Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Too-Sweet Defeat...The Jam is Ruined, But We'll Try Again

Maybe I was basking in the joy of my mulberry harvest a little too blithely.
Maybe I shouldn't have taken the lazy way out of making jam by trying to make freezer jam instead of cooked jam. Or maybe I should have just Googled for awhile before following the recipe included with the Cert-O pectin; after all, my instincts were cringing at the mountain of sugar I was setting aside (per very specific directions on Cert-O insert). That way I would have known how many options are out there for making jam that don't rely on pounds of sugar.

Whatever the error, I'm sitting here now trying not to cry.

8 cups of beautiful, perfect mulberries, picked over the course of a couple weeks, now sit imprisoned in a sickeningly sweet ....gel? Slime? The texture is so thick and gritty and weird I'm having trouble coming up with an analogy. This sugar concoction has not only ruined my mulberries, it is using up precious jar space. I'm trying to think of a way to use up this sweet mess, but I'm wondering if I'll end up dumping it all. The latter option seems inconceivable. :(

I had wanted to try the recipe that follows this post. I've been reading a lot about jams that don't use commercial pectin, and I was so game for it. But, I was feeling lazy. And I just so happened to have an extra box of Cert-O in the pantry (which worked beautifully with the sour cherries, and probably would have been beautiful with my mulberries had I not been too lazy to get out the cooking gear).

At any rate, we all need lessons in humility, and here was one for me. I've been experiencing a lot of 'beginner's luck' with so many of my projects lately, that failure was bound to happen eventually. Instead of the deep, dark, subtly-sweet, mulberry flavored jam seen in the jar (almost gone, as you can see) at the right, I'm left with 7 jars of gloppy, crystal-ly reddish sugar. With some mulberries chunks hiding out here and there. It occurred to me that maybe freezer jam is supposed to turn out like that, but I doubt it. Something had to be wrong with the way I read the instructions. If that is what freezer jam is, I'm not interested!

I am looking for ideas to NOT waste these mulberries. Craig said I should try mixing the 'jam' (I don't think this stuff deserves the name) with fresh berries and making some pie. I thought about using a couple spoonfuls to stir into plain yogurt, then freezing into pops. I won't pout for long, I'll figure out a way to make it right. The horribly sweet concoction will not go into the trash. While I'm at it, with this 'glass is half full' attitude, I will go ahead and say that all the fun I had collecting the berries with the kids is absolutely worth having an epic fail. :)

Following is the recipe I'll be trying the next time I have a harvest of mulberries. In-- *gulp* --a year from now. Lessons learned with the seasons can be hard to swallow, since there is no re-do until the season comes around again. The mulberries are essentially over with for the summer. Maybe if I can find a great deal on some blackberries, or if a vendor at the farmer's market still miraculously has mulberries in the next week or two, I will snatch them up to test the recipe out.

In the meantime, I'll try hard not to feel utterly sick over the failed fate of those perfect mulberries!

I will try this recipe next time to avoid too-sweet defeat!!!
Makes about 5 half-pint jars
This recipe is from Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff.
1 pound Granny Smith apples (about 3 small)
3 pounds blackberries (about 8 cups), rinsed
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of 2 small lemons
Sterilize jars and keep them hot in the canning pot. Put a small plate in the freezer and put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl.
Quarter and core the apples, reserving the cores and seeds. Put as many of the apple trimmings as possible in a jelly bag or 4 layers of cheesecloth and tie the bag closed.
Put the blackberries and sugar in a wide, 6- to 8-quart preserving pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, then continue to cook until the juices are just deep enough to cover the blackberries, about 5 minutes. Pour into a colander set over a large bowl and stir the berries gently to drain off the juice.
Return the juice to the pan along with the apples and the bag of trimmings. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is reduced and thick and registers about 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Return the blackberries and any accumulated juices along with the lemon juice and zest to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring frequently, until a small dab of the jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for a minute wrinkles when you nudge it, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the fruit. Remove the bag and the apples.
Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jar from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot. Place them upright on a folded towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.
Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each, adjusting the ring so that it's just finger-tight. Reutrn the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil 5 minutes to process. Transfer the jars to the folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. Check the seals by pressing down on the center of each jar. If it can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed. Store the jam in the refrigerator for up to a month.


  1. Oh, man...aren't disasters great learning experiences?!

    Consider adding the jam to cream cheese for a frosting, or a dollop in some plain yogurt for a tasty treat! You can also add a spoonful to cakes or breads here and there...

    If you are someone who likes booze, take one of those jars and dump it into a jar twice its size. Add vodka (or brandy or whatever you like) to the jar, lid it, shake it, and let it mesh for a few weeks. Shake it every now and then...taste and see if you just made an awesome cordial! If you like what you've made, strain it and bottle it. Ta-da! :)

    1. Oh my gosh, thank you for this input! I had NEVER thought to put it with cream cheese for frosting...that is absolutely genius. Also, yes I do like a little drink now and then, and a cordial sounds awesome! Thanks so much for the comment and the wonderful ideas. I still have *gulp* 6 large jars of this stuff in the freezer! Though, after being in the freezer for a few months, the sugar seems to have mellowed a bit. Still too sweet, but not gritty like it was before. Not sure if that is how freezer jam works? I think I am sticking to cooked jam as much as possible from now on.