Monday, December 7, 2009

We're Jammin'!

Ms. Classie Parker

Classie Parker. What a hoot! A lifelong Harlem NYC resident, with roots in South Carolina, she's a community gardener and a "canning consultant." I tagged along with my friend Sandy to a canning workshop on the Lower East Side a few weeks ago. That evening we watched Classie and some volunteers pickling veggies in a brine. Canning is a misnomer, since glass preserving jars are used. "Put some LOVE in that jar, darlin! Shake your bootie, bay-bay...mmmm...hmmm!"

I left the workshop smiling and curious, lugging a big home preserving kit (gratis from the Ball Corporation!) that included a huge blue enamel pot, rack, jar lifter, spatula, lid lifter, a funnel and the 100th Anniversary Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It's the canning bible.

Sandy, Hersky, Shelley and I made Pear Butter last weekend. It's the consistency of applesauce. We used bosc pears, with a touch of nutmeg and orange zest... it's super sweet. It took us 3 hours from start to finish--peeling, coring, slicing, cooking down, and processing. A good Sunday afternoon project, chatting and reading the NY Times in between. Not sure yet what I'm going to pair it with!

"Yes, we can!" make homemade Pear Butter.

Today I flew solo and canned Raspberry Jam.  1.5 hours, start to finish. The most time is spent getting that big pot of water to boil! Santa, please bring me an induction heater that boils water in 90 seconds!

There are basic principles that cover types of preserving (boiling water or steam pressure), how to prevent spoilage and bacteria...and also very specific measurements for various fruits, sugar, and the type of pectin to be used (if any) to promote jelling.

Types of pectin cannot be used interchangeably--a recipe will either call for no pectin at all...or Liquid Fruit Pectin, Natural Powdered Pectin, No Sugar Needed Pectin, or you can use Pomona's Universal Pectin. Definitely follow the instructions on each box regarding proper amounts. Many stores do NOT carry pectin, or might have just one kind. Check the specialty area, the baking aisle and also where they display Jell-O mix. I did some crisscrossing around Manhattan to no avail (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Food Emporium, D'Agostino's) then found the mother lode--all four kinds--at good ole Stop 'n Shop in Westport, CT this weekend. I sometimes forget that I'm a city girl. Maybe there's not much canning going on in NYC? I bought two of each kind, to be sure that I have the right pectin on hand! You can also order pectin online from

I recommend that you get the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, and read up! Or visit 

There are tons of categories and recipes (no sugar, low salt, full sugar...) for fruit butters, conserves, jams, jellies, marmalades, preserves and chutneys. You can make pickled veggies, relishes, sauces, "canned" meats, soups, stocks and stews. I'm starting out with jams. My taste runs more sweet than pickly, and I love the chunky consistency and bright colors. I think they'll make nice prezzies.

I got bulk raspberries and sugar at Costco, and some "mason" jars with lids and bands (Kerr brand, made by Ball) at the hardware store. If you order online you'll spend about $1 or less per jar. They come in a range of sizes--quart, pint, half pint, etc... There are different styles and shapes (diamond crystal cut, or plain jars, tall, squat, wide mouth, triangular) and you can get holiday-themed printed lids. Get some 'label paper' for your computer and design your own, or buy pre-cut labels with nice edges at a craft store, like Michael's.

Target and The Container Store carry lines of jars called Quattro Stagioni and Leifheit that are expensive---$2.50 or more per jar. I have not checked out the Broadway Panhandler, Zabar's or WalMart. 

Here are the supplies you'll need, the recipe and some photos of the Raspberry Jam Project

Supplies: (Note: Classie Parker's grandmother canned in a cauldron in the woods in South Carolina, without any fancy tools! The canning kit that I was given is handy, but not necessary to do the job!)

A big lidded pot, like a spaghetti pot or enamel lobster pot
A smaller pot to simmer the lids/bands
A medium pot, to cook down the fruit (I use an enamel Le Crueset dutch oven)
Tongs or a canning jar holder
Jars, dome lids and metal bands

1 Quart crushed raspberries, about 48 ounces (I used a pastry blender to crush by hand)

6 1/2 cups sugar (eeek!)
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin

1. Boil water in the large pot and sterilize the jars for 10 mins (or run them thru the dishwasher!)

2. Simmer water in the smaller pot and sterilize the lids/bands for 10 mins (do not BOIL, lids have rubber)

3. Remove sterilized jars to a dish towel
4. Combine crushed raspberries  and sugar in the medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in liquid pectin. Return to a rolling boil, boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Skim foam. Ladle hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.

Wipe the rims so there is no residue. Position the lid, and tighten the band, but NOT too tightly! Process 10 mins in boiling water (10 mins is for NYC, times vary for different altitudes.)  Remove the jars from the water, and cool on a rack for 24 hours. As the jars cool, you will hear the lids "plink" one by one as they form the vacuum seal!

This recipe made 11 half-pint jars. I think receiving a quart of jam would be very overwhelming! I'm well on my way, to a very merry, homemade Christmas!

1 comment:

  1. Yummy-looking jams...hope some are in my future! Thanks for making the process seem simple.