Feel intimidated by preserving your fruit? It’s more doable than you think, especially with an experienced preserver and a big group! On Thursday, July 26th, NFFTT staff and volunteers teamed up with the Regent Park CFC to host a workshop. The agenda: turning fruit from our recent picks together into jam!
Our staff arrived early at Regent Park CFC’s wonderful industrial kitchen to sort fruit, set up workstations, and measure out ingredients to make our jamming process run efficiently. Our frozen serviceberries needed to be rinsed and sorted thoroughly. We were careful! We also learned from CFC Food Skills Coordinator Emma Palumbo that when you freeze fresh fruit for jam, sometimes it loses a little bit of its initial colour but is still good to go.
After we laid out some fresh carrots, cucumbers and freshly baked cookies for snacks, participants started to arrive for the workshop. One of our favourite things about this program is that we’re able to bring new and seasoned NFFTT volunteers together with folks from Regent Park. Everyone enjoyed eating and socializing as the sky outside got stormy! It was super cozy to be inside preparing to make jam together.
Emma started the workshop by providing us with an overview of preserving and explained how it’s an important aspect of food securing. Mentioning their personal history of canning tomatoes with their grandmother growing up, Emma noted how preserving can be as simple as drying out fresh herbs or plants, holding up jars of oregano, catnip, lemon balm and fiery orange calendula from Regent Park’s Community Garden.
After addressing some important health and safety tips, we tied up our aprons and entered the kitchen. All hands were on deck with four different kinds of jam recipes on the agenda! Serviceberries and cherries were sorted, raspberries were blended and mashed, jars were sanitized, and sweet smelling mixtures of fruit were brought to a boil. Some folks even set up shop outside the kitchen to pit and slice glowing orange NFFTT apricots for our savory preservation workshop in August.
Soon we were ready to jar and process! Using gloves, towels, and specialized jam jar tongs, we poured gleaming purple and fuschia concoctions into glass jars. And here’s to the importance of tasting! In our first batch, we learned how crucial it is to taste your jam before this stage to make sure it’s sweet enough. Those of us with a penchant for tart things were very satisfied! After processing our newly full and sealed jars in boiling water for 10 minutes, we took a moment to admire the final product. It was so impressive to see our fruit boiled down into something that will last a long time. Well… that might be debatable once the can is open and the toast pops out of the toaster (or whatever delicious things you pair your jam with).
We were excited to choose which jams to take home! Between serviceberry raspberry, strawberry rhubarb, blackcurrant, and cherry freezer jam, the choice was not easy! This workshop brought together volunteers, members of the Regent Park CFC community, and NFFTT to make something lasting out of fruit on a late July evening. Some folks were experienced at preservation and others were new to the process. What we especially enjoyed – in addition to the final product – was the social aspect of making jam. Preserving is a great opportunity to connect with family and friends, both old and new! Sharing our different levels of knowledge and expertise, and learning about one another through food are crucial aspects to building community in an enjoyable way. We hope this event inspires folks to get together and embark on a similar fruit related adventure. Don’t forget to tell us what you come up with!
And a special shout out to our NFFTT volunteer community: the next time you see volunteers Pamela, Katherine, Silvia, Eva, and Leslie on a fruit pick, you can ask them for the inside scoop on jamming! Thanks so much for sharing your time and joining us. Regent Park: it’s always a pleasure. Thanks for working with us and we’ll see you in August!
A huge thank you to TD Bank Group for generously supporting our partner agency programming series.