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Hot Pack Spiced Cherry Preserves

These spiced cherry preserves are a tasty way to put up this most precious of summer fruit. Sweet, spicy, and tender, they’re a good companion for breakfast, cheese plates, and dessert!

Last Thursday, a big box of sweet cherries arrived from the nice folks from the Northwest Cherry Growers. I’ve slowly been working through them (look for black raspberry and cherry jam, cherry and meyer lemon marmalade, and more coming at you soon) and on Monday night, I used three pounds for my Facebook Live demo.

These preserved cherries (pitted but left whole) are simmered in a syrup that’s been spiced with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and black peppercorns. They soften and slump, but retain enough texture that they’re a good companion for cheese plates, yogurt parfaits, and damp slices of buttery poundcake. I think you’ll like them!

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Low Sugar Sour Cherry Jam

Capture the fleeting tart cherry season with a batch of whole fruit, sweet and tangy low sugar sour cherry jam.

Last week, I made a small batch of low sugar sour cherry jam live on Facebook, using Pomona’s pectin for set. When people asked me about the recipe, I told them it was already up on the blog from last summer. Because I was absolutely convinced that this was a recipe I’d already published.

However, I started to hear from people that they couldn’t find it. Was I sure that it was on the blog?

Turns out, I never wrote a low sugar sour cherry jam recipe. It must have been a dream. I’ve made this style of preserve a bunch of times over the years and really thought I’d shared it. Oops!

So, let’s dig in. Like so much of my jam making, the recipe you’ll find at the bottom of the post is built on a ratio. For these batches of low sugar jam, I use four parts fruit to one part sugar. You could always drop the sugar level a bit lower, but I find that this ratio leaves me with a jam that is nicely balanced between sweet and tart, and holds its color beautifully.

Two questions come up when I talk about making jam by ratio. The first is, are we talking about calculating by weight or by volume? Because I love my kitchen scale, I typically use weight to work out the proportions. But you can also use volume. The trick is to be consistent. If you start with weight for your produce, you use weight for your sweetener. Same goes for volume. Stick with what you start with.

Second question is about measuring before or after you prep your fruit. Here’s the honest truth. As long as you aren’t doing a massive amount of culling, your batch size is pretty generous, and you’re measuring by weight, it doesn’t matter too much. I weighed this batch of fruit before I started pitting and I had 5 pounds, two ounces. After pitting, I had 4 pounds, 15 ounces. In this large-ish batch, those three ounces won’t impact the finished outcome much.

Now, if you’re measuring by volume, prepping the fruit first is the best course of action, because it’s going to fill the measuring cup best. Additionally, if you’re using seconds and so need to do a lot of culling, doing all your necessary peeling, pitting, hulling, trimming, and chopping before you start measuring and calculating.

Now, for the pectin. I like to use less pectin that the Pomona’s packet instructions call for. Typically, I use between 1/2 and 3/4 teaspoon calcium water and pectin for every pound of fruit. Use less for a soft set and a bit more for a firmer set.

Once all the pitting, prepping, and calculating is done, I combine the fruit with the bulk of the sugar the jam will use. I save out about half a cup to use as the medium with which to integrate the pectin. Then it’s time to cook!

PS – Like the labels I used on my jars up at the top of the picture? Those are these kraft paper labels from Canning Crafts! Love them!

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Small Batch Strawberry Plum Jam

Looking for a preserve to bridge spring and summer? This small batch strawberry plum jam is just the thing to marry the seasons in delicious fashion.

Fruit for strawberry plum jam

Last week, I had lunch with a canning friend. After doing a quick check-in about the general state of our lives, we got down to the real business at hand – dishing about our summer preserving plans.

Lucia is planning on focusing on stonefruit this summer since they’re her favorite (and it was a terrible season for peaches and nectarines around these parts last year) and also hopes to do some classic strawberry jam to satisfy a plaintive request made by her partner.

Chopped fruit in the pan for strawberry plum jam

After spending so many seasons working on books and developing new recipes for various partnerships, my plan is to focus on restocking our beloved basics. Simple jams, plenty of fruit sauces (peach! nectarine! apple!), lots of tomatoes, and a triple batch of my beloved roasted corn salsa (the recipe is in the Food in Jars cookbook).

Artfully out of focus fruit for strawberry plum jam

I am also hoping to get my hands on a goodly number of plums in the coming months. The local ones were almost entirely wiped out in the late freeze last year and so I’m totally out of plum jam and chutney (two of my favorites).

We had plum trees in the backyard of my family’s LA house and so the flavor of plum preserves has the ability to instantly transport me to my early childhood. I need a little of that taste memory in my life.

Finished strawberry plum jam still in the pan

I will confess that I have already dabbled with plums this year. They traveled many miles to reach my grocery store, and while they wouldn’t have been particularly delicious to eat out of hand, in combination with strawberries, sugar, and a little lemon juice, they brought texture and deliciousness to a small batch of strawberry plum jam.

