Posts Tagged 'jam'

Speed Jamming

So after realizing what an amazing deal the pineapples were and how easy they were to can, I returned to Superstition Ranch Market to pick up some more for $.69. I called ahead to make sure they were on sale. By the time I got there they had 14 left. That’s it. I grabbed 10 of them and threw them in a box. They were very soft, for a pineapple, and a little wet on the outside. But I knew I was using them tonight. I also grabbed another flat of strawberries for $.33 a pound, knowing that this might be the last time I do strawberries this year. Walking through, I saw blackberries at $.50 per 6oz, which isn’t the greatest deal I’ve seen, but is still an excellent price. I grabbed another flat.

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I’m finally getting the hang of formulating a game plan before I start. I came home and decided what jam I was making tonight, as well as what I was going to can. First thing I did was get all of my jars ready. The jars were opened, lids and rings stacked separately, and jars aligned to the left hand side of my stove.

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Then I prepped all my fruit. I cut the tops and bottoms off the pineapple, peeled it, removed the core, and chopped them into chunks. I simmered the pineapple in the simple syrup as I prepped the berries. I cut the hulls off of the strawberries and threw them in a bowl.

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That’s when I realized I was out of pectin. I put the quarts of pineapple in the processor, set the timer, and ran to the grocery store. When I came back the pineapple was removed and I set in on the jam.

I ran the strawberries through a food processor. Recently I have found this is faster than smooshing them down with a potato masher. I run about a quart and a half of strawberries each batch. I pulsed the food processor in quarter to half second bursts. You do not want to liquefy the strawberries, just break them down in size. If you need to, err on the size of too big rather than too small. As the strawberries will break down further as they cook.

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I also use the potato masher on the fruit from approximately 1 1/2 to 2 pineapples to make the “crushed pineapple” for the jam.

First up, Strawberry Pineapple Jam.
2 C Pineapple
2 C Strawberries
1 Package Pectin
4 C Sugar

I’m not going to give instructions on every recipe that I post on here for jam. Jam is jam. The ingredient list is what changes, the process stays consistent from time to time. If this is your first time making jam and you need to find out how, browse back until you find my strawberry lemon jam recipe which gives you explicit step-by-step directions.

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I managed to score a sous chef tonight. While I was working on my first batch of strawberry pineapple jam, my son was busy mushing up blackberries with the kitchen aid food mill. This is hands down his favorite job to do in the kitchen. I swear he gets more joy about shoving little blackberries to their death and he does doing anything else. And I really appreciated having the extra set of hands tonight.

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So this is the part with my time-saving process. I have all my fruit ready to go, pectin and sugar sitting on the countertop, jars are open and ready to go, waterbath processor boiling at a full, and another pot ready to be filled with fruit.

I start with the first batch. Fruit and pectin in, bring it to a boil, add the sugar, bring it to a boil, and fill the jars. The dirty pot, ladle, funnel, and whisk immediately go into the sink and get filled with the hottest water my sink can muster. As that is happening I return to the full jars, put a lid and ring on each, and place them in the water bath. Now I have just 10 minutes to get my next batch done.

I wash the pot and accessories and return it to the stove that is still hot. I measure out four more cups of fruit, and four more cups of sugar. Fruit and pectin go in the pot and are heated to a boil, then the sugar is added and it is brought to a boil again. This is right about the 6 to 7 minute mark. After boiling for a full minute I remove it from the heat and start filling the jars. Usually the timer on the first batch goes off as I’m filling the first couple jars of the second batch. I take a timeout from filling the jars and remove the first batch from the water, placing them to the right of my stove on a dishtowel. As soon as the jars of the second batch are full the pot and accessories go back in the sink full of hot water, rings and lids are placed on the second batch and they are placed in the water bath processor. And then I move onto my third batch.

I don’t have the timing down perfect yet. It seems that about the fourth batch I’m running just a little bit late. Right after I pour the sugar in my fruit, the batch in the water is ready to be removed. I find myself stirring hot jam with my left hand while removing jars from the water bath with my right. It’s precarious, and I’ll admit I have my fair share of scars on my wrists, but I wear them with pride.

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If I prep my fruit for each batch of jam as I go along it is taking me approximately 25 to 35 minutes per batch. That is still a pretty good time. If I take 20 to 30 minutes to prep all of my fruit ahead of time I can now do one batch every 10 minutes…I guess 11 to be perfectly honest about it. That to me is a satisfying time.

