witticisms by Jess Witty

August 18, 2009

The Great Jamathon of 2009

Discarded titles for this post include, but are not limited to... Jamarama Jamstock and, for those of you in high school in the 90's... Jamapolooza Annnnnyhow. We have this little tradition in our home. First, you should know this: we are not terribly organized people. I lead with that because this post might cause you to think that we are something like supersupersuper organized, when, in fact, we are not. We are, or at least I think we are, um, average-ly organized. Or at least as organized as one family of 5 including 3 kids ages 5 and under all packed into one little 3 bedroom house can be. So, back to the tradition. It started when my mom and dad moved to a new house on a lot with tons of wild blackberry bushes. They busted out some blackberry jam one summer and I kid you not, people... it was gooooood. Mouth-wateringly good. Have you ever had the yummy blackberry jam at Le Madeline? Yeah, it was way better than that. So, of course, my lovely husband and I walked ourselves out to the blackberry bushes, in the 104° degree heat, I might add, and proceeded to pick ourselves silly all the live long day. We were that committed to the blackberry jam. We picked a sincerely ridiculous amount of blackberries. So much so that we made over 40 jars of jam. And that is a lot of jam, my friends. And so began the evil genius that is making Christmas jam in the summer. We call it Christmas jam now because that's why we still do it. We get 40 Christmas gifts knocked out in one day. Love it. Now, you might be saying to yourself, "Self, there is no way I need 40 extra gifts to give away." Maybe not. But I use them for all the people that I really want to thank or remember at Christmas that are a little bit tougher to come up with something for... Sunday School teachers, small group friends, Christmas party hosts, etc. This is our 5th year making jam and we like to try a new recipe each time. This year I went spicy... Raspberry Jalapeno sauce. Have you ever had Raspberry Chipotle sauce over cream cheese with crackers? This is the same thing, except technically it's not "chipotle" because we didn't roast the jalapenos. Brian actually offered to just stick them in the oven so that we could call it the fancier sounding "chipotle", but really, I didn't want to add an extra step just for the label. Or, honestly, I did, but I let it go. Cause I'm working on doing that. So, first step first. Choose a recipe. Kinda already gave that one away. This is actually the first year that I did not use a recipe straight from the recipes inside the Sure Jell pectin box. I know, I know... really outdid myself, right? I'll post the full recipe at the end, just in case you're interested. Next up... assemble the ingredients. This would be the point at which the little Witty family (not sure if we count as "little" when we're sporting the double stroller which, true to it's name, only holds 2 kids, leaving one kid to be wrangled by the parent not pushing the double behemoth stroller) treks on out to the Dallas Farmer's Market. Little tip - do not eat breakfast before you go. I have no idea if all farmer's markets are like this one, but you cannot escape the vendors literally putting food in your hands for you to try. Fresh, yummy food. Tomatoes? Yes, please. Watermelon? Of course. Baby corn straight off the cobb? Sign me up. This year we bought 3 flats of raspberries (18 pints) and 20 jalapenos, along with fresh okra, tomatoes, pineapple, and blueberries (those things didn't make it into the recipe, though). You'll also need a few things from the grocery store. I buy all that stuff the day before or early that morning so that I can run the jars through the diswasher first. (I didn't need as many jars this year beacause we reused the jars from the jam we kept and ate, so you can reuse the jars and just buy new lids.) Note that this recipe calls for liquid pectin, *not* powdered. Time to cook the jam. Set the lids in a little saucepan of water on the stove while you're washing the fruit and getting the rest of the stuff ready. For this recipe, we just needed to mash the raspberries a bit and chop and seed the jalapenos. Brian did the peppers and I made him wear rubber gloves for that part. Because you