Making Jam is… well… it’s the Jam!

I had no personal experience with canning and preserving fruit, so when an opportunity to observe presented itself, I jumped on it.

Handling fruit and canning is a beautiful, sensory process. You start with nurturing the fruit trees, then picking the ripe fruit, cooking the jam with pectin and sugar, filling the sterilized jars, and tasting their perfect sweet goodness on (ideally!) freshly baked bread.

The whole process is rich with intriguing colors, fragrances, sounds, and tastes. Sounds like art to me—so perfect for a special place on my art blog.

This image is from the Library of Congress--not my grandmothers. But it is reminiscent of their vast selection of product in the fall after canning was complete. Paradise Valley Folklife Project collection, 1978-1982 (AFC 1991/021), American Folklife Center. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.afc/afc96ran.46186 1978.
This image is from the Library of Congress–not my grandmothers canning collection. But it is reminiscent of the vast selection of product after canning was complete. Citation: Paradise Valley Folklife Project collection, 1978-1982 (AFC 1991/021), American Folklife Center. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.afc/afc96ran.46186 1978.
springerle-Flickr
Springerle cookie with an intricate Christian-based design. “Nativity Scene” by Caerodyn https://www.flickr.com/photos/41951470@N02/

For my grandmother and great-grandmother, canning was an ordinary task. In the same category as creating springerle cookies with intricate faith-based patterns pressed into the dough, or pickling vegetables, the process of preserving fruit in the form of beautiful jams or jellies, was a seasonal job.

The goal was to maximize every ounce of usable food from the gardens. These industrious, hardworking grandmothers lived in a little river town in Nebraska where the soil favored delicious produce and grain. They stored all these canned and preserved products in a true “root cellar”: a dirt room under the house a step off the kitchen. Of course, living in “tornado alley”, this dank cave with its earthy smell—that I remember to this day—also served as a well-stocked storm shelter.

So, in the summer at a garden in northern Minnesota, when I noticed that canning was about to being, I invited myself to watch the process.

First the fruit was picked from the trees. The gardeners had several plum trees. As is typical with many fruits or vegetables. When the crop is ready, it needs to be picked right then. There is a window of time when it is ripe and that is the essential time to pick it to maximize the harvest.

This is a dwarf plum tree with one of the gardeners ready to harvest the fruit.

Even a young, small tree can produce a bountiful crop of fruit. Check with your garden center or catalog, sometimes two or more trees are required to pollinate the fruit flowers. It varies by fruit and by variety.
Even a young, small tree can produce a bountiful crop of fruit. Check with your garden center or catalog, sometimes two or more trees are required to pollinate the fruit flowers. It varies by fruit and by variety.

The fruit itself is gorgeous. (Note, you can purchase items with this image at Cafe Press.)

Luscious fresh fruit picked from the trees.
Luscious fresh fruit picked from the trees.

Next the fruit is washed and sorted. In each piece of fruit, the center stone (large seed or pit) is taken out, and the fruit is sliced.

Washing (even organic fruits can get dusty or have birds land on them in the garden), pitting and slicing the fruit.
Washing (even organic fruits can get dusty or have birds land on them in the garden), pitting and slicing the fruit.

Fun fact: dried plums are known as prunes; dried grapes as raisins. Why don’t we call them “dried (blank)” instead of giving them a whole new name?

The plums are ready to be cooked and seasoned.
The plums are ready to be cooked and seasoned.

The fruit is put in a large pot and cooked down with sugar and an agent to jell it such as pectin. Sometimes spices or herbs (cinnamon or basil, etc.) may be added to enhance the flavor. Check your recipe or your imagination if you are attempting your own home canning.

The jars and lids are boiled.

Traditional
Traditional “jelly jars” are used with separate lids and twist-on caps. The lids become concave (sucked in) during the processing, and then pop out when the jars are opened.

The jam is poured into the sterilized jars.

All the tools are sterilized in boiling water. Care is taken to not contaminate any of the surfaces during the canning procedure.
All the tools are sterilized in boiling water. Care is taken to not contaminate any of the surfaces during the canning procedure.
Sterilized lids are carefully placed on the top of the filled jars.
Sterilized lids are carefully placed on the top of the filled jars.

Stay organized so you can easily move through the line-up of filling jars and adding the lids.

Production line for jam and lids

After the jars are filled and lids are added, put the jars back in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove. Let the jars cool. And enjoy!!

Filled jars cooling in the window.

If safe canning practices have been followed (as in this post), the jars can be held at room temperature for quite a while. They should be refrigerated after opening.

Since canning is a chemical process that needs to be following strictly for food safety, please use care, use thermometers, and follow recipes. The USDA has helpful guides on home canning  Also advice on food safety is available from FoodSafety.gov 

Do you have favorite fruits that you preserve? Let us know in the comments!

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About artinthecenter

I am a lifelong artist having studied painting, photography, drawing, and other media, in schools in the US and Italy. I won my first art contest when I was five--at a museum-- and my point of view tends to be as a five-year-old creative child embracing life. Creativity is a core response for me. How can we bring the infinite knowledge and excitement held by our museums and academics into the heart and minds of everyone? There is so much to share. Let’s ask questions, and discuss. Follow me on twitter @janemmason. Check out all sort of artsy information at: www.watchingpaintdry.com +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ This policy is valid from 1 January 2016 This is a personal, educational, blog written and edited by me, Jane M. Mason. For questions about this blog, please contact: jane@watchingpaintdry.com. Sincere effort has been exerted to cite, recognize, and thank all sources of content, including images, quotations or concepts that are not those of Watching Paint Dry LLC (WPDLLC), including Jane M. Mason. If you feel we have included something in this blog that has not been accurately noted or recognized to be from a source other than the intellectual property of WPDLLC, please let me know and I will adjust the citation when presented with specific citation sources and details. As an artist and writer, a core principal of mine is to respect and recognize intellectual content of others. If you are interested in using concepts, photos or other intellectual property from this blog, please contact, Rights Manager, Danielle Raub at Hello@watchingpaintdry.com. This blog does not contain any content that is likely to present a conflict of interest, although opposing points of view, as long as they are respectful, are welcome. This blog does not accept cash or paid topic insertions. However, we will consider accepting and keeping free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations. The compensation received will not influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. Those advertisements will be identified as paid advertisements. The owner of this blog, WPDLLC, is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics within the content of this blog. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of Jane M. Mason or the associates of WPDLLC. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. This policy has been adapted from DisclosurePolicy.org. For your own policy, go to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org

4 Responses

  1. Mary

    These photos make we want to get back to doing some canning!!! One more step I usually do between the last two photos and that is to put the jars in a 10 minute boiling water bath. Then out they come to cool!
    Great photos and article!

    Like

  2. INGRID KUTSCH

    Wow … We had a root cellar too and my mom put all her canned stuff- including sauerkraut in a crock- down there . I remember shaking mulberries off of a farm family tree… We shook the fruit into old clean sheets and stuffed ourselves with fresh berries. Some was frozen and some made into jam.😊

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

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