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Jams from Molly Lane Kitchen of Pittsfield at a recent Concord Farmers Market. Emelia Attridge photo.




 How to make jam

And what’s the difference between jam, jelly and preserves?
Although they are sweet and go great on toast, not all fruity spreads are created equal. Jam is made from chopped or crushed fruit and cooked with sugar for a gelled consistency. Jelly is a mixture of sugar and fruit juice (and does not include pieces or chunks of fruit). Marmalade is clear and includes pieces of the fruit and fruit peels. Preserves include whole or sliced fruit in jelly or syrup.
• What you’ll need: Sterilize your Mason canning jars and self-sealing two-piece lids in boiling water for 5 minutes. You’ll also need a pot or pan to cook down your jam, a “canning pot” with water to help seal the jars and a jar lifter to remove the jars from the canning pot. The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is another essential source for any food preservation guide.
• Process: Recipes vary, and with all food preservation techniques, it’s imperative to follow instructions exactly (for example, don’t try to double the recipe). The first step in a jam recipe is to chop and mash the fruit prior to heating the fruit in a pot over medium-high heat. Sugar and pectin are added, and the mixture is brought to a roaring boil. Remove the pot from the stovetop, and skim the foam off the top. Fill your sterilized jars with the sugary mixture (it should look and smell like hot jam, or like a fruit soup). Put the lids on all your jars, and clean any excess jam off the sides. Submerge jars into your canning pot, then boil the water. After a prescribed amount of processing time, use a jar lifter to remove jars and set aside to cool. The lids will pop signifying that they are sealed.
 
Strawberry rhubarb jam
Recipe from Apple Hill Farm in Concord.
 
3½ cups sliced fresh strawberries
1½ cups sliced and diced fresh rhubarb
7 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin (found in the baking aisle of supermarkets)
 
In a large stainless steel kettle bring to a low boil strawberries, rhubarb and sugar. When it reaches a full rolling boil, slowly stir in the powdered pectin. Continue stirring and cooking till it comes to another slow rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and immediately seal in sterilized jam jars with new lids. Will last if sealed tightly and not opened for a couple of years.
 
In the can
How to start and what to can
Tomatoes are a great vegetable for first-time canners because of their acidity level. Make sure that any fruit or vegetables you are using are high-quality, unblemished and free of bruises. They should also be fresh and in season. Find a recipe and canning instructions from a reliable source like a local university extension, Ball canning company or the National Center for Home Food Preservation (nchfp.uga.edu). Assemble your equipment, including sterilized jars, new lids and your canner. You can use a boiling-water canner or a pressure canner to heat-process and seal your jars.
 
Freeze Fast
Canning is a great way to keep summer-time foods like tomatoes, green beans and zucchini fresh, but another popular food preservation technique is freezing produce.
“That’s a lot quicker,” Mullen said. “If you don’t want to spend the money on the equipment or the jars and the lids and everything else you need for food preservation, certainly you can freeze food very easily. All you need is some good-quality freezer bags or containers. … That’s another option if you want to maintain that fresh local taste.”
 
Crushed tomatoes
Recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, recommended by UNH Cooperative Extension Field Specialist Alice Mullen. See nchfp.uga.edu.
 
22 pounds of tomatoes per canner load of 7 quarts (or 14 pounds per canner load of 9 pints)
1 teaspoon salt per quart, if desired
Sterilized pint- or quart-sized jars
 
Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Then dip in cold water, slip off skins, and remove cores. Trim off any bruised or discolored portions and quarter. Heat each of the quarters quickly in a large pot, crushing them with a wooden mallet or spoon as they are added to the pot. This will exude juice. Continue heating the tomatoes, stirring to prevent burning. Once the tomatoes are boiling, gradually add remaining quartered tomatoes, stirring constantly. These remaining tomatoes do not need to be crushed. They will soften with heating and stirring. Continue until all tomatoes are added. Then boil gently five minutes. Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to jars (see acidification directions at nchfp.uga.edu). Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars, if desired. Fill jars immediately with hot tomatoes, leaving ½-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process. If processing in a boiling-water canner, process for 35 minutes (for up to 1,000 feet altitude) for pint-sized jars. For quart-sized jars, process for 45 minutes (up to 1,000 feet altitude).
 