just don't want to get jalapeno spicyness anywhere other than in your food, right? This recipe is actually super, super easy, because you just dump all the ingredients in - *except* the pectin - and stir until it boils. Add the pectin in and keep stirring for one more minute. And that's it. Seriously, people, how much easier could it be?! The picture below actually shows part of our Raspberry Blueberry Jalapeno batch because we got a little frisky and did half raspberry/half blueberry on a few of the batches. I know... we are just wild and crazy folks, aren't we? Well... there's still the canning part, I mean. But it's easy, just messy. See evidence below. Next up... jarring the jam. The way I see it, jamming is a two person job. Or at least this part of it is. And the kids really cannot help you. Because everything is blazing hot. And kids + blazing hot is just not a good combo. So, do as we did and time this part for naptime (2 kids) and Finding Nemo time (1 kid). So, get your jars all lined up and then pour/ladle/whatever - just get the jam in the jars. I recommend the jar funnel. Best $2.50 you'll ever spend. And now, folks, this brings us to the best part of Jamathon '09. That would be where Brian was holding the giant pot of jam and I was ladeling the jam (did I mention it was blazing hot?) into the jars when a droplet did as droplets do and, obviously, dropped. Right onto my little toe. And I said, "Yeahhhhh... that's jam on my toe." And what does Brian say, as if it's a line straight out of the Office with a quirky-type look and Jim Halpert voice? That's right. "Toejam?" I'm sorry, but I am... even at this very moment... still laughing about it. Toejam. We like corny jokes around here. So, moving on. This is the part I actually think of as canning. I'm not sure why, since the jam is already in the jars at this point, but still. This is the part that tends to scare people away from canning, yet it's the easiest thing you'll do all day. Just stick the jars in a pot of boiling water. You don't need a special pot - I use a spaghetti pot and it works just fine. The water needs to cover the jars by at least an inch, so just make sure of that. So, stick 'em in and let them boil for 10 minutes. Sometimes, you might have a little extra jam (or in this case, sauce) that doesn't fill up a whole jar. We just leave that jar out and when we finish the next batch in the next few minutes we just fill that one up first. So, at the end of the day, there is usually still one jar left that is half full. Or half empty, depending on your outlook, I suppose. (Ha! I so crack myself up, don't I?) We usually stick that jar in the fridge to eat right away, but of course, we reward our hard work by trying it first. Once the jars are done boiling you pull them out of the water and set them aside to cool. We always set them on our little antique fridge. Oh, but wait. Yeah, that (above) was only HALF of them. Seriously. (Have you noticed that I am an over-doer? First the bread, now the jam. At least they go together, right?) See, look. They doubled. We decided that since we were already jamming it up, we might as well make at least one batch of regular jam, too, since we do it low-sugar and that's the jam we eat all year, so we made a regular Raspberry Blueberry jam batch, too. If you're counting jars, that's 47 jars of sauce and 11 jars of jam. So, yeah, 47 Christmas gifts down. Ah... the feeling of accomplishment. This would be the approximately one time per year that that happens! We pack the jars back in the boxes they came in and put them up until I work on the Christmas cards. I like to print the labels on the computer so that I can do a bunch of labels on one sheet of cardstock, then use a punch or circle cutting system to make the circles. I overstamp the lables with a design that complements the Christmas card. Then I run the labels through my mini Xyron (the tiny X" shaped one) to get the back nice and sticky. I like to use the mini size handled kraft bags to stick the jars in because I can also stick the card in there, too! Then I add a coordinating tag and the name so that I can quickly identify each bag as I hand them out (I do write in each Christmas card, so each bag has to have the right name on it). This is how it looked a few years ago...

