Sunday, September 11, 2016

Flavors of Fall: Apple-Maple Jam

We have an apple tree in our front yard and it's starting to feel like fall here. So, while browsing Pintrest yesterday, I can across a recipe for Caramel Apple Jam and knew immediately that I had to make it. But, I didn't have enough brown sugar. So, I moped around for a bit, then went back to Pintrest to find another apple jam recipe that I had the ingredients to make. While researching sugar substitutions, I found a great recipe for apple-maple jam that would do the trick.

Not only did it not require brown sugar, but I could use the bottle of pure maple syrup I had in the fridge. I don't put that stuff on pancakes, it's too expensive, but I had an entire bottle in there. It turned out to be just enough. And, the recipe didn't call for pectin. I made a no-pectin plum jam last year and it came out amazing, so I was eager to give it a shot again. Since apples make their own pectin, and I have a whole tree filled with them in my front yard, it seemed ideal.

I made a modified version of the recipe from Hestia's Kitchen blog and, although she says the recipe makes 8 half-pints, mine only made 6 1/2 half-pints. I'm not sure why, but not matter what recipe I use I've never managed to make as many jars as the recipe says is possible.

Apple-Maple Jam

12 cup.  Apples (peeled and diced)
6 cup     White Sugar
1 tbsp.   Butter
1 tsp.     Cinnamon
3/4 tsp.  Allspice
1/4 tsp.  Ground Cloves
2 tbsp.   Lemon Juice
1 cup     Pure Maple Syrup (the real stuff, not maple-flavored syrup)

Peel the apples and chop them into small pieces. It doesn't much seem to matter what kind of apples you use. I used apples from our tree and I have no idea what kind they are (they're a little tart, maybe Jonathans?). It still came out great.

In a large sauce pan/dutch oven combine apples with all of the rest of the ingredients. It's important that you use a pot that's plenty big enough so the jam can cook evenly.

Cook over medium heat until it begins to boil. When it's boiling, turn the temp up a bit and cook it until it begins to gel, stirring constantly so it doesn't scorch.

When it begins to gel and looks like it's thickening up (took mine about an hour), put some on a glass plate and put it in the freezer for a couple of minutes. When you take it out, tip the plate up. If it's ready, it won't run off the plate (like the pic on the right).

When it's done, take the pot off of the heat and let it cool on a cooling rack (the kind you use for cookies) for about five minutes. This allows it to cool just enough that the fruit won't all float to the top.

In the mean time, wash your jars with hot soapy water and dry, and soak the flat part of the jar lid in very hot water so they'll adhere to the jars. You'll also want to prepare the water bath canner by filling it with hot water and putting it on the stove on high heat to get the water boiling.

At the end of five minutes, fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch of empty space at the top. It's really helpful to have a ladle and jar funnel so you don't make a mess. When I started canning last year, I bought a set of canning tools and I've loved having them. Especially the jar tongs, which allow you to lift the jars out of the boiling water when they're done processing.

Wipe the tops of the jars with a clean, damp towel and place the flat part of the lid onto the jar. Once this is done for all of the jars, add the rings. Only hand tighten the rings, make sure they're secure but not too tight.

When the water in the canner is boiling, add the jars to the rack inside the canner and gently lower them into the boiling water. The jars need to be standing up, so if they fall over, use the jar tongs to stand them upright. It also helps to add some vinegar to the water bath inside the canner to prevent any minerals in the water from sticking to the jars. The vinegar ensures your jars come out nice and shiny.

Process the jars in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes, then gently lift them out using the jar tongs and place them onto a clean towel on the counter to cool.

The cooling process is my favorite part, other than eating the jam, of course, because I love the little popping sounds the jars make when they're sealing. It's got to be the most rewarding part of the whole canning process. It's a tiny little sound that means success!

Once they're cooled, check that the jars sealed by pressing down on the middle of the lid. If it's firm with no give, the jars sealed. If it makes a popping sound and springs up, it's not sealed. If one of the jars hasn't sealed, just put into the fridge. But, this shouldn't be a problem, The jars should seal just fine as long as you're using new flats.

I'm so happy with the final product and, as a bonus, while it was cooking my house smelled so fantastic!!