Shortcuts and Other Ways to Keep Jam Tasting Fresh

Darina Allen‘s Forgotten Skills of Cooking is pretty close to an epic read in the truest sense, if you agree that salvaging and restoring old foodways is akin to keeping record of the heroes of the past.

I’m still weaving through it and it’ll be months before I’ve come even close to finishing.

Oddly enough, the first time I tried to do something with the oranges and grapefruit that had begun to rain down on my yard last winter — before I had a shot at my first batch of marmalade — I was making candied peel from a Ballymaloe recipe. At the time I had no idea what Allen’s cooking school at Ballymaloe is — she’s the Irish champion of that national variant of slow food — but the peel was tasty and so I saved the URL to the recipe and went back to it a few times over.

The jams in Forgotten Skills are so fantastically ordinary, and the recipes are free of the germ neurosis that governs jam-making protocol in the U.S. She’s as scrupulous as anyone in sterilizing jars and lids, but once the jam’s in the jars, she doesn’t even hot pack them, if the recipes in Forgotten Skills are anything to go by. Rather, the jars are sealed with clean paper and cellophane jam covers or clean lids.

Yes, botulism would be a difficult way to go, but jam isn’t tomato sauce and if you’re making it for yourself, or it’s going to be consumed fairly quickly, why boil it again by canning it and risk killing some of the flavor?

Now, that said, I’m still going to can most of my jam, because I make so damn much of it that a year later a few stray jars are still sitting on the shelf. But I’m not canning it all, especially when the lids have clearly sealed tight after going onto the hot, jarred jam.

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