Have I worn you out with the Jamarama? I know it seems like it might be a lot of work, but really, truly, it's not, I swear. Plus, remember that you don't have to go all Witty on it... you can make just one batch. That's allowed. And seriously, I so love this project because...

  1. All in all, the jam usually comes out at a total cost of around $1.25 a jar, depending on what kind I make. It's a way for me to do a little something to say Merry Christmas to a lot of people in our lives that we love.
  2. The entire project, from start to finish, is done in one day. ONE day. Less than one day, really, considering we went out to the market at noon and finished the entire project by dinnertime.
  3. Not only is it done in one day, it's done several months in advance, ahead of the busyness of the holidays. This is one thing (possibly, THE one thing) that I am *not* scrambling to get done in December.
  4. It's homemade. I love that and other people do, too. So, what are your homemade holiday plans for this year? I'd love to hear them!

Raspberry Jalapeno Sauce

Ingredients 5 cups frozen or fresh raspberries 2 to 3 hot peppers (red or green jalapeno, habanero, or your favorite - I used 3 green jalapenos) 6 cups sugar ½ tsp. unsalted Butter (to reduce foaming) juice of one lime 1 pouch liquid fruit pectin Directions 1. Fill a large stockpot or canner half-full of water and bring to a boil. Wash 8 to 10 jars, lids and rings in warm soapy water, rinse well and place in pot. Turn heat off, cover and let stand in water until ready to use.

2. In a large bowl, gently crush the berries with your hands. Measure out 5 cups of berries and place in a large pot. Slice, seed and finely chop the peppers (keep the seeds if you like your jam extra spicy). Stir peppers, sugar, lime juice, butter into the berries and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat while stirring constantly (using a wooden spoon).

3. Stir in pectin. Bring back to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and skim off any foam.

4. Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/8 inch space at the top. Make sure jar rims and threads are dry, cover with lids and screw tightly. Place jars in stockpot. Make sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 to 2 inches. Bring to a boil; allow to “cook” for 10 minutes. 5. Remove jars and place upright on a towel. Allow to cool completely. When cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger, if lid springs back, the lid is not sealed and the jam must be refrigerated.

Makes about 8 or 9 (1-cup) jars


Rossendryv said...

Very Cool Post!


Charissa said...

My peach jam turned out awesome and I didn't have to use Pectin . . I'm thinking peach salsa next.

Lori Craig said...

OK - glad for a tried and true jalapeno raspberry recipe. I tried one last year that wasn't bad - but not quite what I was looking for. Looks good!

~Lori Roop said...

I have made various jellies and jams and I DO NOT relish the clean-up!! I have to agree, canning is a two-person endeavor!

Tip: I never boil my canned produce. And it all seals perfectly! I always wondered why people did that? Unless it purifies any germs that could contaminate the ingredients between pouring it in the jar and putting the lid on it. Naaaaahh......lol

Your hard work is impressive!!

karisa said...

question jess - do you use any special tongs to get the jars out of the boiling water? you're right - the boiling part is the part that has intimidated me about trying to can anything!

Jessica said...

Hi, Karisa! We actually use some od-fashioned tongs... the metal kind that you slip your hand through the little hand holes (like scissors). Not the metal kind that you just squeeze together. I did see an in expensive kit with canning tongs, etc, in it at Walmart.

K said...

OOOooo... i am not a cook, but i LOVE making jellies with my dad! we use the fruits from his trees on 22 acres--apple, blueberry, dewberry, grape, peach, muscadine (wild) grape--everything we can find! he makes jellies instead of jams, so each of the 'cookings' has to be strained before we can start the jelling process. he freezes them in 5-cup containers until we're ready to make a batch. and that is never very long because last year he lost over 20 pounds of frozen blueberries when hurricane ike hit. he said, 'never again!'--so we have TONS of jars of jellies just ready to give away! it's great to be able to give a 'little' gift that is so special to someone who hasn't discovered how easy it is to make jelly--and we're not telling!

i copied your recipe and we'll just HAVE to try it. we all LOVE raspberry-chipotle on cream cheese, so this will be really special (also because we'll have to buy the berries--but not the peppers!)

sorry i'm so long here, but i really enjoyed your post! thanks for sharing! ~k

Anonymous said...

Overachiever. ;)
Seriously. Thinking about Christmas in August. Sigh. You are so good.

Totally delish sounding recipe


Unknown said...

Fun post!
I am so trying your recipe, and I am a liquid pectin girl too, so much better!
My jams this year were peach, raspberry, bing cherry, and blackberry with vanilla and cinnamon. There was a batch of peach blackberry that I am excited to share with friends too!

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