Tag Archives: Canning

Thursday DIY; That’s My (Tomato) Jam!!!!

I have this very talented cousin who loves to grow food.

She is so good at it that she took her education and her talent and her extremely sweet personality and, for a few years, taught children in the great state of Arkansas how to not only grow their own fruits and vegetables but also how to incorporate a more plant-based food philosophy into their everyday lives.

The times we were able to get together were always fun and on one of her visits she brought a bunch of canned goodies to share with us and my grandparents and I loved everything I tried- her talent at canning her own foods is what started my own canning obsession.

There is nothing I have tried that I loved more than her tomato jam- so much so that I had to give making it myself a shot.

My cuz directed me to a site with so much great information called Food in Jars for their tomato jam recipe as that’s the one she used- they have one sweetened with honey and one sweetened with regular granulated sugar.

I have made both and will tell you a bit about each experience.

I didn’t think to take pictures of the honey sweetened tomato jam but I did take a few of the granulated sugar sweetened jam (be forewarned- it was nighttime when I took the pictures so they’re a little bit dark and if you view this post on a smartphone my pics will be sideways. Yes, I’m aware of it but, no,  I don’t know how to fix it.)

What You Need;

5lbs of tomatoes, finely chopped (food in jars advises against peeling the tomatoes which is great because that’s a lot of work)

Either 2 1/2 cups honey or 3 1/2 cups sugar (do not modify sweetener amounts, the sugar aids in shelf life and stability)

1/2 cup bottled lime juice

1T sea salt

1T freshly grated ginger

1T red chili flakes

1t cinnamon

1/2t ground cloves

Put all ingredients in a wide shallow pan and cook until it ‘s reduced, sticky looking and jammy- as she says in her instructions when your spoon leaves a tunnel where you can see the bottom of the pan it’s ready to ladle into prepared canning jars.

The jam will take about an hour to reduce in the pan so while it’s doing that, when you’re nearing the end of the line in the cooking process get your canning jars ready.

Once you’ve ladled the jam into your prepared jars and have the lids with the screw bands on fingertip tight (meaning don’t crank them on like a bodybuilder) lower them back into the boiling water and process for 15 minutes.

Remove using either metal tongs or a canning jar lifter with rubber grips (I recommend the latter- mine cost 9 dollars locally so they’re very inexpensive and a much safer option) and set the jars on a wire rack to cool overnight.

They should start to seal right away, but if within the hour they have not you should refrigerate and use immediately any jars that didn’t seal properly.

The popping sound when they seal is my favorite part of the process!!!!

The only differences in the honey sweetened and the sugar sweetened tomato jam was a difference in color and an ever so slight difference in flavor.

The honey sweetened came out a little darker in color (I use very dark, local wildflower honey from Storm Honey Farm here in Mountain View) and had an earthier flavor.

The granulated sugar sweetened had a cleaner flavor and was a little bit of a prettier jewel-tone red.

I like them both and intend going forward to use what I have on-hand- when my honey gets grainy, I will use it and when my honey is brand spanking new and I want it for tea I will use the sugar.

They’re both viable options and delicious on anything you would put ketchup on- I use it mixed with a little apple cider vinegar for a glaze on meatloaf and sometimes I just eat it on crackers.

Whatever’s clever.

You have to try it.

What kinds of jams, jellies, condiments and pickles are staples in your cupboard and refrigerator?

Let us know in the comments section here or on our Facebook page!

Until next time!


The Chick and her Chickadee



I’m So Jelly!!!!

The days are still fairly warm here in Arkansas, even if the evenings and mornings are chilly- I keep waiting for colder weather to get here, but last year it never really did (save for a few ice storms and then immediate warm weather that followed which is manic and kind of cool- snow boots one day, flip flops the next, literally).

On cold mornings my favorite thing to do is cuddle under a fleece throw with the chickadee while I guzzle a hot cup of coffee and start my day as she wakes up to some Doc McStuffins- although she is outgrowing both the show and the practice of an early morning cuddle.

I’ve taken to perusing sites on boondocking in your RV (which is off the grid RV camping) and Pinterest for jelly recipes for my new canning obsession.

