When I was a poor 20-something living on my own for the first time, I realized that for my first Christmas as a grown-up, I wouldn’t have enough money to get anyone a gift. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, like I really wanted to, I decided to Martha Stewart it up and do a handmade Christmas gift for family and friends.
As a result, I discovered canning.
Now, most people are used to grandma sitting over a stove making strawberry jam in jars covered with gingham fabric. I really didn’t want that. Looking online, I discovered something amazing about jam… alcohol makes it better!
Strawberry Margarita Jam, Peach Fondue Jam, Black Forest Jam: you better believe I make the best jam going!
I live in Vancouver, BC, and have access to AMAZEBALLS fresh fruit at ludicrously cheap prices. The key is finding it in the peak of the season, and buying a large quantity, directly from the grower (or as close as you can get).
For jars, you can recycle, repurpose, or use whatever cool containers, but make sure they seal VERY VERY WELL. A poor seal makes rancid jam. Or buy new lids if you’re unsure — they’re cheap and easy to find.
The key steps to making jam are this:
- Put fruit, flavourings and sugar (if desired) in pot, and boil it
- Add pectin
- Put hot jam into boiling hot jars and seal immediately
- Enjoy awesome popping sounds when the jars seal as they close.
Yeah, that was my reaction too. “It can’t possibly be this easy!” Yeah, it totes is.
[Editor’s note: Please take the necessary precautions to sterilize the jars during the canning process. For a more in-depth how-to, see here.]
As for recipes, here are some of my faves:
Peach Fondue Jam:
Strawberry Margarita Jam:
- 3 cups strawberries
- 2/3 cup pineapple juice
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 1/3 cup rum
- zest from 1 lime
- 1 cup sugar (you can use up to 3 cups sugar, but I like it more tart)
- 1 package liquid pectin
Crush the strawberries, and combine all ingredients except pectin and rum and boil in a large pot. Bring to rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and add pectin and rum. Spoon into steaming hot jars, and seal.
Black Forest Jam
- 4 cups pitted cherries
- 4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
- 1/4 cup chocolate liqueur
- 1 package pectin
Pit and crush the cherries, and combine fruit, sugar and cocoa into pot and bring to a rolling boil make sure you combine all the cocoa, so there’s no lumps. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and add pectin, coconut and chocolate liqueur. Spoon into steaming hot jars and seal.
And finally, the best holiday gift, that takes five minutes to make, and will wow the pants off of all the in-laws for family celebrations:
Homemade cranberry sauce
- 2 parts cranberries (frozen, bagged is totally fine)
- 1 part brown sugar
- 1 part water
Bring to boil, turn heat down to gentle boil, and reduce into a sauce. Pour into hot jars to preserve it, or into a gift container if you’re going to serve it soon (within the week in an unsealed container).
But feel free to experiment with your favourite flavours. Just about every fruit makes awesome jam, and any flavouring that works with the fruit will work with the jam.