To my knowledge BF wasn't much of a cook before we met. He can fire a mean grill but I don't think he really had much kitchen panache. However, in the last few years or so through a combination of curiosity, observation, and osmosis he seems to be picking up quite a bit. He can make a mean banana bread, his blondies kick ass, and his ability to whip together an astounding marinade to slather on any of God's tasty creatures gives me goosebumps.
When he recently got back home after a few weeks of medical training he saw the ludicrous amount of jamming I had been pounding out. Jars of mint jelly, rhubarb ginger syrup, blackberry jam, apricot jam, apricot vanilla syrup, plum conserves were stacked high in the kitchen. Indeed, to anyone, cook or not, it was quite a sight.
"Did you make any blueberry?" he asked.
"No, sadly, I haven't gotten around to it. It's been on my to-do list for about two years now. I always seem to put it off," I said.
"Well, then let's make some."
"You want to learn to make jam?" I was surprised.
He said that he did. I was giddy. The man can make buckwheat pancakes, fix a shower head like nobody's business, bandage my clumsy ass up, and has a desire to learn jam making? Oh yeah, definitely a keeper.
We got lucky in our berry search as we found huge cartons of organic berries for only four bucks each - a steal in blueberry economics. Three pounds ended up costing us around $13. We grabbed a lemon and an extra sack of sugar and headed home.
It was a steamy batch of jam to say the least. With the weather being in the triple digits outside and the water bath boiling away inside as well as the oven running at 200 degrees to sterilize the cans it felt like a Louisiana summer. We went about our work dressed only in shorts and aprons teasing and flirting as we went back and forth across the linoleum floor. As I measured the sugar he zested the lemon, I weighed the berries while he readied the lids; each task preformed with a little bit of posing. Witty repartee and coy tête-à-tête played in our tiny galley kitchen which we normally bemoaned about. Now the cramped quarters were suddenly quite intimate.
As we went about mashing and mixing our jam the occasional indigo splurt of juice exploded onto the counter, the floor, and ourselves. The latter wasn't so bad as it was excuse enough to wipe it up with our fingers and taste the jam to see how it was progressing. The jam had condensed the flavors of the blueberries into a winey nectar that was rich and intense, the essence of blueberry harnessed into a more potent preserve.
We quickly ladled the finished jam into jars, popped on their lids and rims and dunked them in their water bath. Tens minutes later and after a bit of cleanup we had six jars of dark Cabernet-colored jam. The heat and humidity was finally too much and we collapsed on the couch under the breeze of the air conditioning armed with tall glasses of iced tea. It was too miserable to cuddle up as body heat was the enemy. Instead we popped in a disc from Netflix, propped our feet on the coffee table and let our toes touch in what I can only call an affectionate manner.
It seems a good relationship is like a good jam. A little time and attention is all it takes to make one successful. Though some heat in the kitchen helps too.
Blueberry Jam Recipe
Blueberries are high in pectin so you won't have to reduce this until it has a jam-like consistency. Do it to just under so it still looks a little bit too liquidy. It will set up plenty solid.
3 lbs of blueberries
1 lb of sugar
three tablespoons of lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon of butter
1. Wash the blueberries and toss them into a stainless steel or copper pot, or a enamel lined dutch oven (not an aluminum pot as this will leach). Mash the berries with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Let macerate for about 10 minutes. Place a small plate in the freezer as this will be used for testing later.
2. Turn heat to medium-high. The mixture will bubble and froth vigorously. Skim the foam off the top and discard (or save it and put it on cheese or yogurt; super tasty). The boil will subside to larger bubbles, but still bubble vigorously. Be sure to begin gently stirring the jam frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
3. After about 20 minutes begin testing the jam by placing a small amount on the cold plate. Allow 30 seconds to pass and then run your finger through it to see what the cooled consistency will be. Boil for a few minutes longer if desired for a thicker jam.
4. Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars and seal leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. Screw on the rings to finger-tight. Work quickly. Process in a water bath to ensure a good seal. If you want you can skip the water bath and just screw the lids on tight where the heating-cooling process will create a vacuum seal, but the water bath is a surefire method for a secure seal.
*To sterilize the jars, rinse out clean mason jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, upright in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes. To sterilize the lids put them in a shallow bowl and pour boiling water over them.