Since last we spoke I have successfully made tomato jam (which was excellent and we have blown through all 4 jars of it, using it in place of ketchup and also i have started eating it on crackers- I’m making more today and will document the process for you), the apple butter I posted about, and finally hot pepper jelly.

Getting to the point where I could say I successfully made jelly was a process, guys.

I started with that coffee jelly recipe I mentioned in my apple butter post; excited, because my love of coffee is deep and real and because the poster made this sound so divine I assembled everything I needed and followed the instructions to the letter.

I poured what I thought would be my first successful attempt at making jelly into the prepared canning jars I had out on my counter and processed them in a canning bath for 15 minutes- then removed them one by one, thrilled that every single jar sealed properly.

I left them alone overnight, thinking, you know- they will do their thang and in the morning I will have some delicious coffee jelly to put on anything toasted I see fit.


When I came downstairs in the morning I found, to  my dismay, that the jars were still filled with liquid.

It didn’t set up or gel at all- not even a soft set.

I was disappointed but followed the instructions the poster included to get the jelly to set up if the first attempt failed- that also didn’t work for me (which could be my inexperience working against me), and by the time I was done trying to fix it the coffee jelly mixture had charred and smelled awful.

At that point, even if it had set up, I don’t think I would want to eat it.

I plan to try that again but have not- in the meantime, the best advice I received from an experienced jelly maker was to follow a recipe included in the Sure Jell leaflet as those tend to be foolproof and get some experience with a jelly that is going to set so when I go to make the coffee jelly again I will know if it’s working.

My next stop in the adventure was hot pepper jelly, using this recipe from Sure Jell– I chose this for 2 reasons;

  1. The ingredients were super inexpensive.
  2. I love hot pepper jelly and hate spending over 4 dollars a jar on it at the store.

So armed with everything I needed I got to work; it seems the key to getting jelly to set is getting the pectin in the Sure Jell powder to release in the hot liquid.

To do this, I had to have everything ready; all the ingredients for the jelly itself in the pot of course, plus the recommended amount of sugar measured out in a separate bowl and the Sure Jell at the ready.

If you tend to be the kind of home cook that preps as you cook (which is my thing) when you’re making jelly is not the time to stick with that tradition- have everything ready to go because time is of the essence.

So you get your peppers, pectin (Sure Jell) and apple cider vinegar into the pot and get the heat under it- medium high heat works best.

Within a few moments you should achieve a rolling boil- this means that you are getting bubbles in the liquid that don’t stop when you stir it; when you reach this stage let it boil for 60 seconds before you add the sugar.

It’s that time frame in the boiling liquid that helps the pectin start releasing, which will give you a set on your jelly.

After the 60 seconds is up, you pour in your sugar- and when it returns to a rolling boil let it boil for exactly 60 more seconds and then kill the heat under it.

Ladle into prepared jars and leave alone overnight.

Now, at this point I had never heard about throwing a little jelly on a chilled plate to see if a set would be achieved- I realized mine would set because I was one jar short on my prep and therefore put the remaining jelly in a clean plastic container and tossed it into my refrigerator.

An hour later, when I went to get the Chickadee some milk, it was already setting up.

But just in case you are forward thinking enough to process an adequate amount of prepared storage jars, this is the chilled plate test;

You chill a plate while you’re preparing your jelly.

When you are about to start ladling your finished product into jars, ladle just a little on the chilled plate.

If it is going to set, it should do so immediately- drag your finger through to see if you can leave a “tunnel”.

If so, you’re in business and should proceed- if not follow manufacturer instructions in the leaflet describing the best way to fix the set before you process in the jars for long-term storage.

This jelly can be stored in a cool, dark place for one year.

It’s delicious- tangy, spicy and sweet.


(Photo courtesy of The Comfort of Cooking.)

I love to put a little of this goodness over cream cheese on Flipsides crackers from Keebler (you know the ones- pretzel on one side, townhouse on the other, perfect for people like me with a decision making disorder) for an easy appetizer or on half a toasted bagel.


It’s sweeter than you would expect and I did find a low sugar version in my America’s Test Kitchen Foolproof Canning Cookbook that I am anxious to try- I will let you know how that works out when I do.