How to pickle
It’s not just for cucumbers
Cucumbers and gherkins are what immediately comes to mind when making pickles, but beets, cabbage, carrots, peppers, parsnips, onions, eggplant and zucchini can also all be pickled, and they’re all in season in the later summer months. Watermelon rinds, pears, peaches and apples are popular choices for sweet pickles, too.
• What you’ll need: Fresh and firm fruits or veggies that are unspoiled and unblemished, canning or pickling salt, white or cider vinegars (recommended 5 percent acidity, or 50 grain), sterilized jars and new lids and a boiling-water canner.
• Process: Recipes vary, but most pickle recipes will call for firm, fresh, unblemished and unspoiled cucumbers. Typically, the cucumbers will be salted and/or added to a brine, depending on the recipe. After boiling cucumbers and any other ingredients, you can fill your sterilized jars. Process with a boiling-water canner. Some pickle recipes will call for short storage periods (and can be eaten as soon as the next day) while others require weeks. 
 
Quick sweet pickles
Recipe from UNH Cooperative Extension
 
8 pounds of 3- to 4-inch pickling cucumbers 
⅓ cup canning or pickling salt
4½ cups sugar
3½ cups vinegar (5 percent)
2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon whole allspice 
2 tablespoon mustard seed
 
 
Leave ¼-inch of cucumber stem ends attached. Slice if desired. Place in bowl; sprinkle with salt. Cover with 2 inches of crushed or cubed ice. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. Add ice as needed. Drain well. Combine sugar, vinegar, celery seed, allspice, and mustard seed in 6-quart pot to make pickling syrup. Heat to boiling.
Add cucumbers and heat slowly until vinegar mixture returns to boil. Stir occasionally. Fill sterile jars with cucumbers and add hot pickling syrup, leaving ½-inch of headspace. Process 5 minutes. 




Jammin’
Preserve the harvest all summer long with jams, canning & pickling

06/19/14



Jamming, canning and pickling (really, anything that requires a Mason jar) are all about following instructions and letting the chemical reactions do their thing to keep your fruits and veggies fresh and tasty for months. 
Food preservation was a necessity back in the day when the calendar closely followed the seasons’ harvests. To eat strawberries picked in June or beans from August required going into the pantry and opening a jar of preserved produce. That’s not necessary for the average person anymore thanks to mass food production and grocery stores, yet foodies and DIY-ers are taking up home food preservation techniques like fermentation, pickling and making their own jam.
“I think food preservation is making a comeback,” Dave Valentine of Triple G Pickles said. “What's happened is you've got the whole locavore movement, local foods and foodies who want to eat local ingredients. … Your growing season is very, very short — it’s six months or less. Come December or January, if you don't do food preservation you have to go to the grocery store.”
Valentine and other jammers, canners and picklers agree that it seems food preservation skipped a generation. Many have memories of grandmothers in the kitchen storing jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam or sweet gherkin pickles. Now, it’s the grandchildren of that generation looking to put local, fresh eats on the table or in the pantry.
It’s also a summertime activity the whole family can enjoy. Valentine said his kids love picking cucumbers and making pickles at home, and Diane Souther of Apple Hill Farm said pick-your-own is popular for young families, and an afternoon of making jam in the kitchen is a good extension of that quality time.
“If you have kids, it’s a great activity with them if you go strawberry picking in the morning,” she said.
Food preservers shared their tips on preserving the harvest, a look into the slow-food craft and why they’re hooked on preservation. Learn how to make jam, can and pickle, and follow what’s in-season in New Hampshire this summer to use recipes and tips as strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers are ready to eat and preserve.
 
