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Autumn is always an emotionally powerful – and often emotionally contradictory – time of year for me. On one hand, it feels like a time of new beginnings – due largely, I think, to the school calendar being so ingrained. I still find myself, oddly, thinking of September as “the beginning of the year,” and these new beginnings are often exciting and joyful.
What's more, in some ways the natural world is at its most spectacular – late season fruits and vegetables are abundant, ripe, and ready for harvest; leaves turn brilliant, fiery shades of red and orange; and the light seems to have a rich, golden quality to it.
Yet, in the midst of all this beauty, so much around us is slowing down or dying – trees lose their leaves, plants wither, and animals prepare to hibernate – as we move closer and closer to winter. And of course, the flip side of fall’s new beginning is the inevitable change that comes with it, so the passage of time feels especially acute at this time of year. For me, it's a time when joy often overlaps with challenge and sadness. An emotionally complicated season for sure.
And this fall has been no exception. I am homeschooling both of our boys for the first time this year, and I've been working toward making this happen for quite some time. I'm thrilled that they are finally back home much of the time now – and so are they (admittedly, my oldest more so than my youngest). And yet, at times, it has been surprisingly difficult and emotionally trying as we all settle into our new routines.
On top of that, one of my closest family members suffered a life-threatening medical event a few weeks ago. After some extremely scary and upsetting days, he is now recovering well, and I am deeply, deeply grateful. Indeed, autumn is putting us through our paces this year; her complex nature is in full-flower . . . at least around these parts.
Admittedly, this is a bit of a digression from jam. But all of this is to say that, when it comes to jam making – and cooking in general, for that matter – all I really care about right now is making food that's nourishing, delicious, and simple. Somehow that's what seems to be most important. And frankly, it's all I can manage at the moment anyway. Fortunately, this delicious jam fits the bill perfectly. Enjoy!
Pear-Vanilla Jam is a low-sugar cooked jam made with Pomona’s Pectin. Pomona's Pectin contains no sugar or preservatives and jells reliably with low amounts of any sweetener.
Yield: 4 to 5 cups
Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
Pear-Vanilla Jam Ingredients
3¼ pounds ripe pears
1 vanilla bean
¼ cup lemon juice
4 teaspoons calcium water
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons Pomona's Universal Pectin powder
Pear-Vanilla Jam Directions
1. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and screw bands. Set screw bands aside until ready to use. Place jars in boiling water bath canner with a rack, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize (add 1 additional minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level), then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.
2. Peel pears and remove cores. Then, place pears in a large bowl and mash them thoroughly (a potato masher works well for this).
3. Measure out 4 cups of the mashed pear (you may have some left over; if so, you can use it for something else.) Pour the measured amount of mashed pear into a large sauce pan.
4. Slice vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise, then scrape out the seeds (a paring knife works well for this). Add the vanilla seeds, along with the pod itself, to the mashed pear. Add the lemon juice and calcium water, then stir to combine.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and pectin powder. Mix well and set aside.
6. Bring the pear mixture up to rolling boil over high heat. Add sugar-pectin mixture, then stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, still over the highest heat, to dissolve pectin. Return jam to a boil, then remove from heat. Using a pair of tongs, carefully remove and discard the vanilla bean pod.
7. Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with jam, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands, tightening bands only to "fingertip tight" (until resistance is met, and then just the tiniest bit more).
8. Place jars in the hot water, on the rack inside the canner. (Make sure jars are upright, not touching each other or the sides of the canner, and are covered with at least 1 to 2 inches of water). Place the lid on the canner, return the canner to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)
9. Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then, remove jars from canner.
10. Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Then confirm that jars have sealed. Remove screw bands from sealed jars, rinse off outside of jars if necessary, label jars, and store for later use.
Recipe and photos by Allison Carroll Duffy