June Mastery Challenge Round-Up: Jam

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June is over (how this year is speeding by!) and so it’s time to put another skill to bed in our Mastery Challenge. This month, we focused on jam making and more than 170 of you reported in that you’d made a batch of jam (and some of you made many, many more than a single batch).

Starring jam ingredients included apricot, bacon, berries of all shapes and sizes, black currants, cantaloupe, calamansi, carrots, cherries (both sweet and tart), figs, grapes, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, red onion, rhubarb, tomato, violets, and one lonely batch of watermelon rind jam. Strawberries were the very most popular ingredient this month, which makes sense since they are in season throughout much of the country during June.

One of the things I enjoy is seeing how deeply people are digging into each month’s challenge. Since jam making is a skill many existing preservers already know and use, I was hoping that it might lead to further exploration of unfamiliar styles of jam. I think both these graphics bear that out.

Up above, you can see that the majority of participants made more than one batch of jam. And judging from this second image, it looks like lots of people played with batch sizes and styles of preserving. I am entirely delighted.

Berries

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Stonefruit

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Other Jammy Goodness

A giant thank you to everyone who participated this month! We’re focusing on hot pack preserving in July. Stay tuned for more details soon!

 

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June Mastery Challenge: Foraged Berry Jam

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is back to share the tale of a tiny batch of jam made from fruit grown right in her West Philly neighborhood. I do love a good forage! – Marisa

When it comes to gardening and foraging, I do my best to hit enough planting milestones in early spring so that I’m not missing out on a particularly delicious spring or summer crop. And I keep an eye on ripening berries and fruits in my neighborhood so I can forage goodies to enjoy and preserve, too.

This spring was a little different. It was my first working as a freelancer, and any hope that I’d have extra time and flexibility to spend on these pursuits quickly vanished — I felt busier and less in touch with what was growing around me than I had been when I was employed full time.

For example, I missed planting peas this year. On the other hand, I got in two good harvests of elderflower during a particularly busy May, a first for me. And yet, I just missed the height of my West Philly neighborhood’s flush of juneberries, mulberries, and sour cherries, which hit a little earlier than usual this month.

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Single Quart Muesli for Breakfast

About six weeks ago I decided to become someone who exercised in the morning. I’d long been an evening gym goer, but was finding it increasingly hard to muster the motivation in those later hours. While it was hard to convince myself to get up, dressed, and out the door in those first couple weeks, it’s become a pretty dependable habit and it working nicely for me.

There has been one unanticipated outcome of this morning exercise routine is that is has totally changed what I want to eat for breakfast. Cooked oatmeal, one of my regular breakfast items, has become totally unappealing. Enter muesli!

It requires no cooking, can be set to soak with a little milk to soften before I head out to run (slowly and not all that far), and much like my beloved hot oatmeal, is tasty with a heap of fresh fruit. And did I mention that it is blessedly cool?

The thing about muesli is that there really aren’t a whole lot of rules. It’s really just a combination of oats, nuts, and seeds, in whatever proportions you want. I added some puffed brown rice cereal to lighten it a little, but you skip that if you don’t want to invest in a box of cereal to make more cereal. My recipe is below, but you can really mix it up any way you’d like.
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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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Cookbooks: Bread Toast Crumbs

I first discovered that it was possible to bake bread without kneading (along with much of the English speaking world) in 2006 when the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe ran in the New York Times. I embraced the concept wholeheartedly and have been something of a no-knead recipe collector ever since.

Four or five years ago, I stumbled across a recipe for peasant bread on Alexandra Stafford’s blog, Alexandra’s Kitchen, that didn’t need to be kneading, was baked up in some of the Pyrex bowls I already owned, AND could be ready to eat in just a couple of hours. I made a batch immediately and became a fan for life. It became THE thing I made to serve with leftover soup, to bulk out a meal for unexpected guests, or on weekends when we wanted sandwiches but didn’t feel like leaving the apartment.

As a food writer, it’s rare that I return to the same recipe over and over again (because I am always looking for new, interesting things to write about), but this one is simply too good and too reliable to leave behind (though I almost always make it with half whole wheat pastry flour and half white. I am what I am).

So, when Ali announced that she was writing a cookbook that used her peasant bread recipe as a starting place, I was delighted. More ways to make use of this recipe and its tasty results? Yes, please!

Bread Toast Crumbs came out back in April and is everything I hoped it would be. The title also serves as the organizational structure for the book. It opens with the master peasant bread recipe and then offers up more than 35 variations. I’ve only made the original recipe, but have plans to make the hamburger buns this weekend and have half a dozen other versions earmarked.

In the Toast section, you’ll find an array of soups, salads, starters, sandwiches, main dishes, and sweet things. I’ve got my eye on the Summer Vegetable Strata for the near-term and the Cabbage Soup with Gruyere-Rye Toasts for the fall (if you listen to Local Mouthful, you’ll know that my love for cabbage knows no bounds).

The Crumbs section takes the heels of your loaves, grinds them down, and makes delicious use. Someone needs to invite me to a potluck so that I can make the Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese or the Baked Pasta with Mushrooms, Fontina, and Crumbs. Seriously. How good do those dishes sound?

My bottom line on this book is that if you’re looking to up your bread baking game in an approachable way and then find some new ways to make good use of every last morsel of the bread you made, you should check it out.

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Giveaway: Anchor Hocking Jars from Fillmore Container

Love learning about new jars? Read on for details about the line of Anchor Hocking canning jars, available from our friends at Fillmore Container, as well as a chance to win a case to use in your own kitchen!

When it comes to gathering vessels for preserving, I have always been something of a magpie. I like to use jars of different shapes and from different makers. The result is a pantry that gives off a sense of happy, appealing chaos (of course, it’s only an appearance. I always know what’s in there, down to the very last item). It also allows for a preserves closet where you almost always have exactly the right sized jar for dinner prep, potluck preparations, or a gift basket.

Thanks to our friends at Fillmore Container, I’ve recently added a new line of jars to my kitchen and I am quite pleased to have them. Made by Anchor Hocking, these sturdy, squared off jars are an affordable, pleasing option for any home canner. If you have any vintage Anchor Hocking jars in your collection, the shape and heft of these jars will be familiar (though sadly, these are not quite as graceful as the ones our grandmothers knew and used).

These Anchor Hocking jars come in three sizes – quarts, pints, and half pints. Fillmore sells them without closures, which allows you to choose from a world of possibilities. They have regular mouth openings and so can be sealed with Ball brand lids and rings, with open stock lids and rings from Fillmore, or with one-piece lids designed to be used on jars with continuous threads (if you’re curious how to can at home using one-piece lids, check out my tutorial).

Having canned a bit in these jars over the last few weeks, I can tell you that they perform beautifully. They are true to size, strong, and seal well. I also really appreciate the fact that the slightly square shape offers up four smooth sides for labeling. If I were canning for a baby or wedding shower, I’d stock up on the half pint size, order some custom labels from CanningCrafts, and offer up the prettiest party favors this side of Pinterest.

This week, the folks at Fillmore are sponsoring our giveaway. One lucky winner will get a case of the Anchor Hocking jars (jar size is winner’s choice), a dozen lids and rings, and a $25 gift card, good on the Fillmore Container website (perhaps you’ll want to use it to get a copy of Naturally Sweet Food in Jars!). This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents. Please use the widget below to enter.

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Disclosure: Fillmore Container is a Food in Jars sponsor. Their participation my sponsorship program helps keep this website afloat. They sent the jars pictured in this post for review and photography purposes and are also contributing the prize, both at no cost to me. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed here remain entirely my own.

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