Jam Round-Up

::steph chows:: hosted her 2nd Annual Jam Exchange – announcing back in July.

I think I signed up shortly thereafter.

àWhere, pray tell, did the summer go? July? I don’t even remember July now! What? Summer’s over? Wait! Did we have summer? ‘Cause I’m not thinking we did!ß

Okay – sorry – random thoughts going on here and there!

Today is the Round Up – be sure to go over and peek at the amazing exchanges that went on!

Steph was kind enough to match me up with Lori – who lives wwaaaayyyy over on the East Coast. Cool, huh? East Coast girl. West Coast girl. I like that.

Lori, I have this deep suspicion, is a far more with it and organized girl than I. In seemingly no time I received two beautiful jars of amazing jam!

Pear Cranberry on the left and Rhubarb Ginger on the right.

Dang!

The girl’s got some great taste pairings going on there, right?!

We were so excited to open them up and give them a try.

Lori – you rock!

Thanks so much for being so kind as to gift us with these lovely jars of jam! Honestly, I think the family was relieved that it was something kinda fun and different! 🙂

On the very last day possible – in my classic fashion – I sent Lori a jar of Blueberry Jelly and a jar of Marionberry Jam – both of which were made from fruits that we picked and processed on the same day. We had so much fun that day!

Just in case you didn’t know – Marionberries are pretty much an “Oregon thing” and much loved. We had quite a discussion trying to decide which to send Lori – and it finally came down to, “Well, hello! Send something Oregon!” You gotta love teenagers – they are pretty darn smart!

So – really glad to have been a part of the Jam Exchange and to have been fortunate enough to be paired up with Lori. And definitely gonna sign up again next year… I’ve already started pondering what to make up next year to send! 🙂

Thanks Steph!

All in a Day’s Work…

Every girl should have fresh, ripe, luscious, sun-kissed walls of blackberries out her kitchen door…

…lots and lots of fresh blackberries.

Just waiting to be picked…

Like these ones were…

Seven pounds worth in very short order.

7 pints

12 half-pints worth.

A very good day’s work.

Lots more berries yet to be picked…

Sigh…

I love summer!

Blueberry Jelly

It’s Two For Tuesdays! Fasten your seatbelts, and come along for the ride!

Opening day at the Blueberry Farm…

A gorgeous Saturday afternoon…

Some of the most important people in my life…

…and amazing, luscious, ripe to perfection Blueberries.

With enough mostly non-whiney helping hands – in short order:


(Okay, so we picked more than blueberries… we got some Coho Raspberries, and Marionberries, too.)

But this post is all about the Blueberries.

Do you ever start out on a project – full steam ahead – plowing forward and then mid-project realize, “Umm… I’m out of…” Yeah – you probably don’t. But – in real life – in MY real life – it happens all the time. You’d think I’d figure out a system to keep this from happening. But I guess if I did, half of my adventures just wouldn’t happen, would they?!

I digress – back to the topic at hand!

Do you have a juicer/steamer?

No?

Why not?!

‘Cause you NEED one. Not even just want one. Seriously – this is a need thing.

The possibilities are endless, mind-blowing, and fantastic.

Know all that excess straggler produce from your garden toward the end of the summer and early fall? Steam the veggies and make vegetable stock for your soup making during the winter! Make your own fruit juices. I make an amazing pomodoro tomato sauce with it. Seriously – it’s the right thing to do. Start right now by watching the canning section of every store that carries anything canning related. Watch the extra percentage off coupons. My $170-ish steamer/juicer cost me about $40 with an end of the season sale and percentage off coupons. How could I NOT buy it?!

Okay – tangent done…. on to Blueberries.

I traditionally make blueberry jelly and blueberry syrup most summers. (Last summer, not so much since I was too sick.) I also really, really, really want to have some picked in the morning, sorted, washed, allowed to air dry, and then frozen and stashed away for baking all year long blueberries, too. There is just something so right about blueberries at their peak of freshness.

When I make the blueberry jelly and syrup, I rely on my juicer/steamer. It’s a total breeze.

First, you fill the base with water:

Then you add the collection portion:

…and the steamer basket:

And finally, the berries and the lid:

That took all of about three minutes.

Next, you set the heat on the eye on high, and let the juicer do it’s thing. It takes about 80 minutes. And for this hopper full of fruit – I got about a gallon of blueberry juice. (It would have been more if it hadn’t been for that pesky little spill I had – but thankfully, maybe only 1/2 a cup or so lost.)

Here’s what the fruit looks like when it’s spent:

My chickens love the spent fruit!

