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Homemade Jams and Jellies
 
These days, with the wealth of produce brought from other latitudes, it’s easy to use your home canning equipment all year long! If you’re new to jammin’, treat yourself with a home canning kit: these can be found at the end of summer in most hardware stores and can be ordered on line as well.  For roughly $10, you can purchase a kit with all of the utensils you need for your new hobby, and these will make your career as a jam-maker almost effortless.
Home-made Peach Marmalade
 
 

Without the correct tools for the job, however, making preserves, jams, jellies, or pickles that will keep over the winter can be a scary experience.  You’re dealing with boiling water, into which you must place your prepared jars in order to kill any micro-organisms that could spoil your precious cargo.  The most deadly of your enemies is the botulism spore, an anaerobic bacteria that lives in the soil and can be on any produce you bring home.  So, it’s important to follow directions carefully, and it also helps to understand the process you’re using.

Some of the traditional techniques used to sterilize jars have proven faulty under contemporary scrutiny.  The Bernardin company has been making canning equipment for many years and does a lot of research into techniques and equipment. 

I don’t mind paying a little more for Bernardin jars because I know they’ve been tested, but also, the company has a useful web presence and an online newsletter to keep you inspired year ‘round!  You can purchase Bernardin products on Amazon or in your local hardware store.  They even make some pretty designer jars and lids with gift labels . . .
Home Made Beet Pickles
Some methods that have proven unsafe over the years include using the stove or microwave to process filled jars.  The steam method, whereby jars are placed in a canning pot with enough water to cover the bottom and produce steam, isn’t as safe as filling the canner and submerging the jars with 1-2” of water covering the jars.  Using the steam method, lids are attached loosely and tightened when removed from the canner.  Using the boiling water method, lids must be secured (but not too tightly) before submerging the jars in boiling water.
When you submerge jars in boiling water, they need to be processed for the correct amount of time.  For half-pint jars it is typically 10 minutes, and 20 minutes for pint jars.  Bring the jam to the boil one last time, then immediately ladle it into your jars using a wide-mouth funnel.  Fill one jar at a time, removing it from hot water and draining, then filling.  Wipe the rim of each jar as you go, using a damp cloth, just before attaching the lid securely.  Submerge the jars using your canning rack and then wait for the water to come to a full boil before beginning to count the time.
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  Canning racks are designed to hold the jars securely above the bottom of the canning pot.  The jars should not be flopping around once they’re in the rack.  Jar tongs and silicon oven mitts will help you move them safely, without dropping any or burning yourself.  Once you’ve removed the jars from the boiling water, they should be placed on a wire rack and left undisturbed for 12-24 hours.  During this time, the lids will seal:  you’ll hear them snap as the contents cool.  This is your reassurance that the jars are airtight and that nothing will get into your jam to spoil it.
Ideally you should have a cold cellar for storing your jam until you need it.  Jam will keep indefinitely in cool conditions, provided it has the right sugar content.  Any cool spot in your home can be turned into a jam cupboard, however.  A temperature below 60° F is fine.  A temperature as cold as your refrigerator may cause jam to weep: you will see a clear liquid layer oozing out of the jam.  Also, if you’ve made pickles, they won’t mellow very quickly in very cold temperatures.
Homemade Apple Butter
Jams are typically very sweet, but adding acid in the form of lemon juice tends to balance the flavor.  The right amount of acid helps to preserve the fruit, but too much may prevent it from setting, whereas the correct amount will aid in setting.  You can adjust the amount of sugar in your recipe according to how sweet or tart your fruit is.  Using 1 cup of sugar for each cup of fruit is standard, but if your fruit is very sweet you can reduce the amount of sugar by one quarter.  Using additional sugar shouldn’t harm the chemical balance.
Granulated white sugar is the least expensive candidate, but you can substitute up to one half of the total amount with honey in a recipe that does not call for added pectin.  In a recipe calling for dry or liquid commercial pectin, up to 2 cups of the total amount of sugar may be replaced with an equal amount of honey.  If you have a special local honey that you love, add some to your jam to give it a special local flavor!  Honey is more nutritious than white sugar, and tastier.
  If you’re planning a gift basket, perhaps for Christmas, include a small jar of jam or two from your jam cupboard.  Small, fancy jars, lids, and labels are available from Bernardin, but you can also make your own labels on your computer.  Choose a fancy font for a 2”x3” label, and use wide transparent tape to cover the computer paper and adhere it to the jars.  Or, you can purchase tiny gift cards for Christmas or other occasions and tie them to the necks of the jars using ribbon, elastic, or satin cord.
Carrot Pineapple Marmalade
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