Yes it is that beautiful time of year in Seattle. The sun is out, the air is warm, and FINALLY, the garden is yielding beautiful foods for your eating pleasure. Not only do you have fresh home grown food, but way more than you could possibly eat before it goes bad. What to do? Preserve it!!! Yes, I did it, for the first time ever in my life, I made jam. Globs, yes globs of it! That is what it turns into, globs of delicious, sugary goodness that will last you through the year when you are craving something that reminds you of summer in the cold, bleak February month when spring is just around the corner, but still too far to see.
I am excited about my jam experience. It was a hot sticky adventure, but well worth it. I personally do not have a garden, so my adventure began at the farmers market. It is berry season. All the berries I could imagine were available for purchase in bulk. My jamming adventure was inspired by my friend Susie "with an S" when she brought over the first strawberries in honey preserves for a wonderfully delicious early summer dessert. I was like, "I totally want to do this," thus, my journey to preserve all things delicious has begun.
Naturally, I decided to enlist the help of my good friend Michelley because last year she taught me how to make canned pumpkin bread and canned zucchini bread (which we will be doing again when these crops come in season:). Unfortunately my friend Michelle had never made jam either, so what else would you do in this situation but but a book on how to do it. What a great experience! We were two newbies in the kitchen, crushing berries and apricots.
After skimming our how to book,"Preserve It," By Lynda Brown. We decided that even a couple of cooking novices could do this, which we are not. We were further lulled into a very nice sense of security after we took 3 lbs of apricots and made apricot jam without a hitch. WOOP! We are officially intermediate preservers. We graduated ourselves from novice, patted ourselves on the back and set out to make a mixed berry jam that contained a combined 8-9lbs black berries, raspberries, and blueberries that were obtained from the Ballard Farmers Market. We should have measured because this is where it got interesting. We were following the recipe when we realized we added too much lemon juice to our berries, now we needed to off set the lemon flavor. We scoured her kitchen and opted to add some over ripe plums Michelle had lounging in her refrigerator. Ahhh! Problem solved. Let's relax and enjoy some food while we simmer the berries; we had been at this for 4 hours now. LET THE CHAOS ENSUE!!!
"Hey I think the berries are boil...s&$t, f&^k! The berries boiled over, quick turn off the stove, WAIT! OUCH! Hot sugary berry juice preserves all over the stove, WAIT! OUCH!! F*&K!! Quick grab that towel... WAIT, It's White!!! Whatever, hand it here!! The smoke detectors!" At this point every smoke detector in the house is going off (sorry upstairs neighbors). After about 4 1/2 minutes of absolute mayhem, the house was filled with the caramelly smell of burnt sugar and smoke that was somewhat suffocating. We both had various burns from splattered boiling sugary berry goodness, and we needed lavender (FYI: It's to soothe the burns. Never can or preserve without it).
Finally, the smoke detectors were quiet and the clean up begins. About 45 min later, the mess was contained and cleaned up (wish BP worked that fast, but I digress). Anyhow we were left with a relatively cooler mix of potential berry jam that now needed to be corrected because the loss of part an unknown amount of the recipe. Reheat and taste, that's the perfect place to begin. Now we needed more sugar... now it was too liquidy...CRAP!!!! Add pectin to thicken, simmer some more. Phew, it passed the set test, we are ready to jar and seal.
After 7+ hours our jam was resting and setting up. Michelley and I were sticky as hell and reeked to high France of lavender, but we were happy and satisfied. We felt our canning adventure was a great success even if we were convinced we would be sticky for the rest of our lives. It was a great fun experience that we plan to repeat quite a few more times this season. Michelle would like to do every recipe in the whole book, while I would settle for making some pickles, mango chutney, apple butter, and red pepper jelly. We'll see! For now our canning adventures are to be continued :)