Last year I bought lots of berries at the farmers’ market and made a few different jams only to throw them all out when we moved. By throw out I mean pry solid masses of pureed sugary fruit from the jar, an act that was both frustrating and liberating. Washington had a very dry summer last year so the fruit lacked water, compounded with my lack of skill and experience I was doomed from the start it seemed. Kitchen failures, they happen to us all. So while I was frustrated by the solid mass of fruit that could’ve substituted for industrial strength bonding agent, I was ok with saying goodbye to it and moving on. One of my goals this year was to become a more diverse canner. I wanted to move beyond jams and cucumber pickles and try out new recipes and methods.
So while I went on to make marmalades, fruit butters, salsas, fruit pickles, and double batches of cucumber pickles, I found myself still shying away from jams. After all, they are temperamental beasts, but also berries are stinking expensive around here, and farmers only seems to sell them in small quantities. But let’s remember, I want to be a more diverse canner, so berries might not be the direction I want to take this year. Instead, I was really excited to find some slightly bruised tomatoes for a steal last week and quickly snatched up 5 lbs. The tomato jam from Marisa McClellan’s book Food in Jars, has always sounded appealing to me. Sweet, savory, with a bit of heat, it sounded like something right up DB’s and my alley.
My tomatoes were extra watery, it actually took me about 4 hours to get them to cook down to a jam like consistency instead of the two recommended in the book. I also only got half the recipe’s yield, 2 pints instead of 4 (which is plenty for us). The important thing here was even when I could see that things were coming out exactly as written I was able to identify the issue and continue on. It took a while, but eventually the jam went from bright, summery red to a gorgeous dark burgundy. The ginger, cinnamon, and cloves made the house smell heavenly so I was kind of ok with the extra cooking time. Last year I probably would’ve hoped the jam would set in the jar, canned in too early, and had 4 jars of runny mess. I’m proud of my patience (even though it totally cut into nap time). After conquering this jam, I can confidently check off meeting my canning goal from the list this year. Over the next year I want to experiment more and start coming up with my own concoctions.
Have you learned from any kitchen fails recently?