food in jars October 6, 2011

I was very lucky to take Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars class while she was here in Portland this week. I registered the day I saw her post about it, and I’m so glad I did! We made a truly amazing batch of pear-vanilla jam – the recipe is on her blog, with what sounds like a few little tweaks for this version. It was really fun and the jam is so good. I’ve had some every day since Tuesday, though I’m trying to make that little half-pint jar stretch as far as it can…

First batch of pear-vanilla jam

After two nice summers and falls of preserving everything I could resulting in a constantly full freezer (two actually!), I wanted to learn real hot-water bath canning and master the art of shelf-stable food. But I felt very hesitant to teach myself – picturing the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving open on the counter, with a huge pot of water boiling on the stove and two little kids running around and a timer ticking away while I tried for a perfect seal on my jars and a completely food-safe result solo sounded… stressful. But hanging out with Michelle and Katie (yay for PMQG!), and a dozen other nice canners in a big, bright commercial kitchen while Marisa answered all our questions on USDA regulations, ingredient substitutions, acidification levels, separation in jams, jar seals, and BPA-free options (gee, guess who was asking about that??) was really fun!

Bartlett pears for jam

We started out with Bartlett pears from the farmers market. We chopped them up (no need to peel them) and measured out 10 cups per batch.

my chopped pears

Then Marisa showed us how to combine the sugar with the chopped pears

Marisa teaching us how to mix the sugar and pears correctly

and the jam mixture simmered on the stove (in a gorgeous 14-quart enameled Le Creuset pot that probably cost more than my sewing machine – !!!) with two vanilla beans until it was super beautiful. Marisa uses liquid pectin, and I had only ever used powdered in my recipes, so that was interesting to check out, too.

Jam ready for jars

I got to fill some of the jars – that’s my favorite part of canning. Kind of like the happy top-stitching feeling of a cool sewing project (if that makes any sense). Yay!

me filling a jar with pear-vanilla jam!

Then we took a short break to try some of the jam with sliced baguette! OMG, it’s awesome.

the pear vanilla jam in jars

Processed the jars (half-pint wide-mouth BTW) for 10 minutes and then we each got to take one home!

First batch of pear-vanilla jam

KitchenCru even surprised us all with a very deluxe dinner, left from an event earlier in the evening. Perfect timing at 9 pm after being around delicious pears and vanilla all night!

surprise dinner after class at KitchenCru

Here are all the notes I took – jam on the left, general questions and tips on the right. I’m so glad I got to learn so much about canning from Marisa. I love to read craft books and try things myself, but food safety is not somewhere I want to bend the rules or misinterpret the directions.

my cookbook notes on canning

I wrote my canning class notes right into the next pages of my family cookbook! I’m so happy to have them right with my favorite recipes.

my family cookbook for mother's day

Speaking of cookbooks, Marisa has one coming out next May! I can’t wait for that. Hopefully she’ll come back out to Portland for another event. In the meantime, I went to Fred Meyer and Powell’s on Hawthorne and bought a 22-quart canning pot and a canning kit for when we pick apples next weekend – no more grabbing jars with regular tongs! (FM has all their canning stuff marked down 30% right now if you need anything too…)

I wanted to share some more photos and talk about other things but I think I will wait til tomorrow. It’s nice to stick to just one thing for once, I am usually trying to cram writing up a week’s worth of stuff into one nap… so I will be back soon to talk sewing + craftivism!

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