Sweet and Sour Cherry Jam

sweet and sour cherry jam

Sour cherries have long been one of my favorite fruits for preserving. I mostly missed the season last year and so spent much of late June and early July this year trying to make up for my lackluster show in 2012. I picked at least 15 pounds on my own and when that didn’t prove to be quite enough, I bought a flat from Three Springs Fruit Farms.

Towards the end of my sour cherry extravaganza, I found myself with both sweet and sour cherries. I could have made a duo of small batches of jam, but instead decided to combine them for a sweet and tart preserve. I used a lower than usual (for me) amount of sugar and turned to Pomona’s Pectin to help me out in the set department. The finished jam has much of the sour cherries tangy bite, but with the deep richness of the sweets. I am very happy with the result.

jar cherry pitter

I realize that cherry season is rapidly drawing to a close throughout the country, but I wanted to get this one published to the blog in the hopes that maybe it will still be of use to some of you. Plus, I want to remember it for next year, as it’s a recipe truly worth repeating.

Speaking of cherries, the folks at Fillmore Container are hosting a giveaway this week, featuring this fun cherry pitter and one of the new blue heritage Ball jars. It screws on to a regular mouth mason jar and catches the cherry pits there (perfect if you want to use them for an infusion project). To throw your hat in the ring for a chance at it, head over to their blog.

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Giveaway: Canning Diagram Tea Towels from Girls Can Tell

stack of canning towels

More than four years ago, when this blog was just a wee sprout, I helped my friend Sara Selepouchin Villari (she’s the owner and illustrator of Girls Can Tell) brainstorm the best way to capture the bits and pieces of a canning kit in diagram form. We met for coffee, I described how everything was used, and she went off to sketch and label. A few weeks later, a diagram was born.

a drinky display

Since that conversation back in early 2009, a lot has changed for both Sara and me. I wrote a book, became a full-time blogger and freelancer and wrote a second book. She added many dozens of diagrams to her line, greatly expanded the number of stockists who carry her stuff, and then earlier this year, opened her own gift shop on E. Passyunk Avenue.

shake and enjoy

Called Occasionette, this new shop carries both a goodly number of pieces from Girls Can Tell, as well as cards, gifts, dishes, and other lovely things that you never knew existed but will desperately want the moment you see them.

foodie tea towels

Right now, Occasionette is carrying a number of jar-based items, including the Mason Shaker and an array of Cuppows. I hear tell that she’s also planning on stocking the newly released BNTO, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

washi tape

Occasionette a lovely addition to a commercial corridor that’s rapidly been coming back to life and vitality over the last few years. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, I urge you to hop down to 1825 E. Passyunk Avenue and check it out!

tea and coffee diagrams

Of course, every new beginning comes with a handful of endings. Because Sara has so much on her plate and only so many hours in the day, she’s begun to retire some of the older diagrams in the Girls Can Tell line in order to make room for new, fresh ideas and projects. One of the diagrams that’s being tucked into the vault is the one that features the canning tools.

canning diagram tea towel

In order to give this lovely diagram the send-off that it deserves, Sara suggested I give a few of these towels away. And so that’s what I’m going to do! We’re giving away three of the unbleached towels and three of the white towels for a total of six winners. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite preserve of the summer. Whether it’s something you made, picked up at a farmers market or got from a friend, I want to hear about it.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Friday, August 2, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, August 4, 2013.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

If you can’t bear to take your chances with the giveaway, you can also order one of the last towels directly from Sara’s shop by clicking here. She also has a few of these cute notecards bearing the diagram left as well.

Disclosure: Sara is providing the towels for this giveaway at no cost to me. No money changed hands and my opinions are entirely my own. 

Links: Basil Jelly, Jam Ice Cream, and a Pie Box Winner

tubs of blueberries

I was in Portland with my parents, sister and nephew all last week and it was just about the best thing ever. The weather was beautiful, Emmett is cutest kid around (those curls!), and it was just so good to soak up time with these people I adore and don’t see nearly enough.

