A-ha. I did it. I completed one of my July goals already! Perhaps it was the embarrassment of not accomplishing any of my June goals ... whatever the reason, I took the cherries we had picked up while in the Okanagan this past long weekend and I made cherry jam from them. The trip back Monday was quite hot and the cherries didn't fare well. Out of an 18-lb box I only managed to save 3-lbs for the jam. However, that gave me 7 1/2 250ml jars of lovely, sweet and slightly chunky jam.
To start, I couldn't find my canners. I was also a little worried about using the old black-speckled enamel canners on the ceramic stovetop. I decided I would go out and get a new stainless steel canner with a glass-top lid. a 7 jar canner didn't sound too big ... although the box it came in was quite large. When I got it home and opened it up I understood ... it was big. Huge. I had read that canners shouldn't exceed the ceramic stove top element by more than 1" on any side which meant my largest element, at 9" could take a canner of 11" across. This stainless steel canner was 14", nearly 15" across! Still, I thought as long as I left the canner aligned on one edge it could "hang" off the other side. (The worry of size has to do with heat build-up and either cracking the surface or damaging the element itself.) I put the rack in, started pouring water in, and put the element on high. Once it was full I put in the jars to be sterilized and placed the glass lid on. It was nice to be able to see in without raising the lid. This, unfortunately, made it easier to see that the water would never come to a boil. It did get hot enough to sterilize the jars ... but no rolling boil. So I hefted the thing over to the other side of the stove. Ugh.
I had read some people used a regular stock pot and placed stones on the bottom (the rack normally used in a canner keeps the jars off the bottom and boiling water circulating around the jars which is required to heat the contents of the jars to the appropriate temperatures). I went outside and picked out stones from around our front stoop. I put them in my stock pot, rinsed them, and then boiled them in fresh water for 20 minutes to help sterilize them a bit (I wasn't sure where they had been, right?!). Then I drained them off and put fresh water in, and set a light boil for the canning step.
Here you can see from left to right: jam making (with pot behind warming the lids), stock pot with those rocks, and the big new stainless steel canner (big right?!).
I went through the rest of the recipe, making the jam, steaming the lids to soften the rim, and getting things ready for filling. Once I had filled the jars, and placed lids on, I started putting them in the stock pot. Another problem ... they tipped, they tottered ... they simply didn't want to stand up. Those rocks weren't flat or stable at all. I tried my best to keep them somewhat erect and proceeded to process them. When I took them out and placed them on the counter they all popped nicely, but I did notice that the water looked pink. The lids were definitely on properly, but I could see that some siphoning had occurred. I thought about re-processing them, but read conflicting things about whether it was necessary or not. The following day I tested the seals and they seemed impossible to pry off without a bottle opener.
Aren't they pretty? I opened one to test the contents. Verdict? Goooood :)