While the fruit is steaming, I typically get my jars and lids sterilizing, my canning supplies all lined up, and take inventory of the ingredients I need… sugar – check. pectin… um…. pectin…. STINK! I’m out of pectin! And we’re broke! UGH!

So decisions need to be made here.

Freeze the juice and jelly at another time?

or…

Think outside the box.

You know I’m an outside the box girl, don’t you?! 🙂

So, I pulled out Grammy’s old cookbook:

Read up on the old school methods of jelly making, and then checked out a couple other resources.

I mean – did they have pectin in Little House on the Prairie? Surely you don’t HAVE to have pectin, do you?

Well – as I found out – it depends on which fruit you’re working with – and fortunately enough for me – blueberries is one of the fruits that it’s easier to get away without it. And pectin – while lovely and convenient – doesn’t necessarily have to be a factor. It just takes a little more time, and attention to detail to do it without the pectin.

What I learned:

One to one ratio with sugar if you’re using a concentrated fruit juice (like I got from my juicer/steamer) – although it’s okay to go slightly less than 1 cup with the sugar. So I had 16 cups of juice, and 16 cups of sugar.

You need a GOOD and LARGE pan to boil the juice/sugar solution in. I used my All Clad 20 quart stockpot. I love that thing!

You need a little patience. This is gonna need at least 30 minutes to boil at about 200 F.

Having a good quality candy thermometer sure as heck is a nice thing to have on hand!

I decided I could do this with the supplies I had on hand and forged ahead!

I combined the blueberry juice and the sugar, put the heat to high, and stirred until the sugar was completely dissolved. It took longer than I thought it would to get it to boil and the 200 F mark. But once it got there, and I got the heat adjusted to just the right spot to keep it there, it was just a matter of setting a 30 minute timer and letting it boil away.

Can I just tell you how nice it is to have a nice deep large pot with a solid base on it that makes this sort of task no problem whatsoever?! No worries of boil overs. No worries about splatter – see below – it’s all splattered inside the pot – just where it ought to.

I was actually pretty thrilled that in pretty short order I started to see the mixture begin to form a gel!

Amazing!

In no time I was filling canning jars with jelly, processing them in the boiling water bath, and getting them tucked away into the pantry.

Voila!

I will confess – we ate so many blueberries that there weren’t enough for syrup quite yet. But we’ll get around to it before the Blueberry season ends. Promise.

Other things we got done that day:

Coho Raspberry Syrup

and

Marionberry jam.

All in all – a lovely – and very productive day!

REAL Canned Beans

spaininiowa

I got a tip from another blogger about this great Blog Carnival going over at girlichef featuring REAL food.   And Diana has launched Simple Lives Thursday at her blog.

So totally up my alley!

Especially when I’ve been pondering things that I probably ought to have known, and well – just really didn’t!

Do you ever just buy stuff because you always have?

Does it ever rock your world when it occurs to you that you can make it at home – better, and more often than not – WAY cheaper?

Ugh! I hate that I’m such a consumer sometimes!

So… Some time ago I came across a great post over at Foodie With Family about a copy cat barbeque bean recipe. For canned barbeque beans. Said beans – according to all who have tried them – will turn all consumers into diehard fans for ever more. I read that post and recipe and suddenly the light bulb went on!

DUH!

I can buy dry beans in the bulk foods section and can beans until my little heart’s content!

I love beans.

I put them in soups…

I put them in salads…

I put them in stews…

I put them in chili…

They’re packed with tons of great stuff for you.

And I carefully monitor all of the grocery adds to see when my favorite canned beans go on sale – cause they’re not cheap! And I’m not just gonna throw a buck a can at them without thinking it through.

Especially when said beans cost me $0.49 (yes, that says forty-nine cents) a pound on sale this week in bulk foods!

Dang!

I’m SO canning beans, people!

Being a bit unsure how my experiment with canning dried beans would turn out I hit the net and did lots of reading. You know what? There are LOTS of different opinions out there on how it ought to be done. But I chose to stick with a method from my Grammy’s 1926 cookbook, which followed closely to the Ball Blue Book. I then went to the bulk foods section at the grocery store and choose about a pound of several different types of beans…

Black eyed peas

Small red beans

Black beans

Navy beans

Garbanzo beans

All tolled – given the price differentials – this about 5 pounds-ish of beans cost me about $5. I happen to have an embarrassment of riches in the canning jar/lid/ring department (Freecycle rocks!) – so no outlay of cash there. The biggest thing required? Time.

