Thursday, July 28, 2011

Canning Time - Plum Ginger Jam & Nectarine Vanilla Bean Jam

While some people have shopping addictions, where they buy excessive amounts of shoes or handbags, I buy excessive amounts of food. Stone fruit season is in full swing in the bay area and Berkeley Bowl has three aisles of different types of stone fruit. I, of course, felt compelled to buy about 8 pounds of peaches, nectarines and plums (which is about 7.5 pounds more than I can consume in a reasonable period of time). Thus, I decided to make some jam.
A beautiful bunch of Protea "Blushing Bride" flowers
Summer Stone Fruit & Ginger Jam - I went to my go-to canning source - and found a recipe for peach plum ginger jam that I adapted to fit my likes, my fruit supply and my equipment (or lack thereof). 

I started by getting a big pot of water boiling (see above) to sterilize my jars. I chopped up about 7-ish cups of fruit, mainly Santa Rosa plums, with a few Dapple Dandy pluots and White Nectarines thrown in for good measure. I cooked the fruit with a generous 3 cups sugar (and it was almost too sweet) and 1/2 cup ginger juice. As explained on Food in Jars you simply blend chopped ginger root with a bit of water. As an aside, this led me to the discovery that ginger juice separates(!!) into a liquid green layer and a heavier viscose white layer (the weird white layer reminds me of the combination of cornstarch and water - see above). Anyways, throw all ingredients in the pot and cook for 20 minutes-ish, stirring and smashing the fruit a bit as you go.
While prepping the jam(s) I threw (gently) the jars into the pot of boiling water.
Nectarine and Vanilla Bean Jam - I just winged it with this jam (I did a little research and found out that plums have natural pectin, while nectarines are very low on the natural pectin totem pole, but, since I had no pectin I forged ahead, sans-pectin). I cut up about 4 pounds of white and yellow nectarines and cooked them in a pot with a shave of lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice, a heaping cup (maybe 1 1/2) of sugar and a vanilla bean (sliced in half lengthwise with the seeds scraped out). Cook, stir and smush for 20-30 minutes.
To finish both jams, sans-canner, I turned off the fruit and one by one I removed my jars from the pot of boiling water with tongs. For each jar I placed it on a clean surface and ladled the piping hot jam in (this would have been made simpler with a wide-neck funnel). To finish, I carefully pulled out the lid pieces from the boiling water and placed them atop the filled jar (still with my tongs) and then quickly screwed on the lid. I flipped the jars upside down and left them to cool on a dishtowel. Once cool (it will take 4-5 hours) turn them right-side up and if the lid is depressed your jar has successfully sealed!

A note on pectin - My nectarine and vanilla bean jam (low on natural pectin but added a little citrus which is high in pectin) was much thicker than my plum ginger jam (high-ish in natural pectin).

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