Mourning the End of a Jar

March 9, 2010(updated on October 3, 2018)

empty jam jar

One of the most powerful taste memories I have from my childhood years in Southern California is of freshly picked plums. My family’s home in Eagle Rock wasn’t particularly big on the inside, but sat on the flattest part of a extensive, terraced yard. We had three purple plum trees in the side and back yards, and every other year, they produced bumper crops of the most juicy, tender-fleshed plums I’ve ever eaten.

Several of the fruit-producing branches hung low enough for my seven year old self to pick the plums without parental aid and so during their season, I would entertain myself underneath the plum trees. I would pretend that I was Laura Ingalls, helping “Ma” by picking wild fruit into my little bent wood basket. My own mom would sometimes make runny jam with the plums I brought her, or just tuck one into our lunches.

This morning I reluctantly finished a jar of jam I made back in August. I’ve so enjoyed this particular batch, because it tasted so much like our LA plums. The tart flavor of the skin wasn’t obscured by the sugar and the clean, gentle flavor of the plum’s interior was perfectly present as well. Each bite was balanced, fresh and so, so summery.

I wish I had more of this batch, but the rest was given out as favors at our wedding. The only reason this jar stayed with me was that it didn’t seal (darn Quattro Stagioni jars) and so ended up in my fridge instead in the gift stash. I don’t regret that though. I’m actually delighted that so many of our friends and family ended up with jam from such a good batch.

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It seems that we’re finally heading into the waning days of winter. For those of you who spent some time canning last summer, what have been your favorite things to eat from your home canned stash? For me it has been this jam and all the tomatoes I did in those frantic spare moments before the wedding. Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your winners!

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59 thoughts on "Mourning the End of a Jar"

  • I just started canning last summer when there unfortunately wasn’t as much variety in fruit because of a sudden late frost. I was able to pick up a few pounds of Goldrich Apricots though and quickly turned those in jam. It was quite possibly the most delicious jam I’ve ever had. I ate my last jar last month. So sad.

  • My favorite by far has been the sour cherry and almond preserves I made. I think I just opened the final jar last night. The spicy tomato sauce has been great, too. Far too few jars of that. On the other hand: I have no earthly idea why I chose to make sour cherry and rose petal preserves — they taste like bad potpourri smells — or pickled asparagus. (How much pickled asparagus did I plan on incorporating into my diet anyway?)

  • Today I canned 36 pints of chicken. Not out of my garden, but from the store. Most people cringe when I say I can chicken, but I’ve been doing it for 10 years now and it is hands down the most favorite in our family. I use it in salads, soups, casseroles, enchiladas, sandwiches, and sometimes just straight out of the jar!!! It’s so easy and so good and you always have chicken available!!!
    I can a lot of things! Vegie wise our favorites are probably pickles or beans. My daughter would say peaches and pears and my son would say YUCK to everything, but the pickles!!!

  • I’m having some trouble picking out a favorite. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the pickled watermelon rind (I must admit – my husband is actually the one who canned them), but the thing I keep returning to is just the plain canned peach halves I put up at the end of the summer. They are simple and lovely (and I don’t have to feel guilty for eating a whole jar). I also made a rhubarb-vanilla jam that was a clear winner.

  • I can understand mourning the end of a jar. I am saving one last blueberry jam – it is so nice to open a little jar of summer, but it will be here before we know it and we’ll again be canning in the kitchen.

  • I had thought my favorite was the pickled beets. I made them super acidic, knowing that the acid would mellow with time. But nonetheless, right after I made them, I was sure I had ruined 15 lbs. of beets, because they were so sharp. Months later, they are delicious.
    Those were my favorite until I opened the whole peaches I canned in syrup. I hadn’t opened one until this week…oh my, sunshine in a jar.

  • I didn’t can last summer (too busy with baby and moving) but I was fortunate enough to have been gifted several jars of Damson Plum jam home canned by a good friend. Holy god it has been beyond delicious.

