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Advent Day 14: Christmas Canning

December 14, 2019 All day

It’s Christmas Canning Day

And, last minute UPDATE, we’ve got a friend coming over who’s never made jam before! So, grab your cross-back aprons, folks. It’s going to be a banner day! Rather than run a marathon, however, we’ll keep it simple by making one or both of these recipes: Date Chestnut Spread with Orange Flower Water or Carrot Cake Jam.

Unless, of course, the kids pitch in to make their fave Whisky Fig Cranberry Sauce or my famous Blueberry Bourbon Vanilla Jam …. Oh, and then there’s the very large bag of summer cherries I just defrosted. Should we ask our guest create their first bespoke jam profile?

It’s steamy work, but I could can all day!

Date Chestnut Spread with Orange Flower Water

Inspired by Lillie O'Brien's Five Seasons of Jam
Makes 8-12 quarter pint jars


  • 700 g fresh chestnuts [you may wish to prepare more, as spoilage cannot always be seen until after boiling and shelling]
  • 350 g pitted dates [preferably fresh Medjools]
  • 800 g white sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla
  • 1 tbs orange flower water
  • 1 medium lemon, juice of [or juice of half of a larger fruit]


  • Prepare the chestnuts by using a knife or X-Acto to cut a cross in each one.
  • Place them in a pot of boiling water and blanch for 10 minutes.
  • Strain, and allow to cool for 15 minutes before peeling, discarding the skins. [The meats will look like tiny brains!]
  • Weigh the chestnuts that survived the shelling. Use half that weight of dates in your jam. Or, measure a total combined weight of chestnuts and dates to equal 1050-1100 grams.
  • Place the chestnuts and dates in a saucepan.
  • Add just enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil.
  • Return to a simmer and cook for approximately 20 minutes, until the chestnuts are cooked through, like little potatoes. The liquid should evaporate or become incorporated into the mixture.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Place the mixture in a Vitamix or use a hand blender to form a thick paste.
  • Weigh the mixture. You should have 1 1/3 kilograms or about 1300 grams. [Write down the number of grams if you have more or less.]
  • Measure out your [800 grams of] sugar. [If you have more or less than 1300 grams of puree, then multiply the number of grams you have by .60 to estimate how much total sugar you will need.]
  • Put the puree and the sugar into a clean jam pan or another heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  • Cook the puree over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Add the vanilla, orange blossom water, and lemon juice.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, stirring as much as necessary to ensure the bottom doesn't burn.
  • Pour or spoon the spread into clean, sterilized quarter-pint jam jars, leaving about a quarter-inch headspace.
  • Use a spoon, skewer, chopstick or small spatula to get out as many airpockets as possible! You can also try tapping it on the countertop. But be sure to protect your hands from burning.
  • Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. [12 minutes for larger jars.]
  • Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes.
  • Tap the semi-cooled jars on a table or countertop to get more bubbles out. You may not get everything. And the jam will still be fine!
  • Cool completely, label, and enjoy!


It is best to weigh the ingredients as opposed to providing cup measures in this recipe, as the weight of fruits and nuts may vary, and spoiled chestnuts can’t always be identified until after they are blanched and shelled. 
This recipe is just a slight variation from Lillie O’Brien’s Medjool Date & Chestnut Jam from Five Seasons of Jam (Kyle Books, 2018). 

Carrot Cake Jam [With Bourbon]

Yields 12-14 Quarter Pints


  • 2 c finely shredded carrots [5 medium]
  • 1 c finely chopped peeled apple
  • 1 15 oz can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1.75 oz package of powdered pectin
  • 4 c brown sugar
  • 2 c white sugar
  • 1 c flaked or shredded coconut unsweetened


  • 1/4 c Bourbon


  • In a large pot, combine carrots, apple, pineapple in juice, lemon juice, vanilla, and spices.*
  • Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring often.
  • Remove the pot from the burner.
  • Add the pectin by sprinkling over the mixture and stir until dissolved.
  • Place the pot back on the stove.
  • Bring the pot back to a boil over medium-high-to-high heat and add the sugars.
  • Bring the sugared mixture to a full rolling boil.
  • Boil hard for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Remove the pot from the heat.
  • NEW: If desired, Add the bourbon and stir until incorporated
  • Skim the foam.
  • Stir in coconut.
  • Ladle jam into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a quarter-inch headspace.
  • Add lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.


*I don’t make this recipe in my copper jam pan, because I am worried that the high acidity of the ingredients will harm the surface.
Adapted from from a Better Homes and Garden’s Special Interest Publication, Canning

Blueberry Bourbon Vanilla Jam [No Pectin]

Yields 6-10 quarter pints, depending upon consistency


  • 8 Cups Blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 6 Cups Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Lemon Juice, bottled, to control the natural pectin
  • 1/3 Cup Bourbon
  • 1/2 Scraped Vanilla Bean, [optional if using extract]
  • 2 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract, [optional if using bean]


  • Place the berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a large pot, smash some of the berries with a potato masher (you don’t need to be thorough), and allow to sit until the fruits macerate for about an hour, a bit longer if the fruit is frozen.
  • Add the vanilla bean and/or extract.
  • In a large jam pan or heavy-bottomed pot, over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Simmer the mixture over medium-low heat until it reaches 220F, about 40 minutes.
  • Add the bourbon and stir to incorporate.
  • If desired, bring the mixture back up to 220F, about 10 minutes.
      [This is not necessary, but it will cook out some of the alcohol and create a stickier jam.]
  • Remove the jam pan from the heat and skim the foam.
  • Funnel into jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
  • For long term storage, seal and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Whisky Fig Cranberry Sauce

Servings: 4 Quarter Pints Per Single Batch


For every 12 oz bag cranberries:

  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup whisky 
  • 3/4 cup apple cider, apple juice, or water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup [50 g] diced dried apricots  [optional]
  • 1 cup [8 oz] fresh figs tips and tails removed, sliced into eighths
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lime or 1/4 lemon [zest will be added towards the end of the process]
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom [OPTIONAL]
  • 1/4 tsp cloves


  • In a large pot over medium high heat, bring the cider [juice or water] to a boil.
  • Add the sugar and stir until dissolved, bringing up to a boil [takes about 5 minutes].
  • Add the cranberries and optional dried apricots. [If your cranberries are frozen, bring the mixture back to a boil before continuing.]
  • Add the quartered fresh figs, citrus juice, extract, and spices, and return to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium low, boiling gently and stirring occasionally, until most all of the berries have burst and the liquid thickens considerably. Be sure to stop when the sauce begins to sheet on a metal spoon. [At least 15 minutes. Larger batches take longer. I prefer a jammy sauce, so I do tend to cook anywhere from 15-55 minutes.]
  • Add the whisky and citrus zest and stir to incorporate.
  • Boil the mixture on low, again, stirring occasionally, until the liquid once again sheets on a metal spoon. 
  • Remove from heat. 
  • At this point, the sauce may be ladled into hot sterilized jars and canned using a boiling water bath [leaving .25-in headspace in jars and processing for 15 minutes.]
  • Or, ladle the sauce into containers, cool, seal, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Feel free to slice your figs ahead of time and freeze them, too! 
2020 Update: This Christmas, I added about 1/8 cup of diced candied ginger [per bag of cranberries]  to my most recent batch.
This is a new and improved version of the Whisky Fig Cranberry Sauce from my previous website, The Lunchbox Season. That’s still a great recipe. But, this one is streamlined and packs more of a punch!


December 14, 2019
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