Sorry. Bad pun.
As you might have guessed, I’m making jam this week. I put my jam making skills up for auction for charity last October. The winning bidders received six months of Jordan’s Jam of the Month Club, which really didn’t even exist until I made it up for that auction. We’re in our third month, and it’s been a lot of fun finding new jams to share.
This month’s jam is my little riff on blueberry jam. I added some bramble vinegar that I brought back from Scotland as well as ground tellicherry pepper. Just a couple of notes before I walk you through my recipe:
1. This was totally an experiment. I had an overall sense that it would taste good, but I was really making things up as I went along.
2. I am not an expert jam maker. I read about generally how to make and can jam from the interwebs a couple of years ago, and then I just went for it. Every single time is a learning process, and I’m still not really very good at determining how much jam I’ll end up with. This recipe made 3 1/2 pints. If you went with half pint jars, this would yield 7 half pints.
If you are someone who makes jam at the expert level, you might feel like parts of my process don’t jive with how you do it. I’m ok with that, but if you have any tips to share on how I can make this less of a production, please feel free to email me at GonnaCookThat@gmail.com. I’m always open to learning how to do things better.
4 pints fresh blueberries, washed and de-stemmed
3 T bramble vinegar (you could use any fruit based vinegar, or even a young balsamic)
1 C granulated sugar
2 T light agave nectar
3/4 tsp coarse ground tellicherry pepper
2 1/2 C water
3 T pectin
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large pot
Colander (for rinsing/draining the blueberries)
Canning supplies, if you’re going to can your jam (I use a water bath method, but I don’t use a canning rack):
* Jar lifter
* Magnetic canning lid wand
* Canning funnel
* Sterilized canning jars and lids (you pick the size)
Measuring cups and spoons
1. Add the blueberries, sugar, agave, vinegar, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil. You’ll start to see foamy stuff start to rise to the top. Skim off as much as you can. I find it’s easier to do this while it’s boiling, but try to work quickly.
2. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often.
3. After 20 minutes, the berries will have burst open and the liquid (now a purpley colour) will have started to reduce. Add the ground pepper, stir it in well, and let the jam simmer for another 15 minutes or so, or until the liquid has reduced by about 1/3.
4. Mix in the vanilla. You won’t get a really prominent vanilla flavor. I just found it rounded out the taste of the final product.
5. Bring the jam back to a boil and stir in the pectin. Allow the jam to boil hard for about one minute. You should see the liquid start to thicken. Turn the heat off after one minute.
CAUTION: At this stage, hot jam is seriously like lava. It will spit at you, and it’s really effing hot. You’ll want to wear an apron or an old shirt you don’t care about, and be careful when you’re stirring because if you get a big blob of it on you it will probably cause a pretty nasty burn.
If you want to check to make sure the jam is going to set up to the consistency you want, put a metal spoon into a glass of ice water for a few minutes. Scoop up about half a spoon’s worth of jam with the cold spoon and let it cool on the spoon to room temperature. If it’s thick enough for you, you can proceed with whatever storage method you’re going to use. If not, bring the jam back to a boil and add another tablespoon of pectin. For this jam, I kept the consistency a bit loose. This isn’t the kind of thing I’d use for a PB&J, but it’d be fabulous on waffles or pancakes, or even served with a roasted pork or some lamb chops.
Once the jam is ready, you can either put it all into a container in the fridge, or pour it into jars for canning. The Ball Canning site has some really great tips on how this process works and the basics of home canning. I keep it bookmarked and go back to it every time I can anything, just to make sure I’m doing it safely.
Once you get the hang of the basic process, it’s actually pretty fun to experiment with different combinations of flavours. Each season will bring it’s own local crops of fruit to your area, and turning them into jam is a great way to capture all that fruit at its best so you can enjoy it all year long.