Saturday, September 6, 2014

Making Nectarine Jam in Less Than an Hour

Making Nectarine Jam in Less Than an Hour

I have to confess something: I like jam—any kind of jam although frozen raspberry jam is probably my most favorite. For years, I watched my mother make all sorts of jams and jellies. We grew raspberries and strawberries. When I was younger, we trundled to Emmett, Idaho, to Mr. Fresh’s orchards and picked Bing cherries, peaches, and apples. When we lived in north-central Idaho in Lewiston, we went with our friends the Rindlisbachers and picked blackberries along an old abandoned railroad tracks. Last year in Pleasant Grove, we were able to glean peaches; now, in Springville, our neighbor gave us nectarines.

Nectarine jam
Yes, I have learned to make jam. Well, actually, I have learned to read the recipe that the pectin companies like Sure Jell stuff inside of their pectin boxes. And I have discovered that you had better pay attention to the details. Jam can be finicky.

Last evening and today, I made nectarine jam. I was visiting with one of our friends in the Dominican Republic, and she wanted to know how to make jam; so, I thought I would write up a play by play of how I made the nectarine jam. I figure if Darrel Hammon can make jam, pretty much anybody in the world can make it. Seriously! It’s all about ready the recipe to the T.

So here we go.

First, find some fruit. Buy it. Ask your neighbors nicely and watch for giveaways on your email. That’s how Joanne found out about the nectarines.

Food processor and nectarines
 Second, be sure you have the right jars. I like to put jam in little jars. Often we give them away at Christmas. The main reason is that if you have lots of different kinds of jams, it won’t take you long to finish off one and then start on a new flavor.

Third, wash the jars. It’s best to run them through the dish washer, but you can wash them in sudsy hot water, too.

Then, fill them full of hot water and set them aside. You want to keep them a bit warm so when you put in the hot jam, your bottles won’t crack or break.

Get out your food processor or chopper and the rest of the kitchen tools you are going to need like a knife, a cup, bowls, spatulas, etc. You want to be ready because when the jam is ready to go, you don’t want to be looking for a utensil. Trust me on this one. When you are in a hurry to find something, it can’t be found.

Sure Jell
Wash the nectarines carefully. You never know what might have crawled over it. Besides, you probably don’t want to know what’s crawled, licked, or performed any sort of “thing” on it. Most recipes don’t want you to peel the fruit. Just put out of your mind any potential challenge you might conjure up.

the other pot with water
Before I begin cutting up the nectarines, I have already placed another pot on the stove about half full of water and begin heating it to boiling. This is where you are going to do about a ten-minute water bath shortly.
Cutting the fruit
I also put the lids in a small pan with water that covers the lids. I put this on a very, very low heat.
pan with lids
Then, cut up the nectarines, take out the pits, and place the cut-up nectarines in the food processor. I usually cut out bruised spots and any anomaly that I see on the skin.

Once the nectarines are cut up and placed in the food processor, put on the food processor lid, and let it rip. Now, I like a few chunks of the nectarines in my jam; so, I don’t purée the stuff.

Food processor full of nectarines
I then measure out five cups of fruit and put them in a larger kettle where I will mix in the pectin and the lemon juice.

Nectarines, Pectin, and lemon juice mixture
Once the fruit, Sure Jell pectin, and lemon juice are mixed, you stir until it comes to a hard boil. Initially, I had no idea what “rolling boil” met. It means that when you are stirring, you cannot break the boiling. In essence, you stir and it continues to boil.

Nectarines, Pectin, and lemon juice mixture boiling

Once it comes to a rolling boil, you mix in seven cups of sugar—yes, seven (7) cups! I also wondered why I like jam and jelly. Once I discovered that you usually add more cups of sugar than cups of nectarines, then it made perfect sense. I am really making nectarine-flavored sugar. But try to put that out of your minds. Think: fresh nectarines with a touch of sugar. Besides, when you mix seven cups of sugar with five cups of nectarines and 1/4 cup of lemon juice, you can’t even see the sugar. I think the sugar disappears, never to be seen again. At least, that’s how I see it.

Seven (7) cups of sugar
Okay. Once the sugar disappears into the nectarine mixture, stir until it comes to a rolling boil. At the rolling boil stage, boil and stir for exactly one minute. That’s 60 seconds exactly. Then, turn off the heat and begin ladling the nectarine mixture into your jars sans the water, which you have poured out.

Stirring and boiling
After you fill each jar, wipe their mouths clean, carefully dabbing a clean cloth around the edges. Then, lift out one of the lids with your knife from the very hot water, place gentle on the top, and screw a ring band around it. Once you have tightened it—not too tight—place it in the wire container that is sitting in the pot of water that you already prepared earlier. It should be almost ready to boil by now.

Putting on the lids
Once you have the bottles in the wire container, lower them into the water. You should have about 2-3 inches over the top. Bring the water to a soft boil.

Putting the jars in the wire container to be lowered into the water
At a soft boil, set your timer for ten minutes. You can read a book or begin cleaning up. The biggest downside to this jam-making business—or any cooking gig for that matter—is the clean up. I’m always amazed how many bowls, utensils, and other things you use to cook with. I don’t like it, but I know it’s part of the job. Besides, it’s always nice when Joanne sees her kitchen clean again after jam making and comments how clean it is. There is little worse than seeing the look in your wife’s eyes when she sees her kitchen in a state not normally known when she is around. 

Cleaning up: the right thing to do
Once the ten minutes are up, turn off the heat, and begin taking out the bottles, one at a time with your handy-dandy bottle taker outer (I have no idea what it is called). 

The taker outer
Place them gentle on a cooler tray, which also doubles as cookie cooler. I think Joanne calls them “cooling racks.”

Placing each jar on the cooling rack
Once all of the bottles are out, stand back, and listen to them “pop.” That means they are sealing and you have done it correctly. Plus, I like to look a little close to see how pretty they turned out. My nectarine jam turned out beautifully today.

Almost done!
I usually let them set out for a few days. Then, I clean them, print the date on the top of the lid with a permanent marker, and put them away in our storage downstairs.

There you have it. Nectarine jam in less than one hour!