You know those people who join book clubs? I’m not one of them. I also don’t join gyms, or discussion boards online, or rotary clubs. I’m just not a joiner. I have a fear of joining, a terror, really. What if I don’t know the rules? What if I let everyone down? What if I can’t make a meeting, or don’t want to read the book, or forget to bring snacks on my designated night? What if I say something reeeeallly annoying? OMG I don’t want to be the annoying person in the group.
So, when I got an invitation to join in Steph Chows Jam Exchange, my first reaction was, “no, of course not, I’m just not a joiner.” But I hesitated for a second, and then said yes. What? Jam exchange? Aack. I can’t believe I joined something.
It works like this: Steph assigns you someone to send jam to, and she also arranges for someone different to send jam to you. Or, er, me. Like a jam train. I’m really excited about it, and haven’t totally buckled under my “joiner anxiety.” Yet. Although I did have a massive freak out yesterday about botulism. Oh god, wouldn’t that be the worst? To not be a joiner, and then join a jam exchange on a whim, and then inadvertently send someone a sticky sweet pink jar brimming with a potentially deadly nerve toxin?
I did my homework, though. I researched botulism and found that with acidic foods such as fruit jams, it’s fairly uncommon. Also, I boiled the heck out of my jars (after washing them in lots of hot soapy water), and then I boiled them for 20 minutes after they were filled (had to increase the time from the usual 10 minutes for the altitude out here). My mother called me in the midst of my freak out and told me I was being ridiculous. She doesn’t even boil her jars first, just splashes boiling water over them, and she hasn’t killed anyone thank you very much. She’s probably right. I have since eaten a copious amount of jam from one of my jars, and I feel okay. For now… You might be thinking, “You made jam once before. I know because I read about it here. Why are you so worried? You SAID it turned out great.” I know! But that last foray into jam-making did not require canning because that recipe only makes a leeetle bit.
But more important… THE JAM. I went with Strawberry-Plum for this first go, mainly because strawberries were on sale, and I had a pile of plums on the counter. I loosely followed a recipe on the insert in the Sure-Jell pectin package, even though the instructions made it painfully clear that if I didn’t follow their recipes exactly, that my jam would fail, my participation in the jam exchange would be a disaster, and I would never be asked to join anything. Ever. Again.
But it turned out well! I mean, it’s jam, alright. Sweet and sticky and a little tart, not runny but not stone-like. It’s jam! It’s good on toast with a cup of coffee, and I imagine it’ll go great with peanut butter. It’s a good, solid jam. Nothing exotic, but it does seem to be a crowd pleaser. The kind of thing you can give away as a gift to a picky eater and not worry.
The Sure-Jell package had a recipe for strawberry jam and one for plum jam. I sort of combined them, reduced the sugar, and called it a day.
2 lbs strawberries
3 Cups sugar
1 package pectin (I used Sure-Jell, the kind for low-sugar recipes)
Hull the strawberries and then crush them with your fists. It’s disturbing, but also sort of cathartic.
Chop the plums, toss them in a saucepan with about 1/4 cup water, and boil them for about 5 minutes, or until they get sort of shrunken and soggy.
Now, in a large pot combine all the fruit, along with 1/4 cup sugar and the pectin, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for, oh, maybe a minute or two? Now add the remaining 2 3/4 cups sugar and simmer away for 5 minutes or so. Voila, you have jam. Well, not quite. It won’t be set yet, which might make you freak out. But it should set as it cools. You can test it by plopping a bit on a chilled plate. It should be jammy.
Proceed with canning in a safe manner so that we all avoid THE BOTCH.