I don’t often run guest posts, but I do find that it’s nice to occasionally include a voice other than my own. Today’s guest writer is Todd Van Patter from the blog Foodie’s Arsenal. He is an able cook but a very new canner. This is his account of his first preserving experience (aided by my cookbook!). Thanks so much for making one of my recipes and writing about it, Todd!
For whatever reason, I’ve never tried canning before. I realize that in our convenience culture it’s more of a niche skill or a hobby for the culinarily ambitious, so I’m not exactly alone in my cluelessness. But I have every reason to be all about canning, and it just hasn’t clicked until now.
I grew up in a family of good cooks and pretty good gardeners; my wife and I care a lot about our food and are always looking for ways to simplify our lifestyle; I have a food blog where I write about such important things as being better foodies and learning skills to get more out of your food on a frequent basis. I even grew up in Central Pennsylvania, come from Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, and have a surprising number of Mennonite friends. But still no jars. So I guess my canning destiny has been a long time coming.
The final push I needed came from Marisa and her awesome book. She didn’t ask me to promote it or anything, but I’ll happily do so because it’s my kind of cookbook. Laid back, thorough explanations, enticing recipes and pictures, and just a little nerdy– it’s exactly the kind of canning book I would have pictured if I knew I wanted one so bad. So I’m really glad to have Marisa’s guidance be my gateway into the canning world.
Anyway, I gave it a shot, and I’m hooked. Right now is the perfect time to learn to can if you’re interested in it, with summer gardens headed toward harvest and farmer’s markets bursting with color and variety. The couple of jams and fruit butters I’ve tried so far have turned out well, and since I’m lucky to have a strong gardening/preserving culture here in Harrisonburg VA, I know that I’ll continue to learn great ways use this new skill in my own food adventures.
I decided to share my debut canning experience with you all using Marisa’s Blueberry Jam recipe from the Food in Jars cookbook, since blueberries are one of my top favorite things on the planet. Thanks to you all for hosting me here and letting me add my voice to the mix, and I hope that you’ll also come follow along at my blog, Foodie’s Arsenal, where there will soon undoubtedly be a lot more canning recipes popping up.
Todd’s annotated version of my blueberry jam recipe is after the jump. Thanks again, Todd!
- 8 dry pints blueberries
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon (I’m into Mexican cinnamon right now, so I tried that)
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- zest and juice from 1 lemon
- 2 things of liquid pectin
- Start heating your water bath with 3-4 pint jars or 6-7 half pint jars. I went with the smaller jars since I thought smaller portions would be nicer and easier to work through. Heat your lids in a wide pan at a bare simmer.
- Mash up your blueberries. This is a sad moment at first if you’re a blueberry hoarder like me, but it gets easier and strangely satisfying as you go. It should be about 6 cups of purply goo filled with lots of blueberry skins when you’re done.
- Mix the blueberry mush with the sugar in a good-sized pot and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice, zest, cinnamon and nutmeg, and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes to reduce the mixture. When it looks thick and shiny, add your two 3-ounce pouches of pectin and return to a boil for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and ladle your hot jam into the prepared jars. Get your lids and bands in place, and process in the water bath for 10 minutes.
- The result? A gorgeous, thick, deep bluish-purple jam with a hint of spice and a fruity sweetness.
I’m really excited to have this jam be the first of many jars to hit the shelf this season. So if you’re like me and have been hovering around here but can’t decide if all this canning stuff is for you, take it from a newly converted canner that this is a skill worth enjoying.