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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 our 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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Strawberry Meyer Lemon Jam

This weekend, cook up a small batch of strawberry jam. I use Meyer lemons here, but any flavor enhancer is welcome!

Earlier this week, I hosted an hour-long Facebook livestream on the topic of jam making. I used a small batch of Strawberry Meyer Lemon Jam to demonstrate the no-additional-pectin approach.

I started with just two pounds of berries, used a scant two cups of sugar and flavored the whole thing with the zest and juice from two Meyer lemons. When the jam was finished cooking, the yield was two pints (you may be sensing a theme here). I canned up the finished jam in these cute half pint Anchor Hocking jars I got from Fillmore Container.

If you find yourself in possession of a couple of pounds of berries this weekend (there’s no shame in using a clamshell from the grocery store), consider making something similar. Oh, and if you can’t get Meyer lemons, try flavoring the jam with vanilla bean paste, grated ginger, a splash of balsamic vinegar, or even the juice and zest from some regular lemons or limes.

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Small Batch Tomato Jalapeño Jam

Prevent food waste with a tiny batch of tomato jalapeño jam. It needs just two clamshell boxes of grape tomatoes and less than an hour of cooking.

24 ounce jar of tomato jalapeño jam

I have half a dozen or so buckets of activity that I’m trying to move forward at the moment and I spend most of my time ricochetting between them. A book proposal. The podcast. My teaching schedule. Taxes. This blog. My email inbox (good lord, that inbox). And around 4:30 this afternoon, I was just done.

grape tomatoes for tomato jalapeño jam

I wandered to the fridge and started looking for things that needed to be used up. Even if I couldn’t move my work world any further at that moment, perhaps I could be productive in other ways.

slivered tomatoes for tomato jalapeño jam

I found two squat containers of grape tomatoes and a tiny jar containing three tablespoons of diced jalapeños (leftover from a recipe testing project that I did for a friend a couple weeks back). Ah yes. Tiny batch tomato jalapeño jam.

all ingredients for tomato jalapeño jam

From there, it was a matter of a few minutes of chopping, a quick bit of measuring, and 45 minutes of low simmer. I could have cooked it down more quickly over higher heat, but wanted to be able to do a sink full of dishes and some other prep, and so opted for a lazy bubble rather than a frenzied one.

cooked tomato jalapeño jam

And then, it was done. Tomatoes and jalapeños repurposed rather than wasted and a sense of purpose regained. Now, I’ll confess that finished batch doesn’t forge any particularly new territory in the world of tomato jams. But the heat and brightness of flavor made it delicious enough to merit a quick blog post. And so here we are.

Now, tell me. How do you handle it when you hit a work wall?

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Apple Ginger Jelly

This small batch of apple ginger jelly is delicious in a PB&J and would be even better served with fresh ricotta and crostini.

I bought these cute little lady apples back in January, thinking I would make a clever pickle or a preserve them in a cinnamon-spiked syrup. I tucked them into my produce drawer and the days went by.

As I started thinking about this month’s challenge, those apples leapt to mind and I knew that their destiny lay elsewhere. Along with a couple other apples, they were meant to become jelly. Apple ginger jelly, to be precise.

I love using apples to make jelly because while they make a respectable preserve all on their own, they have a neutral enough flavor that they can take on a wide array of other flavors as well. I combined my apples with fresh ginger, but you could go with a fresh herb or a trio of warm winter spices.

The process of making jelly from apples is easy enough. Cut them into halves or quarters. Cover them with water (start with about a cup more water than you need for your finished recipe). Add your flavor enhancers if you’re using something that appreciates a longer infusion. And simmer until the fruit is very soft.

Once the fruit is soft, it’s time to strain. I line old china cap and stand that I inherited from my great-aunt Flora with a nut milk bag (sturdier than a jelly bag), but you can also use a traditional jelly bag stand, or even a colander lined with cheesecloth that you perch on top of a tall bowl.

Best practice is to give your fruit at least 6-8 hours to drain so that you don’t introduce any pulp into the juice that could make your jelly cloudy. However, if you don’t really care about having a batch of a slightly opaque jelly, go ahead and squeeze. I got an additional half cup of juice from my fruit thanks to some vigorous squeezing.

