All summer, I have been planning an all-out jam-making day but kept managing to distract myself with other things (read: work). That is, until I hit breaking point at the supermarket the other day. I stumbled upon nectarines on sale for a dollar a pound and EUREKA: the time has come to make jam. Sweet, sticky, delicious, homemade preserves. It’s such an aestival activity, what better way to celebrate the end of summer? You can enjoy it all year long when it’s sealed in a jar. So I enlisted the help of my mother and we puuump-pumped up the jam together. In total, we canned about 20-30 jars which would take over my Polly Pocket cupboards but merely added a small sub-section to her already established collection. I took home half the batch and, although I’m not really into toast or pastries for breakfast, I can’t wait to spread it all over anything and everything within reach. Crepes? Mmm. Meat? Yes, please! This shoe? Why not! And I am still in the honeymoon phase of amateur cooking, where I look at my creation and think: I made you. And with some festive packaging and primping, they’ll make wonderful holiday gifts. HO HO HO…guess who’s comin’ to town!
Choose ripe, unbruised nectarines. Prepare the fruit in the way that best fits your jam texture preference (i.e. larger pieces for chunkier jam, peel or no peel, etc). Peeling the nectarines isn't necessary but optional. If I had used peaches, I'd probably have peeled them because some people are fuzz-phobes (I won't name names).
I quadrupled a single recipe to yield so many jars of jam, so appropriately used a large stock pot. You can use a smaller pot depending on your batch size, and of course, the fruit will boil and reduce a bit.
Before you yell at me, I'll say it: I used pectin. The old-fashioned recipes don't use this gelling agent but it's a great shortcut to help your jam (or jelly) set. It's natural and not unhealthy, it just gets a bad rep because it's not part of the old school jam-making process. I used Sure Jell powdered pectin; you can buy it in powder or liquid form, sold in most grocery stores.
I bought brand-new canning jars from the grocery store but you can use recycled ones too, just be sure to sanitize them again. Wash and boil, leave in pot of simmering hot water while cooking. Use a jar lifter to remove them as they will be very hot! Adding a sliver of butter or margarine to the cooking fruit (above: bottom right photo) will take the extra foam away.
Cooked and ready to be canned! I like chunky jam like this but you can chop or mash it more at the beginning to achieve a smoother consistency. Play with it and make it your own. You're the boss.
Using a funnel, ladle quickly into jars. I tried to aim for one ladle of fruit chunks, another of just liquid from the pot. That way, each jar will be 50-50 and the last few jars from the pot won't be without the fun! Make sure to fill each jar to the brim (about an 1/8 of an inch from the top) so it will seal and store properly.
This is the best part. The jars vacuum seal and make a loud "pop!" sound as the lids dent inwards. (My mom shrieks every time, "Woop! Did you hear that?") You can test each lid before storing by pushing on it, to be sure it's safely sealed.
Ready to dry, cool, label and store! Mayybee one or two can be eaten right away...
Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait. I just want to dip my entire hand in there!
Adapted from Sure Jell Pectin Package
4 1/2 cups finely chopped nectarines
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 package Sure Jell pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine (optional)
Yields 5 cups of jam
1. Bring large, half-full pot of boiling water to simmer.
2. Wash jars and screw bands in hot, soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
3. Prepare fruit. Pit and chop nectarines.
4. Measure exact amount of prepared fruit into 6 or 8 quart saucepot. Stir in lemon juice.
5. Measure exact amount of sugar into separate bowl.
6. Mix 1/4 cup sugar from measured amount and 1 box Sure Jell pectin in small bowl.
7. Stir pectin sugar mixture into fruit in saucepot. Add 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine to reduce foaming, if desired.
8. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
9. Stir in remaining sugar quickly. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam.
10. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Invert jars while filling others, then return sealed jars to pot of boiling water (or canner). Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed. Bring water to gentle boil; process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.
11. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Store unopened jams in cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year. Refrigerate opened jams up to 3 weeks.