hand so I haven’t tried it out.
Remember my story about making apricot jam with my mom and grandma when I was a kid? Well guess what folks: it’s finally apricot season. Last weekend Kai and I made the trek out to Brentwood to pick some cherries (more on that later). While we were there, we decided to stop by Peter Wolfe Ranch, which was right down the road. We were delighted to discover that they had apricots. And not just any apricots: Royal Blenheims, the best of the best, the apricots of my childhood. Jane Wolfe, who was tending to the fruit stand, greeted us with a half an apricot apiece. It was delicious and perfect: sweet, tart, just the right amount of softness and no mealiness whatsoever. Kai and I, despite having just picked more cherries than we knew what to do with, knew we had to buy some apricots. After chatting with Jane for a while, we each walked away with a half a lug of apricots — about 12 pounds apiece. The real kicker was the price: only $1 a pound! Let’s hear it for buying local, in-season produce.
This is the recipe for apricot jam that my mom used when she used to make it. It involves boiling the jam with the apricot kernels. To get at the kernels, you have to break the pit open with a hammer. This was always my job as a child, much to my delight. (What child doesn’t enjoy smashing things with a hammer?) The kernels give the jam a slightly almond flavor, which I love. They also contain cyanide, so don’t eat too many of them. I recommend using whole kernels so you can easily fish them out before canning the jam. That said, I’ve been eating this jam my whole life and my mom eats the kernels raw and we’re both still alive and kicking. If you’re really concerned, just leave them out. It’ll still be good.
Mom’s Apricot Jam
Yield: 10 half-pint jars
12 cups (about 6 lbs) apricots, halved and each half quartered. IMPORTANT: Use Royal Blenheim apricots ONLY — they’re the best!
3 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
6 apricot kernels (use only whole kernels; discard any crushed kernels)
Using a hammer, smash the pits to retrieve the kernels inside.
Stir apricots, lemon juice, kernels, and sugar together in a large, heavy pot. The pot should be larger than the amount of fruit it can hold, otherwise it will boil over. The one I use is 8 quarts.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring regularly and skimming foam, for about 30 minutes until “jammy”. The jam should bubble up and eventually subside. Be sure to stir often, and scrape the bottom of the pot to avoid burning.
Fish out kernels and discard. Make sure to get all six.
Ladle jam into hot, sterilized half-pint jars. Wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Put on lids and rims. Boil in water bath canner for 15 minutes. Transfer jars to a wooden cutting board (do not place jars directly on a cold surface). Lids should “pop” to indicate a proper seal. If a jar doesn’t pop (i.e. if you can depress the lid and it pops back up), refrigerate it and eat it within a few weeks.
Of all the preserves I’ve made in the past year, this is one of the best. It’s just SO good, and everyone I give it to comes back to me with rave reviews. Now I’m going to share the secret with you.
There it is. The secret is fresh, ripe Meyer lemons, straight from your friend’s backyard. My friend Matt is lucky enough to own a house in the East Bay that came equipped with two huge and highly productive Meyer lemon trees. And I’m lucky enough to know Matt. Every time I see him, he invites me to come over and harvest as many as I can carry. Who am I to argue with an offer like that? With the last haul I got from him, I made lemon bars, lemon-infused vodka, and, of course, lemon marmalade.
NOTE: You can use this recipe for other citruses, too! I’ve made tangerine jam, with much success.
1 1/2 lbs Meyer lemons (about 6 lemons) – it’s important to use Meyers because they’re sweeter
4 cups water
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 box powdered pectin (1.75 oz) I like Sure-Jell
Halve each lemon crosswise, then quarter each half. Remove the seeds and pith from the center of each 1/8th:
You don’t want this white stuff in the center — the pith…
…so cut it out, and remove the seeds too while you’re at it.
Place lemon slices in a large, heavy, nonreactive pot and add 4 cups water. Let sit, covered, for 24 hours. (If you’re pressed for time, I’ve found that it’s generally okay to skip the long soak.)
Remember how to process jam? Using that link as a guide, start the canning process. (That is, start the water boiling to sterilize your jars.)
Bring lemon/water mix to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.
Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, for about 15 minutes.
Add package of pectin and stir, constantly, for exactly 1 minute.
Ladle jam into hot, sterilized 1/2 pint jars, filling to 1/4″ of rim. Wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Put lids and rings on. Boil in water bath canner for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wooden cutting board or towel (i.e., NOT directly on the cold counter). Cool completely, approximately 12 hours. Each lid should “pop” to demonstrate its seal. If any of the jars don’t pop (i.e. if the lids can be depressed and pop back up), refrigerate and eat within a few weeks.
