Winter is coming. There was a time when people couldn't get any kind of fruit or vegetable, in their local market, at any time of the year. For the winter, they had to preserve what grew in the summer. Because it's a useful skill to know, this instructable looks to replicate that process using wild berries, wax for sealing and a handful of other simple ingredients.
Step 1: Get to Pickin'
The first thing you will need to do is to pick some wild berries so go out into your nearest forest, field or bush during berry season and pick until your knees hurt.
I picked lingon berries(a.k.a marsh cranberries) for my jam but as I write this bilberries are also out right now. This summer currents, gooseberries and raspberries have also been in abundance...this winter will be jammy for sure.
What you'll need to make jam:
- Lemon juice (optional)
- A jar
- Parafin wax
*Just so you know, the USDA no longer recommends using wax seals for sweet jams or jellies...but I think that's malarkey.
"Because of possible mold contamination, paraffin or wax seals are no longer recommended for any sweet spread, including jellies." - From the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA (Revised 2009).
- Wash your berries before cooking.
- Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar to every cup of fruit. The sugar preserved the fruit and prevents mold.
- Using 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice will thicken the jam and help to hinder mold/bacteria growth.
- While cooking, stir frequently to avoid burning the fruit.
**IMPORTANT: Bacteria growth, which produces the Botulism Toxin, is the most common fear in canning and scares a lot of people away from the process. The bacterial spores of Clostridium botulinum which cause the toxin, Botulism, are present everywhere and could be on your berries but the spores aren't dangerous until they germinate and become bacteria. When the spores become bacteria, that is when the botulism toxin is released.
The spores can be killed when heating at a temperatures of 121 C/250 F for 3 minutes and the spores won't germinate in highly acidic environments. BUT all of that being said, food-borne botulism is the rarest cause of botulism at about 15% of cases(~21 people, per year, in the USA).
Here is an interesting and well researched page on Botulism and how to avoid it:
Step 2: Boilin' Berries.
- Wash your berries, if you haven't already.
- Put them in a saucepan with an equal volume of water.
- Bring them to a boil and add sugar amounting to one-half to three-quarters of the volume of berries.
- Boil them, uncovered, until you reach a desired consistency. Stir frequently.
- Add 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice to thicken your jam, if you want.
Step 3: Sterilize.
- In a pot of boiling water, sterilize your jars and lids for 5-10 minutes.
- Using tongs or another sterilized tool, pull them from the water and place them, open-side facing up, on your working surface. From this point on don't touch the inside of the jar, lid or the rim of the jar.
- Pour the jam into the jar and allow to cool.
Step 4: Wax On.
- Melt your wax.
- Normally I use a can, with paraffin wax in it, on a stove's burner or an electric hot plate but I couldn't find the can I normally use for that so I used an ugly coffee cup and a heat gun. Melt the wax how you think is best.
- When your wax is liquid, gently pour it into the center of the jam so that it is able to cover the jam and seal the entire opening.
Step 5: Summer, All Year Round.
Cover your jam jar with the lid and store in a cool/dry/dark place until you are ready to use.
If everything was kept sterile, you used enough sugar and the jar was kept in a cool/dry location then you should have summer's wild berries throughout the year. Good luck and happy preserving!
"All home-canned foods should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place, between 50-70°F. Over extended periods of time, however, changes in color, flavor, texture and nutrient content of home-canned jams and jellies is inevitable. A typical full-sugar fruit jam or jelly should be safe to eat if the jar seal remains intact and the product shows no visible signs of spoilage from molds or yeasts."
"For safe eating practices, store your opened jar of jam or jelly in the refrigerator until consumed, and examine it frequently for signs of spoilage (like mold or yeast growth, or off-odors, including “fermented,” “alcohol” or “yeasty” odors). Discard the product immediately if any signs of spoilage are detected." From http://nchfp.uga.edu/questions/FAQ_jellied.html