Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Canning 101 with Kate Payne (@Hip Girls) and Stephanie McClenny (@Confituras) August 2, 2011

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I’ve been trying to expand my cooking horizons, and have become addicted to canning.  I had pickled cucumbers and peppers, but until I took the Dai Due tomato class last month, I was too afraid of botulism to venture beyond pickling.  I have been canning up a storm, vegetables mostly, so the natural progression was to enter the realm of sweetness.  I attacked my peach jam adventures without much knowledge, and when Stephanie told me she was teaching a class with Kate, I signed up immediately.

Stephanie is the owner and master of Confituras, the small batch jam making company that took Austin by storm just last year.  Her fig jam won the Good Food Award in its category in San Francisco last year.  Find Confituras at the SFC Farmer’s Market downtown and at the Barton Creek Farmer’s Market, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, La Boite, Monument Market, Breed and Co., and Con O’lio.

Kate is the author of The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking and is currently back and forth touring with her newly released book.  The book is filled with hundred of hip tricks to doing just about everything around the house, on a budget, and is very creative.

The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking

We were to be canning Fig Jam.  The class began with some much needed information about safety, equipment, and ways to make the canning experience less of a chore.  Kate suggested macerating the figs overnight which she did for the class.

Macerating Figs

Allowing them to sit in sugar draws out their moisture and gives the sugar more time to dissolve.  We sterilized the glass jars, and I learned that I’ve been making a mistake by boiling the lids with the jars.  We tossed the figs and liquid into a pan, and watched while it reduced and changed texture.  It’s all about the bubbles.

Fig Jam Cooking

Once it was the right consistency, (having been whirred with the immersion blender) we carefully took turns filling the jars, making sure to clean the rims before topping with the lid.  Next step, water bath for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes of processing, the jam was done.  We saved at least an hour of time by having the figs stemmed and chopped in advance.

The class was very informative, and I learned that some of the inexpensive equipment I had decided not to purchase, really makes the process easier and cleaner.  There were snacks, coffee and water, and the kitchen was cool and comfortable for this hands on experience.  I highly recommend taking this class if you are hesitant to begin making sweet preserves.  We were given a jar of jam to take home.

Knowing that, once armed with new information, I would want to make my own jam, I had purchased Adriatic Figs from the Farmer’s Market the day before.  I stopped and bought a magnet, funnel and scale on my way home from class, and once home, commenced chopping and de-stemming my figs.  Once done, I put them in a big bowl with sugar, covered it and stuck them in the fridge.  The recipe calls for 8 hours at room temperature, but mine would be in this bowl for closer to 24 hours, and I worried about them sitting at room temperature that long.  I took them out of the fridge 4 hours before I would make the jam the following day.  The sugar was mostly dissolved and it appeared that they had given up an appropriate amount of their juice.

My figs macerating

Everything went precisely as in the class, and I followed the recipe, with one addition – a splash of Cognac, probably 1/4 cup.  The jam thickened quickly and I got it into the 1/2 pint jars and into a water bath.   I think they came out quite nicely.

My Fig Jam

It is a bit sad that the figs  don’t hold all of that gorgeous color-so beautiful, but such is the way with cooking.  In any event, the jam is delicious.

If you’d like more information about classes, here is some information.

Stephanie – stephanie @

Kate – kate @