Slaving Over the Stove

We picked up a small bunch of apricots last week at Costco.   They were the last package and they called my name as I love apricot jam.  I love to can and make jams but have no need to make or desire to have a dozen pints of anything.   I have been doing lots of reading about small size jam making and decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. I was going to make two or three half pints of sunshine in a jar…apricot jam with a little bit of apricot brandy in it.

I grew up with a mother who canned and have done a fair amount myself over the years, but nothing like I was going to try this time. Part of it plays into the fact my house is at 6,000 feet above sea level and that impacts how long things have to process and the temperatures that it reaches are not the same as the cookbooks state.   I was going to have adjust for where I lived.   The second factor was most of my tools were nothing like what I had used in the past.   No big old white and blue speckled enamel canner and not measuring ingredients in pints, quarts and pounds.   I was going to use my stock pot to do the water bath not the big old kettle.   I bought a nifty little jar holder on Amazon. It was a simple wire rack just like Mom had, no sturdier or fancier.  This one fit in my much smaller stock pot (just under 9 inches across) and could only hold 5 half-pints.   I also used my largest in diameter skillet to cook the apricots, no big heavy old pot.     The theory in all of this is that the larger air surface allowed for “quicker” evaporation i.e. shorter cooking times.   I honestly don’t know if it was true, but I ended up with jam.

Making jam in a very small batch

Making jam in a very small batch

When I was done I had two 8-ounce jars and two 4-ounce jars of jam.  It all set up very nicely, in spite of the fact I could not find my thermometer and had to use the sheet test.  Thank heavens I still had an old Ball canning book from years ago when people tested by look and not temperature on a thermometer.    Some of the jars  did not seal, but I attribute that to the instructions having me pulling the jars and setting them on a towel while I cooked the jam.   In the future I will leave them in the pan of hot water until I fill them like in times past and the old Ball book suggested and I used to do.     So my first small jars of sunshine in a jar  will need to be given and used as gifts immediately instead of saving for the winter, but oh well I had fun and it is pretty yummy.

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Bounty for my larder

A Small Batch of Jam

plum-jamI had a collection of plums I had received as part of my last Bountiful Basket.   They were not yet ripe so I let them set on the counter top a few days and then threw them in the refrigerator.   Out of sight, out of mind.   Today I decided that if I could find a recipe that I could adjust for my very tiny batch of plums I was going to make them into jam.   I got out my old canning books and  it was as I remembered  I would need a bushel, or at least a peck of plums for any of those tried and true recipes from Ball or Kerr.   So I headed to where we all go now the internet.   I found my answer, an 100% scalable recipe for my plums.

Plum Jam Recipe

1:1 ratio, chopped plums to sugar.   Cook 5 minutes and can.

Ok it wasn’t that simple.  I did not expect it to be that easy.   I had to cook it longer than 5 minutes to get  my sheeting off the spoon test to work.  I suspected such would be true at my altitude.   No biggie.   I then decided that I would finish my 3 half-pints off in a water bath since things never get as hot as they need to  when water boils at 198 degrees.   New problem.   I no longer had my hot water canner.   I had given it away after living in Montana for 5 years and not using it.  I threw a cotton dish cloth in the bottom of a tall soup pot, brought my water to a boil and put my precious cargo in.   Twenty minutes latter I pulled my precious cargo out.

It was a wonderful flashback moment of the joys of when I canned all the seasons bounty.