Episode 23 – “Jam Session”

Posted: December 4, 2014 in Season 2
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Spiced Blueberry Jammin’

Following a Thanksgiving hiatus, I am back with the 23rd episode of Good Eats. In this episode, Alton makes only one recipe, which is for Spiced Blueberry Jam. I have made freezer jam before, but my only other canning experience has been the dill pickles my mom and I have made for the past eight to 10 years. To start Alton’s jam, you need to begin by washing all of your canning equipment, which I did by hand.

Jars, bands, funnel, masher, and ladle after hand washing.

Jars, bands, funnel, masher, and ladle after hand washing.

After a good wash, it is critical to sanitize your equipment, which Alton did by boiling everything (except the jar lids) for 10 minutes. The jar lids can be added to the pot after it has been removed from the heat for ~10 minutes, as boiling the lids could destroy their sealing compound. I could not find a good pan to boil all of my equipment, so I opted to run everything through the dishwasher instead; this included my jars, bands for the lids, a canning funnel, and a ladle. While your equipment is sanitizing, you can begin making your jam by combining frozen blueberries, a packet of dry pectin, cinnamon, ground star anise, fresh nutmeg, lemon juice, and cider vinegar.

Jam ingredients:  frozen blueberries, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, pectin, lemon juice, and cider vinegar.

Jam ingredients: frozen blueberries, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, pectin, lemon juice, and cider vinegar.

Whole star anise.

Whole star anise.

Ground star anise.

Ground star anise.

Now, there are a couple of differences between the recipe prepared in the episode and the online recipe. In the episode, Alton uses 1/4 t of cinnamon and 4 T of cider vinegar, while the online recipe calls for no cinnamon and 5 T of cider vinegar. I made the recipe as Alton did in the show. Once everything is combined in the saucepan, you want to bring it to a boil over low heat, as you do not want your frozen fruit to burn.

Blueberries and pectin.

Blueberries and pectin.

Blueberries, pectin, and spices.

Blueberries, pectin, and spices.

All ingredients in the pan.

All ingredients in the pan.

Heating over low heat.

Heating over low heat.

Once juice starts forming on the bottom of the pan, you can increase the heat and began to mash the blueberries with a hand masher. You want to boil the mixture for about five minutes, continuing to mash the berries.

Juice starting to form at bottom of pan.

Juice starting to form at bottom of pan.

Bringing the mixture to a boil.

Bringing the mixture to a boil.

Mashing the blueberries.

Mashing the blueberries.

At this time, you add your sugar and some water to compensate for evaporation. Sugar serves to make jam spreadable, helps to set the pectin, and it takes up excess water. After adding the sugar and water, you increase the heat to medium-high and stir until your jam reaches a boil. Boil the jam for one minute and you are done.

Adding sugar and water.

Adding sugar and water.

Jam after boiling for a final minute.

Jam after boiling for a final minute.

At this point, you could put lids on the jars and store them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. I opted to process my jars for longer shelf life, and because it is what Alton does in the episode. While your jars are still hot, you want to fill them with the hot jam mixture, using a ladle and your funnel.

Filling my jars.

Filling my jars.

At this time, I put my jar lids in a bowl with some hot (not boiling) water.

Jar lids in hot water.

Jar lids in hot water.

You only want to fill your jars to the bottom of the funnel. I had just about the perfect amount of jam for six half-pint jars.

Filled jars.

Filled jars.

Once filled, wipe the rims of your jars with a damp paper towel and add the lids. Alton used a magnetic wand to put his lids on, but I simply used a fork and my fingers, avoiding touching the bottoms of the lids. Screw the bands on your jars, but only finger-tight. Alton processed his jars by putting them in a water bath. I, on the other hand, borrowed my mom’s steam canner, which is what she and I have always used for our pickles and it has always served us very well. Basically, it is an aluminum dome that sits over a water bath. As the water boils, steam comes up through holes between the bases of the jars.

Steam canner base.

Steam canner base.

Jars in the steam canner.

Jars in the steam canner.

Lid on for processing.

Lid on for processing.

Watching for steam to come from the vents.

Watching for steam to come from the vents.

After 10 minutes of processing (processing times depend on the elevation where you live), I pulled my jars from the canner. While my mom and I have occasionally had a jar that has failed to seal, all of my jam lids made a happy popping sound immediately when removed from the canner.

Jars after 10 minutes of processing.

Jars after 10 minutes of processing.

Fresh (and hot!) from the canner.

Fresh (and hot!) from the canner.

You want to let your jars cool completely, and Alton recommends storing them without their bands. Why? The bands tend to rust and it is easier to tell if a jar is spoiled when the lid is not held in place by a band. Ted and I had the jam yesterday morning for breakfast, spreading it on toast.

Nice color to the jam.

Nice color to the jam.

Completed jam.

Completed jam.

Jam on toast.

Jam on toast.

The blueberry flavor is super intense and you would not guess that the jam is made of frozen fruit. We both thought the anise flavor paired really well with the blueberries, and Ted described the jam overall as “spicy.” While the nutmeg and cinnamon are fairly subtle, the anise flavor is obvious, though not overpowering. This jam is a little on the looser side, but I would not call it runny or thin, and it does have a beautiful purple color. Overall, I think it is really good jam, and the spice notes are a surprise, as they are more intense than in most jam. Jam is so easy to make, and this one could make a nice holiday gift.

Comments
  1. […] my toppings, I chose caramel ice cream topping and Alton’s blueberry jam I wrote about here. Unfortunately, I made the horrible error of accidentally purchasing fat-free caramel. Yuck! I did […]

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