Last Tuesday, my friend Joanna and I drove out to Oakland to take a class at the Institute of Urban Homesteading on how to can jam. I've been curious about canning for a while but was loath to try it out on my own without some previous instruction by a seasoned professional for fear of poisoning myself or needlessly spoiling a large quantity of fruit.
So we found ourselves in Oakland at the home of K. Ruby Blume (all classes are taught at the homes of the various instructors) with a group of five other women listening to a lecture on the science of food preservation and stirring pots of boiling fruit.
I was interested to learn that you basically can't get botulism if you're canning fruit; the natural acidity of most fruit is too high for botulism to survive. Ms. Bloom explained two methods of canning- water bath canning and inversion canning. Water bath canning is the USDA approved version in which you put the jam mixture in the jars, close them, and then boil them. With inversion canning, you boil the jars, quickly add the jam mixture, close the jars, and then turn them upside down to seal and cool.
We made a strawberry jam and an apricot pineapple compote and once you got into the rhythm of scooping hot fruit and handling the hot jars with tongs, it wasn't so difficult at all. And it was tremendously satisfying to look at the rows of jam jars lined up on the table, filled with jewel colored fruit.
I had some of the strawberry jam on toast for breakfast this morning.
For the first batch I make on my own, I'll probably add a bit more sugar- in addition to sweetening the jam, sugar gives it a pretty, glassy sheen. That's what's so wonderful about learning how to do this sort of thing yourself- I now know what to do in order to turn out the type of jam that precisely suits my personal preferences. With summer is on its way in, I can't wait to start experimenting.