I picked the first ripe strawberry from my yard just yesterday. After splitting it 3 ways so the kids could each get a taste, I only had a tiny bite that left me wanting more but in a few weeks I know there will be fresh fruit everywhere! Summer is canning season at my house and my favorite thing to make is jam. We eat it all year long in peanut butter sandwiches, on toast and pancakes and, sometimes, right out of the jar. It’s easy to make and is a great way to preserve the taste of summer to revisit all year long.
Here are some great reasons to make your own:
Making your own jam preserves fruit at the height of its ripeness. You can taste the freshness even in January.
Using fruit that you grow yourself or from nearby farm makes it easy to eat local all through the winter.You may even be able to find berry varieties that aren’t available in the supermarket. I’d never even heard of loganberries until I saw them a local u-pick farm several years ago and they’re now my favorite berries for making jam.
Making your own allows you to reduce the amount of sweetener in your jam or swap sugar for a sweetener you prefer. Honey perhaps? Much of the jam in the supermarket has high fructose corn syrup. Make your own and eliminate that icky ingredient. Be aware of the recipe, though. If you buy a package of regular Ball or Sure-Jell pectin at the store, it includes a recipe sheet. 5 cups of berries need 7 cups of sugar?! No thanks! You can opt for low-sugar pectin that allow you to use less sugar and the jam will still gel. My favorite pectin is Pomona Pectin because it works with little or no sugar, can be stored indefinitely and works even if you halve, or double, the recipe so you can make the amount of jam you want.
Lastly, my favorite reason to make my own jam is that I can make all sorts of unique fruit and herb/flavoring combinations that you’d pay a premium price for at an upscale market. Experimenting with different combinations is so fun! Add herbs to cut fruit and let them sit for a day or two before cooking to let the flavors meld, then make jam according to recipe. Alternatively, place herbs in the pot of fruit during the cooking stage, then fish them out before you ladle the finished jam into jars. Either way you’ll get delicious flavors that you can’t buy in the store.
These are some of my favorite combinations:
Strawberries and mint. A classic flavor combination that tastes like sitting in the garden under the summer sun. I eat this right out of the jar. For another strawberry option, you can’t go wrong with adding a vanilla bean for a ‘strawberries and cream’ flavor.
Experiment with your own combinations and have fun! If you’re worried about your jam not turning out properly, remember that the worst thing that can happen is that it won’t gel. That’s not even a problem because then you’ll have delicious syrup to use on pancakes, ice cream or to mix into a drink. Also, if you’re worried about BPA in your canned goods, see this great post about BPA-free canning supplies.
Do you have a favorite jam recipe or fruit/herb combination? What will you be preserving this summer?