Joyous jams. Making a jam or jelly is rewarding in so many ways. When you hold that freshly filled jar, you feel such pride. When you taste it, you feel something even better.
When you find a great sale on your favorite fruits or vegetables, buy a little extra and in no time you have them jarred up. We love getting the kids involved and make a family afternoon of jammin’.
Some of my favorite memories are from when my dearest friends and I would gather the kiddos up and head out for a day of blueberry picking, rhubarb gathering, or crab apple harvesting from the local neighborhood. Sometimes a friend and I would escape while the kids were in school and spend the day harvesting fiddlehead ferns or rose hips. Afterwards we’d share a bag of warm sandwich cookies we left on the dash of the car.
I feel fortunate to have lived in Alaska with many great summer foraging spots. Even my Chihuahua got into the process. Peco would scamper along beside us until he was exhausted, and then when I would sit or crouch to get a good patch of berries he would climb up and burrow into my coat. We had to keep a close eye out for bear or moose; it taught us some great awareness skills.
I was feeling adventurous this week and cucumbers were on sale, so for our eating pleasure, and hopefully yours as well, cucumber jam was born. Cucumbers have a delicate, almost floral, sweetness to them that I thought would work well in a jam. I was surprised how much I loved it when it was complete. I hope you enjoy it as well, and if you come up with some fun ways to use it I would love to hear about them.
- 4 cucumbers seeded and finely diced (save seeds)
- 1c sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 tbs pectin
- 1tbs honey
- 1tbs rose water (optional but adds a subtle delicate flavor)
- 1tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 c water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Peel cucumbers, slice them in half lengthwise and scoop seeds and soft pulp into a small saucepan. Add 1/2 c water to the seeds and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Dice cucumbers and put them all into a medium sized sauce pan. Strain the seeds and pour all the liquid into the diced cucumber, discard the seeds. Place the sugar, salt, pectin, vanilla, honey, and rosewater in the pot. Bring to a simmer for about 30 minutes stirring often until cucumbers are soft and translucent. Taste for sweetness or salt. Your jam will thicken as it cools.
If you want to preserve the jam have your 1/2-pint jars sterilized and ready to fill while the jam is hot. I place the jars in a clean dishwasher and wash on a short cycle with heated dry (if you have the option) to sterilize. Otherwise you can boil them in a large pot of water. Be careful not to touch the inside of the lids or jars after they are sterile. Have a large enough pot for the upright filled jars, full of boiling water for the final sealing process.
While the jam is hot fill each jar to 1/4 to 1/2 an inch from the top (this is called head room; it’s important to have a little air space so the jar seals correctly). Be careful to avoid getting jam on the rim of the jar; if it happens, clean with a wet paper towel. I have a magnetic stick that you can find with canning jars that I use to pull the lids from a small pot of boiling water and place on the jar, then screw on the outer ring. Tongs work just as well and that’s what I used for many years.
Once your jars are filled and lidded place them all in the boiling pot of water for ten minutes. Pull jars out when the time is up and set out to cool. Usually you will hear when they seal completely, but you can check by gently pressing on tops for any bounce. A sealed jar is tight and doesn’t have any up or down bounce to the middle of the lid. The last step is to remove the ring and dry it well before replacing it, or you can even leave it off; if it has any moisture it can rust.
I highly recommend cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches to use your jam on. I used a store-bought GF whole grain bread, sliced off the crusts and lightly toasted the slices. Let cool, then on one piece of the toast smear a thin layer of butter and some of your cucumber jam. For the other side I mixed a little chopped mint into dairy-free cream cheese and covered all the way to the edge of the bread. Cut and seed a cucumber ( seeds are hard to digest and make a soggy sandwich). Use a fork to drag along the outside of the cucumber to make the ruffled edges. Slice cucumber super thin and layer it on top of the cream cheese side. A little pinch of salt is nice on your cucumber. Place the jellied side on top of your cucumber side. For slicing into triangles use toothpicks to secure sandwich before slicing with a sharp knife.