Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Great Jam Fiasco

My mother-in-law makes jam every year. She gives some of this jam to us. She never gives us enough, and I get that: she's got better things to do than enable my jam and roll addiction. Last year (or two years ago?) I asked her to teach me how to make jam, and it seemed pretty easy.

Begin by buying a flat of strawberries. Our flat consisted of 4 2-lb cartons. Then put them in your french door refrigerator that you argued you'd need for platters and flats of strawberries.

I was really excited for jam. I cleaned and prepped the strawberries the day before we made the jam. When Tyler got home, he asked if I had "done the thing [my] mom did with the apple slices." What?

After a bit, I gathered he was talking about Fruit-Fresh. Way back in the way back time, my mom would line up seven brown paper bags every morning and make our lunches. Bless her, she cut up our apples and put them in a solution of water and Fruit-Fresh so that they wouldn't go brown during the day. Wasn't that nice? These are the types of things you don't think about until you get older and think, "wow, that was a lot of work." Also, these are the types of things that I'm not sure why I told my husband. When did this come up? Have we discussed Fruit-Fresh before? And, why does he remember this? Does he secretly wish I put his apples in Fruit-Fresh?

Anyway, Darlene discovered the secret to keeping your strawberry jam nice and red over the months is to dip the strawberries in a Fruit-Fresh solution and then in water before putting them in the food processor.

Too late. I guess we'll just have dark jam. This is lesson #1: Fruit-Fresh.

Here we are, day 2. I may as well mention lesson #2: Do not make a double batch in a single pot, you'll see why in a minute. I should have consulted Darlene on this point, but I didn't and it was pure folly.

Take 6 1/4 C crushed (it says in big letters on the recipe DO NOT PUREE) strawberries, one envelope of SURE-JELL pectin, and 1/4 C fresh lemon juice and heat it over med-high heat until you reach a steady boil.

Once you reach a steady boil, you need to add all the sugar at once, so have it measured out and ready. 7 3/4 C. This is double, remember. Also remember that this is a bad idea.

Add the sugar all at once and then return to a rolling boil. Once it hits a rolling boil, the mixture will roughly double in size and if you decided to make a double batch, it will overflow.

Here was our problem. You are supposed to boil this for EXACTLY 4 MINUTES, skimming any foam off the top with a metal spoon. How do you keep it boiling when it's overflowing?

We took that towel, the one on the left with the burned strawberries on it, and wiped down the stove, and then set the pot back down and boiled it for 3 min, 30 sec, and prayed for the best. Tyler fashioned a funnel out of a juice jug and we ladled away.

Put the jam into the jars (oh, you've been simmering the lids this whole time right? Good), wipe down the rim and the threads, put a lid on it, screw a ring on and then turn it upside down for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, turn them right-side up, and let them sit for 24 hours. I'm hoping that my jam will set up. It's been about 18 hours and it's still a little jiggly. I don't know if this is normal, but I'm suspecting we might have what the recipe calls SET FAILURE. Ah, live and learn, I guess.


Cheryl said...

Hey good for you for doing it.
Your step by step directions reminded me a little bit of that great book "If you give a Mouse a cookie". You are that good :)

krissiecook said...

At least you experienced this folly while trying something advanced like jam. Last week I found myself overcooking mac and cheese. Not the homemade kind. The blue box kind.

Emily said...

You are 1. very funny and 2. very brave. I am afraid of making jam. I made freezer jam last year and it was so easy I don't think I'll ever try real jam.

Allison said...

The photo essay was marvelous. It seems to me, like in the heat of the moment, I wouldn't think to grab my camera and document each moment and step (or misstep) in the process. It was funny though.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I didn't scroll down and ruin the surprise! I can't believe you had time to snap pictures! Seems to me you were on a strict time table with measuring and boiling etc.

Natchel said...

For a while, the pictures look like you're making marinara sauce.. I had to keep reminding myself it was jam. Hope it sets!

Belle of the Blues said...

You could always use it for ice cream topping. I love homemade strawberry jam. Maybe someday I'll learn to make it, too.

Bridget said...

Those pictures of it spilling on the stove just made me shudder. I want step by step pictures of the cleanup phase.

You are brave to make jam!

Lu&Moo said...

I'm all for using Failed-to-set jam as ice cream topping. Or call it strawberry syrup and use it on pancakes. Then invite me for breakfast.

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