  • Peach Butter with Vanilla Bean is the clear winner. Roasted Rome Applesauce is a close second. Roasting the apples was the way to go. It concentrated the sweetness so much that no added sugar was necessary. Not to mention easy! Cut them in half, dump them in the roaster, when soft run through the food mill. Then there was the Fig Jam with Port and Lemon, Poached Seckle Pears in Spices and White Wine Syrup…

  • My dill pickle relish was one of my favorite new things I canned last summer. Must make so much more this year. I’m down to 1 1/2 pints now. I learned to be patient with pickles too. I thought some of them went, but really they needed time to mature. The sauerkraut was out of this world. I started canning tomatoes last summer and it was worth the hours on my feet to put them up before they went bad. The sweet cherry jam was so good I quit eating it, so I could have some up to when I can get my hands on good cherries again. Canned peaches and applesauce are wonderful. Pickled red onions in red vinegar was a hit at my dinner party a could of weeks ago on top of spinach. So much canning to enjoy!

  • My mom’s friend makes these delicious fresh peaches in gin (not canned) all summer long and they’re so simple and delicious. So when I came across a recipe for brandied peaches (canned) and it said you could substitute any liquor, I was sold. I wanted to give them as a birthday gift to a good friend, but it was the first thing I had ever canned, so I was nervous about just gifting it without sampling. So I opened a jar last night and they are FABULOUS. I ate 2 slices and made myself stop — then I turned the rest of the jar into an amazing peach cobbler. It tastes like a regular cobbler, until you get a big peachy bite with all the lovely gin. YUM!

    And thanks, Marisa, because you answered all my questions about canning and your blog definitely made me feel like it was possible for me to try. I voted for you in the Saveur awards as soon as I heard!

  • My husband and I went to Florida back in January and came home with 50 pounds of fresh carrots. A friend and I turned most of them into the most wonderful carrot pickles! I’m torn between those and cranberry sauce.

  • I was just getting my feet wet with canning this year and I attempted canning some jams with honey instead of sugar. As a result I’ve been almost terrified to eat it for fear of botulism! My plum jam seemed to do fine (and was my favorite) and I got rave reviews on my not too sweet apricot jam, but my blueberry is mostly still in the pantry. I was specifically looking forward to this in particular, but the honey seems to have given it a distinct smell and taste. (My husband bravely tried it and is still living, so I’m assuming my botulism fear is unfounded). I wish I could let you taste it through cyber space so you could tell me what you think – is it safe or not?

  • I made hot pepper raspberry jam for this first time last season and am savoring every jar. I don’t want to run out before the peppers and berries are ready to put up again!

  • My favorite this year no contest was the raspberry nectarine jam I made with organic wild black raspberries from my in-laws’ farm. My husband’s favorite is the bruschetta (recipe from the fantastic Small Batch Preserving).

    PS – Amy – honey should be fine! I use honey with several of my jams. Check out Pomona Pectin for recipes using honey and/or low/no sugar.

  • My favorites have been my pickled beets, strawberry rhubarb jam, and my very first batch of pickles- a sweet dill recipe that I can’t find now! I thought they’d be awful, but after a few more months of marinating (at least 9) they are GREAT!

  • Last year we mourned the last jar of Gingerbread Pear Butter, so this year I didn’t can any pears and made extra pear butter. Oddly enough, since there’s a ton of it, we’re not eating as much. Must get to eating that on toast! This year I think our favorite has been Caramelized Apple Marmalade with Them.

    My favorite canned item is pickled beets, I’m not much of a sweet person, so generally my toast is topped with butter no jam. Mr Chiots loves him some sweet, so he eats enough for the two of us.

  • I’m coming to the end of a terrific pumpkin-apple butter with vanilla bean. SO good.
    Also mourning some pear & cashew chutney. I ate that by the spoonful, so no wonder I’m scraping the bottom of the jar.

