Canning is back. Everywhere I look it seems like more and more people are trying their hand at pickling, preserving, jamifying (yeah, made that one up) and ultimately putting up jars for the winter. Obviously this is not a new thing at all. I remember my grandma always making her own plum jelly with a friend’s fruit and apricot jam from her own tree. I’m certain there was also strawberry jam but the apricot was hands down my own personal favorite. So when I got to reading about all the wonderful jams and jellies to be made I added it to my summer cooking bucket list as something I had to try. My grandma, who no longer takes the time to can, volunteered two cases of her jars to get me started and now I can’t be stopped.
In June, when cherries first appeared in the farmers’ market, I got a little ahead of myself. I told my husband, “Let’s buy five pounds so I cam make jam!” without really having all the things I needed at that point. You see, June is apparently not the month most people are canning. When we went to several stores and markets in search of pectin and lids for the jars (because you can reuse the jars and the rings but not that little disk which is really the “lid”) it was like being on a wild goose chase. We were unable to find cases of jars anywhere and certainly no one was selling just the lids or just the rings. Some places had two jars but then no pectin. Ultimately, we found liquid pectin and I settled for paraffin wax which I remembered my grandma using. I’ll show the process here of not really canning but creating a wax seal but please note that it’s much, much better to do water bath canning. My new go-to source on canning, Food in Jars, has a great post about why some methods besides water bath and pressure canning aren’t always that safe.
The other minor hiccup happened when I realized that the directions that come with the pectin were for SOUR cherries not the sweet ones that we get in Northern California. I wasn’t about to give up (and I had to use my five pounds of cherries) so I figured adding some lemon for the missing acidity and a little less sugar would do the trick after searching the internet for a recipe was a failure. Ultimately, I already planned to make these and put them all in the refrigerator (they should be shelf stable but it was my first try and I didn’t want to risk it!) so a little change of the recipe was fine. I should note, when making jams or jellies, you should always follow a tested recipe and pectin usually comes with good ones.
To pit the cherries I read that you just use a bottle and a chopstick to poke out the pits. Worked like a charm! I did this over a plate and paper towel then threw everything in the compost and recycled the bottle when I was done.
Most folks sterilize their washed jars in a water bath, my grandma gave me directions for doing it in the oven. Simply put the jars on a clean folded towel in the oven at 225-degrees for 30 minutes. That way you’re not pouring your jam or jelly into wet jars. I’ve been using this method for other batches of things since and so far so good.
The hot jam gets poured into jars using a funnel with a large opening leaving clearance on the top of each. Normally at this point you put lids and rings on then process in a water bath to form a seal. For wax sealing you instead let them cool and then put the wax on when they’ve solidified a little. I can see how this lets some bacteria get in there during the waiting period but mine turned out fine.
Several pours of wax form a thick seal on the jars. Using a wax sealing method, you should never see jam seep through the seal so I did pretty good. The other downside of wax? Some folks have never seen this before and don’t know what to do with it!
If you’ve never seen this before, this is what the wax seal looks like. You can usually use a knife to get around the seal and it will eventually pop out. Mine were sometimes a little hard to get out which I took as a good sign for the seal.
Some jars were gifted to friends and neighbors but the rest ended up in our refrigerator and getting mixed into Greek yogurt. For a first batch it was a good introduction to the process. My husband and I learned shortly after our hunt for jars and lids that our small local market has an amazing selection of all kinds of canning stuff. I may have gone a little crazy there and have found more supplies since then. Leading to this:
You’ve already seen that picture if you follow thismodernwife on Facebook but needless to say, there is more (correct) canning to come! It’s far easier than I thought it was and I’ve been trying out all kinds of fun things.