We'll never forget the time we bought 10 pounds of apricots to make jam, only to find ourselves sweating miserably over pots of boiling water and fruit in our unairconditioned apartment. First lesson: don't make jam in the middle of a summer heat wave. Secondly, go small. Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times seems to agree, and offers some useful tips for small-batch canning that's both manageable and fun. Parsons writes, "The problem with most jam-making instructions is that they are not intended for you and me. They're artifacts of a time when jam-making was a necessity, not a pleasure. If you're a farm wife who has to put up the fruit from three or four trees, then recipes that call for five or 10 pounds of peaches and a really big vat to cook them in make sense. But that's not why most of us make jam these days. We buy fruit from the farmers market or supermarket, and we get only a couple of pounds at a time. We make jam because it tastes so good. And because it's fun."
His advice? Work with just a pound or two of fruit at a time. Weigh the cut fruit (sans pits), add an equal weight of sugar, bring it to a boil, let it macerate over night, then quickly finish it in a skillet the next day. "Cooking jam in small amounts also leads to greater spontaneity — you can indulge a whim rather than having to plan jam-making as a daylong project," Parson writes. "And when you're cooking this way, you can feel free to experiment, combining different fruits or flavors."
How about you? Do you prefer to work with large or small batches? Are you putting up anything fun this summer?
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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