When I was a little girl, my aunts taught me how to make jam. Every summer, Belinda, Miriam and I would methodically process the sugar and fruit, whipping up apricot, strawberry, and blackberry preserves to be doled out as holiday gifts in the coming year.
My family always looked forward to receiving these precious gifts, and when my aunts were no longer able to tackle the challenging project, I started to make jam on my own. At first, I stuck to the familiar flavors and methods, only making berry jams and thickening them with pectin, as my aunts had taught me. But the last couple years I’ve branched out, coming up with a few of my own concoctions.
Today’s recipe was inspired by a trip to The Milk Pail, an open air produce market in my hometown of Mountain View, California. I’d planned on making apricot jam with the first stone fruits of the season, but when my boyfriend spotted a pineapple, he suggested it go into the mix, too. What resulted was a deliciously tangy jam, perfect for spreading on toast, mixing into yogurt, spooning over ice cream, whisking into a teriyaki marinade . . . it’s versatile and delicious.
Canning is really not so scary once you’ve done it a few times. The most important thing I learned from my aunts is to be very prepared — line your countertops with towels and assemble all your ingredients, pot holders, sterilized jars, lids, and bands, boiling water bath, jar lifting tongs, ladle and stirring spoon before you start to make your jam! Otherwise there’s no way you’ll be prepared to get everything canned once the jam is done cooking. If you prepare properly, the process will be smooth and efficient.
The second most important thing? If you can, get somebody to assist you with your jam-making project! A second pair of hands is invaluable.
If you’ve never canned before, I recommend reading the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It’s an amazing resource for all kinds of canning projects, and will get you off to a great start. A canning kit is also a good idea if you don’t have a jam funnel or jar-lifting tongs –you’ll end up making much less of a mess, not to mention be safer, if you use the right tools for the job.
Apricot Pineapple Jam
makes 7 half-pint jars
2 lbs. apricots, pitted and sliced into quarters
1 medium-sized pineapple (yield 2 lbs.), peeled, cored, and sliced into 1″ chunks
4 C. granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1. Combine all ingredients in a large (mine’s a 6.5 quart) pot. Turn stove onto medium heat, and stir until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
2. Stir continuously for the entire 25 minutes — this is important! If you stop stirring, you’ll end up with a scorched pot and burnt-tasting jam. No fun.
3. During the last couple minutes of cooking, use an immersion blender to pulverize any pieces of pineapple that haven’t entirely dissolved. Make sure the blender is entirely immersed in the liquid, so you don’t spatter your kitchen — or yourself — with boiling hot jam.
4. Remove jam from heat and quickly ladle into sterilized jars. Making sure the rims of the jars are clean, put on the lids and bands. Screw on the bands firmly, but not too tightly.
5. Process the jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, then let cool. Remove bands, clean off jars, dry thoroughly, and replace bands. Your jam is ready to eat, gift, or store.