Five Tips For Preserving The Summer Season + Jamming Recipes

September 2, 2019 | By: Victoria Hobal

Five Tips For Preserving The Summer Season + Jamming Recipes

I learned and fell in love with the process of canning and preserving through osmosis. For my Aunt Giselle and Uncle Wally, it was a summertime tradition, along with weekly shopping trips to the local farmers’ market and jaunts to the Falk Family Fruit Farm just outside of Niagara on the Lake. . There’s just something so special about canning a batch of fresh Ontario tomatoes or enjoying a jar of August-ripened peaches in the middle of winter.

It’s been almost a decade since I first started preserving. After hundreds of jars, I’ve discovered some time-saving methods and useful tips and tricks for at-home canning (aka “jamming”). Here are my top five tips for preserving the best of the summer season.

Take Advantage of Farmers’ Markets to Find the Freshest Local Produce

The freshness of your produce can and will affect how the finished product sets and keeps. Jams and jellies set because of a natural occurring starch called pectin. Pectin occurs naturally in some fruits – including citrus, apples, and pears – and when cooked with sugar, the acids in the fruit help to thicken and set your product. The older the fruit is, the less natural occurring pectin is present, and you will need to add in a substitute such as store-bought pectin.

When preserving, try to avoid fruits with bumps, bruises or soft squishy parts as you only want to use the freshest of produce. Not only does the natural pectin content diminish in damaged and older fruits, but you’ll also be preserving rot and potentially bacteria, which is certainly not an appealing addition to your morning toast!

Frozen Fruits Actually Make Spectacular Jams, Jellies and Preserves

Although none of us would like to admit it, summer is short and unfortunately the warm nights and sunny days are quickly coming to an end. With that comes the urgency to preserve large amounts of fresh, ripe fruits while they are available!

While fresh fruit is ideal, you can make fantastic jams, jellies and preserves with frozen fruit and no one will know the difference! Once I came to this realization, this tip saved me from panicking and stressing over abundant harvests that I couldn’t possibly keep up with.

After visiting the farmers’ market, spread your freshly picked fruits or vegetables evenly across a baking sheet and put them in the freezer for two to three hours. Spreading ingredients out in a single even layer keeps everything from clumping together.

Once they’re frozen solid, toss everything into a freezer bag and return to these sweet little gems when life is a bit less hectic to start the preservation process.

Correctly Processed Foods Last Much Longer Than You Think

Making jams, jellies or preserves is a straight-forward process, as long as you know the rules and guidelines for safe canning. When you can, preserve or “heat- process” fruits and vegetables, you are hermetically sealing the jars so that no air or tiny organisms can get in. This process also kills and eliminates undesirable elements such as mould, yeast and bacteria. It also destroys naturally occurring enzymes that cause food to spoil. It’s a magical process.

The goal with home-canned or processed goods is to achieve a proper vacuum seal. You’ll want to store your preserves in a dry, dark, and cool place to ensure a long shelf life.

With safe and sanitary canning practices, there should be no reason the strawberry jam you made one and a half or even two years ago isn’t safe to eat. It should taste as fresh as when you first made it. As with any food – preserved, fresh or otherwise – be sure to inspect before consuming, if in doubt, throw it out!

Be prepared, Read Recipes and Know What You’re Doing – Mise en Place!

Mise en place (French for “put in its place”) is an essential practice in any professional or home kitchen. You must be comfortable with the equipment, ingredients and various steps of the recipe before you begin. If you are familiar with the directions, it makes the activity less stressful and allows you to be more confident with your end result.

Jamming requires exact ratios and quantities. These precise measurements are critical as incorrect amounts will upset the balance of fruit, pectin and sugar in the recipe and yield a jam that does not set correctly. Preparing all of your ingredients ahead of time and ensuring your mise en place is in order will result in an utterly delicious preserve.

Have the Right Tools on Hand!

Canning is an incredibly satisfying and relatively affordable hobby. Investing in a few inexpensive essential tools will make the process much safer, cleaner and easier. Here are my recommendations for must-have items:

A large deep pot – your everyday pasta pot or traditional enamel pot is perfect for canning, as long as the pot is deep enough for the water to fill up two inches above the top of the jars. This will ensure a perfect seal.

A wide-mouth canning funnel will allow your product to be poured cleanly and safely into jars.

Canning tongs are important to have on hand; they’re long with rubber-coated grips that make grasping jars in hot water slip-free.

A metal ladle to cleanly pour your preserves into the jars.

Baking sheet lined with a tea towel, because when hot jars meet a cold pan...boom!

Measuring cups – remember; making jam is a science; everything must be exact!

Whether you’re shopping at a grocery store, visiting a farmers’ market on the weekend or harvesting ingredients from your own backyard - there’s a large bounty of locally grown fruits and vegetables in Ontario. Learning how to preserve these seasonal goodies effectively can help you enjoy the fresh taste of summer for months, and even years, to come.

Want to start jamming? Give these recipes a try!

RED PEPPER JELLY

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

• 6 firm red peppers

• 1 hot red fresh chili

• 3 cups sugar

• 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

• 1 pouch liquid pectin

Steps

1. REMOVE stems and seeds from peppers and chili . Cut into chunks and dice in a blender or food processor. Place peppers and chili in a fine sieve or cheesecloth and drain off the juice to make 1 cup.

2. MEASURE juice, sugar and vinegar into a medium saucepan.

3. PLACE on high heat and bring quickly to a boil.

4. BRING mixture to a boil and stir in liquid pectin. Bring to a full boil again and boil 1 minute stirring constantly.

5. SKIM off any foam and pour immediately into warm sterilized jars.

6. SEAL while hot with sterilized 2-piece lids with new centres.

SPICED CRABAPPLE JELLY

Makes 5.5 cups

Ingredients

• 3 litre basket of crabapples

• 1/2 cup vinegar

• 1 cinnamon stick

• 1 tbsp whole cloves

• 5 cups sugar

Steps

1. CLEAN and stem crabapples.

2. COVER apples with water until submerged and boil for 20 minutes. Boil apples with the skin on. You are going to be using the pectin from the skin in this recipe.

3. STRAIN crabapples into a jelly bag, cheesecloth or use a colander lined with a coffee filter.

4. MIX 5 1/4 1/4 cups of your strained juice with vinegar, cinnamon stick and whole cloves. Boil for 3 minutes.

5. REMOVE spices with slotted spoon.

6. ADD sugar to juice and bring to boil stirring slowly until a candy thermometer reaches 220 degrees F. Cook no longer than 25 minutes.

7. POUR immediately into warm sterilized jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of rims. Seal while hot with sterilized two-piece lids with new centres. Let stand at room temperature until set.

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB JAM

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

• 2 cups crushed strawberries

• 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb

• 6 1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

• 1 pouch liquid pectin

Steps

1. COMBINE fruit and sugar in large heavy saucepan.

2. BRING to full rolling boil on high heat; cook 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Immediately stir in pectin. Stir 5 min. to prevent fruit from floating to top, skimming off foam as needed..

3. POUR immediately into warm sterilized jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of rims. Seal while hot with sterilized two-piece lids with new centres. Let stand at room temperature.