The Sweet Stuff
Jams in early summer (June and July)
What’s in season: strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, artichokes, herbs, rhubarb
For Diane Souther of Apple Hill Farm, making jam is a sign of summer. When the strawberries (and rhubarb, blueberries and other seasonal fruits) are ripe, jam will soon follow.
“To walk in and smell the fresh strawberry jam from the strawberries you just picked in the field, there’s nothing like it,” she said. “I grew up on a small farm and we were always self-sufficient, so making jam was part of the season. … My mother used to do it, and my grandmother used to do it, so I would help them when I was little.”
After a morning of picking strawberries, field workers at Apple Hill Farm in Concord will pull up a seat, turn on the fan, and start cutting and mashing strawberries to make jam. Like an assembly line, everyone is doing something different, from mashing and boiling, to filling and sealing the jars of jam.
Making jam is one of the best introductions to food preservation; it’s fun and easy to do. You do have to pay attention, and a hot stove is involved — first you have to sterilize the jars, then you cook the fruit, sugar and pectin down, followed by sealing the finished jars of jam in more boiling water — but it isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds.
“In today’s world, they have made it easier,” Souther said. 
There are “freezer jam” recipes that don’t require any cooking, and Ball even has a jam machine that works a lot like a Crock-Pot, she said. But if you’re planning on making jam the traditional way, it’s just like any chemistry in the kitchen; it’s imperative to follow the recipe.
“If it calls for 5 cups of fruit and you have 8 cups, don’t try to make more,” Souther said. “Jam can be very particular, and it’s got to do with the weights of sugars and the natural pectin in the fruit.”
“One of the things that people might notice about jams and jellies is there’s a lot of sugar that goes into them. … The sugar, the fruit, the pectin — all of those things are needed to work together chemically to get a nice jam or jelly,” UNH Cooperative Extension Field Specialist Alice Mullen said. 
Cut back on sugar, she said, and you end up with a “wonderful” strawberry sauce rather than a jam or jelly. Some have tried to use sweeteners, honey, or low-sugar recipes, but for first-time jammers, it’s easier to stick with the sugar.
“It makes it very shelf-stable,” Souther said. “With the sugar, that's part of the preservative of it. It's what binds the moisture in the fruit.”
For the chemical reactions to work and to get that gelled consistency, everything needs to be just right, including factors like humidity and fruit ripeness. 
For the best results, it’s easier to stay small and not to make a big batch. Souther said that the most difficult part about making jam is giving it all your attention (in other words, don’t try to multitask).
“You can burn it easily,” Souther said. “You’ve got to stay with it and pay attention to it, because it will boil up to the top.”
At Apple Hill Farm, there are 28 flavors of jams and jellies, like strawberry-rhubarb, triple fruit, peach and spiced blueberry.
“I think the difference with our jam is we raise all the fruit ourselves,” Souther said. “The standard run-of-the-mill strawberry, raspberry, blueberry — the more basic ones — are the most popular. … I think because people are more familiar with them. When I say ‘spiced blueberry,’ they’re not sure what spiced blueberry is. They’re the old favorites, they’re the ones that grandma used to make and put up.”
Strawberries are ripe in early summer, in June, along with their popular jam pairing, rhubarb. Blueberries and raspberries ripen in July. While you can take the time to pick your own or make jam from whatever’s growing in your own garden, Souther also recommends freezing a berry harvest and making jam from frozen fruit. She uses frozen berries in her blended jam recipes, like strawberry-rhubarb and triple fruit.
“It’s easy to reuse jams in various things,” Souther said. 
She recommends using it in a marinade (like glaze for your chicken to go on the grill this summer) or adding it to plain yogurt.
 