One of my fondest cooking memories growing up was canning with my mom and Grandma Lucy. When I was a kid, every summer around Grandma’s and my birthday (July 4th and 11th respectively), Grandma would go to one of the local farms and pick up several flats of Blenheim apricots. Those are the best kind, you know, and they’re at their brief peak right around that time. Grandma would bring them over to my parents’ house and, along with my mom, we’d spend a very long, sticky day canning them and making them into jam. For the year after, we’d enjoy delicious home-canned apricots on our cottage cheese, and jam on our English muffins. Sadly, Grandma passed away when I was 12, and in her absence we didn’t really carry on with the tradition (when you’re a teenager, these things stop being cool, right?). After about a year, our canned apricot supply dwindled and then, alas, was finally gone. I haven’t tasted real apricot jam ever since.
Then last fall, I read an article in Bon Appétit about how to make jam and can it at home. It included a couple of delicious-looking recipes and, Christmas gifts in mind, I decided to re-kindle my relationship with home preserving. Ever since then, I’ve been a canning maniac. I’ve made drunken fig jam, caramel pear butter (both recipes from the Bon Appétit article), pluot jam, meyer lemon marmalade (the best!), meyer lemon jelly, tangerine marmalade, kiwi jam, and prickly pear jelly. I missed the berry season and most of the stone fruit season last year, so I’ve been waiting with bated breath ever since. I’ll finally have real apricot jam again! Not to mention cherry, ollalieberry, nectarine, etc. etc. etc…
Canning really puts you in tune with what’s in season when. You start watching out for what fruits are cheap, and when you see them for a dollar a pound you can’t help but snatch up a flat of them, take them home, and turn them into delectable, sticky goo! So when I saw that huge red, ripe strawberries had started showing up in the supermarket with an unexpectedly low price tag, I started buying them up and jamming away.
Last Friday, I invited my oldest friend Sasha over for the first round of strawberry jammin’. We’ve been cooking together since we were three years old! At first, we attempted to be creative and make a strawberry-lime marmalade. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out as well as we’d hoped. The limes were just too overwhelmingly bitter and their rinds became hard, chewy chunks that really didn’t work with the texture of the jam. I had some ideas for how to fix these problems, but the allure of straight-up strawberry jam was too strong. We abandoned the strawberry-lime recipe and made a batch of some damned amazing strawberry jam. Never had a strawberry jam like it in my whole life.
Since then, I’ve made it two more times, once with my friend Kai and once by myself, and each time I’ve perfected the recipe a little more. Now I’d like to share it with you. Don’t know how to can? That’s okay, I’ll run you through the process from start to finish. I even made a little video for you.
ANOTHER NOTE: Don’t eat any food that shows any sign of spoilage (if the lid is bulging, or if it spurts out when you open it, or if liquids are cloudy or frothy, or if food is slimy or moldy or smells bad). Don’t even taste it. Botulism is no fun at all.
These are the tools you’ll need:
Water bath canner with rack
This is basically a huge pot with a rack and a lid. You can pick them up for about $25 at most mom & pop hardware stores. I recommend Cole Hardware if you live in San Francisco. Canningpantry.com also has everything you could ever possibly want that has to do with home preserving.
Ladle, long-handled tongs, wide-mouth canning funnel, jar lifter
You probably already have the ladle and tongs. The funnel and jar lifter are canning-specific and, again, you should be able to get them at the hardware store or canningpantry.com
Magnetic lid lifter
You can fish your lids out of boiling water with tongs, but this simple device does a much better job. You can buy one cheap, but the ever-resourceful Kai assembled a free version with a magnet she found on a fridge tied to a piece of string. I made one for myself using fishing line and one of our absurdly strong rare earth magnets. Overkill? Probably. Whatever.
Half-pint canning jars, with lids and rings
A flat of these should run you about $10. Most supermarkets carry them but they like to charge you up to $15 a pop — don’t do it. Cole Hardware and Berkeley Bowl have them much cheaper, as does canningpantry.com.
A word of caution: Don’t use the lids for canning more than once. You can use them as regular lids, but don’t re-process them. The rubber seal breaks down and you could find yourself with un-sealed jars of botulism! Yay. In my kitchen, as a rule, once a lid has been processed, it goes in the garbage because I can’t be bothered to keep track of which are okay to use and which aren’t. You can re-use the jars and rings as many times as you like, though.