There was also plenty of good food, meals with friends, backyard blackberries, and couple of very fruitful thrift store outings. Truly, the only hitch in the whole trip is that instead of being at home now as planned, I’m stranded in a motel room in Chicago with no flight out until morning. Still, it seems a small price to pay for such a magical visit. Now, on to the links!

a peek at the pie

Thanks to everyone who entered the Pie Box Kit giveaway. The winner is Sharon, who said that her favorite thing about pie is, “Eating the flaky layers of crust, with the wonders of the great tasting fillings!”

If you didn’t win the giveaway, MightyNest is offering all Food in Jars readers 10% off on the Pie Box and the serving kit. Just enter FOOD10 at check out (and if you spend $50 or more, you get free shipping too).

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Cookbooks: Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin

Preserving with Pomona's Pectin

This has been a very good season for cookbooks dedicated to preserving. First came Sherri Brooks Vinton’s new book Put ‘Em Up! Fruit. Then came Little Jars, Big Flavors, quickly followed by Saving the Season. And now, I have one more to add to the roster. Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy.

Preserving with Pomona's Pectin

It’s a fabulous little book that covers a wide range of preserves, all set with Pomona’s Universal Pectin. What makes this pectin so handy is that it doesn’t rely on sugar or evaporation in order to set. It’s a variety of pectin (extracted from citrus peels) that is activated instead with calcium, which means you can make jams sweetened with just a little sugar, honey, or fruit juice concentrate.

Preserving with Pomona's Pectin

The book is divided into seven sections. The first gives a little bit of background about the Pomona’s Pectin company and defines the different kinds of preserves covered in the book. The comes a chapter that goes deep on how to use the pectin and preserve your product (my paternal grandmother was an illustrator and I can’t help but look at these drawings above and think how much she would have appreciated them). Then comes jams, jellies, preserves, conserves and marmalades.

Preserving with Pomona's Pectin

Each chapter contains tried-and-true basics (Allison calls them Simple Classics) as well as more inventive and sophisticated fruit and flavor pairings. I’m very excited by this Rosemary-Wine Jelly pictured above. I’ve been in Oregon the last week visiting my parents and they have a giant rosemary plant in their yard. Before I go home, I’m cutting a generous armload to bring home, in large part so I can make this jelly.

Preserving with Pomona's Pectin

I’m something of a fool for vanilla and while I’ve paired it with nearly every fruit I know, I’ve never done a jam with red plums and vanilla. This particular preserve (Allison defines preserves as something akin to a jam, but with much larger fruit chunks), sounds like a lovely way to bring them together and would be a great addition to a morning bowl of yogurt.

Preserving with Pomona's Pectin


For those of you who want more options in the world of low sugar preserving, this book is ideal. The recipes are concise, easy to follow, and appealing. The book is colorful and sturdy. It’s a welcome addition to my collection of canning books and might be to yours as well!

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How to Can in Hex Jars With Lug Lids

four sizes of hex jars

Today’s tutorial is a sponsored post from Fillmore Container. They are a jar and closure distributor based in Lancaster, PA and have long been a friend of Food in Jars. In addition to selling traditional mason jars and two-piece lids, they also offer an array of jars designed for commercial preserving, including four sizes of six-sided jars called hex jars. These are the jars we’re going to focus on today. While these jars aren’t approved by the USDA for home canning, they can be safely used in home kitchens for preserves if you know just a few things.

hex jars from the top

These are jars that should only be used with high acid preserves that need short spells in the boiling water bath canner (I try to keep the processing time to 10 minutes when using these jars). That means that I don’t use them for fruit butters or denser jams that need longer stints. They fill and process much like mason jars.

