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The Reluctant Canner

Sarah at the stove, working her voodoo

Okay, I think I have admitted that I have always had a bit of a hang up about the whole canning/jam making thing. I have harboured an irrational fear of killing my loved ones with my botulism filled jars of sugary confections so, until this past year, I have refused to even try to can. I have made freezer jams but the whole canning process was too terrifying for me to consider.

When I was first getting to know Jen, at Piccante Dolce, she was planning her wedding and was in a jam making frenzy. She made tiny jars of jams to give as her gift to her wedding guests and I was lucky enough to get to try a bunch of the contenders while she experimented. She told me that canning was really easy and once I got the hang of it, I would be jamming like a champ. Because I felt kind of foolish for being so canphobic, I decided to bite the bullet and I researched and read all that I could, settled on a couple of delish sounding recipes, went to Canadian Tire and bought all of my supplies and got to canning. I made a fig/blueberry compote thing with rosemary and some other fancy jam and they turned out fine. Nobody died from eating it (that I know of anyway) and people seemed to enjoy it but I was still unsure of my self taught technique. I have made a few small batches of simple jams but I was still kind of iffy. I am the type of person who needs to watch someone do something and only then will I really feel like I know how to do it.

Imagine how thrilled I was to find out that Sarah Hood was going to give a jam making workshop through The Leslieville Farmer's Market! I signed up immediately, gathered my notebook and my apron and made my way down to Red Rocket Coffee on Queen St East to learn how to make jam without murdering people along the way.

everyone taking notes
It was a really small group, which was great because everyone could have a turn at each step of the process and we could ask questions and take notes. Sarah was so lovely and explained everything so clearly and simply that , at last, it all made sense. I am embarrassed to admit that I now know that I was using the bottle lifting tongs upside down this entire time, which explains why the plastic tube things over what should have been the handles, kept falling off in the water. Oh and I was leaving enough head space in my jars to park a truck - I had no idea 1/4" was that small for the love of pearl.

We made this delicious Plum and Cinnamon Jam (I am going to use some of it to make a plum sauce for dinner tomorrow) and I also bought her book, We Sure Can so that I can get down to work and start making some nice, bacteria free jam this week. If you ever get an opportunity to take such a workshop with Sarah, don't pass it up and you should find this book. It is full of recipes from Sarah and other talented preservers from Canada and beyond.

We are not even going to get into pressure canning though because even if I won't kill my family with botulism, I will surely blow up my kitchen and kill us all that way. For now, I stick with jam.

great pectin that allows you to use way less sugar

220 degrees F and you are golden

Thank you Sarah, for a wonderful afternoon and for putting my mind at ease and sharing some of your canning wisdom with us today.

Cinnamon Yellow Plum Jam
Sarah Hood
makes 3 1/2 cups

4 cups halved, stoned yellow plums
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 whole cinnamon sticks

Sterilize jars and warm lids.

In a non reactive bowl, combine the plums, sugar and lemon juice and let macerate for at least 2 hrs.

In a wide, deep non reactive pot with a thick bottom, add the plum mixture and the cinnamon sticks and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

Bring the mixture to a full, rolling boil that can't be stirred down and continue to boil, stirring requently and until it reaches the setting pint ( please get a thermometer so you can know when it gets to 220F because there is no set time frame and how long it takes depends on so many factors) and then turn off the heat.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and skim off any excess foam. Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/4" of head space. Seal with warm lids and process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil (15 minutes for pint/500 ml jars)

Remove the canner lid, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the hot water for another 5 minutes before removing them.

Remove them from the canner using the special tool (USING THE TOOL RIGHT SIDE UP THIS TIME) and set them on the counter on top of a folded tea towel. The lids on our jam popped right away to let us know that the seal was good. Let them sit, undisturbed overnight if possible.
Any jars that didn't get a good seal can go straight into the fridge.

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