Monday, June 25, 2012

Homemade Jam Making

This summer I have gotten really big into jammin'. No, I'm not referring to how loudly I listen to my music. (Though my mother would argue that I do, in fact, do that.) During a visit to Tennessee, my nana taught me how to make homemade blackberry jam using wild blackberries from her yard. Not only did we have a blast, but I was able to transfer my knowledge to make different jam recipes. I think my coworkers are happy that I live by myself and made entirely too much jam because I bring it to work and they scoff it down.

Now about the method of preparation....

Nana says it is imperative to have everything ready in advance. In culinary school, they would say prepare your mise en place, but nana has a hard time pronouncing it correctly haha. First, we measured out 4 Cups of sugar and placed it in a bowl to the side. Then, prepared a small sauce pot with 3/4 Cups of water in it, where we will later cook the pectin. Now about the pectin. We bought boxes of the cooking kind, but there are instant powders out there if you want to skip a step. Finally, it is important to not only wash the berries, but also to strain out any stems, unfortunate bugs and other debris that may be lurking in your berries.
After your mise en place is prepared, it's time to smash the berries. There are various tools of choice for this task, however, you could save yourself a lot of time and frustration using the right tool for the job. Efficiency is always best in the kitchen. Nana likes to use her momma's potato masher, but you could also use a food mill. It is smart of you to heat the water while you're smashing the berries if you're making jam alone. If you have a sous chef, they can prepare the pectin as you smash the berries. After the berries are smashed, the water in the small sauce pot should be boiling so you can add the pectin powder. Most pectin requires it to boil for a minute, but make sure to pay attention to the cooking instructions for the specific product. While the pectin is cooking, stir in the 4 Cups of sugar to the smashed berries till the granules are evenly mixed and it's not grainy like sand. Then, pour in the cooked pectin and stir till everything is evenly incorporated.
At this point, I will remind you how important it is to have the right tool for the job. Many stores like Target and Walmart carry a jam making kit that is the best $7 nana says she has ever invested in. She grew up having to use a small spoon to transfer the jam into the small mason jars, however they made a funnel that fits perfectly into a jam jar and saves you LOADS of time. And the best part is your jars aren't all sticky on the outside when you're done :)

The fun thing I have found in jam making is the flavor combinations! I added the juice and zest of 1 lemon to nana's original wild blackberry recipe and it's so bright and fresh! I have also made a raspberry lemonade version that is a coworker favorite.
Happy jam making!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Artsy-Fartsy Time...

So I collect corks from when I drink wine...and from bottles I sell at work...so periodically I use them for a purpose other than collecting dust in a basket. Here's the latest: