Those of you who knew me way back when know that I used to do a lot of canning. Now, canning requires standing for long periods in front of a stove that contains one pan of boiling jelly or jam, one stockpot full of boiling water to process the jam in, one stockpot full of boiling water containing sterilized jars, and a small pot full of lids in hot water.
This is beyond me, and has been for awhile. However, the Ball company have invented a single-purpose widget that has changed my life. It's called the "Freshtech", and it does one thing: heat a pan of fruit, sugar, and pectin, while rotating a blade to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Those of you who read the Guardian know that Rhik Samadder
hated it. I bought another single-purpose widget, a Victorinox steam canner. Instead of submerging jars in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, you place them above boiling water in a sealed container, so that they are heated by steam. This has recently been proven to be safe
for jelly and jam.
Old jelly-making process:
- Wash all jars and lids; place jars and lids in separate containers of water, bring to a boil.
- Fill your canner with water and bring it to a boil. Your canner is bigger than the biggest stockpot you own, and is also the sort of vessel you use for a shrimp boil.
- Prepare your fruit.
- Dump your fruit and sugar into a wide flat pan and stir over heat until it appears to be jelled. This takes at least 30 minutes, at a stove covered in boiling vessels.
- Get boiling jar out.
- Ladle boiling fruit into boiling jar.
- Place boiling lids on boiling jar.
- Place boiling jar into boiling canner, carefully keeping it from touching any other jar
- Repeat 5-7 until you're out of jam.
- Leave jam in boiling water for processing time, somewhere between 10-15 minutes.
- Remove jam from boiling water and let cool in draft-free place.
- Put jars in dishwasher, run. (I have just discovered that this is perfectly safe.) Handwash lids, put in warm water. It doesn't have to be boiling, just hot enough that the jars don't get heat shock.
- Prepare fruit.
- Put commercial pectin in bottom of jam thingy.
- Put fruit on top of jam thingy.
- Push button.
- 4 minutes later, jam thingy beeps. Add sugar, cup by cup.
- Put top on jam thingy.
- While jam thingy is doing its thing, fill bottom of steam canner with water (this is about 3 inches deep) and bring to 185.
- Jam thingy beeps done. Remove jam jars from dishwasher.
- Fill jars and place lids, as before; however, the only thing that's boiling is the jam.
- Place jars -- all four of them, which is IMHO the perfect number -- on steam canner. Place lid -- oh, blessed lid! -- on steam canner.
- Watch for steam canner to hit designated temperature.
- Sit for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove lid from steam canner and watch steam rise through vent hood.
- Remove jars from canner and place somewhere to cool.
In the new, improved version, you spend much much less time on your feet, and much much less time over a boiling stove. This gadget wouldn't be at all what you wanted if you were working at scale; if you're putting up a year's worth of raspberry jam, forget it. However, for making enough jam for a small household without steaming up the kitchen, it's perfect.
Today's inaugural batch was raspberry-blackberry with one strawberry. Tomorrow or Wednesday there'll be strawberry.