Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jam 101

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I joked in my last post that I was working on my MRS from Wife College, and I got thinking how I would so love, one day, to start an “Old Fashioned Housewife University” for gals like myself for whom home making doesnt come naturally but who want to be better wives and moms. In the meantime, I can post about my own adventures in education at OFHU. :)

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I wanted to say thanks to you sweet ladies who left comments on my last post- it means a lot that you “missed” me here in cyberspace. Im hoping to be back at it more… but I dont have to tell any of you about how life comes before blogging! :)

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I recently made my first batch of jam. Ever. Im 31 years old and Ive never made a jam or a jelly or canned a thing in my life, but as I focus on eating more seasonally and locally, I look to all the women in the past, and the remnant left today, who took advantage of foods while they were in season and preserved them in various ways for the rest of the year. Jams and jellies are a popular way women have preserved fruits over the years and canning is a skill that can help get food on the shelf for the winter months when fresh, local produce is scarce. Many women have moved towards freezing with the advent of large deep freezers, and while I do intend to freeze produce from this growing season, I only have an apartment-sized deep freezer so I need to consider space available and i think canning will allow me to store up foods in my cupboards.

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This post isnt going to be a how-to on making jam, because there is a wealthy of resources online and at the library, not to mention the book store (also, check out thrift stores, I got a few great books on preserving foods there, some in mind condition) and there is a good amount you need to read up on equipment, processing, and food safety before you get started. Instead I just wanted to show some photos from my process, and share the high and low-lights of my first time jam-making.

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The highlights: there is just something satisfying about knowing that I cleaned, hulled, cooked, and preserved these local, seasonal strawberries into jam. Its hard to explain, I think it runs deep in some place that is hard to articulate- that female part of me that wants to carry on the tradition of so many women before me who gathered and preserved foods for her family and friends. Sounds hokey, but there you go.
Also, learning a new skill is very satisfying. The cans did seal properly so I know I got the canning part down right, even if the jam didnt turn out perfectly.

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The lowlights: it was hotter than the dickens in my kitchen that day I was doing this from all the steaming hot pots of water, and I told Bear for the rest of the season Ill have the AC on while canning! :) Also, bird woke up in the middle of her nap right as I was trying to start the canning process, so it was a big frustrating to try to juggle taking care of a cranky baby and get this jam made and jarred, but God gave grace and I got it done.

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And worst of all: the jam didnt really turn out right. I had a bad case of “floating fruit”, as you can see in the photos above. I did everything the directions told me to do, but I googled it and it looks like I either didnt get my strawberry pieces small enough, or my stirring/skimming process wasnt sufficient (despite doing my best to follow the directions). Im sure its just a case of practice makes perfect, and my husband kindly informed me the jam still tastes great, even if you have to stir it up a bit when you use it. :)

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All in all, it was good fun and a confidence-building exercise that I could learn a new skill and preserve food for my family. I am going to have many more opportunities this summer to try both jam-making and canning (I hope to do some salsas, sauces, and pickles, too), and hopefully Ill share some of the AHU journey with you all!

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Summer Blessings!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Where I’ve Been

Obviously I havent been blogging at Armchair Housewife, thats for sure!  So what has been keeping me away from this blog which I do so enjoy writing?  well, first and foremost, this little cutie keeps me pretty darn busy:

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Second, if I have had time to sit at my computer, Ive been doing recipes for Loft Organics.  Here are some of the most recent ones posted.

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            early summer saute

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                                                                                       sweet potato soup

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               jumbalaya pasta

Now that our sweet Bird is sleeping through the night (it finally started happening a few weeks ago once she passed 13 months) and our life is generally more rested and predictable, I am focused on making or house more of a home, being a more well-rounded homemaker and not just a mom, and studying up to earn my MRS from Wife College, to borrow a phrase from another blogger.  One particular skill I am trying to learn this spring is canning.  I’ve never canned a thing in my life, never made jam or one single pickle.  But Im trying- reading up lots of stuff like this:

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And of course all the usual daily housecleaning, mom’s groups and bible studies, church, family, friends.  Life is full, life is great, and Im hoping to be around here more frequently.  Here’s hoping! :)