Monday, September 3, 2007

The Jam Pot

Out of all of the acoutrements in my mother's kitchen, the jam pot is the one I covet the most. It's not as if I'm allowed to use it at all, which could be the very reason for its unnatural appeal. I do know that it will be part of my inheritance, if only because I said so. The jam pot is shiny and made of stainless steel, but it has a rather curvy profile. Tallish, like a stock pot, but with a distinctive shape... like a corset.

I have no idea how this pot came to be, where she got it, or why she decided to start cooking jam in it. I want it. I have looked everywhere and haven't seen a pot like it.

My mother entered the jam-making foray a bit late in life. For the past 10 years or so, the entire family looks forward to the time when my mom decides to make the trip to Massachusetts and bequeath upon them the bounty of the jam pot. Nearly half of the conversations I have with my cousins end with, "Oh, and tell your mom that I'm out of raspberry." The more gluttonous cousins eat the jam straight out of the jar with a spoon, usually hidden in an obscure corner of the house so no one else sees them. Closer to home, my mom's pantry would be lined with hundreds of half-pint jars each summer. Raspberry, strawberry, elderberry, blueberry, rhubarb, grape, and currant were all represented, sometimes sharing space with my mother's exotic experiments, like cantaloupe jelly and fig jam.

She'd stand there in the basement kitchen (for that is where jam is made, since it is the coolest place in the house during the sweltering Pennsylvania summers,) stirring with the wooden spoon that my Zio Gabe made for her. When my dad was alive, he'd pitch in by pitting cherries, making labels for the zillions of jars, making toast so he could eat the "dredges" of the jam pot. My parents making jam together is quite possibly one of my favorite memories.

This weekend, I made plum preserves, plum chutney (the recipe on is fantastic,) vanilla peach preserves, and tomato soup. I do not have a pantry, but I have plenty of cabinet space.

Vanilla Peach Preserves
(yield: about 5 half-pint jars)

5 cups peaches, peeled, pit removed, and chopped
4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. antioxidant powder (such as Fruit Fresh)
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 whole vanilla beans, sliced down the middle and seeds scraped out
3 oz pouch of liquid pectin (such as Certo)
pinch salt

In a non-reactive bowl, mix peaches with antioxidant powder, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Transfer peaches to a heavy-bottomed 6-qt stock pot and add vanilla beans. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring frequently until all sugar is dissolved. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may have formed. Return to heat, bring to a boil, and add pectin. Boil for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, remove vanilla beans, and let the preserves stand for 5 minutes before filling hot, sterilized jars. Leave one-half inch of headspace (the space between the top of the jam and the rim of the jar.) Process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Let cool completely. Check for proper seals once cooled. If there is leftover preserves or jars that have not sealed properly, refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.


Marye said...

that sounds lucious! Thanks for visiting! We have alot in common..I grew up in Pa, in Warrington, and my oldest daughter lives in lebanon..My house blog is come comiserate with me about restoration! I have 8 kids.
and I am exhausted to so I will check in with you further sometime tomorrow. :)

Marye said...

you, my friend, are definitely a kindred spirit.
might I suggest plastic explosives set discretely n the bathroom at a time when noone will be home.