I was recently reminded of small batch jam making, which simply means that you make a few jars at a time and repeat the process whenever you have an hour and a few cups of fruit to spare.
Preserving any food is a satisfying experience, and in this case you have luminous jars of ruby-colored jam to swoon over afterwards. Overbearing to-do lists, if I’m not careful, can seem more important than a basic endeavor like preserving food. Used to be our survival depended on it. Anyway, this small batch approach was an efficient and satisfying alternative to rolling up my sleeves and spending hours canning a couple of dozen jars.
I used the simplest whole foods, just strawberries and honey, a bit of lemon juice. With about 4 cups of strawberries that needed to be eaten immediately I made a small batch without much fuss. A Saturday morning, Tour de France in the background, I said to myself ‘just do it’, and start to finish it took about an hour, truly.
It helps to have supplies on hand and the great thing about small batch jam-making is that you’ve probably got what you need already. Jars, seals and lids in the basement, I grabbed three of each, washed them thoroughly, placed them in a pot of barely simmering water and got down to it.
Here’s the routine: Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for the purpose of processing the jam later on. Clean and roughly slice 4 cups of strawberries and simmer gently in a large, flat saucepan for 8 – 10 minutes; smash the pulp gently and add 1/3 -1/2 cup honey ( or 3/4 – 1 C sugar), 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and simmer for a few more minutes. Adjust sweetness to taste, and remember honey is sweeter than sugar – a little bit packs a big punch. The mixture thickens and reduces, it’s time to fill jars and process in a hot water bath, which means that you place jars in a pot of simmering water – jars should be immersed and covered by an inch of water.
This version, an experiment using honey instead of sugar and no added pectin, is thick enough and perfect on toast, a hotcake or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream; the jars of crimson deliciousness are something to behold, a beautiful sight in the cupboard and even better in the mouth – essence of strawberry on a piece of toast.
Making and preserving jam is another small action toward sustainable living, and it’s not so mysterious once you get organized. And within the realm of our daily tasks, this one is satisfying. Lots more fruit coming on in the next few weeks – let the Jamboree begin.
Before preserving jam, acquire a book or two, or use reliable online resources for technical information. Below are links to informative sites, book suggestions, and a 10-minute video about small-batch jam making that’s very helpful.
Thanks to Cooking Up A Story for another great video demonstration.
This post is from the MixedGreens archives, July 2008.