Jam Happy – A Muddied Success

24 Jul

Oh dear, oh dear. Yesterday I made my first attempt at hot water bath canning. I have done freezer jams before, and I have assisted my mom some in the canning of applesauce and tomatoes, but that is it. This was my first solo go round – though it ended up my mom had to assist me! The canning was a muddied success – here’s what happened:

We have a lovely apricot tree out back that could use a serious pruning. Tucker eyes it on a regular basis, envisioning which branches are getting the hack treatment. Last year it was so heavy with apricots, that gravity took away a large branch that was aesthetically pleasing, leaving the tree a tad lopsided. This year the harvest was sparse. It seemed the tree only bloomed partially, then several wind storms landed many a juvenile apricot nestled in the grass. Last year I made freezer jam in the middle of August, this year, most everything was ripe by the middle of July. Could it be the heat?

Onto the canning, our first bunch of picked apricots rotted in their plastic bag environment before I could even get to them. Upon opening the bags, the unpleasant smell of fermenting overripe fruit, along with a colony of fruit flies, filled the room. Out to the compost with them.

Luckily, there was another batch waiting on the tree for Tucker to pluck. I made sure to get to them in a more timely manner, as like the last harvest, they were quick to spoil. Rinse. De-pit. Chop. Toss into a bowl with sugar and lemon juice. The recipe said to let those ingredients meld together for two hours. Two hours soon turned into five, then six, then seven, then me resigning at 9 o’ clock to let them macerate for 12 hours, as another recipe suggested. So the next day the jam making would commence!

Twelve hours later is 2:00. Tucker comes home for lunch, then puts Molly to sleep, as this has become almost impossible for me to manage, as she has us bounce her on an exercise ball to get her to sleep. Me on ball, Molly on my pregnant ball of a belly, the four of us (Ball, Baby, Molly, Me) all bouncing – it’s not a very comfortable arrangement. A little after 2:00, Tucker and Collin head to the shop. I turn on the water to boil to sanitize my jars. The sound of Molly babbling in her crib reaches my ears. A five minute nap, that won’t do. At 2:40, I finally am able to lay her down. Back to jamming.

Usually on this jamming day, Molly would have physical therapy at 3:30 then occupational therapy after that. But PT was canceled, so she just had OT. This means I had until around 4:00 to get this jam done, seems feasible.

Jars sanitizing in canner. Apricot mixture bubbling away in pot. Stirring here and there. Skimming off copious amounts of foam. Feeling exhilarated – eyes big, lips drawn up into a smile.

Do a plate test, and jam is not yet set. Cook a little longer. Good on time. Jam-making high still coursing through me. Then a certain odor reaches my nose – the smell of burnt sugar. The beautiful bright orange color takes on a shade of brown. Black flecks begin to surface. I pull the pot from the burner and do another jam test. It passes. A quick taste tells me that the flavor is still bright and sweet – no hint of burnt.

I spend some time researching if I am able to can burnt jam. And then looking up why when I pulled my jars out of the water, they quickly transformed from crystal clear to filmy white upon drying. Hard water encrusted inside and out. Nice. Now I was cutting it close for time.

Fill jars. De-bubble. Wipe rims. Put on lids and rings. The time is 4:10. Molly’s OT starts in five minutes. I call my mom to come over and supervise the hot water bath. She arrives. A rude awakening for Molly and in the car we go.

When we get home, my mom has the jars sitting on the counter, dishes done, and a load of laundry folded. She informs me that I missed out on hearing the jars pop as they made their victorious seal. Sigh.

But there they are, four half-pint jars filled with lovely jam from fruit growing in our backyard. I inspect them. A few black flecks, in an amber colored jam. But I feel proud, and once again exhilarated. I’ve a lot of jam making ahead of me, and that is an exciting thought!

(Blueberry syrup is next on my list!)

*Note 1: Eat your foam! We enjoyed it on vanilla ice cream last night, and I had it on a piece of buttered toast this morning. Mmmmm.

*Note 2: I read on Local Kitchen that if you add a tablespoon or two of vinegar to your water, it will keep the hard water film from forming.

Do you can? What are you putting up?


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