First things first...what do I know about jam and jelly?? It is sweet, it tastes great and its always made out of fresh ingredients. For me I decided I was going to keep my standards high though...I was going keep my stuff organic. I have to with the sugar sources but I always do for eating with the fruits, so why quibble now??
Now....what do I know about how to make it?? Fruit, pectin, jars, lids, rings, funnel, canner.... Wait a second...don't you have to, like, stand there and stir that stuff for FOREVER before you can put it in the jar?? Crap... I have a 2.5 year old son, how the frack is that going to work?? *sigh*
Then I found it...the oasis in my desert of disappointment.... The Ball FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker! Did you catch that ladies??? AUTOMATIC!! Score!!
All of the stuff you see in the picture was everything I need to make a batch of Apple Jelly. Unsweetened apple juice, organic cane sugar, pectin and a smidge of vegan butter. The machine comes with 5 recipes for jam and 5 recipes for jelly. Each recipe makes four 8 ounce jars of jam. Yeah the batches are small, but for a family of 3 like I have, that's PERFECT!
My mind went WILD with ideas for flavor combinations....I didn't want to do anything singular. We have tried plenty of plain jams and jellies that are nothing but strawberry or cherry or blueberry. It was time for some dynamite pairings. But what I love most about this whole process is taking this....
...and turning it into beautiful, sweet all natural homemade jam!
For the first time in my life I understand why women get together in gaggles with their fruits, jars and canners and spend whole days together canning for their families. There is just something SO satisfying and GRATIFYING when you are able to take raw ingredients and turn it into something useful. Yarn into booties, wood into furniture or fruit into jam....all things that help bring something special to your life and your family when you produce it yourself; with love.
I followed the directions in the booklet for each flavor I made; put in the pectin, then the mashed fruit and a small bit of butter and pushed either the "jam" or "jelly" button on the machine and OFF it went, stirring. After 4 minutes it was time to add the organic cane sugar. Once you do that its 17 minutes of the machine stirring for you, that's when I prepared my jars, rings and lids.
I believe this is how I ended up with 9 different flavors of jam and jelly, it was so EASY! The flavors I ended up with were:
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Raspberry Rhubarb Jam
Raspberry Pear Jam
Raspberry Mission Fig Jam
Calimyrna Fig Pear Jam
Cherry Date Jam
Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
Habanero Pepper Jelly
I'm not sure at what point in this process I realized that I was making WAY more jams and jellies than my small family would EVER eat...even in 2 years. The Sprout doesn't really go for jam or jelly...most of the time I can't even get him to eat chocolate (still not sure this boy is MY son...), so I wasn't sure where my train derailed in the logical process of planning what I was going to do with all of this canned yumminess. But, 4 ounce sized jam and jelly jars make for sweet little gifts to family or friends, and that is exactly where I started handing them out!
Apple Jelly, my first venture
After day 2 of canning....
Result of 3 days, 9 flavors!!
I did make TWO rookie mistake during this process... The first mistake was running out of jars on day 2. That is why all of my Raspberry Mission Fig Jam ended up in 8 ounce jars rather than 4 ounces. Only problem there is you have to find someone that REALLY likes those two things and eats a lot of jam. Challenge accepted... But then...I followed the directions to the LETTER for the Jalapeno Pepper Jelly...I chopped my green bell peppers and jalapenos "finely" and threw them in the machine. Earlier in the day, I told my Momma what I was up to and she "tsk, tsk"ed the idea that you could just throw those in there because peppers don't have a lot of natural pectin to begin with, they would need to be broken down more than a "fine chop". Turns out experience will get you farther than a recipe if the person who wrote the recipe didn't know what they were doing. This is a new product, its only been on the market about 1 month. So...you do the math.
I ended up having to open all of my jars of Jalapeno Jelly and put them in my Magic Bullet to pulverize the peppers like my Momma had suggested in the first place. Just to make sure they gelled the second go round I added a tablespoon of pectin to the batch and brought it to a boil on the stove before rejarring it all. I am pleased to say redoing it made it turn out like a proper pepper jelly, no chunks and totally gelled.
It probably isn't safe to say "now ends the jam and jelly fest of 2012" because Christmas is just a couple months away, but I am going to wait on some feedback from this go 'round before I go hog wild with another marathon of canning. If you have the 95 bucks to blow on this machine and you don't have time to stand and stir...because of a little one, a health issue (my Momma has fibromyalgia and my Grandmother has chronic fatigue....these machines would be IDEAL for them) or you just want your jam/jelly process to go a little faster head over to Ball's website and order one of these today and try it out for yourself. You will be glad you did!