Put a lid on it
Canning in mid-summer (July & August)
What’s in season: apricots, beans, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, celery, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, greens, herbs, kale, nectarines, onions, peaches, peas, peppers, potatoes, raspberries, summer squash, sweet corn, turnips, tomatoes, zucchini
 
The mid-summer harvest has a lot to offer. Stop by a farmstand or farmers market during July or August and you’ll find fruits and veggies in abundance. While they’re great to eat and cook fresh out of the field, ripe veggies are also prime for canning.
But before you do that, “You want to make sure that it’s the highest quality produce that you can get,” Mullen said.
Mullen is a field specialist in food and agriculture and is also active in food preservation programs. She said that food preservation certainly is getting trendy, but what’s driving it is the local food movement.
“I think the biggest thing is having locally sourced food available, and so one of the ways that you can do that, especially in the winter, is with food preservation,” Mullen said. “People really want to have that fresh local taste or the quality.”
She said that a few years ago the UNH Cooperative Extension had a big increase in interest in food preservation techniques like canning. 
“The biggest problem is a lot of times people find out that it is a very labor-intensive, time-intensive process and so they might do one thing, but then nothing,” she said. “But then I know other people who really just enjoy it and have the time to spend to do it, so they do get very excited about it and do a lot of food preservation.”
Like Souther, Mullen stressed the importance of sticking to the recipe. 
“Whenever you make any kind of product, you want to follow the recipe exactly. It’s not like making a soup or stew or maybe baking something,” she said. “Because whenever you change the ingredients, basically you change the chemistry that’s in the jar, and that’s when things may not gel, the product may get mold on it or spoil.”
Canning includes preserving whole fruits and vegetables, as well as preserving prepared foods like salsa, applesauce, and even proteins like poultry and seafood. While the technique encompasses a wide variety, Mullen said that it’s important to follow food safety instructions.
“A lot of times they’ll think, ‘Well, I can put anything I want in a jar and it will be fine,’ and of course, that’s not always the case. You do have to make sure you preserve it safely so that you’ll still have that product months from now, because of course, all food has micro-organisms in it,” she said. “So one of the things you really want to do when you have any kind of food preservation is to make sure first of all that you use current USDA-tested recipes. A lot of people might have their grandmother’s pickles or some very old book on how to can, and there’s a lot of research and tested recipes that have come out [since then]. It’s important that people do use those current guidelines.”
Mullen recommends the National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia for introductory canners and preservers (check it out at nchfp.uga.edu). 
Safety measures prevent your preserves from going bad, growing mold or spoiling, but most importantly they prevent botulism (a paralytic illness that results from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum). But that shouldn’t deter anyone from learning how to can or preserve their own foods. 
“It is pretty easy to get [current] recipes right online, and then the other thing is I think it’s really helpful to watch videos on how to can, and there’s a lot of those available,” Mullen said. 
Resources are available locally as well; the UNH Cooperative Extension provides workshops and events from June through September with classes across the state. By calling the info line (1-877-398-4769) or emailing specialists at answers@unh.edu, you can get info about safety as well as the basics of what you need to start preserving food.
“The one thing with canning is that first of all, it does require certain equipment that you need to do it with. So people may not have that equipment readily available.”
For heat-processing canning methods, you’ll need a boiling-water canner (they have perforated racks that can be removed and fitted lids) or a pressure canner (which includes a dial or gauge).
Once you have your equipment (including sterilized jars and new lids), find ingredients with a high acidity level (some vegetables, like leeks and succotash, have a low acidity level). For beginners, Mullen recommends starting with canning tomatoes or applesauce.
“When you get ready to can, make sure you have all your ingredients that you need ahead of time,” Mullen said. “The other thing is I usually like to block out a complete set of time. It’s not something you can do in just 15 minutes; you’re going to need a good hour to an hour and a half. You want to make sure that’s uninterrupted … so that way you can really focus on what you’re doing and keep track of how the whole process is going.”
 