As I finished up the strawberry pineapple jam, my son was done with the blackberries. The third batch turned into blackberry jam.

Blackberry Jam
5 C Blackberries (through a foodmill, not whole)
1 Package Pectin
7 C Sugar

On the fourth batch I found myself short of strawberries, short of pineapple, and short of blackberries. This is where I love making jam. Because so many fruits just naturally go together. The last batch was a near even mixture of strawberries and blackberries.

Strawberry Blackberry Jam
3 C Blackberries
2 C Strawberries
1 Package Pectin
6 C Sugar

The last of the pineapple was wrapped up to be put in yogurt the rest of the week.

Just over three hours later I have 6 quarts and 3 pints of canned pineapple, 18 half pints of strawberry pineapple jam, ten half pints of blackberry jam, 2 pints and 6 half pints of strawberry blackberry jam. Adding this together with Tuesday’s production I managed to make 90 half pints of jam and 3 gallons of canned pineapple in about 7 hours. I’m pretty happy with that.

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I definitely think that prepping your fruit ahead of time is the way to go. Make sure that you have enough jars and pectin to supply what you want to make, and get everything laid out on the countertop. If you are organized and dedicated you can really go through six batches of jam in an hour. If each batch yields 8 to 12 jars, that’s can you keep you well-suited for a while.

Now I need to find time to get to those 8 pounds of pears that are mocking me from the refrigerator….

Hot Curry Pickled Cauliflower and Stout Beer Jelly; Two Quick and Easy Gift Ideas.

Last Christmas’ gift giving was Jammathon 2010. I made about a dozen different fruit jams and handed them out to anyone that was on our Christmas list. This year I wanted to mix it up a bit. After spending some time on http://www.reddit.com/r/canning/ I found some simple recipes that peaked my interest. Both appeared to be relatively quick and easy, unique, and a bit on the exotic side.

First I tried Hot Curry Pickled Cauliflower; which I found at http://www.handjobsforthehome.com/2011/12/curry-pickled-cauliflower. I modified the recipe slightly by quantity. I’ve made the recipe twice now. The 1st time I had a head and half of cauliflower. The 2nd time I had 2 smaller heads.

Hot Curry Pickled Cauliflower

3 C White vinegar
1 C Water
½ C Brown sugar
1 T Curry powder
1 T Salt
1 Cauliflower
1 Red bell pepper
1 Onion

Start by cutting the Cauliflower into florets. Try to keep them approximately the same size, try to keep them bite sized, and remember that they need to fit neatly into your jar. I cut the larger florets into smaller parts. Dice the onion and the red pepper.

In a large pot combine the vinegar, water, brown sugar, curry and salt. On a side note, don’t brown sugar measurements seem somewhat arbitrary? It seems that as long as you keep applying pressure, you can keep packing more sugar into that measuring cup. Anyway, stir all that together over high heat and bring it to a boil. After the liquid boils, add the vegetables, stir, and boil again.

After the liquid returns to a boil, allow it to simmer for 3-5 minutes. You want the vegetables to soften, but remember that they will cook an additional 10 minutes in the canner. Fill your clean and sterilized canning jars with the vegetables and brine, remembering to leave your head space.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes for pints. I upped the time to 20 minutes for quarts. I made the pints to give away, and the quarts to keep. My wife loves spicy stuff like hot pepper mixes, spicy pickled vegetables, etc.

Next I tried my hand at Stout Beer Jelly that I found over at http://growitcookitcanit.com/2011/03/17/stout-beer-jelly/.

Stout Beer Jelly

2 – 12oz bottles of Guinness Extra Stout
1 Box of pectin
3 1/2 C Sugar

First off, a warning. Seriously. Use the biggest pot you own. You’ll think to yourself “24 oz of beer? How much could it make.” You’re wrong. When you grab your medium stock pot, put it back, and grab the biggest damn pot you own! The original recipe said “It will be very frothy, that’s normal.” This is an understatement. It’s like saying that Jolt Cola “May cause some excitement in children.” The reaction that occurs when you combine beer, pectin and heat creates what I thought was a movie prop from Ghostbusters. You have been warned.

