Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jam 101

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!


Anonymous said...

Very good Nicole - I'm eager to hear more about your canning stories as the summer goes on. If you get into a serious dilemna in the canning process you might try giving me a call. But it's all so simple really.

Mary Horst

Laura said...

That's a wonderful start. It still looks really yummy, even though it separated. Now you know what to do differently next time.

Good for you! I"m impressed! Really. :)


Mackenzie said...

I shared this recipe about a month ago as strawberries came into season in Texas. This is my fav. recipe! :)