tower of hex jars

Fillmore Container sells four sizes of hex jars. There’s 1.5 ounce (perfect for samples and variety gift baskets), 4 ounces (which is the same size at the smallest quilted jelly jars that Ball makes), 6 ounces (a nice in-between size that you can’t get with a mason jar), and 9 ounces (think of it as a very generous half pint jar). Their faceted sides are smooth, which makes them perfect contenders for all sorts of label and stickers, which is a nice thing if you’re trying to create a more professional or uniform look.

single hex jars

Hex jars use lug lids that are lined with plastisol. The reason they’re best for shorter times in the canner is that the plastisol liner can’t take long periods of heat exposure or extreme heat. So while they’re perfectly safe for short periods of boiling water bath canning, but are a no-go for pressure canning. If you want to preserve low acid foods in jars like these, you use retort lids instead.

filling hex jars

I prep these lug lids the same way I do regular canning jar lids, by warming them with a little simmering water for a few minutes before applying them to the jars. The most important thing to remember with these lids is that you don’t want to tighten them too tightly. A gentle quarter turn is plenty to keep them firmly in place and leaves enough space for the oxygen to escape during processing and cooling.

six hex jars filled with peach and tomato jam

The mouth of these hex jars is a bit smaller than conventional mason jars which means that regular wide mouth funnels don’t work with them. The Kilner wide mouth funnel I featured last week has a slightly smaller opening and so does work with the larger of the hex jars. For the smaller ones, I ladle my product into a spouted measuring cup and use that to fill the jars. It’s not a perfect method, but it’s better than trying to spoon jam into tiny jars. Once your jars are filled, take care to bubble your jars, because those edges at the top like to trap air bubbles. A few gentle taps and a chop stick will do the job.

Once your product is in the jars and the lids are on, everything else about canning in these jars will be familiar to anyone who’s got a batch or two under their belt. The filled jars are lowered into the canning pot and processed for the amount of time called for by the recipe. When the time is up, you pull them out and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel. The lids have a button that goes concave as the jars seal, just like two-piece lids have. You know that your jars are sealed when the lids feel solid and don’t wiggle when pressed.

a tiny hex jar of jam

In conjunction with this tutorial, Fillmore Container is hosting a giveaway on their blog. The winner can choose from a 12 count case of  hex jars or 12 sided jars and get to pick out lids to fit (they come in a bunch of colors and hues). Click here to enter their giveaway.

How would you use hex jars in your home canning?


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Notes on a Batch of Sour Cherry Pie Filling

cherry pie filling

When I made the cherry pie for Sarah and Dave last week, I used the very last of my fresh cherries (it was the very end of the season, after all). Happily, I managed to snag enough sour cherries this year that in addition to making a bunch of jam and preserved cherries in a bourbon-spiked syrup, I also made a two quarts of sour cherry pie filling (plus one half pint jar of overflow).

One is promised to the winner of the Pie Box giveaway (have you entered yet?), but I have grand plans for the other one. Sometime next winter, when the days are painfully short and sour cherries are just a flickering memory, I will open that last jar and brighten my day with pie.

cherry pie filling top

It had been at least two years since I worked with ClearJel and I remembered a couple things about it in this go-round (though a little too late to be truly helpful). The first is that I like a thinner pie filling than the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s recipe makes. This time, I’ve made a note in my cookbook to remind myself to go a little lighter on the thickener. Second, headspace is really important when canning pie filling.

You see, I didn’t quite tell the entire truth up above. When I made this batch of pie filling, my initial yield was three quarts. However, I was so focused on squeezing every last drop of pie filling into the jars that I overfilled that final jar. During processing, ClearJel expands a little and in the case of that jar, it expanded so much that it popped the lid right off. It was a frustrating reminder about the importance of following headspace instruction. Live and learn.

The recipe I followed can be found here. I made enough to fill three quarts and next time I make it, I will use a scant 1/4 cup ClearJel per quart (the recipe calls for 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon). I skipped the food coloring and cinnamon, but did add the almond extra.

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