Finished strawberry plum jam in jars

And remember, the best pan for cooking up these small batches of jam isn’t always your beloved dutch oven or copper preserving pan. I like to use a wide pan with low sides because it means that the jam will reduce quickly and evenly. The pan pictured in this post is the Lagostina Martellata Tri-ply Copper 5-Qt. Casserole which they nicely sent me awhile back for review purposes. My review? It’s a lovely pan that’s good for jam making and so much more!

And now, for the recipe.

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Jam Making for the June Mastery Challenge

Hello Mastery Challenge participants! June is passing with alarming speed and so it’s well past time for this monthly introductory blog post. This time, we’re focusing on jam making, which is probably going to be one of the most familiar skills we dig into this year. After all, the majority of canners start their food preservation career with a batch of jam.

What is Jam?

For our purposes, we’re going to define jam as a fruit-based preserve that is sweetened. Sugar is the most traditional sweetener, but you can also use honey, maple, agave, coconut sugar, fruit juice concentrates, or non-sugar sweeteners (just remember that jam made without any true sugar will not hold its color or quality for long). And, if you’re curious about making jam with these alternative sweeteners, make sure to check out my book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars!

What Style of Jam to Make?

There are no rules as to the style of jam you make. You can go large batch or small, conventionally sweetened or low sugar, added pectin or pectin free, and sweet or savory. If there’s a style you’ve been wanting to try and you’ve thus far avoided it in your preserving life, consider taking it for a spin.

The Recipes

There are more jam recipes in the archives of this site than I have time to count and there are yet still more in my cookbooks. Beyond that, there are hundreds of jam recipes online and in the many canning cookbooks out there. However, you really don’t need a recipe to make jam. Prep some fruit. Measure out approximately half as much sugar. Combine them until the sugar dissolves. Add a little lemon juice and perhaps some cinnamon or vanilla paste. Cook it in a low, wide pan until it thickens.

However, if you want to work with a more proper recipe, here are some of my recent favorites.

This month, the deadline for submitting your projects to be counted in the monthly tally is Wednesday, June 28. I’ll have the form up next week for submissions. And don’t forget to use the hashtag #fijchallenge if you post your project to social media!

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Mastery Challenge: Rhubarb Pickles

When I see the first harvests of rhubarb hitting farmers’ market tables among still-puny bunches of kale and last season’s root crops, I feel a surge of hope: spring is really, actually happening.

I also think of my maternal grandmother, an almost-nun turned feminist firebrand and mother of 11 who kept a huge vegetable garden — including a big patch of rhubarb — at her house in Quebec when I was a kid. Granny is the reason I turn my nose up at strawberry-rhubarb anything: her lip-puckering, sweet-tart treatment of the ingredient served straight up in pie, cobbler, and roly-poly became my standard and favorite for fruity baked goods.

As an adult, I’ve tried to do more with rhubarb than dessert, but no recipe I’ve come across that didn’t involve sweet, buttery dough has ever really seemed like it would be worth the trouble to try. So when this month’s Mastery Challenge came around during rhubarb season, I decided to give it the cold-pack pickle treatment.

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April Sponsors: Cuppow, Fillmore Container, EcoJarz, MightyNest, and Mason Jar Lifestyle

Happy April, friends and readers! It’s the start of the month and so is time to thank the businesses that help make this site possible. Please do show them your appreciation for their support with your time and attention!

In the top spot are our friends at Cuppow. They are the creators of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box. Parents and kids love their EIO set, with its grippy silicone sleeve and a lid that makes for easy sipping. Look for a fun promotion featuring their gear later this month.

Lancaster, PA-based and family-owned Fillmore Container are next! They sell all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. As always, their blog is an amazing resource for all things jar-related. They’re the host of my giveaway this week. Make sure to enter to win some fabulous Pint & Half jars!

Our friends over at EcoJarz on board again this month. They make an array of products designed to fit on top of mason jars, including cheese graters, coffee brewers, and stainless steel storage lids. Make sure to follow them on social, because they host a weekly EcoJarz Fan Pic of the Week giveaway!

Mason Jar Lifestyle is a one-stop shopping site for all the jar lovers out there. They sell all manner of mason jar accessories and adaptors. If you’re in the market for lids, straws, sprouting lids, and cozies to transform your mason jars into travel mugs, make sure to check them out!

MightyNest is an amazing resource for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families. I’m a big fan of the MightyFix, their monthly product subscription program. Right now, you can get a year’s subscription to the MightyFix for just $99 (it regularly costs $10 a month, so that’s a great deal).

If your company or small business is interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more details here. I offer discounts for multiple month purchases and am always happy to work with your budget. Leave a comment on this post or drop me a note to learn more!

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