Rhubarb-Orange Jam with Ball Canning Jars

rhubarb jam 11

It may come as a surprise to you that I have never made jam before. I’ll give you a moment to absorb that fact…. It is sad, but true. I have been in the presence of many friends and colleagues who have made jam, but I hid behind my camera. I’ve had the Blue Ribbon Queen of Preserves, Barb Schaller, take me by the hand and show me the ropes, but I was slow to follow, and that is how, all these years later, I’d never gotten around to making my own. So, when the Ball jar company wrote to me and asked if I’d participate in their CAN-IT-FORWARD event, I said YES. I knew if I didn’t do it now, it may never happen. They were willing to send me everything I’d need, and more, to make jam. No more excuses.

Well, I am happy to tell you that it was WAY easier than I could have ever imagined. I feel even more ridiculous for putting this off for so long. I simply followed the instructions in the Ball Blue Book for rhubarb-orange jam. Next time I will go my own way, but for my virgin run I wanted to do it exactly as they suggested and I wasn’t disappointed. Ok, maybe I added a bit more zest than they said, because I adore it, but that was my only modification. I’m hooked.

If you’ve never canned before, or if you’ve been doing it for years, here is a giveaway from Ball that you’ll love. See the bottom of this post for more details… The giveaway is finished, but recipe to follow. (more…)

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Homemade Jam, Jelly and Preserves!

homemade jam

It is nearly August and I am almost settled in my new house. By settled I mean the boxes are thinning out and I can find my toothbrush, but there is a long road ahead of construction and plaster dust. I seem to remember my husband saying, some many years ago, that he would never live in an old house again. So, today, when I write to you from the living room of our new- very old house, built in 1902, I have to smile at what lies ahead and what a patient man he is. The house we bought was broken up into apartments and there is no way to get to the bedrooms on the second floor without leaving the house…at no point did we stop to think this was a bad idea. Instead, we moved in and figured we’d have a staircase built eventually. Then there is the matter of having 3 tiny kitchens on 3 different floors, which on paper seems luxurious, but in reality you really want all your kitchen equipment on one floor. So, we are faced with ripping out the kitchenS and starting new. This may strike the casual observer as being stressful, since I still have 3/4 of my kitchen “toys” in boxes and no certain plan. But, I remain convinced this was a good idea. Then it occurred to me that it is nearly August and I haven’t fulfilled a promise to myself…this was to be the summer I started canning and making jelly, jams and preserves. It just isn’t going to happen for me this year, but that shouldn’t stop any of you from doing it. In fact, it would be almost as good to live vicariously through your adventure with jars. And, if my friends and jam mentors Barb, Suvir and Jennifer, care to give me some of their bounty as house warming gifts, I will have my spoon at the ready, as soon as I find that box.

For their recipes to make Blue Ribbon Jam and Canned Blueberries… (more…)

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Canning Fresh Blueberries at Masala Farm with Suvir Saran

Canning seems to be one of those skills that you are born into. Most canners can’t remember the first time they saw their mom or granny doing it, it was just always there. I imagine them sitting in a bouncy seat on the kitchen counter watching as jars got filled with the season’s crops. Next thing they knew they were in the process of washing fruit, brewing simple syrup and dunking jars in caldrons of hot water. Then there are folks like me, who are completely enamored with the notion of “putting up” food, but find it a daunting mystery, too big to take on as an adult. Either your born with it, or you’re not, was how I thought. I imagine it is similar to how many folks feel about baking bread. Too time consuming, difficult and rife with stories of disaster. Knowing full well that this doesn’t have to be the case with bread, doesn’t it stand to reason that I could have faced canning as well? It took a visit to Suvir Saran’s American Masala Farm to show me the way. He gave me the gift of canning!

In the amount of time it took me to make a cup of coffee he’d set himself up to preserve a batch of fresh berries he’d bought at a local farmer’s stand. He was so nonchalant about it all. I grabbed my camera and in the following 45 minutes he rocked my world. I asked Suvir how he learned this art and he confirmed my suspicions…“I first saw canning when watching my mother can jams, jellies, ketchup and squash in Nagpur, India. My mom sowed the seeds when I was in 1st grade.” Those of you born into canning families may think my discovery is as obvious as breathing air, but for those of you who have avoided it, I hope you, like me, will be inspired to “put up” everything you can get your hands on*. My only issue now is getting enough jars. (more…)

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Linzer Torte – (aka Jam Biscuits in honor of the Royal Wedding!)

A layer of raspberry jam is spread between a rich, buttery, hazelnut cookie dough. The crisscrossed lattice top is the signature design of what may be the oldest recorded pastry; the Linzer Torte. It was developed in Linz, Austria around the year 1650 and has been made much the same way ever since. Why fix it, if it is perfect just as it is. However, I can rarely leave things as they are, so I made them in bite sized portions.

There is a version of this same dessert in England and they call them Jam Biscuits. Today, after watching the Royal Wedding I think it fitting that we bake something British, even if they originated elsewhere. Check out the Linzer Cookie I made for the Cooking Channel blog, same ingredients, different look!

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Blue Ribbon Jammin’ with Barb Schaller!

(Jars of Plum jelly and Peach-Raspberry jam)

I’ve come to understand that the key to really great jam is a good dose of humor and a dash of sass! No one better to have taught me this lesson than the blue ribbon jam lady Barb Schaller. She does magic with fruit and pectin and never steps foot into the kitchen without her pearls (a nod to June Clever). She has been winning ribbons at the Minnesota State FAIR since 1981 and holds its Prestigious Processor of the Pantry award along with countless blue ribbons. She also has developed 2 jams for M.A. Gedney Company’s Award Winning State Fair Recipe line of preserves.

I met Barb, and her charming husband Rob, at a book signing for ABin5. She handed me a bag of home made jams and I’ve been a devout follower of hers ever since. I’ve been begging to get in the kitchen with her for well over a year and this past weekend she graciously allowed me and my friend Jen to watch. What an incredible honor to spend a day in the kitchen with a true master of her craft and watch this year’s blue ribbon recipe in the works.

Barb Schaller’s Peach-Raspeberry Jam: (more…)

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