Pucker up
Pickling in late summer 
(August and early September)
What’s in season: apples, beans, beets, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, greens, herbs, parsnips, peaches, pears, peppers, potatoes, raspberries, summer and winter squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, turnips, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini
 
Cucumbers are in season all summer long, but you can pickle more than cucumbers. Turnips, cabbage, eggplant and even apples can all be pickled. Get the most out of your all-summer produce and late-season fruits and vegetables by storing them with some flavor for the winter.
Dave Valentine of Valentine & Sons Seed Company and Triple G Pickles got into pickling with his wife. A huge part of why he loves pickling is that it’s something he can do with his family.
“The most fun is my wife and I working together. It’s a nice family thing, even working in the commercial kitchen,” he said. “My kids love helping out at home.”
Valentine said that his kids, ages 7 and 9, enjoy harvesting the cucumbers and gherkins together with their parents and know all the steps to making pickles from recipes at home. Although they’re too young to work in the commercial kitchen, Valentine said it’s still definitely a family affair.
“Basically it was all my wife’s grandmother’s recipes. My wife’s grandmother had a 20-acre farm in South Carolina, and they grew, canned and pickled everything,” he said. “One of her sweet pickle recipes was absolutely phenomenal. For years we’d give them away to friends.”
That’s how Triple G (“Grandma Goodwin’s Gherkins”) started. Now, there’s more than just the sweet gherkin pickles. Valentine said that a sweet dill and a spicy dill are in the works, and the spiced apple rings are a popular favorite.
“They’re all from old Southern family recipes,” he said. “They probably haven't been in the stores in 50 years. … We’re trying to bring some old flavors back.”
Valentine grows true gherkins, a small cucumber used to make those sweet, crunchy pickles. Any pickling recipe (gherkin and apple alike) involves a briney bath. Pickles have a vinegar brine, but for the Valentines’ spiced apples it’s a cinnamon and clove brine (“it tastes like apple pie,” Valentine said).
“Just about all the pickling process is a vinegar brine,” Valentine said. “With the pickles, we do cook the pickles in the brine for a few minutes. … They go from that bright green that a cucumber is to almost that pickle color.”
Valentine wouldn’t share his own recipe or technique for making Triple G Pickles (“It’s the old joke, if I told you, I’d have to kill you, kind of thing,” he said), but he did add what makes the pickles unique is the crunch.
Like all preservation techniques, recipes vary. Jams, canning and pickling all have that water bath process for sealing, but it’s the recipes that make them unique. For pickles, there are freezer pickles, “21-day pickles,” pickles you can make in a couple hours, sweet, sour and fruity pickles.
“There’s different processes for different pickles,” Valentine said. “It’s pretty easy as long as you follow instructions. The biggest issue is temperature. … The problem with pickles is because they’re an acidic food they’re prone to botulism.”
Pickled watermelon rinds are a classic preservation recipe (albeit one that you might not have seen around in a very long time), and certain bars have an affinity for pickled eggs. Valentine is currently working on a “Dilly Bean,” a pickled green bean with dill. He’s just waiting for green beans to be in season.
“I’ve got a few people frothing at the bit waiting to come out with those,” he said. “[People] are so separated from where food comes from, they forget I can’t go to the farmers market in January and get green beans.”
Many people approach Valentine at the farmers market to check out the Triple G Pickles. While some are curious about the pickled apples, others are interested in pickling itself.
“There’s quite a few people who do can and make their own pickles,” he said. “I think people now are saying, ‘Well, I want to make it myself.’”
Valentine said that the surge of the food sustainability movement and an increase of people who are looking at what’s in a product’s ingredients has a lot to do with the trendiness of food preservation. 
He also associates it with how the fast food generation would go to the supermarket and buy a jar of Vlasic pickles instead of taking the time and effort to make their own. Now, people are more interested in kitchen DIY.
“It skipped a generation. … I think the sustainability movement and the whole locavore movement is definitely jumping on the whole food preservation thing, so they can fill their pantry,” he said. “Especially when you get the older people who remember [preserved foods] as kids.”
For beginning picklers, Valentine recommends getting connected with your local cooperative extension and using its recipes.
“They might not be exactly what you want as far as flavor, but you know you’re working with a safe and tested recipe,” he said. “That will give you a starting point.” 
 
As seen in the June 19, 2014 issue of the Hippo.
 





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