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WE BE JAMMIN'

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By Kimara - Posted on 01 July 2008

          My mother tells the story that when she was growing up she use to trade her homemade bread sandwiches with the "city kids" for their store bought bread sandwiches. She loved Wonder Bread's fine texture and softness whereas the city kids longed for the hard crusts and hearty consistency of homemade bread. When my mom go married, she also got citified...at least for a while. My earliest memory of jams and jellies was Welches Grape Jelly. I can remember how this gelatinous substance wiggled in the middle of your bread until you managed to moosh it hard enough to spread the jelly, but, whenever we went to Bushia's house, our usual snack was homemade bread and jam. She covered her jams with paraffin wax, and I can still see her prying out the wax disc to reveal the fragrant and glistening jam below. Welches could not hold a candle to Bushia's jam. I remember one day I told her how delicious I thought her strawberry jam was. She picked up the mason jar and looked at it. "It's very pretty", she said. At the time I thought that a rather strange comment to make about jam, but after making my own, I understand exactly how she felt.

 

          I'm sure this appreciation for the aesthetic quality of jam began a long time ago. In Colonial times life must have seemed dreadfully bleak and colorless. Small windows on houses helped conserve energy but did little to bring light, thus color, indoors. To save precious resources, minimal artificial lighting was used. In keeping with conservative religious practices and lacking vibrant dyes, clothing was fashionably drab. So, what was a poor homemaker to do to bring some color into her life? Put up preserves.

 

            Okay, I know the primary reason for canning ISN’T to inundate a household with color…that’s just a lovely perk. There are few household tasks that I perform that bring me as much satisfaction as canning. When I CAN, I feel like I’m doing right by my family…giving them my very best. All right, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but I do so love saying, “I’m putting up strawberries today.” I feel like Aunt Bea on The Andy Griffin Show. (I can only hope you youngin’s got a healthy does of Aunt Bea on late night reruns!) The woman was incredible; a spinster lady that came to live with her nephew and his son. This woman could clean, bake, can, and iron a shirt in a dress and apron and actually smile! But I digress…

 

            If you have never canned, it’s hard to share the pride and satisfaction you get at the end of a long and tiring day, when you stand back, and look at rows of colorful fruits or vegetables, vibrating with color and luster, tightly packed away inside pristine jars. I especially love to look at the jams and jellies that we put up. As the season progresses, and we can more and more jams, the colors are disarming!  Yellows and golds from peaches and apricots. Reds and purples from berries and plums. There are even shades of green from mint jellies that will enhance that leg of lamb. To me they glimmer like the most precious jewels. Tie a piece of cloth on the top and you have a delicious photo op and the perfect Christmas token gift! I usually store my jams and jellies in open cupboards to truly partake of their beauty. Simple minds, simple pleasures, I suppose!

 

            So, you’ve never canned, and you’re thinking, "I want a piece of this Nirvana Kim’s talking about, how do I get started?" I won’t lie to you, getting ready to can takes a bit of forethought and some special equipment, although it isn’t expensive and you have to be ready to dedicate some uninterrupted time once you get started. To get the low down on how to actually make the jams, there’s a well written “how to” at http://www.pickyourown.org/jam.htm. Well worth reading over before you decide to become a canner! Also, Sure Jell has a helpful site, including videos. http://www.kraftfoods.com/surejell/sj_index.html After looking over these sites, if you’re still with me, get ready for a great experience!

 

            Join me on a typical “Jammin’ Day”. You arise bright and early…well, at least bright, and know that something magical is going to happen today. You head out to your favorite Pick Your Own farm and start gathering the bounty. We have our own garden, with raspberries and strawberries, but never get enough of a crop to can. Still, we pick a few of our meager berries and throw them into the farm batch, then we can honestly, and proudly say, “We made the jam with some of the berries out of our garden!” (Refer back to the simple minds comment made earlier!) Depending on the weather, bugs and crop, your picking experience can be easy peasy or a little more challenging. Children love to be a part of this. When we went strawberry picking this year my 5 year old grandson was extremely helpful, my 3 year old granddaughter was helpful in the beginning then proceeded to sit and partake of the bounty.

