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Jams And Preserves

Three jars of peach jam
Peach jam. Photo by Carmen via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I'm really loading up my market basket with a lot of fruit these days, and that's a good thing. Nine times out of ten I take my plums or peaches or pears home and eat them straight out of my hand. But sometimes they are so good, I wish I could do something more with them. Fortunately, Chef Jerry Pellegrino is very well informed about turning fruit into jams and preserves.

Here are some of his thoughts.

Canning Rules and Hints:

1. Don’t use jars larger than a quart. Home canning technology cannot guarantee that larger quantities will be sufficiently heated through for enough time. Rather, the food on the outside will overcook, while that on the inside won’t get hot enough for food safety.

2. A water-bath canner may only be used for high acid foods such as tomatoes, fruits, rhubarb, sauerkraut, pickles, and jams/jellies. A pressure canner MUST be used for low acid foods including vegetables, meats, and stews.

3. Use only modern canning recipes from reliable sources (especially when first starting out).

4. Never reuse jar lids. Used lids aren’t reliable for sealing correctly. If a screw-on band is rusty or bent, it won’t work right and should be discarded and replaced.

5. Don’t use antique or ‘French’ -type canning jars. They aren’t as safe as the modern, regular ‘Ball, Kerr’ type.

6. Check the jar rims carefully every year by running your finger over the top of the rim and checking for nicks. Even the tiniest

nick makes the jar unusable for canning. A nicked jar rim won’t seal reliably.

7. Raw pack is not safe for certain foods: all kinds of greens (spinach, etc.), white potatoes, squash, okra, a tomato/okra combination, and stewed tomatoes.

8. You must allow the correct amount of space (head-space) between your food, together with the liquid that covers it, and the jar lid (follow the recipe instructions).

9. Do not begin counting the processing time until after the water in the canner comes to a rolling boil (if using the water-bath method), or until after steam has vented for 10 minutes AND until the pressure gauge has risen to the recommended pressure after placing the weight on the vent pipe (if using a pressure canner).

10. Process the full recommended time (and at the recommended pressure if using pressure canner).

11. Lift out each jar individually using a jar lifter; keep it upright and not tipped.

12. If a jar did not seal, discard the lid, check to see if the jar rim is chipped (discard jar), check for food residue on the rim (clean), put on a new lid, and reprocess. Or consume the food and/or put it in the refrigerator as you would any other leftover food for later consumption.

Being able to take the delicious fruits and vegetables from the spring and summer and enjoy them year-round is a wonderful thing. Below are a few recipes and some tips on canning your creations.

Strawberry Jam

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled

4 cups white sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

In a wide bowl, crush strawberries in batches until you have 4 cups of mashed berry. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F (105 degrees C). Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving ¼ to ½ inch headspace, and seal. Process in a water bath. If the jam is going to be eaten right away, don't bother with processing, and just refrigerate.

Blackberry & Apple Jam

Ingredients

6 cups blackberries

2 large baking apples, cut into small pieces, including skins and seeds

5 cups sugar, plus or minus

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Sterilized ½ pint jars

Water-bath canning equipment

Place the berries in a large pot and mash with a potato masher. Add the apple chunks and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the apples are soft, about 30 minutes. Force the fruit through a food mill set with the smallest holes. Measure the fruit purée in a large measuring cup and measure out the same quantity of sugar (if you have 5 cups of purée, you’ll need 5 cups of sugar. Place the purée in a clean pot, stir in the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer the mixture, stirring often, until it begins to thicken. Using a candy thermometer, continue to cook the mixture until it reads 220°F. Ladle the jam into the jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Wipe the rims, screw on the lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.