Preserving summer’s sweetness: Small-batch canning for berry jams

Photo: Christy Olsen Field
Jams preserve summer one pint at a time.

Christy Olsen Field
Edmonds, Wash.

Berry season is nearly here in the Pacific Northwest. It will be a sweet reward after the dreary, water-logged winter and spring we have endured this year. My newly planted raspberry canes won’t be ready to harvest this year, so I’ve scouted out local U-Pick berry farms to get our fill. And this year, I plan to put up some jam to get us through to next season.

I learned to can from my younger sister, Caroline. As an avid gardener and creative maker in many ways, canning quickly became one of her favorite activities when a friend taught her to can chutneys, jams, salsas, and more. (She and her now-husband Ethan both love to can together; they even made 200+ jams as their wedding favors two years ago.) She shared her new hobby with me one autumn afternoon with a couple half-pint jars of tomato jam, and I was totally hooked. Our canning adventures have even inspired our mom to take up canning again!

Though I’m only a few years into canning, I appreciate the process and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor during the rest of the year. I also like that canning connects me to my foremothers, though I highly doubt that they canned with a glass of wine in hand in the evenings, like I often do!

If you haven’t tried your hand at canning yet, or if you’re turned off by the sheer amount of produce needed for typical canning recipes, I recommend that you check out small-batch canning. There are several advantages to this approach: less volume of produce needed, less storage space required, and less time required in the kitchen.

Best of all, you really don’t need any special supplies. Gather your biggest kitchen pot, a pair of tongs, a low and wide pan, and a few kitchen towels.

Here are two berry jam recipes that would be the perfect accompaniment to a batch of vafler, layered in bløtkake, or with a slice of hearty Norwegian brød med brunost. God appetit!

Note: For a detailed, step-by-step overview of boiling water bath canning, visit tinyurl.com/NAcanningsteps. For more information on small-batch canning techniques and stellar recipes, check out Marisa McClellan’s blog Foodinjars.com. She is also the author of Preserving by the Pint and Food in Jars.

Photo: Christy Olsen Field

Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Jam
Jordbærsyltetøy med vaniljestang

Recipe adapted from Marisa McClellan, Foodinjars.com

4 cups strawberries, chopped
2 cups sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or
substitute 2 tsps. vanilla extract)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
In a glass bowl, combine vanilla bean seeds and pod (or use vanilla extract) with 1 cup sugar. Stir in chopped strawberries, cover with a lid, and refrigerate for at least two hours, and up to three days.

When ready to make jam, prepare three half-pint jars in a boiling water bath. In a low, wide pan, remove the vanilla bean and combine strawberries, juices, and remaining cup of sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture reaches 220°F. Be sure to stir very regularly with a rubber spatula to prevent hot spots. Add lemon juice and zest in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove pan from heat and pour jam into prepared jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a wet paper towel or cloth, put on the lids and rings, and process in your boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and cool completely on a kitchen towel. Jars are sealed when you hear a cheerful ping or the lids are concave and cannot be pressed down. If the jars are not sealed, place in the fridge and use within the next month.

Yield: 3 half-pint jars, shelf-stable up to one year.

Honey-Sweetened Raspberry Preserves
Bringebærsyltetøy med honning

Recipe adapted from Marisa McClellan, Foodinjars.com

6 cups raspberries
2 cups honey (pick a honey with a
lighter flavor, such as clover)
2 lemons, zested and juiced

Note: If you’re trying to avoid white sugar or appreciate jam with a little more nuance, try this honey-sweetened version. It’s really delicious!

Prepare your water bath with five half-pint jars.

In a low, wide pan or skillet, combine the raspberries, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice over medium heat. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook at an active boil for 20-30 mins, stirring every minute or so with a rubber spatula. This will ensure that the berry mixture isn’t sticking to the pan.

When the fruit has thickened to your preference, fill your jars carefully and leave a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a wet paper towel or cloth, put on the lids and rings, and boil in the water bath for 10 minutes.

Remove processed jars carefully with tongs to a kitchen towel, and let cool completely. Jars are sealed when you hear a cheerful ping or the lids are concave and cannot be pressed down. If the jars are not sealed, place in the fridge and use within the next month.

Yield: 4-5 half-pint jars, shelf-stable up to one year.

Christy Olsen Field was on the editorial staff of the Norwegian American Weekly from 2008 to 2012, and the Taste of Norway page was her favorite section. Today, she is a freelance grantwriter for small to mid-size nonprofits with her business, Christy Ink. Learn more at www.christy.ink.

This article originally appeared in the June 16, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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