Peo­ple learn how to make home­made jam

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Glenn Grif­fith ggrif­[email protected] @cn­weekly on Twit­ter

BALL­STON SPA, N.Y. >> Gift giv­ing is part of the hol­i­days. With a few sim­ple clicks of a mouse, one is now able to ful­fill al­most any de­sire some­one may have.

But as the hol­i­days draw ever closer and ad­ver­tise­ments to buy more items fill up TV screens across the coun­try, there are some who turn to hand­made gifts as a way to give the hol­i­days a more per­sonal feel.

Hand­made gifts can take many forms, but some of the best are those that are ed­i­ble, like jam.

On a cold Satur­day morn­ing just days be­fore Thanks­giv­ing, 19 peo­ple joined Cor­nell Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion Food and Nu­tri­tion Ed­u­ca­tor Diane Whit­ten to learn how to make jam. Their goal was to see and take part in the process of mak­ing jam and walk out of the three-hour-long class with a jar of jam they had helped make.

Whit­ten of­fers these classes reg­u­larly. Her class on canning in late sum­mer usu­ally draws an equally large group. The class on mak­ing jam was held in a pro­gram­ming room at the Saratoga County Of­fice build­ing, 15 West High Street, Ball­ston Spa.

Most of those who signed up for the Nov. 23 class, Mak­ing Jam for Gifts, had done some canning in the past. When Whit­ten asked who had not, just three hands went up.

Canning ex­pe­ri­ence is not a ne­ces­sity for mak­ing jam, but it cer­tainly helps. In the past when seal­ing wax was used to seal the jars of freshly made jam so as to pre­vent mold, it was not al­ways suc­cess­ful. To pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing the USDA now rec­om­mends canning one’s jams and jel­lies.

Whit­ten took the class through the dif­fer­ent types of jars to be used, the uten­sils and equip­ment avail­able for boil­ing them, and the two­piece lids that have re­placed the old canning jars and rub­ber seals.

The ses­sion was 85 per­cent par­tic­i­pa­tory and 15 per­cent lec­ture. Web­sites with recipes and help­ful hints were dis­cussed as were the dif­fer­ences be­tween steam can­ners, elec­tric can­ners, and multi-use can­ners. The dif­fer­ences be­tween liq­uid pectin and pow­dered pectin (a nat­u­ral gelling prod­uct) were also reviewed.

Once Whit­ten had gone through the what, the why and the how of the process, she and the class got down to mak­ing three types of jams; heav­enly fig, cran­berry-rasp­berry, and a hot pep­per freezer jam.

“Re­mem­ber, if you’re mak­ing a freezer jam you have to use canning jars that are spe­cially made for freez­ers,” Whit­ten said as she walked be­tween the three demon­stra­tion sta­tions.

Part of the pro­cess­ing work had been done be­fore­hand. Empty jars to hold the pre­serves had been cleaned, the can­ners were warmed up, and two pack­ages of figs from a lo­cal gro­cery store had been puréed. Half the class helped Whit­ten with the cran­berry rasp­berry jam while the other half helped her as­sis­tant, Donna Ring­wall, with the fig jam.

The hot pep­per freezer jam would be made at a third sta­tion as a demon­stra­tion only with the en­tire class ob­serv­ing as the fin­ished jam jars were be­ing heated in the can­ners.

There was chop­ping, mea­sur­ing, mix­ing, cook­ing, and stir­ring with the cran­berry rasp­berry jam while those mak­ing fig jam were able to elim­i­nate the chop­ping.

“Canning is not cre­ative cook­ing,” Ring­wall said loudly at one point so all could hear. “It’s food preser­va­tion. It’s a sci­ence, not an art.”

Her point be­ing that recipes should be strictly fol­lowed to get the re­sults de­sired.

To make a point on the aes­thet­ics of jam mak­ing Whit­ten held up a jar of straw­berry jam she made in June that con­tained no added su­gar. It ap­peared as a hazy brown gelatin. Then she held up an­other jar she had made at the same time. This one had su­gar added, and it was bright red.

“Both will taste good,” she said. “But su­gar, be­sides fla­vor­ing some­thing, is also a preser­va­tive that pro­tects food from bac­te­ria. It also pre­serves the color. The amount of su­gar you put in gives it the dif­fer­ence in color.”

When both pots of jam had bub­bled to per­fec­tion on their re­spec­tive stoves there was pour­ing, mea­sur­ing, re­mov­ing air bub­bles, and more pour­ing to be done. To make the jars fes­tive small round pieces of col­or­ful cloth were cut to ta­ble coaster size for a fin­ish­ing touch.

Peter Green said he took the class be­cause one is al­ways learn­ing in life and be­cause the peo­ple with the skills be­ing demon­strated were be­com­ing hard to find.

“My fam­ily put up jelly, but not like this,” he said. “I’d been around peo­ple who were canning as a young kid, but when you be­come a teenager there are other things that draw your at­ten­tion.”

Green added that there were eco­nomic mo­ti­va­tions in the back of his mind, like farmer’s mar­kets.

“And it’s more eco­nom­i­cal all around,” he said. “It’s an alternativ­e stor­age method that lets you make the most of your money rather than buy­ing some­thing from God knows where.”

Lovey Lee was an­other who took the class.

“I think this is a lost hobby,” she said. “We need to get back to ba­sics. With all the preser­va­tives that are used to­day food tastes dif­fer­ent. I in­tend to make the cran­berry rasp­berry jam at some point at home.”


Rachel Sams, Diane Whit­ten, and Kristi Pol­sun, left to right, pre­pare the in­gre­di­ents for mak­ing cran­berry-rasp­berry jam.

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