It all started last night – yes, I confess, I was still up at midnight putting said beans in bowls, filling them with water, and then covering them with plastic wrap. (Yeah, that took all of about 5 minutes – so totally not the reason I was up way too late!) These babies need to soak anywhere from 8 to 18 hours – depending on who you believe. My Ball Blue Book said 12 hours, so I went with that.

A little after noon – after I’d done dishes, and sanitized the kitchen, I set my big kettle and a saucepan to boiling.

The big kettle holds the clean canning jars, the saucepan holds the clean lids and rings. See?

Pretty much, all you gotta do from this point in time is…

Rinse the beans… You discard the liquid they’ve been soaking in, pick through and make sure you get out any discolored beans or debris that might have made it through the packing process before being marketed.

I dumped the beans from the bowl with water into a colander over the kitchen sink. Then transferred the beans back to the bowl they’d soaked in (after giving it a quick rinse), and rinsed again with cold water. Drained once again with the colander. At that point I place the colander on top of the now empty bowl, and transfer over to my work area adjacent to the stove.

Then it was time to pack the jars…

I pull a few jars out of the boiling water and put the funnel on the jar closest to the bowl of beans. These puppies are HOT – so I use silicone wrapped tongs to work with them, it’s so much easier!

I got about 1 1/2 cups of beans per pint jar. I pulled out my electronic scale to check out how it weighed in. Just bean weight – roughly 9 ounces – within about an eighth of an ounce. The important thing here is to be certain to maintain an inch head space on the jars.

Now you put 1/2 a teaspoon of salt in each jar.

And then you fill each jar with boiling water – again, maintaining that 1 inch head space.

It’s important to get rid of air pockets that may be stuck in the jar. I pull out a handy dandy chop stick and gently stir to dislodge any air. If the volume is significantly affected, then I top off with additional boiling water.

Now all you do is wipe the rims and tops of each jar, and then put the lid and band on!

We’re fortunate enough to have a 23-Quart Pressure Canner (and yes these MUST be pressure canned!) – so I packed it with the beans… It’s important to make sure you get the right amount of water in the base of the canner, too. Mine calls for 3 quarts (12 cups) of hot water. And you GOTTA have the insert in the base of the canner, too. You don’t want exploding canning jars going on, right?!

That’s two layers of pint jars in there. When you do two layers of jars like this, it’s important to use another insert between the layers. I also stagger the jars so that no jar is sitting directly over another one.

That middle jar up there- it’s a “mix” jar. I do this when I’m making jams and jellies, too. Does it ever just bug you that you never have an exact right amount – always a little too much or not quite enough? I just keep an extra jar on hand and fill it with the leftovers. Life goes on, you know? And I’ll always use them.

Once you get the canner loaded, you put the lid on and put the heat on the eye on high. You want the steam to start to build up in there. Once steam is built up enough to be exiting the vent, set a timer for 10 minutes. When that 10 minutes are up, place the regulator on the vent tube.

Pressure needs to build to 10 pounds, and pint jars need 70 minutes at that pressure.

It’s really important to set a timer when you’re doing these stages. It’s just too easy to get sidetracked and lose track, and when you’re working with a pressure canner – NOT okay.

Once the 70 minutes is up, you remove the pressure canner from the heat, making sure it’s resting somewhere on a level surface. I had John move it to the dining room table (with appropriate heat pads underneath, of course). It took about 45 minutes for the temperature to drop and the steam to release.

The unveiling….

Pretty, huh?

All-in-all, probably one of the easiest canning projects I’ve ever tackled.

For my $5 investment in beans I’ve got

6 pints of black eyed peas

4 pints of small red beans

4 pints of black beans

5 pints of navy beans

5 pints of garbanzo beans

Not bad. Not bad at all!

This will definitely NOT be the last time I can my own beans! In fact, I think I’m giving up store bought beans from here on out!

Now – I’m off to finish up canning the yams the gleaners dropped off for me this afternoon. An unexpected blessing!

We be jammin…

Saturday, we picked Strawberries at Groveland Acres in beautiful Helvetia, OR…

We left with 12.5 pounds of berries, which yielded…

12.5 pints (16 oz)

12 half pints (8 oz)

12 quarter pints (4 oz)

Then, on Sunday (the 4th), we picked Willamette Red Raspberries at Rowell Brothers in Scholls…

We picked 13 1/3 pounds of berries, which yielded…

17 pints (16 oz)

12 half pints (8 oz)

12 quarter pints (4 oz)

Not bad, huh?!

Next up… strawberry and raspberry syrup. Then blueberry jelly and syrup, and blackberry jam, jelly, and syrup… Then pear amber… And maybe peach amber…

I love summer!