Jam Making 101 @ Blue Chair Fruit

tasting

On Sunday I took the Jam Making 101 class at Blue Chair Fruit Company in Oakland! I had a delicious time learning from Rachel Saunders, the woman behind Blue Chair Fruit Company! I’ve had her cookbook for awhile and I’ve wanted to make my own jam, but I lacked the confidence & drive to get going. This class definitely gave me the jump start I needed. I can’t wait to go to the farmer’s market this weekend to pick up some fruit. Also, I should note that I completed another item from my 31 comes before 32 list ! #16. Learn how to do canning!

The goal of the class was not to just follow a recipe and make jam, but to understand the elements of jam, how to test for balance prior to cooking and how to preserve a fruit’s flavor integrity while making a jam. In the class, we made 4 different variations of a Strawberry Raspberry Jam. Two of the jams were original recipes and the other two were based on what we, as a class wanted in a jam. I can’t wait to taste the final results (which should show up in my mailbox soon!).

blueberry

We started by tasting a few of Blue Chair’s jams. This was probably my favorite part because I immediately fell in love with the Early Summer Peach Marmalade! It’s ah-mazing. I also loved the spice in the East Coast Blueberry Jam (there was a cinnamon stick IN the jar!) and the Cranberry Jam tasted like summer Thanksgiving!  The Lemon & Pink Grapefruit Marmalade was a bit too bitter for my liking, but still neat to try.  We observed the color, texture, sweetness, balance, and the flavor profile of each one.

taking notes

After our jam tasting, we went into the kitchen and had a few savory treats while things were being set up for us.

a snack before we begin

Look at all of the strawberries and raspberries for jam making! They are all organic and bursting with flavor.

get ready to be jammed!

Rachel showed us the two different batches of fruits we would be working with first. One bin was filled with cut strawberries & sugar that had been in the fridge for 4 days. The other was filled with whole strawberries and sugar and was started at the same time as the cut ones. Adding this step to the process reduces cooking time because most of the work is taken out of the equation when the berries let out their juices with the help of sugar. The cut strawberries gave off a ridiculous amount of juice and dissolved the sugar compared to the whole strawberries, which still had a lot of sugar granules leftover.

getting started!

Here’s Rachel stirring the berries after adding some fresh lemon juice.

rachel working

We all dipped clean spoons in & tasted every time she added more lemon juice, to make the perfect balance.

checking the balance

And then we got to cooking the jam!

more stirring

This jam was a raspberry HEAVY jam, so we added the raspberries after a somewhat long period of cooking time. Each of the jams had a different cooking time because the amount of fruit, size of fruit and sugar was modified for the flavor profile.

BERRIES!

Here’s some foaming action!

foamy goodness!

Rachel taught us how to use the freezer/spoon technique to test for done-ness. So cool!

freezer test

And when the jam was ready, she showed us how to skim off all of the foam for a clear, pure jam.

skimming

We made two more batches of Strawberry RaspberryJam. This was a collaborative effort! We got to decide what we wanted in a jam!

two batches from the class

So we were put to work chopping and measuring out the recipe she created for us based on our ideas.

i helped cut all of these strawberries

After more cooking, it was time to load up the jars. Here, I learned the two pitcher technique! One messy pitcher. One clean pitcher. Pour the messy pitcher contents into the clean one and then fill the jars with that one! I will totally be implementing this technique at home, as I’m a huge mess maker.

two pitcher technique

Rachel uses an oven to heat/sterilize the jars and when they are filled & lidded, they go back into the oven for another 15 minutes to seal.

JARS!

Here we are pouring the jam into the jars.

filling

Look at our bounty! So exciting!

jam

This is just one of the four types of Strawberry Raspberry Jam we made!

JAM!

And here they are lidded and ready to go into the oven.

put a lid on it

Between jams, we took a break and Rachel served the class a DELICIOUS Citrus Almond cake with Raspberry jam & fresh raspberries that she made. It was TASTY! I totally want the recipe! We sat around eating cake and drinking tea, while talking about jam.

mmmm cake

And after the class, I was able to pick up some goodies for my GIVEAWAY!  Stay tuned!

blue chair

So there you have it. I learned how to make jam & can!

