Jam and jelly was always a preservation area that alluded me.  Admittedly, I didn’t put much effort into it, because my mother-in-law is a jammer, extraordinaire.  She showed up every year at Christmas time with a trunk full of strawberry jam, and raspberry jam, and peach preserves.  But my own history of jams that didn’t set up is really what made me stop trying.

A couple of years ago, my husband encouraged me to make Sweet Tomato Jam.  He found the recipe in one of his cookbooks and it sounded good to him.  Honestly, it sounded disgusting to me, but I made it anyway because it was one of those years we had tomatoes coming out of our ears — I had quite a few volunteer cherry tomato plants come up and they were very prolific, so I adapted the recipe to use up the excess.

Well, it didn’t set up.  I was dejected, and all “I told you I can’t make jam.”  But rather than waste these jars of jam, I called my mother-in-law and she encouraged me to re-cook the jam with some pectin and talked me through the process.  It worked!  And the resulting jam was really tasty!  On a whim, I added it to my entries for the Middletown Grange Fair and it was judged a Best in Show (in a four way, with three other jams)!  Lesson learned: if it doesn’t set up on the first try, cook it again.  Oh, and trust my husband’s ability to judge a recipe.

This year I have made all sorts of jams and jellies, from combination berry to an unusual cilantro-garlic jelly.  I think it is a condiment that will pair nicely with grilled fish, chicken or pork.

Cilantro-Garlic Jelly

  • 1 C cilantro, chopped, including stems
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 t black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 hot pepper, sliced
  • 3 C boiling water
  • the juice of two limes, strained
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 T powdered pectin
  1. Combine cilantro, garlic, peppercorns and hot pepper in a heat-proof bowl and cover with 3 1/2 C of boiling water.  Cover the bowl and let steep over night.
  2. The next morning, strain through butter muslin (or a piece of an old sheet) in a fine sieve. Do not press.
  3. Mix the pectin with 1/2 C sugar and set aside.
  4. Measure 3 cups into a medium pot, along with the lime juice.  Add the sugar pectin mixture.  Bring to a boil.
  5. Add the remaining 1 1/2 C of the sugar and bring to a boil that cannot be stirred down over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from the heat and let rest for 4 minutes.  Skim foam.  Pour into sterile canning jars and process.

A special thanks to Angela Mazur who caught a MAJOR error in this post, that has now been revised!

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