I have a confession to make…I, Desiree, am a canning neophyte. I extol the virtues of making preserves to help others eat local throughout the year but I tend to buy my local conserves instead of “slaving” away myself. There are many reasons for this (none of them very exciting or compelling). For starters, I have been crammed into a tiny Vancouver apartment with my family that barely had room for my shoes let alone long term food storage. And I figured that, given my luck, I would somehow botch it and end up with a bunch of mouldy sludge. I also didn’t have the canning equipment (who has the space?).
So it was up to Heather to school me once again. She has canning equipment (really, just a large pot, an insert and some tongs…I could figure out where to store them) and the know how. We made a small, condo friendly batch – just two jars each! With the Local Food Challenge coming up, we were going to need some jam. We are allowed a couple of wild cards each day but I don’t really want to waste too many of them on spreadables.
As with all things I tend to avoid – exercise, tidying, phone calls – it was ridiculously easy once we set out to do it. I should know better. How many times do I chat with people who think they can’t cook for themselves because it is too difficult or they don’t have the time or the skill and I convince them that cooking from scratch is simple?
For someone who wants to get serious about local eating, jams and conserves are a great way to preserve the sweet summer flavour of fruit. We u-picked Heather’s favourite – the tayberry, a cross between a blackberry and raspberry. They have a slight tartness like raspberries, but with a juicier body like blackberries and they are oh so flavourful.Heather also got a handful of gooseberries in her CSA produce box, so we thought we’d whip up some gooseberry and tayberry jam. Because it’s for our Local Food Challenge, we thought we’d go old-school and make the jam with just sugar and fruit, no pectin. It takes a little longer to boil but gooseberries are a good source of pectin ( a healthy soluble fibre to boot!), so adding them to a jam with other berries helps to make the jam thicker and add more texture. The sugar, however, is going to be a wild card for the day…..
Tayberry Gooseberry Jam
4 cups tayberries
1 cup gooseberries
3 cups sugar
To sterilize canning jars, boil 4 250mL jars in a canner (large pot) for 5 minutes. Boil lids separately. Handle with tongs…don’t touch! While jars are coming to a boil, prepare the jam. The jars need to be hot when you fill them.
In a large pot, mash half of the tayberries and gooseberries with a potato masher to break them up. Add remaining berries. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add sugar and stir to blend.
Bring to full rolling boil over high heat for 9 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour jam into four 1-cup (250mL) hot canning jam jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Cover with prepared lids; screw on bands, fingertip tight. Boil in water canner for 5 minutes.
Makes four 1-cup jars.
Be sure to leave jars, undisturbed for 24 hours to ensure that they seal properly. You should hear a nice pop to let you know the seal has worked.