Monday, September 13, 2010

Is it worth it?

"Is it worth it?" ask The Pet Shop Boys.

Valid question.
As I veer ever more into the world of creating my own things from scratch - the world of my forebears, this question comes to mind. Well, really it came to mind as those damn jam globules were laughing at me from the otherwise beautiful pot of strawberries! Swearing, I thought, "Why the hell am I doing this instead of buying jam from the store?" That store jam - if you get a decent kind at least - is pretty good!

Other "old-world" techniques I have learned in the past few years:
• how to bake bread (without a bread machine)
• how to knit (nothing fancy, but a scarf and two sweaters for my daughter; a baby hat for a friend)
• how to can peaches and tomatoes
• how to make jam

So... is it worth it? Adding in the time, the money (yarn, pectin, and jars aren't free), the energy, the fun, putting it all together. Is it worth it?

Answers to come in the coming days! What are your answers?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Jam Results!

I couldn't wait to open one of those magenta, burgundy jam jars. They looked so pretty! Now was the time to see...

We got back from our trip to the mountains, and I pried open one of the lids with a spoon. I tentatively dipped the spoon in. And, Yum! Delicious jam. NO Globules! Hooray! My husband's vigorous stirring saved the day. Very good strawberry jam. Can't wait for the morning to slather it on my toast, where it belongs.

Canning, Jam, and Globules

Friday afternoon I canned three pints of tomatoes from my own garden. Having canned eight pints of peaches a few weeks before, the tomato-canning went quite easily and smoothly. Easier than the peaches - at least in prep work!

And then I went to work on the jam. Took Nora to Berry Patch Farms in Brighton Friday morning with another mom friend and her child - super fun! I highly recommend a farm visit whenever/wherever possible. We (well, let's be honest, I picked all the strawberries except about 15 that Nora picked!) picked just over 4 quarts of strawberries (that's four of those bigger baskets like you see in the store). We were leaving for the mountains the next day, so I knew that what we didn't eat, I would need to preserve, and pronto. So: my next venture: jam.

How hard could it be to make jam? I taught myself how to can; I could teach myself how to make jam. I looked at recipes. It seemed easier than canning! So I decided to go for it.
Again, most of the work is in the prep: hulling the strawberries. But you can get into a kind-of Zen state doing that, so it's all good.

NOTE: If you ever make jam, make sure you STIR VIGOROUSLY when the recipe says STIR VIGOROUSLY!! Lesson learned. I sprinkled the pectin in and stirred. Clearly not well enough. I looked down in panic as, almost immediately, these little white-ish globules formed -- like the kind you get in pancake batter when the flour forms little balls, that, if you don't break them up and if you cook them into the pancake, become little balls of pure flour that when you bite into them create quite an unpleasant sensation. CLEARLY no one wants that in their jam! Biting into globules of pectin, Yuck! So I picked some out, to make sure that was indeed what I was looking at, and not some white-ish part of a strawberry. The globule was in the spoon. I poked at it. Then again. And again. These were tough globules - almost plastic-like in their nature. Finally, I got it open, and uh-oh, it was filled with powdery pectin. Oh no!

So I called the emergency hotline: my mom. Doesn't everyone have some sort of cooking/crisis emergency hotline? And how often is that hotline one's mother?! She said: Stir Vigorously. A lot. It should sort itself out.

So I enlisted help: my husband. He stirred very vigorously as I added the sugar and as the hopefully-soon-to-be jam formed. We did our best. Into the jars it went. It looked pretty! Boiled in hot water for 10 minutes, and onto the cooling racks.

We left for the mountains before I could taste it, but I sure hope it is globule-free!
Stay tuned for results...