Friday, June 17, 2011

First "Frontier" (i.e. Low-Tech) Fave: Jam

As many of you know, I long for the days of the homesteader, and dream of one day having our own little farm on a few acres of land, growing enough to feed a sizeable brood of people-chicks as well as a cow, a few goats, chickens, a dog or two and a passel of cats.  In the meantime, we have one child, no pets, and a small city lot.  I make up for the lack of mouths to feed by taking in as many guests as possible-- we have several adopted "family" members regularly around our table, and, like my mama taught me, I find great joy in making sure nobody goes home hungry or lonesome.  I also try to do as much "low-tech," DIY as possible.  (I'm even venturing into the realm of furniture and jobs involving... hacksaws, gulp).  If Ma Ingalls couldn't buy it, I don't like using it.  Usually.  The occasional frappucino is an exception.

Slowly I'm adding more and more kitchen jobs to my own bag of tricks (though it's nice to know I can grab them from a store shelf in a pinch).  It started with buying dry beans instead of canned, moved on to getting a little coffee grinder to grind my own grains, trying my hand at fermentation of water kefir, soaking, seasoning & drying my own nuts, and most recently expanded to making my own nut butters, nut milk & nut pulp (and nut milk lattes, yum!).   Two new successes and now-Szrama staples are raw milk yogurt and fresh fruit preserves.  They are SO simple and low-tech that they make me happy, and I thought I'd share them with others since I had difficulty in tracking down precise instructions online.

In the spirit of eating seasonally, Eowyn & I recently picked a bumper crop of local strawberries-- juicy, sweet, and red.  Along with pies, strawberry ice cream and plenty of strawberries & cream, I sliced & froze a gallon for smoothies, then tried my hand at jam-making.  The following technique is a result of a plea for help on FB, and I am indebted to my friend Megan for the knowledge.
Just Fruit Jam
Step One: wash your berries. Aim for a mix of very-ripe (sweet!) berries, moderately ripe berries, and a good many underripe (still have green tips) berries.  The less ripe, the more natural pectin they contain.

Step 2: Cut the berries in half and bring to a boil.  I left mine on the heat about 30 minutes, stirring almost constantly.  In the mean time wash and sanitize your glass jars.

Step 3:  Boil your lids & rings.  Keep them boiling until you slap them on the jars.  (I used a few standard metal lids for giving away, but mostly used reusable plastic Tattler lids.)

Step 4:  Prepare your hot water bath.  You need to have enough water boiling to cover 1" over the tops of your jars, and there needs to be something keeping the jars off the bottom of the pot.  I used my pasta insert and it barely fit in 6 jars & their water.

Step 5:  Pour the cooked fruit into the jars, leaving about 1" headroom and wiping down the rims.  Put a lid on top and a ring screwed on securely but not as tight as it will go.  Immerse the fruit into the hot water bath and boil for 10-15 minutes.

Step 6:  Pull jars out and allow to cool over a 12-hr period.  Their lids should all sink in, indicating an airtight seal.  If one doesn't, refrigerate it and let it be the first one you eat!

Step 7: Admire! Ta-Da!! I did a second batch with mulberries and a few crisp apples cooked with the strawberries.  My thought was that the mulberries add sweetness and the apples add pectin, so we'll see how the texture between the pure strawberries & mul-straw-apple berries compares.

EDIT:  It's been a few months, and we've popped open and enjoyed two VERY YUMMY jars of this jam!  THe mul-stra-apple jam is very "normal" in texture, quite sweet, and very yummy.  I loved finding chunks of fruit in it, but some folks may want a more uniform texture-- I'd suggest using a potato masher (boiled to sanitize) right before putting the fruit into jars.  Still haven't tried the just-strawberries yet.  Will update when I do!


Jennifer said...

The post was interesting but the first picture of the little girl with the berries box is just adorable! Just that picture draws you to the post.

Rebecca said...

Wow! In many ways living like in the "old days" sounds less complicated. Let us know how the mul-straw-apple jam comes out!

Kelly said...

I love that you never let anyone leave hungry or lonesome! There is great joy in feeding others.

Eowyn's Heir said...

Thanks, friends!!