Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jammin' (Canning Boot Camp-Part 1)

This shows the 2011 edition of Ball Blue Book Canning Guide

Last Thursday I told y'allI I was going to attend a Canning Boot Camp. I did. And it was AWESOME!!

Saturday dawned cool, grey skies and the air was permeated with the threat of rain. I traveled the short distance from my house to the outskirts of historic Lebanon in search of the beckoning nirvana. To the Jam and Jelly Lady Cannery. I travelled the quiet streets and roads following the hastily scribbled directions on a post it note. The only noise that permeated my thoughts was the occasional schwump of  of the windshield wipers scraping across my window.  The miles began rolling by as the houses and buildings dotting the landscape became less frequent. Vast expanse of greens, gentle curves and slightly raise elevations.

I almost passed the drive because I was zooming along and had the road to myself. (I may have hit the brakes and slid a bit, then backed up to make my turn--but there was no other traffic on the road and therefore no witnesses!) The gravel crunched under my tires as I made my way around the back of a sprawling country house. Once I had traveled the length of  very long drive I faced the cannery tucked snugly behind the house.

What first struck me about the cannery is the welcoming appearance. There is a small covered porch dotted with a several bistro tables and chairs. The Jam and Jelly Lady, Sonya's, son ran out to me me and to me his mom was in the cannery. I gathered my purse, apron, my thoughts and headed in the building.

Sonya greeted me warmly as she and her daughter bustled about the commercial kitchen  in preparation of the course.  Several other students were already there and had claimed the settee talking quietly and whiling away the minutes. I sank into a an upholstered rattan chair and began the people watching process. Just as the remainder of students arrived, the skies opened with a  heavy rain. The cannery was a welcome respite of bright and warmth in comparison to the fickle weather.

Creamy butter yellow walls, concrete, floors, stainless steel appliances, a huge wood and angled iron  island took center stage. Over the sink was a large picture window with view to a large expanse of green and collection of canning jars lining the sill.
The back perimeter of the room was lined with industrial metal shelving filled with supplies. Tucked into one corner is a desk and country hutch displaying the sparkling, jeweled hued jars of jam.
Sonya (aka The Jam and Jelly Lady) gave us the overview of food safety, a nifty chart the differentiates when to use a steam canner and when to use a pressure canner. These are the ONLY 2 safe methods for home canning. Please refer to the USDA website for guidelines.  Any other methods of canning  (i.e oven or jar inversion) are incorrect and you are risking you and your family's health! 
Our first canning lesson was making strawberry jam--without added pectin. 

*NOTE* This post was modified to protect the intellectual property of The Jam and Jelly Lady.

Pectin Free Strawberry Jam

Google pectin free jam for specific  ingredient ratios

lemon juice
Clean, hot pint jars
New thermosol lids
food processor or potato masher
non reactive pot
stainless spoon
lid magnet
small sauce pan with very hot, simmering water
clean cotton rag or paper towel
Tea towels

Just 3 ingredients. That's it. Go get you jam jar and read the ingredients......Um yeah--that's a lot of multiple syllable words. Sonya is an advocate for supporting the local farmer and fresh ingredient foods. And her products reflect that commitment!

Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Once the contents were at a rapid boil, the heat was maintained, stirring occasionally  to avoid sticking to the pot, until thickened . The jam was tested for "jelling" 

Ladle into clean, hot jars Leave head space. Wipe rims with paper(towel) dipped in hot water (we used the pot of hot water for the  lids). The rims need to be clean to ensure a tight seal. Retrieve the lid from pot of hot water using the magnetic wand, place on jar and  set aside.

Carefully place 7 prepped jars into a boiling hot water bath,with adequate water to to cover jars by 1-2 inches. Cover pot with lid and process. Why 7 jars? That is what the water canner rack holds AND allows the steam to get between all the jars. A good processed product requires even heat distribution. When the time is up, remove the lid to canner pot, CAREFULLY, avoiding the steam. Retrieve the jars using the jar tongs and place the VERY hot jars on tea towels. If you place them directly on a counter or other cool surface you could break the jars. Within a  short time you will begin to hear the distinctive metallic "pnomp" sound and the lids begin to seal.

Jars of strawberry jam

These have a shelf  life of 18-24 months
When the jars are cool enough to handle, remove the outer ring. This is done for 2 reasons: 1. If the jars sealed properly the ring will be firmly adhered and the center of disc depressed and does not flex. (IF you find a jar not sealed, discard the lid, wipe the rim, add a NEW heated lid and reprocess in a water bath or put in fridge use first.) 2. You can better see the contents of jar and will be more evident if in the event  of spoilage--should it occur. Add labels with contents and and date canned. 

There you have it --delicious, pure strawberry jam!

P.S. Here's little hint if you have heavy mineral content in your water  (mine is down right crunchy!) and are worried about the milky, hazy residue on your jars--add a tablespoon or 2 of white vinegar to your steam-bath. Those jars will wipe right up!


  1. Replies
    1. FM--The jam and pickles are sooooo good! Seriously I can NEVER go back to store bought. I can't wait to implement everything I learned!

  2. The Jam and Jelly Lady is a wonderful, patient and KNOWLEDGEABLE teacher!

    I'm so glad we took this class, Tonya! We need to take some more - I learned so much! (and un-learned all the improper canning techniques from my childhood)


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