Monday, June 15, 2009
This morning my Mother came to help me make Strawberry Jam.It was fun to work with my Mom in the kitchen doing something different together.I learned a couple of tips along the way that were helpful and not in my Ball Blue Canning Book.
Before we began I made sure I had out everything we would need.The first photo shows my Canning Kettle with its jar rack and the jar puller.Also my biggest pot for cooking the jam in.
Chance and I had already sliced off the tops of the berries before Mom arrived.The first step was to crush the berries with a potato masher a bit,we left some chunks of berries.
Mom pointed out as went along that careful measuring is important when canning.You can see her measuring out the 7 Cups of sugar we needed for each batch.we did not try to do double batches but instead we did singles.This made for a bit more work but we knew there would not be any mistakes that way. I did the stirring, I had a nice Strawberry facial this morning.
Once the cooked berries were ready to pull off of the heat Mom taught me a trick,carefully skim off the foam that sits on top of the jam in the pot.When I asked her why she did not know why,the closest answer she had was because that is the way her Grandmother did it.We put the foam into a bowl to set aside.Mom said to put some on bread for the house full of boys to eat.(I have had a house full since Friday,school is out and so far camping in our back yard is the first adventure of the summer for the gang.) The minute my Mom said that to me I remembered this treat from when I was a kid.
I think the reason to skim the foam is the foam may leave a crust on the top of the jars of jam.This is only my thought and I am just guessing from a past experience with some bad canning given as a gift.It's all about looks I suppose.
The other thing I learned from my Mom today was she never water bathed her jars to process them.I am still alive so it worked but we did decide that since I have the big canning kettle we might as well be super safe and use it.Whew,I was a bit worried she would be upset if I vetoed her saying skip this important step.
And as you can see from the final photo it came out looking so very good.The taste is perfect and will be very welcome on our morning toast and PB&J sandwiches.
I am not going to go into great detail here,we followed the recipe in the Ball Blue Canning Book which seems to be a standard for many people.Its a good book if you are starting out on your own it is straight forward and has easy to follow directions that make it possible for anyone to can.
The one point of encouragement I want to pass along is this. I used to have this vision of canning as long scalding hot days spent slaving away over mountains of produce and what not.In the that vision I saw hundreds and hundreds of jars,stored all over the house. That is not really true for every one. I realized that just like when planting your garden you should only plant the things you like and in a quantity you can use the same is true of canning.It did not take all day to make the jam just a couple of hours in the cooler morning hours,that's not to bad is it?
Figure out what you use and estimate how much. This year I am canning 3 kinds of jam.We only go through 2 jars a month.If I can the small amount of 12 jars per kind that gives us a total of 36 jars of jam for the year and do the math that will give me 12 extra jars for the oh ooops or for giving away. As time goes by we will make adjustments I am sure.Last summer we canned a 25# bag of cucumbers for pickles,we loved them so much that this year we will do a 50# bag. We are still learning as we go, it's about taking a journey not getting to the destination so much.
Invite someone over or pull your partner of choice into the kitchen to try some canning.Togetherness makes everything so much better.
I am in workaholic mode right now.I tend to go through these spells where I am working on something sun up to sun down (not that I am not always busy anyway).So after my Mom went home I started a batch of liquid hand soap.I found a recipe that called for a gallon of water and a bar of natural soap grated up.The recipe also said you could make a fragrant herbal tea in place of plain water. I picked some fresh mint from the garden,lord knows it will come back to make a "tea". I think it is working out,I have to let it sit over night and then maybe make some adjustments. I will post again about it and let everyone know how it turned out.If I can truly make a gallon of soap for so cheap I will be happy.Hand washing is manditory at our house and with a busy project driven family we use a lot of liquid soap.
Well I am now over my Strawberry Fever,my jam is ready and frog free so on to the next thing.But what next? Don't know yet I'll be sure to let you all know as soon as I do.