Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jamming November Style

Yesterday was a stormy November day in the Yamhill Valley, with rain in inches and branches falling at nearly the same pace what with winds approaching 40-50 mph during the worst of it.  Couple that with intermittent power outages and what's a girl to do but whip up a batch of raspberry jam!

Marissa over at Food in Jars held a giveaway recently for a Ball FreshTech Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker and I won!  My new toy arrived late last week and for the past few days has been sitting on the counter beckoning me to experiment, so experiment I did.  The appliance comes with a small recipe book for several varieties of jam and jelly, all using the classic pectin that requires a huge amount of sugar in order to achieve a gel and preserving quality.  For years I've made all our jams using a low-methoxyl pectin that requires very little sugar to achieve a set, allowing your homemade jams and jellies to taste like real fresh fruit and not overpowered by sugary sweetness.  Low-methoxyl pectin is sold under the brand name Pomona at your local natural foods store, or can be ordered in bulk online which is the way we purchase it. 

So, would my low-methoxyl pectin work in this new contraption that uses an entirely different cooking method than the directions for my pectin required?  And, more importantly, would the power stay on for the required 21 minutes to make a batch of jam from start to finish?  I figured what did I have to lose - if the jam didn't come out exactly right, the worst we'd have would be raspberry topping for ice cream or chocolate cake - not exactly a losing situation in my book!  So, off to the kitchen we went.

My recipe:  6 cups crushed raspberries, in this case we had frozen our fruit immediately after harvesting in July, it was mostly thawed when placed in the pot along with 2 tsp of calcium solution (part of the low-methoxyl pectin process); then 2 tsp. of the powdered low-methoxyl pectin was mixed into one cup of sugar and added slowly after the raspberry/calcium solution mixture had heated for 4 minutes.  Then the vented lid is added and the jam boils vigorously for the remainder of the preset time. 
Simmering along - the jam maker has a non-stick inner surface plus a removable non-stick paddle system that stirs the jam during the entire cooking process - Nice!!   Even better, we didn't lose power again until literally seconds after I had turned off and unplugged the appliance!
The finished product:  one 8 oz jar for the freezer and one 12 oz jar for the frig, plus approximately 1/3 cup additional jam.    My assessment:  the Automatic Jam Maker works great for small batches of fruit and is great for wintertime canning projects.  In this case, the jam had a firmer set than I typically aim for, no doubt because the appliance keeps the mixture at a full boil the entire time, not to mention that my recipe was a total experiment and not one of the Ball-recommended recipes!  But, the finished product is delicious and I think that either shortening the cooking time from the preset one and/or using a bit less pectin mixture would achieve the slightly looser set I'm more used to.  A shorter cooking time would also lessen the amount of evaporation taking place, increasing the yield closer to the expected 4 8-oz jars.  More experimentation is definitely in order.   The good news is you don't have to use huge quantities of sugar to achieve a satisfactory jam or jelly!

I love the fact that the paddles do the continuous stirring for you, and this will be a great method for making some of my favorite recipes that typically yield small batches, mango chutney and tomato-peach marmalade to name a couple.  Could this appliance also produce tomato paste?  Next summer's crop of Roma tomatoes will provide us with another tasty experiment. 

I hope you'll check out Marissa's delightful Food in Jars blog for tons of  delicious inspiration!

3 comments:

  1. I've never seen such an appliance....very neat!!!

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  2. Just followed your above recipe for jam in my new Ball fresh tech. Only thing different was I used 4 cups crushed blueberries from frozen. Yield was 4 1/2 pints. I'll see how it set up tomorrow. Thank you for posting this! Don't ever take it down!! :)

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