Add your 2 bottles of beer, and your box of pectin together and heat to a boil, stirring briskly. Allow it to boil, and continue boiling for 1 minute. Then add the sugar, all at once. Bring it back to a boil. And watch in terror as the volume creeps to the top of your pot as you stir with such vigor that your arm starts to cramp.

Boil for 2 more minutes as you artfully dodge volcano like explosions of your hot alcoholic sugary concoction. If you did not heed my warning you are now cursing your poor decision as it boil all over your stove. FYI, if that happens, it will create a horrid smell. Just use the large pot for god’s sake.

Remove the pot from the heat. This will quell the foam monster. Ladle the jelly in to your clean sterilized jars. I suggested spooning one ladle full in each of 5 jars, and then returning and topping off each jar again, as they tend to lose volume as the bubbles cool.

What I do love though is how the jars look like little pints of Guinness. Even after they are processed and cool.

Process the jars for 10 minutes in a water bath. The original recipe suggests using this to glaze lamb, or on a fancy grilled cheese. I’m also going to try it on a rotisserie pork roast, or a cheeseburgern with sauteed onion and caramelized onions.

I love making my own foods. I love canning. And I love sharing my creations with others. I think these little 20-30 minute projects are fantastic. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with my ambitions (like right now, as I have 50 pounds of Roma tomatoes staring at me from the corner). But a quick canning project makes me feel accomplished. Not to mention that people, in my experience, are far more impressed with a hand made, home created gift, than they are a gift card. So make something in your kitchen to give out at the office party this year.

And if you have a canning recipe that you consider quick and easy, please let me know in the comments. I’m always up for trying something new.

Mmmmmm Apple Butter

I drove out to the Superstition Ranch Market on Monday, and found that they had Macintoch Apples for $.69/lb, Fuji Apples for $.40/lb, and Jonagold Apples for $.39/lb.  About 30 pounds later, I’m driving home to make apple butter.

I’m torn on the joys of making apple butter.  Let’s be honest, people are always really impressed when you give them a jar of  preserves or pickles.  There’s an impression that it’s insanely hard to make this stuff.  But I think that’s only because most people don’t, and thus don’t know how.  It reminds me of the old Rice Krispie Treat commercials where mom spend 15 minutes making the treats, only to buy a couple hours of quiet time, throw some flower around, and be received by her family with admiration.  Jam is pretty easy to make.  It takes a little skill, the ability to closely follow a very simple recipe, and bit of free time. But it’s no souffle.  Am I right?
Apple butter on the other hand takes time.  A lot of time.  And while it’s not difficult, I get burned more by apple butter than I do jam (although the jam burns are significantly hotter).  Apple butter also uses more counter space, more dishes, and more manual labor.  So when people are appreciative of my apple butter, I take it.  Every word of it.

That all being said, you know I do this stuff because I love it.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t make it (see Okra).  So I give to you, Apple Butter:

The first step is to get some apples.  Actually, a lot of apples.  Probably at least 10lbs.  You want about 9 quarts of apple sauce. Wait, what’s that you say? You didn’t know we were making apples sauce?  Yes.  We are making apple sauce first, and then apple butter.  And since I’m getting the water canner boiling, and making the kitchen messy, I figure, might as well get it all done at once.  You can’t make too much.  Because if you decide that you don’t want that much apple butter, just can the apple sauce the way it is.  Make sense?

What kind of apples you ask?  What kind do you have?  I wouldn’t use Granny Smith, or anything else overly tart.  But generally any other kind of apple will work. And here’s the thing, the more variety, the better.  I’ve used 5 different types in the past.  Each apple variety brings a little something different to the table, and together, they make magic.

I (as you read above) went with 3 varieties this time; from left to right Jonagold, Macintosh, and Fuji.  Why did I go with those 3?  Did you not see the prices I listed above?  Cost is a huge motivator for me when it comes time to decide what to make.

I bet for step one you’re expecting peel, cut, and core.  Nope.  That’s a huge wast of my time, and a waste of apple.  I let the Kitchenaid do all the work for me.  Did I mention that I use a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer wit the food and vegetable strainer attachment for this? Well I do.  And you should too.  If you fancy yourself any kind of semi-legit cook, or a home canner, or a neo-homesteader, you need a Kitchenaid with the grinder.  I can’t live without it.

