Water Bath Canning – Jalapeño-Honey Plum Jam
Home canning involves a sequence of steps which may seem complicated at first. In reality, each step is simple, and once you’ve been through the process a couple of times, it will quickly become routine. If you begin with tested recipes and follow the instructions carefully, I think you’ll find the results will be worth the effort–and delicious!
When canning fruits, jams, and jellies, a water bath process is used. Here’s the equipment you’ll need:
- large stockpot deep enough to submerge jars an inch or two below the water surface
- small saucepan for sterilizing lids
- something to keep jars off the pot bottom (I use a steamer tray, but you can also get an inexpensive wire rack made especially for holding jars)
- jar lifter (hand-held clamp for securely lifting jars from boiling water)
- lid lifter (plastic stick with a small magnet at one end for lifting lids from boiling water)
- funnel to fit the size of jars you want to use (used to pour prepared ingredients into the jars)
You’ll also need jars, lids which have rings of rubber on one side to seal against jar rims, and rings which screw down to hold the lids in place. Jars and rings can be reused many times, but lids should be discarded after one use. Used lids may not seal properly.
Yeagers Sporting Goods (3101 Northwest Avenue, Bellingham) has everything you’ll need, including inexpensive equipment kits, jars and lids. Prices are reasonable and the staff offers knowledgeable assistance.
I’ve been canning for a number of years, but this week’s recipe turned out to be an education. It started when I found a plum jam recipe I wanted to try, but it called for lemon juice–not a local ingredient. I don’t like to alter canning recipes, because that can sometimes be hazardous. I don’t know enough about canning chemistry to know what’s safe to change.
I decided to call Susy Hymas, who teaches food preservation classes, and also teaches nutrition classes for the culinary school at Bellingham Technical College. I’d met her a couple of weeks ago as we were both meeting with visitors to BelleWood Acres during the Whatcom County Farm Tour. Perhaps she could recommend a safe alternative for the lemon juice.
Susy began by explaining that in fruit jam recipes, acid ingredients are not related to food safety. Most fruit contains natural pectin, the substance which causes cooked fruit to jell into jam or jelly. Acid ingredients can help the pectin jell more easily. She suggested that I do some experimenting. Plums, she thought, would have enough pectin to not need extra acidity. Alternatively, I could also try adding apple cider vinegar, though she cautioned that the flavor might be altered significantly. She also suggested adding some high pectin fruit to the recipe, such as green apples or currants.
I didn’t have green apples or currants on hand, but I tried Susy’s other two suggestions. I made one small batch of jam omitting the lemon juice completely, and another batch substituting apple cider vinegar. The first jelled correctly, but was cloyingly sweet. In the second batch, the jelling was good, the vinegar offset the sweetness nicely, and the cider flavor went well with the spicy taste of the jalapenos.
I hope you’ll try the Jalapeño-Honey Plum Jam recipe below and let me know if you think the experiment was successful!
(adapted from recipe at LazyHomesteader.com)
- 4 lbs. yellow plums, pitted and finely chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island, and Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
- 3 cup honey (Guilmette’s Busy Bees, Bellingham)
- 4 Tbsp jalapeño pepper, finely minced (friend’s garden, Lummi Island)
- 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
- Optional: ¼-1/2 tsp butter (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
- In a large sauce pan, combine all ingredients and bring to a full rolling boil. If you want to reduce foaming, you can add up to ½ tsp of butter. It will float on top and smooth the surface.
- While the ingredients are boiling, start heating a large stockpot with enough water to completely cover upright half pint jars with one or two inches of water over the lids. When the water is boiling, submerge empty half pint jars in the water for at least one minute to sterilize them. Use tongs or a jar lifter to remove jars and set them on a clean towel to dry. Don’t touch the inside of the jars after sterilizing.
- Meanwhile, start heating another small saucepan of water to use for sterilizing jar lids. When the water reaches a boil, put in the lids and reduce heat to low to maintain a simmer.
- Continue boiling the jam ingredients until the liquid gets to the jelling point (220 degrees F. if, you have a candy thermometer, or use the freezer method or spoon method for testing).
- When the jam is ready, pour into the sterilized jars. With a clean towel, wipe the top edges of the jars, and put a lids with the rubber ring side down. Screw on the rings just until finger tight. Submerge the filled jars in the boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
- Remove jars carefully and set on a clean towel to cool. When completely cooled, press gently on the center of the lid. If it does not move up or down, it is properly sealed. Do not tighten the ring or you may disturb the seal.
* Here are the two jelling tests recommended. I’ve tried both, and found them equally effective.
Spoon or Sheet Test – Dip a cool metal spoon into the boiling jam or jelly mixture. Tip the spoon so the mixture runs off the side. At first, the drops will be light and runny. As the syrup continues to boil, the liquid will become thicker and will fall off in a couple of drip strings at a time. When the syrup pours off the spoon in a sheet instead of drips, the jelling point has been reached.
Refrigerator/Freezer Test – Put a plate in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. Pour a small amount of boiling jam or jelly on the plate, and put it back in the freezer for at least one to two minutes. If the mixture gels, the jam or jelly should be done.
Serve with Baking Powder Biscuits or any fresh bread.
BelleWood Acres, 231 Ten Mile Rd., Lynden
Boxx Berry Farm, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale
Community Food Co-operative, Westerly and Cordata, Bellingham
Friend’s garden, Lummi Island
Full Bloom Farm store, Centerview and Tuttle, Lummi Island