The Worth of Preserving

Today we have a guest post from a high school friend of mine, Rochelle. She's a canning rockstar and takes some seriously mouthwatering photos of her work. Check out her instagram


‘Hi, my name is Rochelle and I have a jam problem’ isn’t the way to start this off. Funnily enough, it’s very much true. I have always loved to cook and find solace in the kitchen. I grew up in a bad relationship with food. Food and I? The communication started at “my life is miserable” and ended with “stuffing my face makes everything better”. After teaching myself to cook, food always made me feel good. It just isn’t a sustainable mindset. Thankfully, I can say I don’t live like that anymore. I work out 4-6 days a week, eat for sustenance and lifestyle goals but will enjoy a treat now and again. All things in moderation.

To get to the point of why I’m writing. I make jam. Jars upon jars of jam. Jam is my little sweet secret (not very secret at all). Currently I’m sitting at a table while waiting for marmalade to seal in my asparagus pot (the smallest/tallest pot I have for making small batches). The process is something that is daunting at first, but by the time you have made your 3rd batch of anything, you have the flow down, and can start playing around with tastes and textures. Perhaps testing out new fruit combinations from a trusted source.

Marisa McClellan is to blame for this wonderful obsession I have. A little over a year ago I went to a local farm and watched a canning demo she was doing for the release of her first book Food in Jars. She made it so easy to understand and so exciting to try. Almost immediately, I went out and got a small amount of supplies to replicate the plum jam she had made. I felt like a hedge witch in the kitchen, apprehensively watching over my little batch of jam. It bubbled and boiled and I felt right on track with everything I had witnessed at the demo. It took me a long time that first time, between the prep and making sure it was perfect to put into my first jars. Afterwards, I put it on toast and tucked in. Hooked.

Jam is kind of easy and I really feel like it’s a good first step to take if you want to get into canning. You have your fruit, sugar, sometimes additional pectin and quiet often a lemon by-product (zest, squeezed lemon juice or bottled lemon juice). If you are just starting or feeling overwhelmed and lost PLEASE head over and try one of Marisa’s recipes. There are lots of small batch recipes so you don’t have to have 10 jars and a huge pot. Most of my canning is done in little batches. A bit of this and that. Which also makes it easy to have the same fruit with different flavors.

A good example is my minor obsession with figs. It’s a new one for me. I had fig jam on a salad. It wasn’t the best fig jam out there, but it intrigued me. Fig as a flavor is hit and miss. I personally love the taste and the texture just adds to the experience. This past month I made a fig thyme jam, a cinnamon fig jam and a strawberry fig. I recently picked up my own fig tree to start growing them myself. Ok, it’s a little bigger of an obsession than when I first mentioned it. Figs are the bomb, yo. It has to be said that figs are a low acid fruit and something to be wary of if you are a beginner. I took my first fig recipe from Marisa second book Preserving by the Pint.

Figs are no longer in season and you will be lucky if you find them anywhere. Instead I’ll leave you with one of my new favorite recipes that is amazing to make and use now. But trust me, if you make it now, preserve it and open it when it’s snowy and cold, then you can curl up with a book, coffee/hot cocoa and toast with this amazing jam and feel like winter isn’t so bad.


Italian Plum with Star Anise


  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Italian plums (prune plums- more oval in shape)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar  
  • 3 star anise blossoms 

Instructions

Get a stock pot and boil 2-3 jam jar in it (those are 8oz jars that usually have a quilted pattern on them). You can go ahead and throw the lids in there as well.  This sanitizes the jars. *You always want something in the bottom of the water bath (like a trivet or towel if you can’t find anything else) so that the cans aren’t sitting directly on the head of the stove*

1.     Combine chopped plums, sugar and star anise blossoms. Let sit for at least an hour, or until the fruit has gotten quite syrup-y.  Take out the star anise.
2.     Put fruit in a medium-sized pan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the jam thickens and passes the plate test.
3. Funnel the jam into the jars leaving about a half inch of headspace in the jar (so basically where the rings for the lid start).
4. Wipe the rims of the cans clean and dry with a paper towel or cloth.
5. Apply the rings
6. Place the jars back into the boiling water for 10 minutes to boil. Once the time is up, take them out and let them sit on a clean towel for 24 hours. You should hear the tops pop shortly after canning but if they don’t right away don’t worry! Sometimes it takes a bit. 

*** If you aren’t ready to preserve things yet but still want to try making jam, DO IT! Make the recipe and then put it into clean jars and store in the fridge. It will keep for a couple of months but I doubt it will last that long.

Hope you enjoy!


(Recipe by Marisa McClellan – www.foodinjars.com)

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