  • Your jam sounds fabulous and it always cause a bit of ennui when any of us finish that “last jar” of something fabulous.
    My last summer favorite is the strawberry jam. The jam turned out perfectly jelled, slightly runny, berries in each spoonful and a taste that, wonderfully, brings back those warm May days.
    I’ve got a damson plum blueberry conserve I absolutely adore! I use plums from Mother and Daddy’s orchard and blueberries from a U-pick farm. The only thing better than home canned food is home canned food made from food you know.

  • It’s hard to pick a favorite since I can so many different things; but in the ‘sunshine in a jar’ category, I make a simple preserve with wild wineberries every July/August that can’t be beat. Every one I give away as a gift earns me a dirty look from my husband. 🙂 I would have said that the Apple Rhubarb Chutney with Fennel & Cardamom was my clear favorite – but just other day we opened a jar and it had mellowed, become too sweet and the texture was a little gloppy. It’s still fascinating to me how these things age on the shelf.

    Looks like we got married around the same time; my husband and I were married on Oct 3rd. I laughed when I read your post, picturing my own house at one point over the summer, with every available space taken up with either wedding invitation components (we printed & assembled our own) or tomatoes drying on wire racks.

    To Amy: honey substituted for sugar should not affect botulism; botulism is directly related to the pH (and density) of your preserves, and fruits are generally well below the safe pH of 4.6. Blueberries canned with honey instead of sugar will be perfectly safe, assuming you followed the rest of the recipe as specified.

    To Chiot’s Run: It’s funny I’ve done the same thing for a couple of years now. One year I ran out of tomato sauce in Januray(!) so the next year I canned tons and tons. Then it sat & sat (I still have some from ’08) and I ran out of fire-roasted canned tomatoes in February. It seems we can’t win. But it is fun trying. 🙂

  • I too grew up with a plum tree, and it still is with me tho its trunk is moss covered and it is getting somewhat spindly. I made a couple of batches of jam, adding orange peel and Grand Marnier. Two years ago a general panic ensued–not ONE plum! Failure to pollinate, but the next year, right on schedule. Then there was the time when the new dog ate the fallen green plums…

  • Tomatoes (I have a jar and a half left, BOOO) and that unbelievably beautiful bing cherry jam. I am making so much more of both this year.

  • I only barely dipped my toe in the ocean of canning last year. I started off easy–apple butter–and was absolutely delighted. I’m excited to get an earlier start this year and actually make some jams!

  • For the past two years I’ve made jam from our ornamental plum tree. The fruit is tiny, but sweet and delicious. It makes the best plum jam I’ve ever eaten.

    We made mango jam for our wedding favors last year. After canning more than 100 jars I don’t feel the need to ever make it again. Yikes. I’d rather focus on plum jam and marmalade.

  • my spicy dill pickles! We demolish a quart jar at any meal I open one. I thought I made a lot, but I’m hoarding the last 2 jars. . .

  • By far, I have been enjoying those spicy dilly beans of yours a whole lot! I also canned up some candied jalapenos, which are addicting as well. Both will be repeats for this year. You can’t eat just one of either recipe, and everyone who tries them gets addicted, too.

  • I too have treasured plum memories. Growing up in San Anselmo, CA, about an hour north of SF, walking a few miles to school and feasting daily in the fall on the kajillion tiny wild plums that hung down over the sidewalks. There were tiny golden ones, sweet green ones, dark purple, etc and all were delicious.

    I have had a great time devouring the “End-of-the Garden” mixed veggie pickles I made in desperation trying to handle the many yellow squash, carrots and cauliflower that came from the mega-garden! The recipe is from the Ball Blue Book and it’s a winner. Lots of ginger, dry mustard and cider vinegar. Wonderful pickles chopped into green salad, chopped and tossed into casseroles, etc or just for snacking. I find that a pickle mid-afternoon really quells my urge to snack around that time!

  • After making 3 batches of peach jam, I still had a ton of pureed peaches. On a whim, I mixed them into a pot of applesauce I had just finished. Result – peach applesauce. I made 10 quart of it in early September. It was gone by the end of December. This year will be NO peach jam, and lots more peach applesauce.

