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How to Make Small-Batch Summer Jams

Make and enjoy these easy preserves now, or can them and save their peak-season flavors for later.

August/September 2020 Issue
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I started making jam more than a decade ago after a trip to a U-pick farm in New Jersey left me with 13 pounds of blueberries. I’d grown up in a household that did a little bit of canning (blackberry jam and applesauce, mostly), so, faced with all those berries, I did the only possible thing. I called my mom for a quick canning refresher, ran out to the hardware store for fresh lids and pectin, and made my first solo batch. I found the entire process thoroughly satisfying, from the crushing of the berries (stress reliever!) to the pleasing pop of the lids that let me know they had sealed properly.

Many hundreds of jars later, I still find great pleasure in the act of making jam, though I’ve streamlined my process a bit since those early days. Tops among the changes I’ve made is that I’ve become a small-batch devotee. While there are a few things I still can in large volume (tomatoes, for one), I find that for my household of two adults and two babies, batches that yield just three or four half- pints fit us best (though I fully admit that when my twin boys get bigger, I might be singing a different tune). I like these small batches because they’re quicker to prep, cook down faster, can be made with less sugar than traditional recipes demand, and rarely require the addition of commercial pectin. What that means is that when the urge to make jam strikes, the ingredients list is blessedly short, and I can be in and out of the process in less than an hour.

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