I want to let you in on a secret – I’m an armchair canner. I curl up on the couch and page through books full of beautiful jams, jellies and pickles. Then I imagine how it would feel to have pantry full of goodies and stirring some blueberry jam in my winter oatmeal. Another scenario is that I am wearing a vintage apron pulling a piping loaf of bread out of the oven and slathering it with vanilla strawberry jam.
Every once in a while I get out of my chair and do a little canning. It’s usually when I’m nearing a big deadline and looking for a distraction. This was my first year trying out Pomona’s Pectin – which is different than the normal pectin. Renee Joslyn of Freakin’ Flamingo, recommended Pomona’s. Since Renee makes amazing jams I decided to follow her advice. You can even buy her jams online if you’d rather have her do all the work!
Pomona’s Pectin is a 2 step process that involves making a mix of one of the packets and water in addition to the second packet. The other way is you can use less sweetener or use non-traditional ones like stevia, agave, xylitol plus many more.
Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin, gives you tons of recipes to choose from. It has a step by step reference for basic canning and talks about equipment and fruit – as well detailed instructions about Pomona’s Pectin. It’s perfect for a beginner – or a more experienced canner – who wants to take Pomona’s Pectin out for a spin.
I’ve been wanting to use some for stevia jam, but I thought I better start off by following 2 recipes as written. I still made a few small adjustments. I made the grapefruit marmalade with agave instead of the honey it called for – my friend Clare got some for her birthday. She loved it!
I also made the Strawberry Vanilla Preserves, except I made it more like a jam. If you follow the directions you will have a chunky preserve instead of the jam I have pictured below. The recipe is below the photo. Enjoy! What’s your favorite jam or spread to put on your toast?
Pomona's Pectin Book Review and Strawberry-Vanilla Preserves
Excerpted from Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy (Fair Winds Press, June 2013). Allison says: With ripe, in-season strawberries, combined with a smooth, exotic note of fresh vanilla, this preserve is nothing short of heavenly. It will add a bit of flair to the breakfast table (or bagel) of course, but it’s also great in desserts—try it on top of a biscuit with a bit of whipped cream for a spectacular strawberry-vanilla shortcake! The berries in this preserve tend to float to the top during canning, so mix it up well before serving.
- 2 1/4 pounds strawberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 1/2 teaspoons calcium water
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Pomona's Pectin powder
Before You Begin:
- Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona’s pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
- Wash your jars, lids, and bands. Place jars in canner, fill canner ⅔ full with water, bring canner to a rolling boil, and boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them. (Add 1 extra minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.) Reduce heat and allow jars to remain in hot canner water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small saucepan, heat to a low simmer, and hold until ready to use.
- Rinse strawberries and remove stems.
- Combine strawberries and the ½ cup of water in a large saucepan. Using a paring knife, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla seeds and the bean pod itself to the strawberries. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir carefully—you don’t want to crush the berries. Remove from heat.
- Measure 4 cups of the cooked strawberry mixture (saving any extra for another use), and return the measured quantity to the saucepan. Add calcium water and mix well.
- In a separate bowl, combine sugar and pectin powder. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
- Bring strawberry mixture back to a full boil over high heat. Slowly add pectin-sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve pectin while the preserves come back up to a boil. Once the preserves return to a full boil, remove the pan from the heat. Using tongs, carefully remove the vanilla bean pod from the preserves and discard.
Can Your Preserves:
- Remove jars from canner and ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, put on lids and screw bands, and tighten to fingertip tight. Lower filled jars into canner, ensuring jars are not touching each other and are covered with at least 1 to 2 inches of water. Place lid on canner, return to a rolling boil, and process for 10 minutes (adjusting for altitude if necessary). Turn off heat and allow canner to sit untouched for 5 minutes, then remove jars and allow to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Confirm that jars have sealed, then store properly.
Unlike jams, which usually require that you mash the fruit, when you’re making preserves, the idea is to keep individual pieces of fruit (or uniformly cut pieces of fruit) mostly whole and intact. For strawberries, small or average-size berries are ideal, though larger berries will work—simply slice them in half if they are too big. To help avoid mashing delicate fruit unintentionally, use a wider saucepan so that fruit has room to spread out and cook evenly without a lot of stirring. And when you do stir, stir with a back-and-forth motion, rather than an up-and-down motion—this way you’ll be less likely to crush the berries.