One of the great pleasures of being part of a community garden is the people you meet. At a recent potluck, I met a gardener new to Rosedale who talked about canning and candy making with her mother. I shared that I have always wanted to learn how to make jam — the right way — and she offered to join me in this endeavor. True to her word, my new friend, Alisa, came over this afternoon armed with canning supplies, sugar, pectin, jars and a generous supply of choke cherries.
Once we started, Alisa advised that making jam is very much like making candy. It is an exact process so directions, timing and quantities need to be followed very carefully. In this line of thinking, she suggested that making one batch at a time insures a better quality product. So attentive to even the most minute of details, we proceeded to make three consecutive batches; a total of 25 jars; in a three hour time period.
Here is the process we followed for the strawberry jam: 5 1/2 cups sliced and mashed strawberries. Add them to a pot with a packet of pectin, turn heat to high and stir constantly while waiting for a rapid boil. Once the rapid boil is reached, dd 7 cups of sugar plus one tablespoon butter and stir while waiting for another rapid boil. Once the boil is reached put the timer on for 1 minute, stir and remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Skim off any foam that appears on the top surface to the mixture. Meanwhile, the jars and lids should have been sterilized in the dishwasher or by boiling. The jars should be in the canner with boiling water to heat up. Remove the jars and start to ladle the strawberry mixture into the jars. There is enough for about 9 small jars. Once the jars are filled, carefully wipe the top of the jar and place lids and seals on. Please in boiling water, put on lid and set the timer for 25 minutes. The time we used is adjusted for high altitude. We are at 5200 feet so we had to add about 15 minutes to the canning process. When the timer goes off, carefully remove the jars from the water bath and place on towel. You will hear a popping sound from the lids sealing without several minutes.
The process of making choke cherry jam was similar except for several steps. We mashed about 5 1/2 cups of berries and cooked them on the stove in the same manner. After cooking, we strained the mixture using cheesecloth over a strainer to remove seeds and skins . The result is a thick juice like mixture. Put juice back in the pan and add pectin and lemon juice, bring to a boil, add 4 1/2 cups sugar plus 1 tablespoon butter and bring to another boil. Time the rapid boil for 1 minute and remove from the heat. Skim off the foam; a process that helps make the jam/jelly more clear. This may need to be done twice. Add the choke cherry mixture to the jars, approximately 7 jars, wipe tops and add lids. Process in the water bath for 25 minutes;.
Alisa and I had a great time, worked hard and shared many stories about our lives during this sunny afternoon work session. We both agree that canning is best done in the company of friends. When our tomatoes start to ripen , we’ll surely get together again to make sauce and salsa. And more!!!