As The Newhouse Family continue our journey towards self sufficiency, learning how to keep the food we have grown lasting on our shelves is a mission we have to throw ourselves into. Freezing food is relatively easy, especially as we have a huge chest freezer where most of our dinners are pre-prepared and frozen. But pantry stock, such as jams and pickles can be a little harder to get your head around.
We pickle eggs, as we are getting so many from our hens. The pickled eggs are definitely for myself as no one else in our household likes them, although I do have a few friends who will be receiving a special jar of the smelly things for Christmas. This year our garden is giving us plenty of rhubarb, strawberries, gooseberries and raspberries that whilst eaten fresh from the soil taste amazing, we would like to save some for future meals. Preserving these yummy fruits in jars seems like the best option for us, meaning we have a lovely range of jams to choose from for breakfast and for using in cakes and desserts.
Ball, a leading brand in home food preservation for 130 years know exactly what it takes to make good quality home preserves and I needed their help trying something completely new. At this time of year rhubarb is growing fast and furious. Pull a few stalks and a week later its back again, with even more tasty fruit. Rhubarb is so easy to grow, taking root in any corner of the garden. Each year after harvest is over you can split the roots and divide the plant up, so next year you can have twice as much! This year I wanted to try something new with rhubarb and I had never attempted to make rhubarb jam before. I have always played it safe in the past with blackberry and apple jam, and simple marmalades. Why only put rhubarb in a crumble when you can spread it over home baked bread for evening supper or on crunchy toast for breakfast?
How to make an easy smooth rhubarb jam
What you will need:
- Around 10 stalks of freshly picked rhubarb
- A preserving pan or deep saucepan
- A dash of water to cover the bottom of the pan
- 2 cups of granulated sugar
- Ball Jam setting mix with pectin
- Jam jars- I used 2 Ball 490ml jars, but small jars are just as good
- A ladle of big spoon
- A teaspoon of diary free margarine such as Vitalite
I started with around 12 stalks of freshly picked rhubarb. Cut of the leaves and using a potato peeler, remove the red skin. Chop the stalks into 1 inch blocks and place in a large pan or a preserving pan with a little water (I only add around 1/4 of a pint) and bring to a boil to soften the fruit. I purchased my preserving pan for £1 at a barn sale, and it really is one of the most useful purchases I have ever made. It’s larger than most saucepans and heats up real quick, because of its size and weight it also has an extra handle for safely lifting the pan. Its worth keeping your eye out at car-boot sales and garage sales for these pans if you plan on making home preserves… or for boiling that huge Christmas pudding!
I did end up using a potato masher to get the rhubarb really smooth and mushy as it boiled down. I then followed the super easy instructions on the tub of Ball Jam Setting Mix With Pectin. The simple steps are easy to follow that are adaptable to so many jam recipes. I used the original mix, but there is also a Low or No Sugar Needed Mix With Pectin available. The thickening agent setting mix helps reduce boiling times and boosts the fruity flavours of your home made preserves. The tubs of Jam Setting Mix is £4.98 and there’s enough per tub to make 22 x 240ml jars. There is also the added bonus that the setting mix is gluten free and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans too!
To prepare my Ball jars I heated them in the oven before pouring my rhubarb jam into the jars. This sterilises them, and makes them hot enough that the glass wont smash when the hot jam is poured in. After the jars have been filled you must wipe any spillages from around the top of the jar. If there is any jam sitting on the edge of the jar, the jam may prevent a vacuum seal from occurring meaning that your jams may be spoiled if air enters the jar. Then I water bathed the jars in my (washed up) preserving pan, by emerging them into simmering water and then bringing to a rolling boil for a few minutes. Let the jars cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the water. You will notice that the lids have sealed so the lid can no longer be flexed. And that’s it! Super simple and ready to store for up to one year. You can miss out the water bathing process but your jams must be consumed within 3 weeks if this is done.
Ball preserving jars are unique and beautiful. Each jar has pretty patterns, and 490ml jars has a lovely picture of fruit moulded into the glass. The smaller 135ml jelly jars have a gorgeous textured quilted glass, that look stunning on any pantry shelf. The lids are super special too. They work as a 2 part system, the disc which sits on top of the jar and is the part which creates the safe vacuum seal, and the band which locks the seal in place and is used for opening and closing of the jar lid. The system works exceptionally well ensuring the highest quality and freshness for your home made preserves. Each pack of jars comes with a handy booklet that has a simple ‘quick start’ guide and includes a few recipes too, to help you get started. A pack of six 490ml jars cost £11.99 and the smaller 135ml jelly jars are just £4.49 for a pack of 4. These jars can be purchased directly through the Ball Fresh Preserving online shop.
Ball also sell, in my opinion, the bible of home preserving Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving. Which is jam packed (pun totally intended) with over 100 years worth of info that you will need to start preserving your fresh garden stock. The paperback has 200 pages of clear photographs, and illustrations to really get you excited by what you could be making. The book covers everything from what you need to start your preserving journey, loads and loads of recipes, tips and advice, stunning photographs and problem solving issues. The book doesn’t just cover canning, but also dehydrating and freezing too. With over 500 recipes you can guarantee there will always be something you can prepare for future use, no matter what tasty food you wish to preserve. The book is just £4.99 and available from the Ball website.
So what are you waiting for? You don’t have to be a self sufficient Goddess, or even plan on preserving every piece of fruit going to want to create lovely home preserves. Have a go at a simple strawberry jam and I guarantee that it WILL taste much better than shop bought jams, and what’s better than sitting down and enjoying your very own home made Toast and Strawberry jam on toast in the morning?
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