Cut the apples into 8ths. Some of the Jonagolds were really big, and they got cut into 12ths or something.  But try to keep the shapes about the same size throughout.  The only thing you need to remove is the produce sticker, and as much of the bulk of the stem as you can.  But everything else stays.

Put about an inch or 2 of water in the bottom of a large pot, and start to heat it on high.  then toss in your apples as you cut them.  I don’t cut them all ahead of time, cause where am I gonna store 30lbs of sliced apples?

Lets interject to discuss pots quickly.  I have mostly All-Clad stainless cookwear.  And it’s amazing.  I also have this cheap-o aluminum stock pot from a grocery store.  And it sucks.  I almost lost half of my patch (15lbs!!) last night when the cheap-o pot got 2 hot spots and started to burn the apples.  Whereas the All-Clad is so thick, it heats evenly and maintains the heat too.  If you don’t have a nice set of cookwear, save up and get some.  It makes such a difference.  At least get a nice heavy skillet and a nice heavy pot.  The All-Clad batch cooked faster, and nicer than the cheap pot ever did.  I actually turned the cheap pot off halfway through and did smaller batches in the All-Clad.

Anyway, heat and stir, heat and stir, heat and stir until the apples are all soft.

As you can see there are some different consistencies in there.  I found that the Macintosh apples disintegrated in the heat.  The Fuji’s put up a good fight, but started to fall apart as well.  The Jonagold’s however, good lord.  They took forever to soften, and they never broke down.  Mental note, what a great baking apple if I need it to stand up to heat.  When all the apples are soft, move them to a large bowl and heat another batch if needed.

The set up: The blue bowl will catch the remnants.  The middle bowl will catch the applesauce, and the bowl on the right contains the cooked apples.  After attaching the grinder/food mill, turn the mixer on 2.  Start feeding the apples through.

This is the part that hurts.  The food mill has a tendency to suck and spit all over the place.  And those apples were boiling 30 seconds ago.  Don’t put your face over the food tray while you’re doing this.  I got hot apple juice in my eye last time. It hurts.  Nuff said.

Cooked apples go in the top.  All the skins, seeds, stems, cores, etc come out here in dried out little apple poo nuggets. This is why the blue bowl is here.

And out of the bottom comes pure liquid gold.  Congratulations, you’ve just made apple sauce.  It’s just that easy.  And if you wanna quit at apple sauce you totally can.  And this is it.  It doesn’t need anything.  No sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, no sodium stearoyl lactylate, no nothing!  And that’s the best part about making our own food, isn’t it?  Now, I have been known to add a touch of cinnamon, but you don’t even need to add that now if you wanna sprinkle it on it when you eat it.  You can just reheat it to a boil,   jar this stuff up and water bath can it for 15 minutes for pints, and 20 for quarts.

That being said, in the interest of transparency, you could also (shudder) used purchased applesauce and start the recipe here.

Those fibrous apple nuggets can be composted if you’re into that (and if you’re reading my blog, you probably are).

Fill a crock pot almost to the top with your apple sauce.  Mine holds about 4 quarts.  Though bigger is fine.  Add 2 cups of sugar, 2T Cinnamon, 1t Clove, and 1/2t Allspice.  Then mix it all together well.

Put a wooden spool, a couple of chop sticks, dowels, or shish-kabob skewers across the pot, and then set the lid on it. This allows steam to escape, which will help it reduce, but keeps yoru kitchen clean and napalm free.

How long should this cook?  I don’t have a clue.  This isn’t so much a science as it is an art.  start with 8 hours, and work your way up.  I’m well above 12 hours, but my Crock Pot isn’t impressive.  Start with your pot on high to get it going, and then turn it down.  Check on it after 6, 8, and 10 hours.  And stir it any time you walk past it.  You want it to reduce in volume almost by half.  I set this at 2am, and it was ready for the next step at 7:30pm. So, almost 18 hours.  But, I also kept the pot on low since i knew I wouldn’t be around.

What if it burns? If it burns, remove the sauce into a bowl.  The burnt part should be stuck to the crock pot.  Clean it, return it to the pot, and continue.  What if it’s too runny?  Cook it longer.  What if it’s reduced too much?  Add apple sauce.  This is the nice thing.  Like I said, not a science.

