Bringing the midwest to Brooklyn, again.

This summer I learned how to do something new.  It's something that I have done a lot of times before but not really paid attention to.  I have made strawberry jam with my mom probably no less than ten times, but I've certainly never paid attention, if you know what I mean.  Despite her best efforts to explain, and despite my best efforts to read the directions and follow along, she was driving the operation, so it never seemed crucial that I entirely know what was going on.  My mom also lived not so far from Chicago, so Katy and I could count on a box full of canned goods each fall.  There really was no incentive to can my own foods.  There really wasn't room in the cupboard.  As long as we returned our jars every spring, a case filled with canned peaches, plums, pears, tomatoes, pickles, jams and chutneys arrived like clockwork every year.  Not to brag, but my mom's canned peaches are the absolute best.  If she were the type to enter them in a fair, I am sure that they would be blue ribbon worthy.
Then we moved to New York.  My mom got me my own canning equipment for my birthday, and I dove right in, first making pickles and then earlier this week, a delicious batch of Vanilla Plum Jam, a recipe I adapted from this version.  I have spent hours reading and rereading recipes to figure out the step by step process of preserving, and for someone like me who does not really follow a recipe so much as use it as a jumping off point, this was no small endeavor.  Especially this first jam, since the recipe was not written for preserving, so there was lots of cross referencing of other plum jam recipes involved.  So far, it's worth the effort.  I'm having so much fun.

If you've never canned before or if you have a small kitchen and can't imagine buying a huge canning pot, here's a bit of adivce; I have the Ball Canning Discovery Kit, and it fits right into our regular sized stock pot.  Well, almost.  Ours is a little small, so I took the handle off, but with jar lifters it works great, and holds three pint sized jars (maybe even four) or five 8 oz jars just fine.   For small batch preserving I love it.  I've found lots of great recipes with yields that fit my pot in this book.
My friend Kate made this recipe last year and said it was her favorite, so I figured it couldn't be bad.  Oh. My. God.  The vanilla mellows out the sour plums and it is so good.  So good that it felt like the jam deserved a cake, so I made a vanilla nutmeg cake to pour it over.  Not too shabby. 

How about you?  What are you preserving this summer?  Do you know of any great canning/ pickling blogs that I should know about?