  • I loved hearing your childhood memory! And what a beautiful gift for your guests!

    I’ve not been preserving long, but my favorite by far from last summer was a peach-honey-cardamom preserve based on a Ferber recipe. I love it with some fresh goat cheese on a baguette. My favorite late night snack 🙂

  • Salsa. It always comes back to the salsa. It’s something we eat on a regular basis, and no matter how much I can, it seems as if there is never enough to last till August when I can it again!

  • My husbands grandmother has lived in Anaheim since….well before there was Disneyland. Each year she used to make plum jam and each year I threw it away after we got home.

    I used to think it was so old fashioned to can and so unsanitary. If I only knew then what I know now. She has almost lost her sight and she doesn’t can any more. I missed out on a lot because the big food manufacturers had me convinced that mass produced food was somehow better. I haven’t tried canning yet but I’m getting closer thanks to you.

    Kind Regards,

  • Loving my extra-garlicky “Bruschetta in a Jar”- All it needs is a baguette. And salsa- I ran out of it months ago!

  • I love having a stash of home made canned salsa to grab for a snack or a meal, it seem like such a luxury to never have to buy it.

  • I canned a ton of raspberry jam this past summer and also finished my last jar about 2 months ago! I cannot eat it any other way so now I have to wait until summer again. This year I might have to hold onto a few more jars and/or make more!

  • Ii was just eating some Kadota fig and lime preserves that I made late last summer and thinking to myself that it was probably inappropriate in some way for me to love something I made so much. I love the flavor combination and the way there are some little crunchy fig seeds in every bite. Glad I’m not the only one to dote on my own preserves.

  • I’m soon to finish my last jar of lemon zucchini relish with turmeric on my morning scrambled eggs. T’wll be a sad day!

  • So many wonderful taste experiences here! They all sound just terrific!
    My favs here are the pickled watermelon rind (from our own watermelon) and probably the peach preserves. Or the spiced tomato preserves. Or the hot peppers. Oh, they are ALL favorites!
    We haven’t stopped canning, though. During the winter is a very excellent time to can soups, beans, meat, all those things there is either no time for during the harvest of fresh fruits and veggies or you just don’t want to heat up the kitchen to process. We have chili, enchilada sauce, sloppy joe sauce, and a multitude of great things in jars to use during the hot months ahead when we want something nutritious, but don’t want to really “cook.” Most of these jars hold things which can be heated in the microwave come summer. And during the spring planting season. Yum!

  • I think the first pickles I canned, the bread and butter pickles, are my favorite from last summer. They are really yummy! I also like my pickled beets and the watermelon rind pickles. I am planning on repeating all three!
    I have read so many raves about canned peaches, though, that I will have to try that this year. I have never picked peaches, let alone canned them. Do you think I could come with you to Mood’s for peaches this year? I would be happy to drive!

  • One, that jar is amazing! Two, you just made me really want to love plums (I’ve never been much of a fan). But I do love the tart skin…I guess I just need to find the right plum. Hopefully this summer will be the first time I can, so I can’t add anything here other than to say I’m envious of your plum jam memories.

  • Goodness, now I want some really good plum jam.
    This year I made some Cinnamon Peach Jam that tastes just like peach pie. It is heaven over icecream…
    What a sweet post,

  • My spiced peach butter – I have one pint jar left and I’m afraid to open it, because I know just how fast it will go once I do! My other favorite was a new one for me this year – pomegranate jelly. My gods that was an amazing one too, but sadly it disappeared in record time. I have been out tending my little patch of berry bushes this week and wishing that time would speed up so that it is harvest time so I can get these fabulous jams and jellies back in my pantry!

  • They might be tough to seal but WOW, what a pretty jar. I am imagining it filled with plummy goodness. Sigh. It really is the simple things…

  • Our favs are the thigns we go to time & time again: tomatoes, broths, strawberry jam, beef in wine sauce.

    I canned lemon curd after seeing it on your blog. Then I got ambitious and canned blood orange curd. It’s runnier but sooo delicious.

