Hubby has been growing amazing fruits and veggies in his garden this Summer. He nearly doubled its size from last year and has added many new varieties and types of plants.
Let’s be honest, I was not the most helpful gardener last year (I have pretty heinous allergies), so this year I decided to trade in my gloves for the responsibility of post-harvest management. Freezing, canning, cooking, etc. While I can definitely handle freezing and cooking, canning has been looming. I appreciate the idea of canning, but after hearing horror stores of molten fruit / veggies boiling over onto the stove – well, let’s say I’ve been apprehensive about trying it.
My family visited us at the farm last weekend, and their trip coincided with our blackberry bushes (brambles?) bursting with ripe berries. My siblings and hubby set to work picking, while my Mom (also a canning novice) and I read Blackberry Jam recipes. My mother-in-law (and resident farmer) came across this book from way-back-when and passed it along to me:
[Photo borrowed from eCrater.]
This is a small fraction of the berries they brought in for us:
We used a little less than half of the yield for a batch of Jam (we froze the rest). The recipe called for 9 cups of mashed berries and 6 cups of sugar boiled together until the temp reached 8 deg F past the boiling point of water (which varies with altitude).
It took quite a while to reach the correct temperature, but then again I was too nervous about boiling over to increase the flame beyond medium-low. Meanwhile, we filled the sink with hot water and placed our canning jars inside to avoid thermal shock (and breakage) when filled will boiling Jam.
Once the fruit finally reached temperature, I put on big silicon gloves and filled the jars, while Mom wiped off the threading and added tops. Then we placed them in a LARGE pot (which Lucas uses for brewing beer) partially filled with hot, but not boiling, water. We had put a kettle on just before filling the jars, so once they were full and in the large pot, we added boiling water over top, such that the water level was 2 inches above the jars. It took 2 kettles to accomplish this! Then, we brought the large pot to a rolling boil and waited 15 min.
Boiling the jars causes the air inside to expand and escape. As they cool to room temperature, the seals on the jar lids prevent air from getting back inside, creating a vacuum – and lasting freshness. I placed the jars on a baking rack to cool, and within the first 30 min you could hear the lids ping as they caved in due to the vacuum pressure. Success!
Please excuse my ultra-cluttered counter top, dear readers!
Ultimately, we made 8 half-pint jars of Jam. There was 1/2 cup or so left over that we stored in the fridge…after we all stuck a finger in to taste, that is. YUM! Quite a positive, not-at-all-scary experience, and some good quality bonding time with Mom!
I’ve definitely caught the canning bug. Perhaps pickles next?