Bizz & BooBoo

A hippie mama doing her best!

Classic Strawberry Jam… Mmmm August 23, 2011

Filed under: Canning,Food,Preserving — bizzandbooboo @ 8:15 am
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This stuff is delicious, but of course it is because it has a lot of sugar in it. Well sometimes, I guess we just have to have some sugar 🙂

My first few jams that I have made so far this summer I have been concentrating on doing either low or no sugar recipes because I have been transitioning all of our food into low or no sugar foods over the past year.

Well, I felt like I just wanted to make a classic sugary jam with no pectin and I had a bunch of strawberries sitting in my fridge – so I got to it!

I used the Classic Strawberry Jam recipe from my “Put Em Up” Canning Book!

First step was to put 8 cups of hulled strawberries with 2 cups or sugar and let sit overnight! My strawberries are from the strawberry stand off of Hwy 99 and Meridian – they are local and use organic and sustainable farming practices – Yay! And since I was going to use sugar I did use Organic sugar, was tempted to try it with Rapadura, but wasn’t sure how it would work so tried this time with regular sugar, next time I’ll do a little experimenting 🙂

 

Now I put all of the strawberries in my saucepan and started stirring every so often and mashing along the way until it came to a boil!

*Note – I already had my pot for jars almost to a boil and my hot water bath pot turned on and heating up. Must always get these ready or you will have your food ready to ladle in hot jars and process – but no jars or boiling water to do it 🙂

Once the berries came to a boil I added the lemon juice. Now is the tricky (or not so much) part. Since I am not using pectin in this classic recipe the strawberries need to boil until they reach the gel point.

What the heck does that mean??

Apparently there are several ways to test this (this was all new to me!)

  • The gel point should be approximately 220 degrees
  • The boil will change from a quick boil with little bubbles to a lazy boil with bigger bubbles
  • The freeze test – put a plate in the freezer ahead of time and when ready to test drop a bit on the plate, then move it with your finger. If it is runny it’s not ready yet, if it wrinkles it is….
  • There was another way to tell to, but I forget what it was….

The berries has been boiling awhile but I didn’t think they were quite ready. I don’t have a candy thermometer because my last one got ruined somehow, I’ve never been good with them. But I remember reading a Hip Girl trick just last week about using a meat thermometer and figured I would give it a try!

It only went up to about 170 before my hand got too hot to hold it, will use a hot pad next time (or get a clothespin like in the Hip Trick!) But regardless, I could tell I had a ways to go!!

I was able to get all of this done while sweet BooBoo napped (she is still such a wonderful napper at 18 months I am so lucky). And awesome Bizz has been getting really inventive in building and playing on his own a lot lately – this is what he was doing for a good while during my jam making!

Okay – time to check the jam again! I had placed a plate in the freezer earlier. The first time I did the freezer plate test (when I also checked the temp) it was definetly runny (pic on left), the next time it looked like the jam was ready to me (pic on right!)

 

Jars are ready to ladle the jam into (I need to get a better ladle by the way! Don’t want to waste a precious drop of jam in between the saucepan and jars when all this love and elbow grease goes into it!). It looks and smells so good. I wish I could take a “smell” of it and post it on here like I do a picture!

Mmmm.. delicious! I better get some more strawberries and make more, this is gonna go fast! Next time I am going to try the vanilla bean variation – I bet the smell will be absolutely divine then!

~Jesse

BooBoo woke up just in time… now I’m going to go play….

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Gardening: Goals vs Real Life! August 2, 2011

Filed under: Gardening — bizzandbooboo @ 11:30 am
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My garden:

Veggie Garden (photo by Seemann, courtesy of morgueFile.com

A beautiful 1/2 acre or so with rows of heirloom & cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, strawberries, squash, peppers and more. A small field of blueberries behind the garden area, with an area in between the two that the kids play and laugh while I am gardening.  I can hear the chickens scratching in the yard beside the garden and the butterflys and bees are plentiful in my wildflower rows! Summer’s bounty is brought in daily and eaten or preserved for winter…… WAKE UPDarn, this isn’t my real life????

Real Life:

This year I started out so well with seedlings in the house started from local organic seed companies.

I have drip line that is ready to put in (it is still ready to put in…. any takers?)

Crazy year of late cold/rain in our area made me wait and wait to plant (though maybe I should have just planted a little earlier and protected the plants when necessary?)

Half my seedlings ended up dying because I didn’t get them planted in time or I forgot to water them thoroughly enough, or Bizz and Booboo helped plant them and maybe were not quite gentle enough 🙂

My garden area is a small area between my house and the fence, doesn’t get quite enough sun for full day sun, but enough to usually do okay. The area was overgrown and rocky and a dog run when we purchased our house.

I only have tomatoes (Chadwick Cherry, Green Zebra and San Marzano), Cukes (Lemon, a pickling type and another I can’t remember the name of and lost the seed pack), peppers (2 barely making it Amish Sweet), morning glories that came back from last year, and a couple stowaways that I have no idea what they are yet but I let them grow as an experiment! Oh and two strawberry plants!

As of August 1st, 2011 –

Tomatoes – I have lots of green cherry tomatoes, only about 3 green san marzano’s, and the green zebra are growing well, but some of the leaves have gotten brown patches (see pic below – anyone know what the problem is??) and I don’t have any blossoms turning into tomatoes yet.

 

Cukes – Started with a ton of blossoms, had lots of them start to turn into cukes and then rot when super tiny (anybody know why this happens?), got our first cuke on Saturday (it was so yummy!!), and now it looks like lots are starting to come in.

Peppers – my pepper plants are struggling, only about a foot tall now. We’ll see what happens.

Strawberries – lots of flowers and got a few early in the season, now it seems that when they are just about ready every time some bug gets them before I do, organic gardening is so hard.

Morning Glories are just starting to blossom – so pretty!

Secret Stowaways  – doing pretty well. Not sure what they are yet. Here is a pic of one, any ideas?

How is your garden doing?

~Jesse