Announcing…UtHC Jam Swap ’09

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UPDATE: Deadline for submissions is November 1, 2009. Get yours in now!

See Step 3 below for information on how to email your entry to me.

Calling all jam enthusiasts!

This fall, Under the High Chair is hosting its very first virtual jam swap and quite possibly the first event of this kind in the blogosphere! Come October, this will be the place to show off your home preserves and showcase how you captured summer in a jar.

Your last name doesn’t have to be Smucker or Smith to contribute to the event; most of us are amateurs in the ancient art of home canning. Don’t be shy! The goal is to inspire and be inspired.

No, we’re not going to actually swap real jars of jam, as in mailing them all over creation. Somehow that just doesn’t seem practical, frugal or even responsible in this day and age. Nope, no real jam, but if you will follow the simple steps to participate, I will provide the platform to bring us together to swap recipes and ideas.

Here’s how to participate:

Step 1: Can it. Literally. Make your jam, jelly, fruit butter, marmalade or what ever you are inspired to create. Have fun and pay attention! Do NOT try to Twitter while home canning.

Step 2: Photograph and blog about your preserves. If you don’t have a blog, don’t worry, but do snap a photo to include with your submission. Do this anytime over the summer, but preferably before October 31. Include this post as a link in you blog post and feel free to grab one of our adorable badges designed by Jess Spring to decorate you post or sidebar.

Step 3: Send me an email aimee(dot)c(dot)bourque(at)gmail(dot)com with Jam Swap as the subject line containing the following info:
-your name
-your blog’s name and url
-the name of your jam
-a link to your jam blog post with jam recipe*
-a photo of your jam

Step 4: Help spread the word! Twitter this event, write about it on your blog or discuss it over afternoon tea with friends. Thank you!

*(Please note that your submission should be for a jam recipe, not just a recipe that includes jam! Thanks.)

That’s it! The Under the High Chair Jam Swap ’09 roundup will be posted in mid-November.
Questions? Comments? Speak up in the comments section below or drop me an email.

I can’t wait to hear everyone’s stories and see the creations from your kitchens.

Good luck and Happy Canning!

The UtHC Jam, Jelly & Preserve Swap

My current post-swap jam pantry: a beautiful thing.

Jams and jellies, chutneys and coulis, salsas and sauces, and a variety of fruit butters: such was the dazzling selection of lovingly-made home preserves at my recent swap. Dressed up or dressed down, the jars dazzled with their colorful fillings and cute labels.

Monday morning after the swap, I was walking on clouds. Nothing could bring me down, not both babies waking up with runny noses, not the mountain of laundry, not even the discovery that my dishwasher was broken. I kept looking over my stash of jam like a mother hen counting her eggs, and reveling in the sheer good fortune of this much jam under my roof. I had been so caught up in the planning and organizing of the swap, that I had forgotten about the end result: a well-stocked jam pantry for winter. The realization that this was mine, all mine, was a feeling, I imagine, similar to the discovery of a lottery win.
Bring on the snow, I say!

On a chilly Sunday afternoon, about twenty-five of us gathered with a few of our significant others at a much anticipated swap hosted by myself and my mother-in-law. The doorbell rang and rang, and as each person arrived with a box or two of jam under their arms, the main table filled up fast with the bounty, and the space beneath the table held the empty boxes.

Soon there was jam as far as the eye could see. Hallelujah!

With the main table groaning under 300 or so jars, we directed the savory preserves to a table of their own, where they looked quite pretty, I must say.

With the jam set up for viewing, and people eagerly circling the table scoping out the land, it was time for the tasting. Tea and coffee were brewed and I cracked open one jar of every kind of jam I could get my hands on. I had just taken several dozen scones out of the oven and as three of my dear friends had brought fresh scones along also, I heaped three baskets high and set them out with the jam.

