Deep-mid summer means two things to me: an abundance of produce, and that it’s time to get ready for canning projects. It can be a grueling process in the thick of the heat, even the sheepish warmth we're experiencing this summer can be a little much if you've got lots of bubbly waterbaths gurgling away. If you’ve got the time and stamina, try waiting until sundown to start cooking. It’s a lovely way to spend an evening, and besides, shouldn’t magic happen under a little cover of darkness?
This recipe uses a special type of pectin whose gelling power is activated by calcium, not sugar. Because it doesn’t rely on sugar required to create a gel (usually 50-85% of a jam recipe is sugar) you can add as much or as little as you like. I flavor it with honey and cook it down a bit to develop a caramelly flavor. The vanilla bean tastes and smells amazing! This jam is great on bread, but at home we also like to smoosh it between sugar cookies, warm it and spoon it over ice cream, swirl it into a glass of golden beer or serve it as a condiment with pork sausages.
Verry Berry and Vanilla Jam
- 6 cups mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc.) picked over, rinsed and mashed (yields 4.5- 5 cups berries)
- 1/4 cup fireweed honey
- 3-4 vanilla bean pods, cut open and scraped (reserve both the seeds and pods)
- 1 box Pomona’s universal pectin (includes both pectin and calcium powder)
Stir 2 tsp. of the pectin powder into the honey. Next, make a mixture of “calcium water” by combining ½ cup filtered water with ½ tsp. calcium powder. Set aside.
Combine the berries with the scrapings of the vanilla pods and toss in the pods as well. Add 2 teaspoons of the calcium water you’ve made to the mixture and stir well.
Reserve the remaining calcium water for another canning project. Stir well and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, bring your canning pot to a boil; you should have enough water in it to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Alternately, you can use a stockpot fitted with a round cake rack in the bottom (this prevents jar breakage). You can also start heating and sterilizing your jars and lids at this time. I like to boil the jars in one big stockpot and the lids and jars in a small saucepan
Add the honey-pectin mixture and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes while the mixture is cooking in order to dissolve pectin. Return to a boil and let it cook for 3-4 minutes to thicken. If you prefer a less “cooked” flavor you can skip this step and remove from heat once it’s come to a boil.
Ladle hot jam into 4 hot and sterilized ½ pint jars. Leave ¼” room from the top of the jam to the mouth of the jar. Clean any jam that collects on the mouth or rim of the jar. Using tongs or a magnetic “wand”, place sterilized lids on top of the jars, then place the rings around the necks and turn them until “finger tight” (you cannot tighten the rings any further with your own hands). Using tongs, place jars into the boiling water. Do not cover, boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the water with tongs to a counter covered with a towel to prevent a sudden drop in the jars’ temperature. Let them seal for at least 8 hours. Check the seal-the lids should be sucked down and don’t “click” when you press down in the center. Jam will last about 2 weeks when opened. Yield: 4-5 ½ pint jars