19 July, 2008

Mixed Summer Fruit Jam

I have this love/hate relationship with canning.

On the one hand, I love it. I love making pickles, jams, jellies, and more all through the growing season - my wife and I start putting up jars of stuff with the very first rhubarb stalks in the spring, and we don't stop until the last of the tomatoes are harvested in October. I make double and triple batches of baked beans just to be able to can off eight or ten pints for days when we want beans but don't want to spend a day waiting for them. My canning kettle stays handy on the bottom shelf of my rollaway cart year-round so it's at my fingertips when needed, and my pressure canners are atop the fridge, ready at a moment's notice to put something by.

On the other hand, my kitchen isn't air-conditioned and we're in the midst of a mid-July heat wave. And yet, here I am, fruit cooking on the stove, the canning kettle boiling away, and the temperature in the kitchen coming up close to 90F even with fans in the window and it being 8:00 at night. There's nothing I can do about it; the fruit is ripe and has to be processed, and I can't let it stand around until the heat breaks. So I wait until after dark when it's a little cooler outside and sip iced tea as the preserves simmer, and retreat every now and then for short breaks in the haven of my air-conditioned living room.

One of the supermarkets in my town marks down produce as it starts to get less than perfect. I always check the markdown bin when I go there because I regularly get some great deals, especially on fruit destined for jellys, jams, or juicing. Cosmetic flaws, bruises, and overripe spots don't bother me that much when all I'm going to do is cut the stuff up into the kettle anyway.

And so, today I came home with some slightly underripe strawberries (high in pectin) and an assortment of nectarines, yellow peaches, white peaches, and limes, all for about 39 cents a pound.

Mixed Summer Fruit Jam

1 lime

Hull and slice strawberries; scald peaches and nectarines and then plunge into cool water to loosen their skins; skin and stone the fruit and cut into chunks. Prepare a total of 8 cups of fruit. Place cut fruit into a large heavy Dutch oven. Add the juice, pulp, and zest from the lime.

Bring to a simmer over medium low heat, then gradually stir in 6 generous cups of sugar. Continue cooking and stirring until sugar dissolves. Allow to cook, uncovered, over medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Simmering jam will foam up - keep an eye on it and stir down the foam if it looks like the pot will boil over.

Continue cooking until temperature reaches the jelly point, 220F. Test the jam by dropping a little bit onto a cold plate and chilling for a few minutes in the fridge; if the jam on the plate wrinkles when pushed with your finger, it's ready.

Turn off heat and allow the foam to settle. Skim off the foam with a spoon, then ladle the jam into jars, cap, and process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes to seal.

Makes about 9 half-pints.

1 comment:

Lore said...

I've actually never mixed peaches or nectarines with strawberies and don't have a reason why. The paring sounds fabulous!