Jelly Jam

More than a year ago, my friend was engaged (now married) decided that she and I were going to make jam for her wedding favors. Neither of us had ever made jam, nor did we know where to start. It just happened to be around the time my cousin started her wonderful blog sharing traditional skills.  She gave me a simple recipe with advice based on her own experiences. Then my friend decided we would do cupcakes in jars instead. Sooooo…..I kind of put canning out of my mind.

Until yesterday. I just woke up and decided, “Today is the day!”  I went out and scooped up a few supplies.

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Then I just followed my cousin’s simple instructions.

8 cups strawberries (4 lbs)
6 cups sugar
3 tsp cinnamon (my secret ingredient)

INSTRUCTIONS:

01.  Sanitize jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher.  Keep the dishwasher closed until it’s time to fill so they stay warm. Otherwise the hot jam will cause the cold jar to crack.

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02.  Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved.  Keep stirring regularly until mixture thickens. This could take up to an hour.

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03.  Using a candy thermometer, watch the mixture until it reaches 220 F.  Keep heat on medium, it’ll get there.

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04.  Fill jars to below the threads. One recipe I found said 1/4 in below.

05.  Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a damp towel, and place the warm lids and rings on snugly.

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06.  Bring water to a boil in a water bath canner or large stock pot.

07.  Once boiling, place jars on rack in the water canner or on kitchen towels (make sure these are level) with a jar holder so the jars are not touching each other with the water level about 2 in. above the tops of the jars.

image08.  Bring water back to a boil.  Once the water is boiling again, leave jars for as long as the recipe instructs (mine said 10 mins, it varies depending on your elevation).

09.  My cousin suggests turning the heat off and taking the lid off the pot and leaving the jars for 5-10 mins before removing them to avoid the jam rushing out of the jars. Gotta love life experience.

10.  Let the jars cool completely somewhere without a draft.

11.  Do NOT press the lids down. While they are cooling, you will hear little pings when the cool jam pulls the lid down, thus sealing the jar.

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I bought a water bath canning kit, which ran me about $25.  It came with the pot, rack, funnel, rim cleaner (dirrty), jar grabber, and magnetic lid picker upper. These are all technical terms I made up because walking to the recycle bin is too much work. My grocery store and some big box stores carry a pretty good selection of canning supplies.  For something that doesn’t require a huge start-up cost, I’m surprised more people don’t do this. Canning isn’t limited to jams.  You can make your own pasta sauce, pickles, pie fillings. Basically anything you can find in a can can be canned (lo siento if that was confusing).

By making these things yourself, you can save money. You can  avoid preservatives and fake dyes and generally the crap that’s in processed foods that you would be smart to avoid. You can have a real choice in the quality of foods that go into your canning. Not to mention that what you can will stay unrefrigerated for up to year unopened. (Maybe something to have on hand as a part of being prepared for an emergency)

Please do not think this was all sunshine and roses. I did it right…sorta.  When I finished the jam and it had cooled it was very runny. In my disappointment, I posted a status on Facebook about how I had failed at jam and my cousin told me that this recipe isn’t supposed to set like I was expecting. Basically I just have to cook it down to a thicker consistency. She told me this after I had already reprocessed the jam with store-bought pectin. Which didn’t work like I expected either.  Anyway, I’m lucky to have someone so knowledgeable who can explain to me how/what/why I did wrong (or sorta right) and she has some great tips.  Seriously, check her blog out. Seriously inspirational. Seriously.

So tonight I’ll be cooking the jam down again. I might also try another flavor because I like to torture myself.

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Shock Value

My boyfriend said something to me earlier this week that shocked me. It rocked me. It picked me up and dropped me.

He, the love of my life, had never EVER carved a pumpkin for Halloween. What kind of American is he?  My dad will never approve now. Ok, I’m being melodramatic, but I was still surprised. Carving a pumpkin is an easy, fun, and traditional way to celebrate Halloween in the U.S. I thought at first is was his major aversion to being creative/crafty/artsy, but he told me they just never did it in his house.

Maybe my shock was also related to the extreme amount of love I have for Fall in general. I love Halloween and my birthday is in the fall. I often celebrated my childhood birthdays with pumpkins, hayrides, or apple picking.  With much begging and reassuring that it would be fun, I convinced him to carve a pumpkin with me.  He watched me cut a hole in the top and scoop the guts out, then I handed him a knife and scoop and told him to have at it.

I could tell by the concentration in his face that he was at least interested in facing the challenge. I think the magical moment when we lit the candles in the finished pumpkins I knew he was sold. He even admitted to liking it. This is a major victory.

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His is on the left, a classic jack-o-lantern. Mine is the character Totoro from a movie I’ve loved since I was a child.

What traditions do you hold dear? Any common traditions you don’t?

Freshly Pressed Thoughts

If you are like me, you read most of the freshly pressed posts each day.  One of the posts chosen today was What the Penguin & Random House Merger Means for Authors.  I love to read, but I am not a writer.  Not an author of anything but this blog.  I encourage you to read the blog post if you haven’t.  It is a great post about the future of publishing and the effect of being able to self publish through Amazon. The merger of two very large traditional publishers in the wake of self published ebooks got me to thinking.  These publishers are virtual powerhouses being that you actually know what I’m talking about when I say Random House and you aren’t in the industry.  So why change? The world is changing.  We are moving forward. This is the digital age. More buzz words.

Here is the comment I made:

I think it’s interesting how these traditional paper publishers are looking to the future and focusing on ebooks while there is another cultural push to learn more traditional arts. Canning at home is making a comeback while we are all buying ebooks for our Kindle apps. For me, it’s a little disorienting.

Balancing the technology in our lives is something we all need to work towards.  The ability to learn about anything I want with only a few clicks, or communicating with someone miles away in seconds is something I love and take for granted.  I think, however, that we can all agree there are areas that technology has lead us astray.  Recently learning about the negative effects of artificial dyes in our foods, for example. I know it was not its intention, but that post really put some things into perspective for me.

Technology has given us so many opportunities and equally as many challenges. Finding the balance in all our lives is part of the human experience now.