The canning process:
First, you want to sterilize the jars. To do this, put your water bath canner on the stove and fill it with with hot water. Put the rack in place. Turn the heat on to high. Once the water is boiling (it will probably take quite a while), toss the rings in and use the jar lifter to place your clean jars on the rack, making sure the water level is above the top of all of the jars. The jars must boil for at least 10 minutes to be sterilized. Don’t put the lids in just yet.
Make your jam per the recipe. When the jam is ready to be canned, use the jar lifter to grab the jars out of the canner and place them on a wooden cutting board or dishtowel. Be sure to not place them directly onto the cold countertop, as the difference in temperature will cause the glass to shatter. Using the magnetic lid lifter and/or tongs, pull the rings out and put them in a bowl (so they don’t fall all over the place). Try not to touch the jars or rings: a) they are very hot and b) you’ll contaminate them with your grimy meathooks.
At this point, put the lids in the canner to be sterilized. You don’t want them in there for more than 5 minutes, lest the rubber seal get compromised.
Using the funnel and ladle, spoon hot jam into sterile jars, being careful to not get jam on the rims of the jars. It’ll happen anyway, but the less it does, the easier your life will be. In each jar, leave 1/4″ to 1/2″ headspace at the top. That is, fill it to 1/4″ to 1/2″ under the top of the rim. If you end up having a jar that isn’t completely full, don’t bother processing it. Just put a lid on it, put it in the fridge, and eat it within 2 weeks. I’m sure you’ll manage.
When you’re done transferring jam into jars, dampen a paper towel and clean any errant jam off the rims and threads of the jars. Jam on the rims will cause a bad seal, and a bad seal will cause botulism. Nobody wants botulism.
Use your magnetic lid lifter and/or tongs to get the lids out of the boiling water and put them in the bowl with the rings. Be especially careful not to touch the undersides of the lids with your hands.
Carefully place a lid on top of each jar, making sure that the seal lines up with the rim of the jar. Screw the rings on to hold them in place. The rings don’t have to be particularly tight– finger-tight is fine.
Using the jar lifter, transfer jars back into the boiling water. You should see air bubbles escaping from each jar. Make sure the water covers every jar. Boil jars for 15 minutes. Remove and let them cool on the cutting board for 12 hours. Within the first few minutes you should hear the lids “popping” — that means you processed the jars correctly and they’re properly sealed. You can also check to make sure they’re sealed by pressing the top with your finger. If it doesn’t move, it’s sealed; if it clicks in, it’s not sealed and you should refrigerate the jam and eat it within 2 weeks. Properly sealed jars can be stored unrefrigerated in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
I made a video to walk you through the process of making this jam and canning it:
4 lbs. strawberries, cored and sliced
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup water
Start heating the water in your water bath canner. Go ahead and put the jars and rings in now (but not the lids).
Wash, core, and slice the strawberries. Squeeze lemon juice.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, mix sliced strawberries with sugar, lemon juice, and water. Over medium heat, stir until sugar is dissolved.
Place a plate in the freezer. Don’t ask questions, just do it.
Turn heat up as high as it can go and bring mixture to a rapid boil, stirring often. Jam should continue bubbling even when you stir it — that’s how you know it’s boiling enough. Watch the video above to see how properly boiling jam looks. Keep an eye on it because when it first starts to boil, it’ll bubble up and threaten to overflow. You may need to temporarily turn down the heat to prevent this from happening.
Jam, almost overflowing.
Stirring frequently and skimming off any foam that develops, boil for 20-30 minutes until the jam is thickened.
Boiled down and thickened a bit.
To test for doneness, pull that plate out of the freezer and drop a teaspoon of jam onto it. Return to it to the freezer for about 1 minute. After the minute is up, run your finger through the jam. If stays separate, it’s ready to go. You can also taste it at this point. I find that boiling it longer–30 minutes or so–gives the jam the best flavor because it caramelizes the sugars a bit. Just be careful not to boil it too long or it can burn.
Can! Follow the procedure outlined above.
Note: This recipe is a reduced-sugar version of one found on allrecipes.com. Most jam recipes call for an absurd amount of sugar. This one used a cup of sugar per half-pint jar! If you have a sweet tooth, though, feel free to use more sugar; just add it at the beginning. More sugar will also cause the jam to set better and be less runny. It still sets pretty well without it, though.