Monday, July 14, 2014

Can Do

I canned this weekend, for the first time in 15 years.  I had the good fortune to pick plums from my friends' tree while they're in Hawaii.

What you see here, 10+ half pints, is the second batch.  I ruined the first batch, way overcooking it and scorching it in the process.  The first batch became inedible prune glue.

Because I no longer have any of the canning and preserving materials I used to own, I resorted to Google to search out recipes for small batch, no pectin jam.  Pectin is not necessary with stone fruits.

So of course, I found lots of conflicting information.  Didn't I just complain about this last week re: cheesecakes?!  One jam recipe says to boil the fruit/sugar mix for a few minutes, turn off, and repeat those steps numerous times.  Another recipe says to boil the mix hard and bring up to 220 degrees.  Others say to simmer for an hour, or for many hours, or whatever. 

I tried my darndest to get the first batch up to 220 degrees, but that never happened, even though the goop was thick enough to stand a spoon up in.  The freezer test, where you put a dollop of jam on a cold plate and stick it in the freezer for two minutes and then test for gelling, worked on the first batch, but I was going for those higher degrees ala whatever recipe I was trying then.  The spoon-sheeting test, where two drops of jam turn into one, didn't work on the first batch, but I didn't learn until later that this test only works with a metal spoon.  I'd used a wooden spoon on the first batch.  Bottom line:  high learning curve (again) to recoup my canning chops.

For the second batch, I brought the fruit/sugar mix to a low boil, cooked for 10 minutes, turned the stove off and let the mix sit to room temperature.  And repeated that four more times.  Then I put it in sterilized jars and hot-water bathed for 10 minutes.  The jam looks a little loose in the jar, but after refrigeration, thickened up nicely.  But not so thick as to tear bread, which turns out to be perfect, in my estimation.  I did have to cook it up five times, instead of the recommended four, but that's because there was a lot of liquid in the fruit mix to begin with.  And that's because I froze batches of cut-up plums as they became ripe.  The water in the frozen plums contributed extra moisture to the fruit/sugar mix, necessitating an extra low boil.

Then, after the water bath, my jars came out with a powdery residue on them, which has never happened to me before when I canned in the past.  Back to Google to find out that spots and residue on jars, bands and lids happens when you can with hard water.  The solution is to add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water bath, or merely clean off the jars, etc. with a dab of vinegar after the fact.  Which is what I did.

So, I've got hard water.  Which was a good thing for me to have confirmed.  Because when I was ecodyeing three years ago, I came to suspect my water was hard, as I was unable to get much more than the same often-muddy colors regardless of plant material used, or mordants, or whether or not I pre-mordanted the fabric.  Back then I'd contacted the water department in Fortuna to get information about our water here, and nothing in the materials they sent indicated our water is hard.  Well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.  And now that I know the water's hard, at least it is here in Rose Cottage, I see evidence of it several places around the kitchen/studio sink.

The ecodyeing ship sailed a long time ago for me, but I'm planning to make white peach jam sometime this summer.

Have a sweet week!  xo


PamelaArtsinSF said...

Yummy -- and pretty. I love the way jam looks in jars. And you will have a little summer on your toast in February!

ileneharris said...

Hey, Connie!

Don't you just love the smell of your kitchen while the jam is cooking? And the color inside the jars - like jewels?Then of course the incredible tingling taste on your tongue...

Jan said...

I hate the conflicting info frustrating.
Your jam looks beautiful.
Dad made freezer apricot jam and the jars had a thin film of frost on them after freezing. None of the other jam jars did this. Of course it melted when out of the freezer.
go figure!

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

WOW! The jars look beautiful and I'm betting the jam is wonderful!

Jeannie said...

The fruits of your labors look beautiful and will be even more appreciated when you have some in the depths of winter. I fear I would have to go back to canning camp with you. I quit since it seemed silly for just the two of us. I am re-thinking that. Of course, when it is 100+ degrees, I think of canning. LOL!Have a wonderful week!

ileneharris said...

I am glad to see that you put the plums to good use. And, I wish I had my utensils here in Maui so I could make some jam using the locally grown fruits...

frazzledsugarplummum said...


jenclair said...

A perfect way to savor summer when the weather turns cooler!

You've made me wonder about the hard water. Our water is hard and may have been part of the problem with my eco dye attempts.

Mmmm, the white peach jam sounds like a true pleasure.

Els said...

Ahhhh Connie, you learned a lot over ten and a half can of jam ;-))
Enjoy your (sweet) lunch !

Leslie said...

Lovely little jars of jam. I made apricot preserves a month or so ago with the glut of apricots from our 1 tree. And I boiled mine for a long time but it was still kinda thin. Ah, well. Apricot sauce.