It's probably no secret that I really enjoy home canning, especially jams and curds.
I find the entire endeavor very fulfilling, in a terre à table kind of way. The bulk of my ingredients come from the local farmer's market, my yard, or as a result of my urban foraging efforts. Canning gets me outside and enables me to connect with the earth and the people who farm it. I like that.
Then there is the aesthetic of "putting food by." Whenever I happen to steal a glance at the rows of colorful jars lined up on my shelf, I can't help but smile. Same thing when two or three different varieties join us at the breakfast table, greeting us with their fruity perfume and sparkling glass facades. They are just so darn pretty. And I think we all already know how much I like pretty food.
Speaking of pretty... I was never comfortable letting my lovely little jars be seen out in public "in the buff." With such carefully crafted fillings on the inside, I thought my jars deserved to wear something equally crafty (and pretty) on the outside. So I've taken to dressing them up with custom labels, designed by me, naturally. Canning couture, if you will. And because the labels serve a dual purpose - they look good, plus they identify the contents and expiration date - they are both pretty and practical. Sort of like me. I like that.
Homemade Jam Jar Labels
The small "Pink Plum Jam" labels were simply typed out in Microsoft Word, using free fonts I downloaded from DaFont. I created the lemon curd and cherry plum labels in Photoshop, using vintage fruit clip art images (free!) from the wonderful Graphics Fairy.
Pretty in Pink Plum Jam
Reason #97 why I like home canning: when you send your homemade yummies out into the world, good things inevitably come back to you. Like hand-written thank-you notes (on real paper!), warm smiles, and homemade marmalade. Oh, and locally foraged, miniature pink plums from your next door neighbor. I housed this batch of jam in the most adorable, tiny, perfect-for-gifting "Mini Mold" jars from Weck (#080). Because they're pretty... natch.
Use organic whenever possible.
5 cups wild pink plums
3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup filtered water
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 whole vanilla bean, split
1. Prepare a boiling water canner that is tall enough to ensure you have at least 2" of water covering the top of your jars, plus space to allow for a hard boil without slopping over the rim.
2. Combine all ingredients except the vanilla bean in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring and mashing the mixture until the sugar dissolves. (A potato masher works well for this.)
3. Turn off heat. Place a sieve over a large bowl. Carefully pour the hot mixture through the sieve, pressing on the solids. Set pot aside. Remove pits, reserving any fruit and skins left in the sieve. Add reserved fruit mash to strained mixture. NOTES: if you're lucky enough to own a food mill, simply run the mixture through the mill.
3. Return the fruit mixture to the pot. Using the back of a small knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod. Add the seeds and pod to the pot; stir to combine. Bring mixture slowly to a boil, then cook rapidly to gelling point. Stir frequently as the jam thickens to prevent sticking or burning.
4. Remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean pod. Ladle hot jam into clean, hot jars.
For Weck jars - including the Mini Mold variety pictured above - leave 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims clean and top with glass lids to which you've already attached the rubber rings. Clamp shut.
5. Process jars in a boiling water canner (212°F / 100°C) for fifteen minutes. Remove jars immediately and set upright on a clean towel or wooden surface, away from drafts. Let jars sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Carefully remove metal bands (Ball/Kerr) or clips (Weck). Check for proper seals. Label the jars and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
Yield: about 6 half-pints ~OR~ a dozen Mini Mold jars (2.7 fl oz. each)
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