I wish I'd saved this posting for that "uniquely you" assignment because my life can be defined by jam as much as pickles. However, until the age of 26 I would only eat one kind of jam: my mom's strawberry. The sad thing is that I've never tried to make it by myself. Why reinvent the wheel when my mom can do it better than me? I leave my annual supply of strawberry freezer jam to the pro until she says she won't do it anymore. (Deal, mom?) Oddly, strawberry jam on white bread reminds me of cauliflower because I used to eat it while in the back of the cauliflower trailor on wet harvest mornings. A strawberry jam sandwhich is best eaten in a big cardboard cauliflower box fort. You should try it sometime.
So, because I leave the best to mom, I decided to try entirely new flavors. Peaches are by far my favorite fruit, so that one was a given. I looked for an orchard where we could pick peaches and found Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD. They also had blackberries in season. BINGO. I should note that this jam came at a high price: Eric's sanity. He didn't wash his arms off immedietly after the blackberry picking and got chiggers for 4 days. Poor guy. Let that be a lesson to you all!
We used the reduced sugar SureJell recipe instead of full sugar which calls for SEVEN cups sugar for five cups of fruit. It's enough to make you never want to eat jam again. Even the reduced sugar SureJell was a bit too sweet for my taste, so next year I vow to find a way to use even significantly LESS sugar than this. Perhaps I can find a way to produce my own brand of pectin and market it to people who (a) don't like overly sweet jam and (b) refuse to use Splenda for the "no sugar" recipe. I'd rather use too much real sugar than one ounce of fake sugar.
Please assume that for all recipes we washed and rinsed the jars in scalding water and scalded the lids and rings.
We prepared the peaches by dropping them gently, one-by-one into boiling water for 1 minute, then an ice bath for 2 minutes. The skins slid right off and the stones separated from the flesh when cut in half.
This is where it gets fun: my mom and grandma say that processing isn't necessary and that you can just flip your jars over for 5 minutes on their lids. When they flip back up, gravity will slowly pull the hot fruit down and seal the jar. I wanted to test this hypothesis so I didn't process the blackberry, but I did process the peach.
To process: lower the jars into boiling water that covers them 1-2 inches. You don't need a canner for this, people, so that can't be your excuse for not making jam. Just don't let the jars touch the bottom of the pot. I use a stainless steel trivet. The guys from The Bitten Word used this ingenious contraption: http://www.thebittenword.com/thebittenword/2010/08/canning-tomatoes-how-to-tomatoes-packed-in-water.html#more
Surprise! ALL the jars sealed, including the ones that stood on their heads for 10 minutes. It certainly saved a step.
Jam is time intensive, but I prefer to think of it as "love intensive". You've just got to give it a lot of love. Certainly when I can give jars of homemade organic sunshine away in the miserable winter, I hope people think of it as jarred love!