Those Who Jam Together, Stay Together


Eric and I have been wanting to make jam and learn the art of canning for about two years now. Who doesn’t want a collection of cute jars with amazing fruit and vegetable contents to pull out of the cupboard whenever you like? But every time we get excited about it I do some Google searching and become terrified that I’m going to cause a botulism outbreak. A couple weeks ago, I mustered the courage and we finally decided to tackle this adventure together. Eric bought me a wonderful artisan canning book Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving. Inspired, I went all out and purchased a countertop jam and jelly cooker (BALL FreshTech, and it’s fantastic), along with a canning pot and rack, a big case of jars, tongs, funnel, etc. I feel official (and safe!) now.

Having a bunch of jars and equipment with nothing to put in them obviously doesn’t get you very far, so we went to the market to see what’s in season. Another perk of canning: having another reason to get tasty produce from the farmer’s market. We went straight for the blueberries. In Southern California, we’ve cycled back around to plump, fragrant ones (yay, local!) instead of bitter pebbles imported from Chile out of season.

With everything we would need finally in our kitchen, the jam making began. For our first batch we decided to make some Blueberry Lime Jam. We ended up with Blueberry Lime Jelly because we each reading from two different recipes. Learned-lesson one: don’t make it too complicated. Learned-lesson two: if you add too much pectin you will achieve more of a Jell-O.

Putting the jam into jars and placing them in a hot water bath for the lids to seal is a little nerve-racking. Glass, hot, sugary gloop, and boiling water don’t seem like natural party friends. But ultimately I’m just excited to be making jam like a boss. Eric pulled the jars out of the water bath and we waited for them to pop and seal. Looping in the back of my mind is the scene from Holiday Inn where the canned fruit Bing Cosby brings for his city friends explodes. I sure hope we’re not about to have blueberry-lime confetti throughout the house!

But lo and behold: four jars of perfectly sealed jam jelly ready to christen our home-canning shelf. Any new endeavor can be scary; most of us are uncomfortable with change and diving into something where we don’t know all of the ins and outs. Canning is relatively friendly. The (slim) possibility of foodborne illness is daunting, or an accidental jam fireworks show. But things are much less intimidating when you jump into it with someone that you care about deeply. You reassure each other, you cover each other’s novice mistakes, you add a new dimension to your relationship by introducing something you’ve never done before, and if you do even a small part of it right you can sit back and enjoy the results and feel accomplished. That Blueberry Lime Jelly was rather delicious, and we’ve confidently made jams with a handful of other seasonal fruits since including blackberry peach cardamom, strawberry rhubarb, raspberry rhubarb, and blueberry cinnamon gin!

Eric and I have taken much greater risks and leaps together before, and we’re stronger and closer because of it. But even with something as light-hearted and generally harmless as canning, we’ve become convinced that those who do it together stay together.

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