Monday, July 11, 2011
The Scotch Plains Farmers' Market and Blueberry jams
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Farmers' Market is held on Saturdays 9am-2pm in the downtown. Maria and I had our plans to buy blueberries for jam, but when we saw all the tables we got excited and had to buy at least some corn, tomatoes, peaches, too. Right now blueberries are in season and plentiful and I bought 8 pint containers, about 6 lbs, to make jam.
The sign displayed above the table states that the produce is "Jersey Fresh". That is a designation I like to look for, because it means that the food crop is grown on New Jersey farms. It's one of the programs of the NJ Department of Agriculture to promote the produce of our state. Another designation is "Jersey Grown" which applies to nursery stock like shrubs and trees. When you can, support your local farmers! Here is more information on "Jersey Fresh" and lists of local farms, http://www.state.nj.us/jerseyfresh/.
Getting back to the house, we met Elisa and started making jam. We worked together on the whole process, from washing jars, to prepping ingredients and then cooking and jarring the jams. Happy to say we all worked very efficiently together in the hot kitchen.
First we made the blueberry spiced jam recipe from Alton Brown, found on the web and reproduced here. His instructions are very detailed, orderly and understandable. The jam is a real winner! Our only complaint was the actual yield of 5 jars with leftover was less than the planned yield of six 8oz jars. So I must tinker with the recipe to make more.
Blueberry Spiced Jam, from Alton Brown,
Blueberries, 2 pints, 12 oz each
Dry pectin, 1/3 cup
½ teaspoon star anise, ground fine
¼ teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
Sugar, 3 cups
Water, ½ cup
Wash blueberries well and pick out stems etc. Place them in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the pectin and stir, then add spices, lemon juice and vinegar. Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking and boil gently for 5 minutes to cook the fruit and release juice and air. Add the sugar and the water and bring to a high boil, stirring constantly, boil hard for 1 minute. Test for jell. Skim the foam. Fill the jars. Even adding the extra half cup of water (unusual step) the actual yield was 42 oz. less than expected. The jam was medium jell, nice smooth texture with pieces of berries distributed, and great tasting.
Lemon Thyme Herb Jelly, yield 32 oz, two 8oz and four 4oz jars
This recipe is from the BH&G canning magazine. This magazine format cookbook is so appealing and has many unusual and intriguing recipes. I think will try to do them all. Anyway, the herbs are from my home garden, but it was necessary to buy the apples at the supermarket. BH&G on page109 had a good traditional way to extract fresh apple juice by cooking the apples till soft, straining the juice through a cheesecloth, taking up a lot of time. Of course, being a traditionalist and glutton for punishment, I did it and earned a fresh apple-flesh colored juice and a quart of nice pure applesauce as a bonus. The most important point of this long process is that the apple juice has lots of natural pectin because the apples cook with the skins and cores.
This recipe is simple from this point on.
Pick and wash two large handfuls of herbs, enough to make a cup or more of chopped herbs. I used lemon thyme alone.
3 cups unsweetened apple juice
¼ cup lemon juice
1 package dry pectin, (1/3 cup)
4 cups sugarThis jelled very well, in fact, it was hard to skim off the foam, because it set so quickly.
Put herbal juice, lemon juice, pectin and sugar into the pot and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for one minute. Turn off heat, and test with a metal spoon for jell. This jelled very well, in fact, it was hard to skim off the foam, because it set so quickly. Reaction to this varied from “love it” (me) to “very good”, to “how to serve it?” Generally, the texture was a medium jell, fairly clear pale yellow color, and sweet lemon taste, not strongly herbal.
We made a recipe for jam without pectin, cooking the fruit for a half hour on a slow boil to thicken it. The blueberry apple mixture did thicken, but the product is sticky, not like jell, and has an overcooked bitter sugary taste. This has happened to me before with fruits low in pectin. I like the bright taste and texture that pectin makes. Not every recipe is a winner.