I’m in love with small-batch canning.
I made jam out of less than a pound of black mission figs that turned the richest raspberry red and had the most complex, tart and sweet flavor profile I’ve tasted from a jam. The only ingredients were figs, sugar, and some lemon juice. I’ve also made small batches of peach jam with rosemary, with bourbon, and with strawberries. I’ve made strawberry jam with basil. I made pure peach-and-sugar preserves from the last few cups of chopped peaches I had in the fridge.
I also love the tiny, four-ounce quilted jars. I feel like it’s irresponsible and indulgent to use so many, but they make me feel more accomplished. A small batch of jam might yield 2 pint jars, if you’re lucky, but it can give you four or even five of these tiny jars! Since I’m planning on giving a lot of jam in Christmas gifts this year, more jars are better.
They’re also portable– I took a soy-and-sesame sauce to work with me in one of these baby jars, to dip dumplings into at lunch. It stayed sealed in my bag all day without leaking, and made me feel just a little fancier in the middle of the day. I’ve been putting out three or four jars of jam with breakfast, along with sliced cheese, fruit, and toast, and seeing the little cluster of jars gives a simple meal much more ceremony. There’s a sense of eventfulness that comes with having lots of jam options, and these tiny jars make me feel like I can try the new jam I made, have a backup jar in case I love it and don’t want to give it all away, and still have a couple of jars to gift.
The smaller jars, and smaller batches, also free me up to try new combinations. I was leery of the strawberry-thyme combination, but since I was only working with a few strawberries, the stakes were pretty low. At the end of the day, I would only have a couple pints of jam I didn’t really like. I probably wouldn’t add cumin to a huge batch of strawberry jam, but I might be willing to experiment with just a few jars.
I’m so glad I did. This strawberry-thyme jam (I was kidding about the cumin) is just herby enough to make it really interesting, but still pretty sweet and familiar. It’s made with honey and comes together quickly. The instructions say to weigh the honey, since it doesn’t come out of measuring cups easily, but I have a trick (and I don’t have a kitchen scale, so…): Run your measuring cup under hot water for a minute, then measure the honey. The heat from the cup will encourage the honey to slide right out.