 As for my 21 month old granddaughter, she was quite content to watch the process from her mommy’s back!

 

            After you pick the fruit and get them home it’s time to prepare the fruit. You need to clean and get rid of stems, seeds and skins. I find strawberries to be the most time consuming because you need to hull them individually.

At this point the day is beginning to wear on you. You begin to wonder if you can store the fruit for a couple of days and get back to it when you’re feeling more enthusiastic, BUT you know for the best jam you need to can quickly, so you wolf down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and meet the challenge head on. After you’ve made several batches of jam, syrup and preserves, you stand back and admire your day’s work…or in my case…you lean against the counter, holding the small of your back, and wonder what Aunt Bea drank to give her boundless energy!

 But it’s an extremely gratifying experience, and once you eat homemade jam, you’ll never go back!

 

Generally, we use the recipes found on the Sure Jell box. Sure Jell is natural pectin used to help jams and jellies, well, gel! Occasionally, we come across another recipe that we use. We have a new Mint Jelly recipe which we’ve never tried, but we have a bumper crop of mint so I think we’ll try this new one out. So, do tell. Are you a canner, a canner what-to-be, or perfectly content with the Welshes Grape Jelly you grew up with?

 

MINT JELLY

 

Ingredients

2 cups minced mint leaves

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups concentrated apple juice

Green food coloring

 

Directions

Wash and mince mint leaves to equal 2 cups. Add water and sugar, let stand several hours. Heat to boiling and strain.

Color 4 cups concentrated apple juice with green food coloring. Cook and when nearly to jellying point add 1 to 2 tablespoon of mint juice. Finish cooking, skim, pour into sterile glasses and seal.


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Lisa, Thanks for the recipe. I was actually looking for a spiced peach jam so you've saved me the trouble. I need to check with our local Pick-Your-Own to see when the peaches will be in. I'll let you know how it turns out. Hope everyone had a great 4th!

My aunt said she uses the recipe on the Sure-Jell box except she adds some spices. Here is the recipe she makes. (I copied it from the Sure-Jell website and added the cinammon and ginger she said she adds.) It really is very yummy. We are all out so I need more! She said soon.

Makes about 7 (1-cup) jars

4 cups prepared fruit (about 3 lb. fully ripe peaches)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
5-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl (See tip below.)

BRING boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

PEEL and pit peaches. Finely chop fruit. Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Add lemon juice; stir until well blended. Stir in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.

STIR in sugar and spices. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

How exciting to hear so many of you trying new things. I'm so glad you and your mom had a good time jammin', Sarah. I believe lots of bonding between women was lost when we started spending less time in the kitchen. Food seems to bring out wonderful family stories. I feel a blog in that! And Lisa, hope you made your freezer jam. My mom's next door neighbor only made freezer jam. Although it is different, it is still delicious. Hope you had a blast. Wish you lived close enough to share a jar of our homemade jam with you, Candy, but if you have a farmers market around you, they often sell homemade jams...next best thing to making your own. Tina, hope you got out and picked your strawberries. I'm sure you guys would have a blast. Also, I just got my copy of Putting Food By today. Plan to take it with me this weekend as we head out to Pennsylvania for a wedding. Looks so interesting. And I have to admit, strawberry picking and canning was a lot easier this year with Michelle's help. It's always fun to have someone else in the kitchen with you. Uh, especially if it's a new BF :) Cheryl! He sounds like someone who might be worth keeping around. Hope things work out. Hey, if he's cool with your need to pinch jam he may just be your kindred spirit. Good luck!

Hope everyone has a safe and fun filled 4th!

A wonderful thing has happened to me. Seems new BF likes to cook! I mean he's a really good cook. Which is great since I love to eat. Perhaps he's the one ;) He even made Lisa's recipe for apple turnerovers and they really were so good! A bit of a funny story about jam. BF was over for breakfast and I had some questionable english muffins and slightly expired orange juice. But I have my jam collection. If you recall I admitted I have an adiction to taking jam packets from restaurants. I didn't want him to think I was a clepto (too early in a relationship for that!) so I went in the kitchen and started opening some packets and dumping them into a jar. I wanted to look at least semi sane. Well, we sat down to hard english muffins and what turned out to be sour o.j. and when he went to scoop out some jelly it came out in blocks. I guess I didn't think that through too well. Well, I had to fess up and that's how I found out he could cook. He asked me what I had taste for and I mentioned the recipe for apple turnovers. We went to the grocery store and we came home and he cooked. I've had several of his meals now and I'm in heaven. I don't think we'll be making jam anytime soon, but who knows. I think new BF might be open to it!

