Even You Can Can

Fall is officially here. Though leaves in the city have yet to take on that colorful crunchiness, one walk through the farmers market makes it clear that New York is in harvest season. As peaches and plums give way to apples and pears, now is a great time to begin stocking the pantry with jams and pickles made from end-of-season produce.

In this week's Last Chance Foods, WNYC’s Amy Eddings speaks with chef Kelly Geary about the age-old means of preserving produce. Geary has taught canning classes at Brooklyn Kitchen Labs and owns the food delivery company Sweet Deliverance, which prepares community agriculture shares for customers. Her canning repertoire currently includes unusual fare such as ground cherry jam, green tomato chutney, strawberry orange-blossom honey jam, blueberry lemon-verbena jam, and raspberry rosewater jam.

Geary notes that after an initial investment in a few canning supplies — large pot, tongs, cooling rack and mason jars, primarily — the whole process is relatively economical. “You’d be surprised how many pint jars of jam you can get out of two armloads of berries that you get at the farmers market, or if you pull your friends’ berries together from their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares,” says Geary. “You can get a good amount of jam.”

New Yorkers with small kitchens need not fret since all that’s really needed is a stove which can accommodate a large pot for sterilizing jars and lids and a smaller pot to cook down whatever is being canned.

“For jams and things of that texture, [you need to leave] a quarter of an inch, and for pickles, it’s a half an inch,” explains Geary, who uses canning jars with two-piece lids. “That is the space that’s going to create a vacuum when it goes from hot to cool.” She says that the federal agriculture department does not recommend canning with wax.

One of the major advantages of canning is having control over all the ingredients. The less sugar that goes into the jams, however, the sooner they’ll spoil. Geary points out that jams she makes with honey or little sugar will keep for about two weeks.

Her's one of Geary's seasonal recipes.

Nectarine Orange-Blossom Honey Jam
Yield: 4 pints

  • 4 pounds nectarines peeled, pitted and chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons orange blossom water

In a medium-sized pot, heat nectarines, lemon juice, honey, sugar and vanilla over medium high heat. Cook down fruit for about 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking and until the fruit is quite broken down. Reduce the heat as necessary.

Remove pot from heat and blend until smooth, using an immersion blender or in batches in a stand blender. (For a chunkier texture, mash with a potato masher.) Taste for sweetness. If you decide to add extra sugar or honey, do it by the tablespoon so you don’t over do it. Test for doneness using a chilled plate. When jam mounds up nicely on the plate, add orange blossom water to the pot and stir the jam to mix well.

Ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims and seal.

Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for elevation.