We’re Cooking: Jam, Salsa and Relish – Part 1

Mint, Basil and Mixed Berry Jam

I had been wanting to can/jar some things for months, and the bounty of the garden got the best of me this weekend.  Armed with my handy canning kit, a huge stock pot to boil water in and every fruit and veggie that looked pretty at the downtown Farmer’s Market and herb from our garden, I got to cooking.  I did this over two days…the first day took much longer than the second, which proves that everything I had read was true….you get the hang of it so it almost becomes a feel/touch/smell thing than a timer thing.  The result, tasty flavors of summer that can be enjoyed throughout the year.  Also, I came up with these combinations by just including things that I loved and that I thought would go well.  If you look at other recipes they proclaim NOT TO CHANGE THE RECIPE….the basics are needed (like the amount of vinegar, processing time, general canning/jarring protocol) but sugar, salt, spices, etc. can be altered, even when they say they can’t be.  Create a recipe to your taste, you are the one who is going to enjoy it.

Recipe:

Mint, Basil and Mixed Berry Jam
Ingredients:
1 cup fresh mint
3 cups fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 12 ounce package frozen mixed berries – raspberries, blackberries and blueberries
1 8 ounce package frozen strawberries
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Process and Preparation:

To jar – this is pretty much the same process for everything, at least for the series of recipes I did, and surprisingly, it does get easier with a few attempts.  Keep in mind, this is a fun cooking opportunity, so don’t get frustrated if everything doesn’t go as smoothly as you would hope on the first attempt (I may be speaking for experience….)  Before you start you will need a “canning kit.”  I found mine on Amazon for about $15 and includes tongs with rubber ends that allow you to pick up jars easily in a pot of boiling water, a big funnel to fill your jars, a rod with a magnet on the end to help lift jar lids out of boiling water and some basic food tongs.  The jar tongs and the funnel are the two really key items.  You’ll also need a large stock pot or “canner.”  I just have a stock pot for now…I have to see how much I will be doing this before investing in a big canner.  Fill a large stock pot (a tall one, you need water to cover about 2 inches over the top of your tallest jar) with water and set over medium heat to begin to warm the water.  Eventually you will bring this water to a boil.  If it comes up to temp before you are ready to process the jars, just set it to simmer.  Wash all jars and lids with hot soapy water.  Load the jars into the stock pot to get them warm and place all the lid tops in a bowl.  The rings can be set aside until ready to process.  Fill the pot full with jars to help keep the jars upright and steady (even if you won’t use all the jars, it is smart to load it full to make sure your full jars stay upright.)  When ready to load the jars carefully lift each jar out of the water with the jar tongs and fill the bowl of lids with the water from one jar, to moisten the top to help them stay in place.  Pour the water from the remaining jars back into the pot.  Turn heat up a bit to get ready to boil the water.  Carefully fill each jar, using the funnel, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top.  Tap the jar on the counter to help remove any air bubbles, then take a tooth pick and run it around the inside of the top of the jar.  Take a clean cloth and wipe around the top of the jar to remove any debris.  Use the magnet rod to lift the top of a lid out of the bowl with the hot water and place it on the top of one of the jars.  Make sure it is set evenly on the jar.  Screw a jar ring over the lid just tight enough that it is tough to turn, but not so tough that any gases can’t escape during the processing.  Set aside and fill the rest, doing the same thing over and over.

When all jars are full load each into the stock pot and bring up to a boil.  When the pot comes to a rolling boil begin to time the processing.  Process jars for 10 minutes.  Turn heat off after 10 minutes and allow to cool in the pot for 5 minutes.  Then carefully lift the jar, keeping it completely upright (don’t let it slip to one side or the other) and place it on a kitchen cloth.  Do not move for 24 hours.  After 24 hours check the lid of each jar by pressing your thumbs against it to see if it moves.  If it does. the process didn’t work.  Hopefully they won’t though and your canning adventure was a success.  Replace the ring and set on cool, dark shelves to be enjoyed throughout the year.  Shelf life is really no more than a year.

Process to make the jam:
Thaw the berries together completely in a bowl.  Combine the zest, sugar and herbs in a food processor and pulse until everything is nicely broken down and combined.   When the berries have thawed place them in a sauce pot over medium heat and begin gently mashing them together, breaking them down, with a potato masher or fork.  You want to keep some of the fruits integrity, but to have most of them melt into a syrup.

 Add the herb sugar mixture, a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, then simmer for about 15-20.  The fruit should get very thick.  I prefered this method instead of adding pectin, but that is also an option.  Take off heat and slowly fill the jars and process using the above directions.  If you have more than will fill your jars to put away the remainder can be put in a jar in the refrigerator for about a two weeks.  The nice thing about frozen fruit is that it thaws a little mushy and broken down, so it can easily meld into a jam recipe, instead of super fresh fruit that needs additional steps (like more cooking time) to break it down.  This would also be good with frozen peaches and blueberries with the herbs, or cherries and mixed berries.

Next up – Salsas…

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