In a jam: Turn summer fruit into flavorful preserves

By Wendell Brock

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published: Tuesday, July 17 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

2 cups finely chopped bell peppers (about 4 large peppers)

2 to 3 fresh jalapeños, seeded and chopped

7 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

9 ounces Certo (liquid pectin)

1 cup fresh blueberries (may substitute other fresh fruit such as chopped strawberries or peaches or blackberries)

Sterilize half-pint jars and lids, and set aside.

Place bell peppers, jalapeños, sugar and vinegar in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil, about 5 minutes. Add Certo and bring to a full boil again, stirring constantly; cook for 1 minute. Add blueberries, and mash with a spoon to break up and extract juices. Return to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand 1 or 2 minutes and skim off foam.

Ladle mixture into waiting jars. Put a flat lid and ring on each jar, tighten until snug, and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. (The jars must be covered by at least 1 inch of water.) Remove from pot and allow to cool. Allow jars to sit untouched for 12 hours. (After 1 hour, check to see if the jars have sealed. If the center of the lid can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator.) Label and store, preferably in a cool, dark place.

Per tablespoon (based on 8 half-pint yield): 54 calories (no calories from fat), trace protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace fat (no saturated), no cholesterol, 4 milligrams sodium.

Blackberry Jam With Lemon Zest

Hands on: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Makes: About 5 half-pints

If you can find wild blackberries, the flavor is "other-dimensional," says Athens cookbook author Liana Krissoff.

1 pound Granny Smith apples (about 3 small apples)

3 pounds blackberries (about 8 cups), rinsed

2 cups granulated sugar

3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

Grated zest of 2 small lemons

Sterilize jars by boiling for 10 minutes in a large canning pot; leave them in the pot to stay hot. Put a small plate in the freezer. Put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl.

Quarter and core the apples, reserving the cores and seeds. Tie apple trimmings in cheesecloth (or a jelly bag, if you have one).

Put blackberries and sugar in a wide, 6- to 8-quart preserving pan or other wide shallow pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices just cover the blackberries, about 5 minutes. Pour into a colander set over a large bowl. Stir berries gently to drain off juice. Return juice to pan, along with the apples and the trimmings. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is reduced and thick and measures about 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.

Return berries and any accumulated juice to pan. Add lemon juice and zest, and bring to simmer, about 3 minutes. Simmer, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes, until a small dab of jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for a minute wrinkles when you nudge it. Remove from the heat. Discard apples and trimmings, and stir gently to distribute fruit in the liquid.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. Drain water off the jar lids.