Eat the jam!
(Or it'll overrun you)
Jam is super easy to make. That’s why everyone learns canning by making jam—you can do it in a water bath canner, and you probably won’t kill anyone. It’s a real confidence booster on the Poser Homestead.
That’s why people overdo it. Most people only realize they’ve made too much jam when it overtakes their entire pantry.
The “Law of Jam” says it will expand to the size of whatever space you have, then overflow until you’re almost crushed to death.
Last year I realized something. I don’t really eat all that much jam. One day, I saw a hashtag on some social media—#eatthedamnjam I realized something else—nobody does. Jam overdose is a real problem.
How much jam do I need? How do prevent it from overrunning my life?
Two ways: Inventory, and upping your chef game. Sure, you can “dump it on bread” or even dump it on unsuspecting friends, but there’s only so many English muffins a person can eat.
When I started thinking outside the toast box for jam, I started enjoying it more. Still, it’s best to keep the supply under tight control.
How to control your jam supply
Know batch sizes. It’s tough to stare down a piece of fruit and know how many jars it’s going to make. Not all fruit is created equal—some requires a truckload of sugar to preserve. No-sugar pectin batches yield different amounts than “truckload of sugar” batches, too.
You’ve got to be able to picture the number of jars you’re about to be make… and know how many you want to eat. This comes with practice. Until then, you’ll either be flooded or end up making a second batch.
Know how much you’ll use. I keep a log of what I make and use each season. I can check the sheet and count what’s left or use the dates on top to estimate. I put the current year in the back to use the oldest first, so I know I’ve overdone things if I’m still eating jars from the 1900’s.
Plan for gifting. People like my jam and I know I’m going to share, so I round up during canning season for my use, the usual recipients and a bit extra in case I make a friend. I like to be optimistic about these things.
Don’t be afraid to skip a season!! I’m currently being overrun by peach products. It’s because of the Year of No Peaches when we had a late frost and there were no peaches available. I love peaches, so I nearly panicked and overcanned for two years after.
There’s no law that says I have to can every year. Let inventory be your guide.
I skipped blueberries this year because I’m just finishing up my 2017 vintage. I did pick berries, but froze them instead. For this year’s peach season, I canned and froze the fruit and made a peach butter which I’ve been eating by the jar. I’ll use the season to clear out the peach backlog. If I run low—which I won’t—I can always pull some frozen fruit from the freezer and whip up a batch of spread, jam, or jelly off season.
How to use up your jam with joy, not suffering
Here are several places I use my jam.
Sweeten yogurt and smoothies.
Peach Jam goes great in tea.
In or around baked goods such as banana bread, zucchini bread, and cornbread. It can be baked in for flavoring or used on top. Cornbread warm from the oven with peach jam and a dot of sour cream is a treasure.
In a bread or rice pudding
As a vinegarette-slash-salad dressing. One favorite: blueberry balsamic vinegarette (with a little garlic) using blueberry jam. This goes well on a salad of roasted, candied walnuts (or pecans) and a stilton or other bleu cheese on the salad.
Cherry vinegarette on a chevre-based salad
Cherry jam glaze on any dark meat—a roast, venison, lamb.
As a layer filling for a cake.
Stuffed inside a crêpe, topped with sour cream.
As a topping for pancakes and waffles
Mix into a bowl of oatmeal.
On top of ice cream—pineapple jam on vanilla cannot be beat!
On a cheesecake—convert it to sauce by heating and thinning out with a tiny bit of water before serving. Or just plop on top. Sauce is better, though. Raspberry and strawberry work very well here.
Make mead. This is primarily for honey, but I can back sweeten it with jam to carbonate it.
I’m sure I’ll think of more.
The point is this:
It’s jam season. Jam is a gateway drug to hard core canning. Done properly, it’s a joy and a food preservation skill, but it can soon get out of control.
Plan your jam season out well in advance and do not can until you’ve taken inventory.
Have an emergency plan if you go overboard. This includes stretching your chef muscle to use up the jam and not being afraid to skip a season. Yes, you may fear running out, but I’ve learned this: when that happens, I can eat something else. I don’t have to go to the store to get theirs—my “something else” tastes better until the next canning season rolls around.
The more I improve, the more I learn to appreciate the harvest in season and on my shelf, and the more appreciative I am the next time it rolls around.
With that, I wish you a happy jam season.
I’d love to hear what you’ve made so far—what you’d make again, and what’s overrunning your pantry.