  • How fun to read all these comments. I’m at the end of most every thing too. Strawberry/Rhubarb jam, blackberry jam are my favorites.

  • CHUTNEYS! By far, we have plowed through our supply of chutney far faster than I ever expected. My sister and I made an tomato, onion, apple, peach chutney and apple-plum chutney last summer. In addition, we just finished off the last of a dried-fruit “orchard chutney” that I had put up last winter. It’s a great flavor combination – great with goat cheese and crackers.
    Also, I have one more quart of canned peaches, which I am saving for some very special occasion…

  • Tomatoes, for sure! Still my all-time favorite. Opening a jar canned in August or September is like stepping into a momentary time-warp right there in my kitchen.

    This year, we’ve also really enjoyed something I’ve made for the first time – pear mince pie filling. Though it’s more of a winter preserve and the flavorings more like fall than summer, it’s been such a treat, and has been the perfect, looks-like-you-spent-all-day kind of thing to be able to take to a pot luck or dinner with friends.

    It all makes me happy 🙂

  • My favorite canned thing was spiced peach butter. It was my first year canning, and I’m hooked! Once, when I was too tired to can but had a few pounds of cherries, I put them in half-pint jars with a sugar syrup and a couple tablespoons amaretto (not processed, just put in the fridge). Man, they were fabulous. I gave a couple jars away as gifts before I had tasted them–then I wanted to ask for them back after we ate all of ours, heh heh!

  • I think I mentioned this before: the best thing I canned last summer was a batch of your seedless blackberry jam made with blackberries that I picked with the kids at a pick-your-own farm. I made three jars and kept them all for myself. I ate them with peanut butter toast every morning for breakfast until I they were gone. 🙁

  • Hi. I found your blog by following links. It’s always the last of my wild muscadine jelly that makes me sad. I hung on to one jar for a number of years before opening it, because we had moved away from our source of our wild muscadines. Imagine my delight to discover some last summer on our new place. This is and always will be my favorite jelly.

  • I would have to say the chunky applesauce I made from our Northern Spy apples, or maybe roasted tomato salsa. Summer and garden bounty can’t come soon enough!

  • It’s so nice to open a jar of something canned last year, isn’t it? Peaches with vanilla bean are a favorites as well as roasted quince. Strawberry jam and currant jelly are also mourned when the last jar is open. And I don’t know if that count but peach liqueur is oh so good!

  • Low sugar apricot jam, with a few additions. Used culls purchased at a discount at the Farmers Market. They were ugly, but the flavor was great. Went to make the jam and discovered there wasn’t enough apricots to make the 4 cup required amount for the recipe. Grabbed a few tiny yellow plums and chopped those up. Still was a bit short, so threw in a small juicy ripe peach. Wow that made the best jam ever. Still have one last jar that I’m going to open to eat with scones on Easter morning.

  • I recently finished my last jar of rasberry jam. I picked about 5 pounds of raspberries at a local farm. This year I’m taking my husband so we can get at least 10 pounds. It was my absolute favorite although an apricot butter (still have few jars) came in as a close second.

  • It would be wonderful if you could post on the facebook page that you have a blog update. Thanking you in advance.

  • Crystal, I will do that from now on. I honestly had no idea anyone was even following the Facebook page.

  • I find I can tell what we’ve been eating by what we’ve run out of. And that is strawberry-mint jam, salsa, and tomato sauce.

  • My most favorite item is Zesty Red Onion Jelly from the Bernardin book. The colour is a delightful pale fuchsia and the taste so fresh and accommodating with cream cheese on a cracker. Most people who taste it are enthralled. When is the best time to make it, when are the purple onions at their best?

  • I was so pleased to see that you gave these as favors at your wedding. My daughter and I are in the middle of planning her wedding for this August and we are planning to give jellies and jams as favors!! How nice your guests received something that they can enjoy. Last year I made my first red raspberry jelly with berries we picked at a local farm. Mmmmm so good. One jar left!