Thursday, September 4, 2014

The jarring truth about jams (or, the jamming truth about jars)

Here's the thing. I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to jams.

I do know one thing, though. Store-bought jam is EXPENSIVE. Bloody expensive. And I can't figure out why! Fruit, when it's overripe, is dirt cheap. Sugar is cheap. I'm pretty sure pectin is cheap (and I hope I didn't lose you with that fancy foodie term, dear reader. Pectin is just a fancy word for fruit sugar.) Is it the amount of work that gets put in? The electricity? The fact that it's a fancy first world food that only us #firstworldproblempeople get to eat?

I'm not sure. But that's why I've been making jam at home.
fig jam DIY
C'est non le strawberry jam.

Now, clarification. I don't think that what I'm making is *jam* jam. (Or maybe it's not preserves? I don't know.) My point is, I wouldn't trust it on a shelf for months and months and years and years. I don't have the knowledge, and I don't have the equipment, and I wouldn't really want to risk the botulism.

What I *have* been making is refrigerator jam, and it is delicious. It gets eaten quickly, it lasts in my fridge for a month or so, and both myself and my significant other have eaten it recently and are both still alive. So far, I've done cherry jam (yum), cherry jam with a drop of almond flavoring (OMG YUM), peach/plum//apricot jam (still good, but not as good as that almond.)

Today, life handed me figs fresh off the tree. So today I am attempting fig jam.
I'll jam you my pretties! And your little dog, too!
Hum. Ok. That just got weird rather quickly.
Sometimes, when I'm sad that I don't live in a country with fresh raspberries growing wild and mushrooms everywhere (shout-out, R.R!), I am consoled that we at least have fig trees growing wild. So many that I truly cannot understand why anyone would pay the ridiculous price they charge for figs in the store.

Now, I'm not going to go into much detail here about how to jar things. I'm not here for that. If you really want to learn about it in depth, check out Alton Brown (my kitchen guru, as I may have mentioned) in the Urban Preservation episode about jam. Then, if you want to know more and are more patient than I am, head on over to some random blog that I don't particularly know if you can trust and read the whole veeeeeeeeeery looooooooong article with everything you could possibly ever want to know about canning and jarring and stuff. Finally, check out the newest edition to my list of kitchen gurus, David Lebovitz, read his cherry jam 'no recipe' recipe, and pray to whatever god you pray to that you can still find cherries this year.

For now, I will tell you what I do when I make "jam" (maybe I should call that "jamm" or "gamm" - you know, like one of those trademark things that don't want to use the real word, so they use a silly misspelled one instead.)

Babka's Random Fig Jamm 

See?? Fig seeds!

  • Figs picked from the tree that morning
  • Sugar or honey (according to the links above it's 3/4 of the amount of fruit. I find that to be a bit sweet. So do what you want, but I take no responsibility)*
  • a bit of lemon or lime juice (a squeeze or tsp or so)
  • water (some)
  • cardamom, a bit of white pepper (oh yes!!), and a bit of almond flavoring (I'm starting to think almond just makes everything better.)
  1. Clean the figs. Cut the figs. Check the figs VERY CAREFULLY for worms or bugs. Ew. Gross.
  2. Weigh the figs. See, I told you you should get a kitchen scale. 
  3. Put all the ingredients in a pot and cook them until they're dead. Really dead. Like probably 30 minutes worth of dead. Do the spoon test that David Lebovitz taught me about (put a plate in the freezer, and when you want to test if the jam is done, you plop a bit on the cold plate and see if it smudges. Works great.) 
  4. Cool and put into a clear jar. I don't have real canning jars. I just use clean leftover jars from previously bought jam. Like I said, it hasn't killed me yet. 
  5. Refrigerate and enjoy.
*I used honey because I was completely out of white sugar. I've never tried using honey before, no idea if it will work. I don't see why it wouldn't, honey is a natural preservative. I'll let you know how it works out.

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