What impressed me most about the class was Rachel’s oven technique. No boiling water= no fuss. I can’t wait to try this at home because it seems to have taken away a huge amount of danger! Water baths seem daunting for a kitchen klutz like myself.

I think another invaluable lesson from the class was learning how to tap into the visual clues and testing for the jam’s doneness. I don’t think I would have been able to figure that out on my own. The key is to bring a fruit to it’s brightest point and if you overcook it, you won’t achieve that!

I also learned that the amount of sugar in a jam has a lot to do with its final texture! So if you are wanting to make a low sugar jam, know that you are messing with its structural integrity. The sugar is worth the end result. Also- those COPPER pots are BEAUTIFUL and pretty crucial to making great jam making! Blue Chair Fruit sells them as well as their jam on their website.

If you want to take a class from Blue Chair Fruit Company, check out their website! I highly recommend it.

Blue Chair Fruit Company

4629 MLK, Jr. Way
Oakland CA 94609

(510) 654-BLUE

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  • Benthe

    This looks so good, I love it! The photos, the text, what you did, I taste it thanks to your words. Amazing!

  • jenifer

    okay, now i HAVE to take this class. i’ve made jam on my own, but i feel like i would learn a lot from this… or, just have tracy the jam expert come over to canning day 😉

  • Samantha

    I am so glad you mentioned the low sugar jam and final texture, because I recently made my first batch of jam and it was of the no sugar variety and while it tasted great, it just didn’t look like jam.
    Next time I will be adding the sugar.

    I would love to take a class like this!

  • Vanessa

    Gosh that class looks awesome! And speaking of awesome. Those copper pots are fantastic!!

  • Katrina

    This is so fun! Love this.

  • Vanessa

    I have NEVER heard of the “oven” technique! Whenever my hubby and I are canning, I always make him in charge of the BIG HUGE pot of boiling water. You must tell me how this is done! Also I had to put the cookbook on my wishlist as they are out of stock. We love canning, it is so rewarding in the end. Thanks for sharing your awesome experience!

  • Shawna Greenway

    The oven technique ROCKS! I took a jam class a few years ago with June Taylor and loved it. I may have to do this one, too.

    Who’s the chick with the star tats? I love her arm!!

  • Nicole

    The jam looks divine! Another cookbook that I NEED. The classes are a fantastic idea.

  • Andrea

    this looks fun! what is the freezer/spoon technique?

    • Tracy

      When you’re cooking the jam you dip the spoon in and pop it in the freezer for a few minutes, and when it’s at room temperature you are able to check to see if the consistency is the way you want it! Does that make sense?

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  • xsquared

    I have the Blue Chair book, and her recipes look great, but her canning method scares me. The NCHFP considers oven canning unsafe:
    http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/questions/FAQ_canning.html#7

    Did she talk about that at all in her class?

    I figured I would use her recipes as inspiration but boil the jars as usual. It isn’t hard, and I’m a kitchen klutz too :)

  • Jessica

    Fun! I’ve been shying away from canning because I’m always so worried that I’m going to do it wrong and end up with food poisoning (or worse, give it to others). I’m intrigued by that oven method!

  • Marilyn

    Jam making seems like so much fun!! I’ll have to emial these lovley ladies and ask ask and ask again when they’ll be hodling a jam making class in Venice California : )

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  • maura

    I do not agree that you have to use as much sugar as recipes call for – sugar is not needed for preservation – and with homemade pectin you can get it your jam to set. I have made loads of Strawberry and Damson jam recently and i add sugar to taste and the jams are incredible. Recipes with equal parts sugar and fruit or even half the sugar in weight are too sweet in my opinion. The cloying sweetness masks the fruit’s real flavor.

    • Tracy

      Fair enough. There’s obviously several ways to go about making jam. This is one of them.

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