Hey! We got that Putting Food By book this afternoon (Love Amazon Prime). It's great so far! DH has been reading it all evening and I've barely had a chance to page through. Thanks for the rec!

Hmmm... this look so familiar. LOL like maybe my blog last week. Inspired by my mom I did start my own blog and there are a few more photos of us picking. http://natureswaylearning.wordpress.com/

Thanks for comments on my kiddos. I think they are pretty darn cute myself ;). I wouldn't say picking with B on my back was easy... but it was 100x easier than chasing her in the fields. I've always been a Baby Wearing Mama so I'm pretty used to it. Actually my mom and I ran a sling business together once upon a time... (I'm sure at some point SnuggleGear will make it into a blog). But anyway, my kids have always been quite content in the slings... so content that even now with the olders ones I sometimes feel like velcro and can't shake them off.

As for the jam... yumm!

Good for you Sarah for getting some batches in and good luck to the rest of you who are getting started.

Thanks for the "Putting Food By" recommendation. That looks like a great book. I just bought it! DH will be excited to read the section on making your own smoker.

I'm sure everyone gets tired of me saying this but, nope, I've never made jam. I am very luck, tho, because DH's mom does and keeps us in supply. My very favorite is this spiced peach one she makes. They are on vacation this week but when they get back I'll ask her for the recipe and share it. I did go to the Sure Jell link you had. I was intrigued by the 30 minute freezer jam. I am actually going to make some of that. I'm lucky like Sarah. We have a great farmers market here and the produce is all local. They guy I usually buy from is also organic and he has strawberries. We bought a quarter the other day. They were smaller than the berries we usually get but very flavorful. Our farmers market is on Wednesdays and Saturdays so I'm going to go out this afternoon and get the fixings for the freezer jam. Wish me luck!

Oh Michelle, that picture of you and your youngest was incredible. They are all so adorable but she just looked like an angel on your shoulder ;)

I really, really want to can strawberry jam this year! I need to find the time though to get out to the U-Pick farm. The season is so short! They just started picking last week, so I have another week or two to try to find the time for picking and then the canning. Thanks for the links. I'm off to check them out to prepare myself! Hmm...maybe I'll take a day off of work so I can focus on my jam. I have never canned before, so I will need all the focus I can muster.

I have never jammed but someday I will! Everything looks great and so yummy! And you are right, there is nothing better than a good, homemade jam or jelly. My toast with store-bought jam this morning just won't taste the same...

I am pleased to say I canned for the first time last weekend. We didn't go pick our own but there is a local farmer that sells at our farmer's market and we bought them there. I had not idea of how much work went into making jam although it's not hard. My grandmother use to make all their jams and jellies. My mom said she especially loved to make grape jelly and prided herself on how clear it came out. Guess this is the standard in the jelly making game! But my mom loved the strawberry jam and this year you guys have made me feel domestic so I asked my mom if she wanted to make jam with me and she said she never has but would give it a try. We has so much fun. The boys took over with the kids so we had the kitchen to ourselves. My mom was telling stories about watching her mom make jams. I didn't know this but she said her grandmother use to sell jams to local restaurants during the depression. Ya learn something new everyday. So we made two batches of strawberry jam and I have to admit we were both darn proud. Hehe I thought we were nuts when we were sitting there staring at the jam! Seems we're in good company. Now mom is talking about applebutter. I have no clue what that is but I just might look into it. Great timing for your blog.

And Michelle, OMG do you have cute kids! I can't believe you picked berries with your little one on your back, tho. Seems hard. I also can't believe she was willing to stay on your back. My youngest is so independant she would never stand for that. Have a great week all and keep on jammin!