This is my absolute last jam session of 2013. I mean it. I don’t have enough room on my pantry shelves for all the jam I’ve produced, and I haven’t even shared every recipe with you. You have no idea the extent of this obsession. Scary.
I keep telling myself, “They’ll make great gifts for the holidays.”
I must admit I’ve been enticed by the signs in the grocery stores for “New York State Apples.” Even the big supermarket chains have taken on the language of local food. So I pick up a “tote” of New York State Gala apples.
The New York State “Apple Country” website describes the Gala as a juicy variety developed in New Zealand, that is mild and sweet in flavor with crisp, creamy yellow flesh. New Zealand, huh? So the “local” connection may be a little spurious after all, but it’s probably a good bet they were grown in New York soil.
Many of my jam projects are predicated on what’s in the pantry – and I’ve been holding a bottle of Vermont Maple Syrup from Top Acres Farm in South Woodstock that I purchased last autumn during a visit to the Billings Farm Museum.
The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving completes the jam session with a recipe for Apple-Maple Jam. It sounds like a nice way to preserve the flavors of autumn well into the cruel, cold winter. And it’s a perfect mash up, or should we say, “jam up” of two neighboring states – the Empire State and the Green Mountain State.
The biggest part of the job is chopping the apples, as the recipe requires 3 quarts of chopped fruit.
This is the second time I’ve tried a recipe that doesn’t call for adding pectin. You cook down the fruit until it releases its own pectin naturally.
The mixture looks like a big apple stew. It is rich with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.
I’m not sure I actually cook it long enough get to the jelling point. Despite the use of a candy thermometer, I can’t quite seem to get the jam to the “soft ball” temperature. I stand over the pot for what seems like an eternity, and start to feel a bit like a kitchen drudge.
After boiling the jam within an inch of its life, I give up and decide to go ahead and process the jam.
The kitchen smells like a Vermont Maple Syrup House on Thanksgiving Day, and the chunks of apples hang suspended like little jewels in the maple jam.
So what if it’s a little syrupy in the end? I can always use it on top of pancakes or waffles. Better yet – how about atop a scoop of vanilla ice cream? That would be awesome. The key thing about jamming, is you just have to be flexible.
Here’s the recipe from the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving,” in case you want to try your luck at reaching the “gelling point.” Something about that phrase sounds vaguely scandalous. As always, be sure to follow proper canning and food safety procedures.
Apple-Maple Jam (Yield: about 8 half pints)
3 quarts chopped, peeled, cored apples
6 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 cup maple syrup
Combine ingredients in a large pot and slowly bring to boil. Cook rapidly to gelling point. As jam thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.
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