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Experimental Jamming

blueberry and peach jamsHomemade jam is a perfect canvass for creativity. Fresh seasonal fruit packs plenty of flavor on its own but thanks to the high acid content, fruit jam can be safely canned with herb and spice additions. Tired of the same old peach jam I usually make, I asked the family for new ideas. Lil wanted to combine our freshly picked peaches with farmer's market blueberries. Alex suggested playing with fresh basil from our garden.

And so it was that on Tuesday night I had three pots of jam on the stove. trio of homemade jams on the stove

For the blueberry basil, I added 1 tablespoon washed and chopped fresh basil to 1 cup of blueberries. The peach basil included 1 tablespoon basil to two cups mashed fresh peaches. For the blueberry peach, I mixed 1 cup blueberries with two cups mashed fresh peaches. I added a bit of Pomona's pectin and sugar to each pot, mostly relying on the natural pectin to set the jams.

With a few years of experimenting in the can, I offer these tips for creating your own flavors:

  1. Use an existing recipe as a base. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has lots of them that have been tested for safety.
  2. Can in small jars. Highly flavored jams tend to be used in specialty dishes and don't get eaten as fast as standard jams around my house. I like cute quarter pints because there's less to go through before the jam spoils.
  3. The less sugar you use, the quicker it will spoil after opening. Finding homemade jam spoiled in the fridge is one of the worst feelings in the world so plan jar size and usage carefully for low sugar recipes. I've found over time that I prefer the taste, set, and preserving effect of using about 1 part sugar to 4 parts fruit.
  4. Use Pomona's Pectin if you use pectin at all. Pomona's can be adjusted to any batch size and any amount of sugar, unlike most brands. I recommend starting with 1 teaspoon calcium water and 1 teaspoon pectin powder per cup of fruit.
  5. Do a set test. If you are experimenting off recipe, you definitely want to test the set or gel-ness of the jam. I do this by putting a small spoonful in the freezer for one minute. If it sets then, I know it will set in the jars.
  6. Flavors concentrate over time. What tastes like a hint of spice will become stronger as it ages in the jar. Err on the side of fewer flavor agents.
  7. Use caution when mixing in fresh non-fruit ingredients. To safely can jams, the mixture must maintain acidity above 4.6 pH. Fresh herbs and most vegetables are low acid foods, so they must be used in moderation and/or corrected for acid balance by adding lemon juice.
  8. If you are concerned about canning safely, freeze the jam or store in the fridge for short term use.

Have fun, canning friends!


Added to Simple Lives Thursday.