Back in February, Annette from Sustainable Eats got in touch, asking me if I’d participate in her Urban Farm Handbook challenge in August. I said yes and now, a head-spinningly fast six months later, it’s my turn to issue a Food Preservation challenge.
So here’s what I’d like you UFH challenge folks (and anyone else who wants to play along) to try. Invent your own small batch jam recipe. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to ask people who are doing an urban farm challenge to think small during the height of canning season, but once you can piece together a small recipe, it will open up your brain and help you think creatively (though still safely) about your food preservation.
I realize that this sounds impossibly scary for some of you, particularly since we regularly hear from a number of sources that creating our own canning recipes is a big, fat no-no. However, here’s the thing. When you start with high acid fruits (and that’s the vast majority of them), and you add just a sweetener (sugar, honey or maple syrup all have the right chemical make-up to work well in this context) and you limit your flavor boosters to just a pinch of herb or spice, it’s really hard to create an unsafe product (though make sure to read through to the end of this post for the list of fruits that need more aggressive acidification).
Start with a pound or so of fruit. Chop or mash it and measure how much you have. Add half as much sugar or maple syrup, or just a third of the volume of honey (it’s sweeter than the other two). Stir to combine and cook over fairly high heat in a stainless steel frying pan, stirring all the time. A low, wide pan will have the jam cooking down in ten minutes or less.
Add a splash of lemon juice if the sweetness needs balancing. A pinch of cinnamon is good if you want warmth. Star anise is tasty, as is a bit of vanilla bean, a few lemon verbena leaves or even a little freshly ground black pepper.
When you can draw a line through the cooking jam with your spatula and it holds it for a moment or two, it is done. Scrape the jam into small jars. They can be processed in a boiling water bath canner or just refrigerated.
Note: There are a few fruits that need to be acidified like tomatoes to ensure their safety. These are asian pears, white peaches and nectarines, figs, melons and tropical fruit. For every two cups of fruit pulp, add one tablespoon bottled lemon juice.
There are prizes for participating in the challenge. At the end of the month, Annette will publish a post in which everyone who participated can link up and then have a chance to win. Here’s what you could get:
- A copy of Food in Jars – Preserving in Small Batches Year Round by Marisa McClellan (that’s my book!)
- A copy of The Complete Idiots Guide to Fermenting Food by Wardeh Harmon.
- A copy of Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning from Chelsea Green Publishing.
Now, start canning!