Once you’ve got all the juice extracted from your apples, it’s time to make the jelly. Bring the juice to a boil. As it heats, whisk the sugar and pectin together. Once the juice boils, whisk in the the pectin-spiked sugar and stir. Add some fresh lemon juice for balance. And start checking for set.

Once you get some nice, thick sheeting on the back of your spoon or the jelly passes the plate test, it is done. Pour it into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace (the thinner the product, the less headspace you need).

The finished flavor of this jelly is bright from the apples and just a little bit spicy from the ginger. I ate the last couple teaspoons that wouldn’t fit into the jars on peanut butter toast and felt very much like all was right with the world. I could also see it tasting very good spread thinly inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

For those of you who made jelly for this month’s challenge, how has it gone for you? Any favorites to share?

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Mastery Challenge: Sour Cherry Elderflower Jelly, Made Two Ways

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops by today to share her experience making jelly using both Pomona’s Pectin and homemade gooseberry pectin. Read on for her tale of experimentation!

Ah, jelly month. It’s time for me to reckon with pectin.

If I recall correctly, this Mastery Challenge is only my second time making jelly. The first was a few years ago when I worked as the buyer for an all-local foods store here in Philly, Fair Food Farmstand. We got some Japanese knotweed in early April, and I set to work making a tart, pale-pink jelly out of this invasive plant as a way to preserve it. But the set was unappealing and too firm for me, so I gave the still-sealed jars that were left to a friend excited about foraged foods.

For every time I’ve made jam or other preserves with pectin, I can count a time when set didn’t occur or occurred too well. So in recent years, I’ve avoided it, eschewing recipes using pectin for the whole-fruit preserves and confitures found in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, one of a select number of preserving books I own. These fruit preserves manage to be thick and spoonable, and I love them — but it was time to tackle working with pectin.

When it came time to consider this month’s challenge, I had a freezer full of fruit to work with (and thanks to the time I spent organizing my chest freezer last month, I knew exactly how much and where it all was). There were three gallon bags of West Philly-grown sour cherries in there that needed to become something great — so I pulled out two of them to thaw in the fridge. I’d also use the dregs of a bottle of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, since those flavors go so well together.

And, since I like to do things the hard way sometimes, I searched online for homemade pectin alternatives to the packaged stuff that had vexed me in the past. Mrs. Wheelbarrow came through yet again, this time with a post about how to make and use pectin from green gooseberries — a bag of which, harvested from my community garden two summers before, also languished in my freezer.

Roughly a quart of gooseberries, simmered with water, strained through a jelly bag, and cooked down again until the pectin formed a mass that could be picked up with a fork when dropped into alcohol, yielded me two four-ounce jars, one to use now and one to stash away for later.

Along with an unopened box of Pomona’s Pectin that had been in my pantry for a couple years — according to the manufacturer, it will last indefinitely if stored cool and dry — I had what I needed to find out (a) if I could be trusted to make something tasty from the packaged stuff and (b) if my woo-woo homemade method could be used for jelly made with low-pectin fruit.

The results? Yes, surprisingly, and sort of!

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How to Make Tart Red Cherry Jelly

Itching to make cherry jelly but don’t want to wait months? Try making a small batch of low sugar Tart Red Cherry Jelly using a bottle of juice from the store!

Last Thursday night, I did an hour-long live broadcast on Facebook Live. A bunch of you tuned in, I showed you how to make Tart Red Cherry Jelly using store bought juice, we talked about the various ways to make shrubs, and I answered a whole bunch of questions.

During the broadcast, I promised to post the recipe I used to make the jelly. It’s taken me a little longer than anticipated, but here it is. I demonstrated how to do it using a bottle of tart cherry juice from Trader Joe’s, but you can use any bottle of 100% fruit juice that you’d like. In the past, I’ve done this with Concord grape juice and blueberry juice, both to good effect.

This recipe also works with honey. If you go in that direction, reduce the amount by approximately one-third. Oh, and before you put the jelly into jars, taste it. Some batches of juice are sweeter than others, and so occasionally a bit of fresh lemon juice is needed to help balance the flavors.

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