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Let’s Cook: Don’t Get in a Jam Next Winter, Make Jam Now

By Staff | Jul 9, 2015

If you are looking to liven up your breakfast table in January, now is the time to start preparing. Sometimes here in Dakota land a winter storm can put us in a jam. We are forced to stay off the roads, miss events, and sometimes even work!

Now when you find yourself in this jam, greet it with your own creation of jam. You know – that mixture of fruits that are high in pectin content or have added pectin. Blend these fruits with some sugar, cook, and before long you are in a wonderful jam! Those finely chopped or mashed fruits become very poised by the end of their processing. There are few things as satisfying as sitting by the kitchen window on a stormy day and essentially relishing this break in routine. Being inside your comfy home brings contentment -especially as you enjoy toast and homemade jam.

This summer it seems as if the rhubarb has been growing even in the moonlight! The recent rains and sunny days have made for many flattering patches of rhubarb by the fence. What joy to see deep, green-ruffled leaves standing tall and knowing beneath their umbrellas of spinach green are vested red and green stalks of summer goodness. Now is the time to enjoy fresh rhubarb in pie, sauce, many desserts, and even punch! Once you have had your fill of these rhubarb partners, take a bit of time to make some jam. Come January, you will be glad you did.

Soon will be coming ripe peaches – the type that drip down your chin-their skins mango with a touch of sensuous red swath your emotions into instant desire. Yes, you do want to eat them all! After all, you could accomplish this rather quickly. It does bring hasty joy, but you need to aspire for something a tad more difficult, and that is saving a few peaches for jam. So indulge your passion beyond this moment and get into the kitchen pronto, dig out the stainless steel kettle, and tie on your apron because your feel the desire to make jam.

I would endorse you to try making a bit of rhubarb or peach jam. On a cold winter day as you spread this colorful, delectable jam on your toast, you will shimmy back into the spirit that only a North Dakota summer can bring. As your table knife meets the melting softness of these jams, your mind has you dashing off to the lake, summer theater where you twirl with your broomstick skirt, the county fair, that mini vacation to Medora, or simply taking a walk in the park. Getting into a jam can be good for us long after a heated summer day in the kitchen.

Here are some useful tips when processing canning jars. Heating filled jars of food in boiling water for a specified time is called processing. When you are filling jars, leave a headspace for expansion of food during processing-usually for jams a inch of headspace is adequate. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth to remove any jam that could interfere with the sealing of the lid. Place a lid on the jar that has been in hot water for 5 minutes right before using. This softens the sealing compound on the lids so that an airtight seal is formed. Simply place the filled jars on the rack of the canner containing hot water. Adjust the water level to cover the jars by about an inch. Cover the canner and bring the water to a boil. Once the boiling has started, start counting time for the processing. Keep the water at a steady boil for the time needed. At this point, a kitchen timer is your best friend.

Once the process is complete, turn off the heat and remove the lid from the canner. Allow the jars to remain the hot water for 5 minutes to stabilize the pressure inside the jars. After 5 minutes remove the jars from the canner with a jar lifter and place them on a wooden cutting board or layer of towels. Do not touch the jars or tighten seals. Simply let them cool for 12 to 24 hours. Then check to make sure the lids have sealed as the metal lid will curve downwards. With jam, any jars that did not seal can be stored safely in your refrigerator for up to three weeks. As always, I do not claim to know everything, but I am willing to share what has been successful for me.

Elvis Jam

I received this recipe from Mrs. Mayo of Greenfield, Mass. She explained she was cooking this jam and listening to the radio when “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis starting playing – since then this has been Elvis Jam! She enjoyed making this recipe with fresh blueberries from Maine. The color and taste are equal to a good ride on the Ferris wheel.

3 1/2 cups of chopped rhubarb, using as much red rhubarb as possible

cup water

2 cups chopped fresh or frozen blueberries

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 box regular powdered fruit pectin

5 cups granulated sugar

In a large kettle (enamel or stainless steel), place rhubarb and water. Bring to a good boil with high heat, cover and reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add blueberries, lemon juice and pectin; mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar, return to a full boil, and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars and process for 10 minutes.

Peach Jam

This recipe comes from the KFYR Radio 60th Anniversary Cookbook and was submitted by Erna Christian of New Salem, ND. This jam is not only delicious but very colorful. It makes a nice presentation especially in those “baskets for silent auction benefits.” As I have mentioned many times, “we eat with our eyes first.” Bidders will know with one look this jam is worthy of a high bid!

2 large very ripe peaches

2 large green apples

1 ground orange

1 small bottle maraschino cherries with juice

Granulated sugar, to measure

Peel peaches and apples and cut up into cubes. Add ground orange and maraschino cherries and juice. Next measure this fruit mixture and add equal amount of sugar. Place this mixture in a large stainless steel kettle and cook until thick stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Ladle into hot jars and process for 10 minutes.

Rhubarb Cherry Jam

Here is another tried and true rhubarb jam recipe. When it is 30 below outside and you are watching the snow blow, this jam is a great comfort. Spreading it on warm toast, the first bite reminds you instantly that spring will be coming. This recipe also comes from the KFYR Radio 60th Anniversary Cookbook.

6 cups rhubarb, cut up

4 cups of sugar

Stir into rhubarb and let stand until sugar is dissolved (4 hours or overnight)

Bring to a boil in a heavy kettle and boil 10 minutes. Add 1 can cherry pie filling and return to boil again

Remove from heat and add one 6-ounce package of dry cherry Jell-O. Ladle into 4 pint jars. Process for 10 minutes and note that other pie fillings such as blueberry, apricot, pineapple may be used. These, too, bring great comfort as the snow is drifting in a January storm and you are inside warm with toast and the delight of summer jam.

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