And the tasting was underway!
Just listen to some of these varieties: Rhubarb-Vanilla Jelly, Pumpkin-Apple Butter, Pear-Rosemary Jam, Garlic & Caramelized Onion Jam, Cranberry-Apple Jelly, Quebec Strawberry-Maple Jam, Pear & Cashew Chutney…hungry yet?

I could tell the guests were itching to get down to business, so although I had scarcely tasted any jam (due to high traffic around the jam bar), I called the swap to order! Of course there are guidelines to remind people of: take only as many jars as you brought, no pushing, and so on.
Then people grabbed their boxes and the swap was officially on.

It was over in about seven minutes. When the dust settled, each jar had a home and people were smiling. I was thrilled with my stash, but I hadn’t been quick enough. I missed out on some Lemon Butter and some Okanagan Cherry Jam. Sniff!

That was it! Before people were on their way, we raffled off a few items for charity that our guests of honour, Philippe and Ethné de Vienne had generously donated (spice kits! cookbook!), and did a draw for the door prize–a handmade, hand embroidered vintage-style apron similar to this one.

My mother-in-law and I had put our heads together to come up with a design for a decidedly girly apron and we loved how it turned out! She did a fantastic job of sewing them up and I gave them a personal touch by embroidering on the pocket. I don’t think I’ve embroidered in about 22 years, so if you can’t read what it says, that’s OK. (Hint: it’s the name of this blog).

The best part is that we made an extra one for YOU! Remember the little surprise I promised a few weeks ago? Well all you have to do is leave a comment on this post and I’ll submit your name for a draw to win the apron pictured above in a giveaway.
You have until midnight on Sunday, November 23 to leave a comment. No anonymous comments, please. Good luck to all!
(For those of you who really want this apron, or one similar and don’t want to leave it to chance, you can order one from my MIL, the lovely and talented Terrie, through me via email. Maybe I’ll even monogram it for you.)

So a big thank you to all those who helped make this swap a success: Dorothy, Philippe, Ethné, Miranda, Terrie, Nadia, Rachel, and Danny.
Danny took most of the photos throughout the event, as I was otherwise occupied; didn’t he do a great job?

There you have it. Hope you enjoyed the roundup and for those of you who couldn’t make it, there’s always next year!

Jam Swap Sneak Peek…

The Spread…
…some of it. There was a smaller second table.

The Tasting…
…What? There are scones leftover??

The Haul…
…Um, can you say SCORE?! I took home two boxes like this.

Stay tuned for the photo essay and the full story. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some jam to eat. With a spoon.

Countdown to the Jam Swap!

Less than two weeks to go until my jam swap! There isn’t much to prepare for, but I’m working on a surprise or two for you all; yes, even those of you who can only attend virtually.
Seems like not that along ago that I put out the invitation and now it’s finally happening! I am really looking forward to this little event and meeting a few of my readers.

I had a great initial response; in fact, so many people said they would come that I started getting a little nervous: was I in over my head? But then the summer wore on, people got busy, and the emails started trickling in…cancellations. I had expected as much, though. Folks have good intentions and big plans, but sometimes life has a way of showing us we can’t do everything!
So now with just days to go until the swap, it’s crunch time and of course people are dropping like flies. I am not worried though, (I just had another person cancel as I am writing this) it’s about quality, not quantity!!
I would have thought most everyone would have their canning all wrapped up by now, but I know of a few invitees that have every intention of tackling it this week! That’s dedication for you!

I’ll be contributing three kinds of fruit preserves: a Raspberry-Vanilla Bean Coulis, Spiced Golden Plum Jam, and Spiced Maple Apple Butter(pictured above). I’m all about the spices, as you can see!

Check back in a few weeks to get the full update from the swap and maybe you’ll be inspired to host one in your area next year.

