This summer I was inspired by my sister-in-law to try making jam. She’s been doing it for several years now, and loves it, and I thought, ‘Hmm… that could be kind of fun!’ I started with a Crock-Pot recipe for blueberry butter because it seemed pretty easy. Puree the blueberries, cook them down a little in the Crock-Pot, then add the sugar & spices and let it cook down a bit more, then ladle it into the jars, put the lids on, and stick them in boiling water for 10 minutes to seal them. I set out with intentions of finishing at a decent hour so I wouldn’t be up until midnight or later trying to finish canning everything, but I realized that my biggest pot was probably not big enough for more than 2-4 jars, nor did I have a trivet or anything that would fit on the bottom of my pot to rest the jars on. So I headed out to Walmart and picked up their last huge canning pot, complete with the rack to put the jars in. It’s big.
And I have nowhere to put it, so it’s been sitting on my table for now, until I finally remember to take all those bags sitting in my closet to Goodwill. But at least I have it… I came home, pureed my blueberries, put ’em in the Crock-Pot and went and did something else for 4 hours or so, poured the sugar & spice in, then did something else for another hour-ish. I probably should have let it cook down a little bit more because I think it was probably a little more liquidy than it’s supposed to be, but for my first attempt at canning or making jam ever, I think it turned out just fine!
After my initial attempt, I decided that I kind of enjoy making jam, so I decided that I was going to go peach picking at a local orchard with some friends and make peach jam. However, the weekend before I went peach-picking, my mom came to visit, and she had gone peach and blackberry picking with my sister-in-law before coming to see me, so I took some of her blackberries and made blackberry jam. The real way. Standing over the stove, stirring the jam… I was expecting to get splattered and have little mini-jam burns on my arms, but that didn’t happen. And it only took maybe an hour and a half total? And it’s wicked yummy. The recipe I used (the one in the pectin box) said I could de-seed half of the fruit pulp before cooking it down, so I did – it’s such a pain to pick all of those seeds out of your teeth!
Finally it was time for peach-picking. I was paranoid all week that it was going to rain and spoil my plans because the weather report for that day kept changing. Fortunately, it did not rain – it was just a little cloudy. So 4 of us went, and when we got to the orchard, the girl behind the register told us that they had a ‘buy one box, get the 2nd free’ deal going on. We were all very excited about the deal, never thinking about how many peaches that actually was! (or about the fact that I was really the only one who had plans for the peaches – the other girls were there more for the hanging out part :))
Yeah. Don’t ever tell a girl, or a group of girls, that you’ve got a ‘buy one, get one’ sale… especially when it’s fairly obvious they have no!! idea how many peaches will fit into a big half bushel box (I think that was the size). So we lugged all our peaches back to my place, and then spent the rest of the afternoon making jam, one batch at a time. I made the girls helping me boil (parboil?) the peaches before peeling them for the first two batches of jam, and then decided by the time we got to the third batch that waiting for the water to come to a boil took too long, and I was running out of ice for the water bath – so we just used a paring knife. You lose a little more of the peach flesh, but I’m pretty sure it’s easier, so… At any rate, we made three different batches of peach jam (using the recipe in the pectin box), and I’m not entirely sure why, but the first batch looked different than the next two. It’s kind of bubbly – we decided that it must have been the absence of the 1/2 teaspoon or whatever of butter I didn’t put in.
After making all that jam, I still had a ton! of peaches left over, so I sent a bunch home with the girls, made a couple of pies (both of which turned out watery… 😦 but now I know to add more flour to peach pie as well as apple), and still had lots of peaches sitting in my fridge. So I decided that since I had all these peaches, and I didn’t want all of them to end up sliced in my freezer, I’d try some peach butter. My sister-in-law had sent me an easy recipe (and a sample – yum!) so I just used that instead of hunting down one. I think next time I make a fruit butter (hopefully apple in another month or so!) I need to keep cooking it down until it definitely seems thick, because I’m pretty sure this butter also turned out a little more liquid-y than it’s supposed to be. It still tastes good, but yeah… it needs to be thicker. Oh well! There’s always next year… maybe I’ll limit myself to one box of peaches though.