Small Batch Canning and Sour Cherry Jam

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Although I’m not as diligent about it as some people, I’ve always been one to steer clear of kitchen tools that offer little in the way of flexibility or range. This is why I’ve avoided things like egg poachers (a simmering pan of water works just fine for me) and yogurt makers (milk* in glass jars + small Playmate cooler + warm water + eight hours = yogurt). However, I recently found myself madly coveting one of those tall, skinny pots that were designed for steaming asparagus.

You see, I had a funny suspicion that the asparagus pot, with it’s slender styling and interior rack, would make a most convenient small batch canner. So, when I encountered one with a mis-matched lid at a thrift store, I determined that I could risk the $4 to see if my hunch was correct.

small batch set-up

Now, at this point in my little tale of asparagus pots, you might be asking yourself why I’d even need a pot to process small batches of jam. And it’s true that my kitchen is well kitted out in just about every pot and pan you could imagine. Thing is, the idea of pulling out the big pots is sometimes enough to deter me from cooking up a batch of jam.

If it’s 9 o’clock at night and the kitchen’s already been put to bed for the evening, the last thing I want to do is stir everything up again and create a whole sink’s worth of dishes. I hate to admit it, but there have been times when I’ve let a pound of berries or a cluster of peaches go bad because I couldn’t summon up the energy to create and then clean the mess necessary to preserve them.

sour cherry jam wreckage

For instances, when I picked up my CSA share last Thursday afternoon, included in the bounty was a quart of glowing sour cherries. There weren’t any additional cherries at the adjacent market, so I couldn’t pick up more in order to have enough for a full batch of jam. What’s more, my charming husband doesn’t eat fruit or the many desserts that are crafted from them, so I couldn’t make a small pie or tart, unless I wanted to eat the whole darn thing (and while my inner seven year old rejoices at the idea of a whole pie for dinner, the 31 year old that I am knows just how sad my belly would feel post-indulgence).

So Sunday night, after a long day errands, gardening and picnicking with friends, I took my little $4 asparagus pot on a test drive with those sour cherries. After pitting, I had approximately 1 1/2 pounds of cherries, which I combined with 3/4 a pound of cane sugar and one packet of liquid pectin (cherries are naturally low in pectin, so even small amounts of jam need a little boost). I cooked them down in a two-quart pan, which proved to be just the right size (although I did need to watch carefully for bubbling over).

two 12-ounce jars

While the jam cooked, I filled that tall little pot with water and brought it a boil. When the jam was ready, I filled my clean jars (I got two 12 ounce jars and one 4 ounce jar out of this batch), applied the lids and rings and processed them in succession (10 minutes per jar). While that’s not a USDA-recommended procedure, the jars sealed firmly and I feel comfortable storing these on the shelf. The final 4 ounce jar got tucked into the fridge.

I’m sure that some of you are wondering why I’d even go to the trouble of processing such a small batch of jam. Here’s the thing. I have limited refrigerator space. (Actually, make that limited kitchen space. I imagine that some of you have pantries that are larger than my entire kitchen.) Any time I can process something to be shelf stable and keep it out of the fridge is a good thing, even when it’s a micro-batch such as this. Also, as you may have noticed, I make quite a lot of sweet preserves and at any given time, have at least half a dozen open jars hanging out on the right-hand door of the fridge. I just don’t need to add to the open jam/butter/curd queue at this time.

So, if you’re like me and want to process even the smallest batches, without hauling out your big old canning pot, consider putting an asparagus steamer to work.

*Milk simmered to 180-190 degrees, cooled to 110-120 and combined with some plain yogurt or powdered yogurt starter.

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67 Responses to Small Batch Canning and Sour Cherry Jam

  1. 51
  2. 52
    Elisssabeth says:

    Why is it not a USDA approved procedure? Because you boiled in a smaller pot? I did many batches in my big ole sauce pot well before I finally bought a “canner” (big ole pot)!!
    Wish I could find some sour cherries around here!

  3. 53
    Farzana says:

    I love this idea, I have the same problem with space and would only be using a few of the new 1/4 pint or 1/2 pint jars from Ball to make juice-jelly gifts. I am going to find an asparagus pot which i’ve never seen b4 today,thank you for sharing. Also, can i cook the jelly/jam in an aluminum pot? I also have pyrex dishes, can jam be cooked in those? i have no space for a big pressure canner-do you know if there are little ones for micro batches? Thanks so much <3

  4. 54
    Lynn Hutchison says:

    Tried your idea with the aspergus pot for my small batch canning..and as a water bath it worked just fine..Sadly I gave away my canning pot, because I was alone now and couldn’t use everything and couldn’t afford to do big lots of food to give away..but I now discover I need to preserve food for healthier eating and not to waste left overs..this small batch preserving is a good solution. shall continue to follow the trend.

  5. 55

    […] I have two such pots that work well as a tiny canning pot. The first is the asparagus pot that I wrote about here. The second is the tall, spouted pot you see […]

  6. 56
    erin says:

    quick question: could these proportions work for rainer cherries as well? It’s summer down under!

  7. 57
    Marilynn says:

    Do you stack the jars when processing?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Recipe Project #109-118: early summer preserving » Thinkery - July 22, 2012

    […] Sour Cherry Jam from Food in Jars […]

  2. Urban Preserving: Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam - Food in Jars | Food in Jars - January 25, 2013

    […] I have two such pots that work well as a tiny canning pot. The first is the asparagus pot that I wrote about here. The second is the tall, spouted pot you see […]

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