Spiced Golden Plum Jam

Freshly-made jars of yellow plum jam bask in the afternoon sun

It’s so easy to wax poetic about the autumn season: the colors of the leaves, the cool mornings, the appearance of handknit woolies for the little ones, and the abundance of stunning produce at the open air markets. It’s a gorgeous season to revel in and every time it rolls around I am happy to be in Quebec.
My early childhood years were spent in the Yukon where fall was nonexistent. One day it would be summer, with green hills and bright yellow zucchini flowers blooming in the kitchen garden, and the next day I would wake up to frosted window panes. If I scratched a peek hole with my fingernail, I would see a motionless Lake Laberge, completely iced over, a brown frost-killed garden and the breath from the goats hanging in the cold air as they chewed their cud.
Winter. It always struck without warning and when it arrived, it stayed for almost nine months. Fortunately, as an energetic nature-loving little girl, I embraced winter for all that it offered: sledding parties with hot cocoa on the wood stove, ice skating for miles and miles, snow ice cream, igloos and cross-country skiing.
But why am I talking about winter? I’m shivering just thinking about it! Where was I? Oh yes, Autumn in Quebec.

This time of the year always makes me want to hole up in the kitchen for days on end with the finest ingredients of the season and create copious amounts of food. Pies stuffed full of apples, velvety squash soups, slowly braised meats with herbs, beans baked in apple cider, and the list goes on.
If I have my way, October is going to be a very busy month Under the High Chair.
For now, though, I am working on preserving some of summer’s last produce before moving on to the fall goods. This spiced yellow plum jam turned out so well, it left me asking myself why on earth I had never made plum jam before?!
It’s tart taste and gorgeous sunny color is a joy to wake up to in the morning. The spices add a subtle complexity that you might not catch until after your first cup of coffee.
Best enjoyed on fresh scones.

OK, so this is the “Aimee’s Speedy, Somewhat Controversial, But Tried and True Version” of the jam. For the original, no shortcuts version, go here. You may be surprised to know that most people I talk to sterilize their jars in their dishwasher and find that as long as you are ladling HOT fruit into HOT jars and topping with a HOT lid (and never touch the inside of the jar) the jams seal themselves and there is no need to process in hot water afterward. This is now my method for jam and I haven’t had any problems. Of course with the amount of sugar in the jam and the speed at which they get consumed around here, there’s no chance of them ever going bad!
What’s your canning method? Any thoughts?

Spiced Golden Plum Jam

3 1/2 lbs golden plums, washed
1/2 cup apple juice
4 inch cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods, bruised
4 whole cloves
6 2/3 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

Prepare your canning station by collecting all your tools: a pair of tongs, a 1-cup glass measuring cup, a wide-mouth jar funnel, a spatula and a few clean dish towels, one of those awesome wands with a magnet on the end for lifting the lids out of the hot water.
Place 8-250 ml in an empty dishwasher (this is not the time to clean breakfast dishes as well)and run a cycle. When jars are on the dry cycle, start your jam.
Place your sealing discs ( the lids) in a small pot and cover with hot water. Keep very hot, but do not boil. Place jar rings within easy reach.

Half, pit and roughly chop plums. Tie spices together in a square of cheesecloth for a spice bag.
In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine prepared plums, apple juice and spice bag. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Partially cover, reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set spice bag aside to be added in later.

In a clean stainless steel saucepan, combine 4-1/2 cups (1.125 L) of the cooked mixture, spice bag, 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter or margarine (to reduce foaming) and all of the sugar. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in the liquid pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim off foam and discard spice bag.
Using a tea towel to protect your fingers from the heat, take a hot jar from the dishwasher and place on your counter.
Ladle hot jam into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch of top of jar (head space). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust head space, if required, by adding more jam. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Center hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.

Spread out a tea towel on your counter and place the jar of jam on it. Repeat canning process with remaining seven jars.
Leave jars to cool 24 hours with out touching them. After 24 hours is up, check that all jars have sealed. If any have not, store them in the fridge and use first. Store the rest in a cool, dark place.

For more Jam & Jelly recipes visit these posts:

Maple Apple Butter
Crabapple Jelly