Who out there loves to can?

Whether it’s jam, jelly, veggies or pickles let me know what you love to “put up” for your family when you have a little time on your hands!

Until next time!


The Chick and Her Chickadee


Know Where Your Apple is Buttered, Buddy

Guys . . . it’s October.

I have taken a second to marvel at this every morning for the last few days and I just get overwhelmed with excitement when I do because October is, hands down, my favorite month of the year (yes, I am one of those people who would gladly use Halloween decorations as household decor year round- no, I feel no shame or weirdness about this and I do think “sparkly pumpkin” could be a personal style of decorating).

I just love fall, don’t you?

The turning of leaves, milder weather (although here in Arkansas tomorrow’s high temp is 82- not really “fall-like”) and the seasonal food.

Sure, pumpkin everything is great- I just finished a box of Pumpkin Spice Life cereal and don’t care how “basic” that makes me, but my biggest fall food obsession has always been apple butter.


On toast, biscuits or a really big spoon, I think apple butter is one of the most delicious and underrated things on the planet.

It’s sweet, a little tart and a lot spicy- it is also, as I found out this weekend, extremely easy to make yourself.

Anybody who follows me on Pinterest (and there are a lot of you, despite how notoriously quiet and bashful the crowd around here is) knows that I have an entire board, currently under construction, that has loads of pins devoted to canning, jarring and homesteading.

Call it antiquated or fussy, I just think there is something to be said for at least a little self-sufficiency and in-home preparedness, even in modern times when everything is at our fingertips.

It might not always be and during times where severe weather is a harsh reality (like right this moment in Florida) it’s good to have some prepared foods on hand in your cabinets and freezer for a rainy (or snowy) day.

That being said, I wanted a super simple recipe for apple butter that had 3 elements;

  1. I didn’t want it to call for 12lbs of apples- this is a first run and the worst thing I could think of was making oodles of apple butter and then having a shortage of available canning jars.
  2. Simple and sparse, but good, ingredients- the best things in food are mostly recipes without a great deal of fancy ingredients. Where the good food quality really lies is in cooking techniques, which is something I learned from my husband who is a chef; make sure things are cooked properly and cooled down then stored appropriately and you’re always eating well.
  3. I wanted to be able to cook it in the crock pot.

So with those elements in mind, the hubs helped me find one from the food network that we adapted and threw in the crock pot over night on low.

In the morning when I woke up?

Oh the glorious apple cinnamon-y smell that filled the house, wall to wall.

I almost didn’t want to do anything aside from let it keep cooking down and make a new batch when it needed to be thrown out, but you know.

That’s wasteful.

Now you can take the cooked down apples and liquid out with a ladle and run it through your blender or food processor, or leave it right where it is and use an immersion blender, which was what I did.

Either way, I was left with a batch of apple butter that was sweet, tart and spicy and a gorgeous red brown color.


Next was the part I was most concerned about since this is my first time canning anything- the actual canning portion of the program which ended up falling on my husband’s mighty shoulders (thank you, honey!) but I paid close attention so I could lose a little bit of my fear.

I will get into the specifics of safe canning in another post, but know this- there are tons of sites where you can get that information in the meantime, like this absolutely awesome one foodiewithfamily that has a great canning project I’m going to test next week for you.

My biggest concern was how I would know when he pulled the jars out of the water after boiling for 15 minutes if they had sealed- if this is a concern you and I share, please allow me to set your mind at ease.

You can tell.

As my hubs began setting the jars on a wire rack, one by one, they began to emit a single, unmistakable pop.

“That’s how you know,” he told me, “but also if you’re not sure press the lid. You will know if it’s not sealed properly.”

They are still sitting on the counter and will be, per the Chef’s request, until he gets home today at which point I will label the jars themselves with painter’s tape (no residual goo when you remove and want to reuse the jar) with what’s inside and the date.

So that’s it!

With the next project I will include photos of the process!

In the meantime, what’s your favorite canning project and do you have any tips for a novice?

Let me know here or in the comments on the ChickandChickadee Facebook page!

Until next time!


The Chick and her Chickadee