After however many hours, your apple butter will be reduced by about half.  Mind you, that’s more than in this picture, but I totally spaced taking a picture at that point.

Then you add apple sauce to to the top of the crock again, and another 2 cups of sugar.  Mix well.  Let it cook a couple more ours to combine.  I cooked it another 3-4 hours.

Using an immersion blender, process until smooth.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, either buy one, or skip this step.  I do not want to get an email from you in the burn unit after a blender or food processor mishap.  Ok?  Safety first.  This is boiling apples and sugar.  If you don’t blend this, I don’t think it’s the end of the world, it just wont have that smooth buttery consistency that apple butter should.

That’s it.  You’ve made Apple Butter.

Using safe canning methods (you know, clean jars, ladle, and funnel) fill your jars with the apple butter.  I’ve done pints in the past, but apple butter doesn’t go as quickly as jam in our house.  So I stick to 1/2 pints to avoid any waste.

Remember to leave your 1/4 inch head space, put the cover on and hand tighten the ring.

Put em in the water bath (yes, there are 5 1/2 pints in there) and let em ride for 10 minutes for 1/2 pints or pints, and 15 min for quarts.

Remove, and let sit for 24 hours without disturbing them.  I usually put them back in the original cardboard case the jars came in them, and slide them in a cupboard to keep the kids away from them.

And we’ve made apple butter.  You can put it on toast or english muffins, make PB&AB sandwich, or heat it and brush it onto pork, pour it onto pancakes, mix it in oatmeal, or use it to top vanilla ice cream.

 

Canning 101: Strawberry Lemon Jam

A lot of people I meet and talk to are really interested in getting in to canning, but are also scared to try it.  I think this is one of the easiest recipes to get you into it.

Before you start, you’ll need a few basic supplies.  It’s an initial investment, but most of it will not need replacing or replenishing.

Start with a water bath caner.  You can go out and buy pot, or, if you ave stock pot (which any self respecting cook does) you can just use that.

You will need canning kit like this kit from Amazon. You can get these kits almost anywhere. Some contain more parts, and some less. What’s really important is the jar lifter and the funnel. I don’t use the magnetic lid lifter, the jar wrench or the tongs. Some kits contain a little wire rack for the jars to sit in. That’s nice, but not necessary.  But truth be told, if you have a wide mouth funnel, and can figure out how to get hot jars out of hot water, you really don’t need any of this.

You’ll need mason jars, lids, and rings. If you weren’t aware, all regular mouth jars use the same size lids and rings.  All wide mouth jars use the same size lids and rings.  All of them.  1/4, 1/2 pint, pint, quart, whatever. It’s one of the few standardized things left in my life.  This is beneficial for a few reason.  1st, you only buy 2 sizes of lids.  Ever.  2nd, the rings are re-usable, and don’t need to be on the jars once they seal.  So you seal your jars, remove the rings, and use them on the next batch.  The jars are also re-usable.  The only reasons you ever need to buy more jars once you start are that your jars are all full, or you’ve given away too much of you stock.

Jars are available at any grocery store, and Walmart and Target during the summer/fall.  But, they are also available at Goodwill.  And Saturdays are 1/2 price days.  Which makes you average mason jar about $0.40.  Remember, lids ARE NOT reusable, and you have rings at home.  So don’t pay more for a jar with a lid and ring.  Just buy the cheap jar.  All jars will be sterilized prior to use, so don’t worry about buying food jars at Goodwill.

For most jams and jellies you will also need Pectin.  It can found in groceruy stores.  It’s sold under the names Fruit-Jel, Fruit Pectin, Sure-Jell, Can-Jel, and many others.  It’s all the same stuff.  I pay $1.69 for Kroger Brand.  It works just as well as the $3 Ball Brand.

Canning is a great way to save money.  You buy things in season, or in bulk, when savings are good, and then preserve them for use when the price is high.  Right now, Strawberries are less than $1 a pound almost everywhere, because Florida just had their season, and they are abundant.  This is a great time to make strawberry jam, preserves, or just can them.

Now on to the good part.  Actually making the jam.

Strawberry Lemon Jam:

  • 1/4 cup thinly slice lemon peel (about 2 large)
  • 4 cups crushed strawberries (about 4 1-lb containers)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1.75-oz pkg Fruit Pectin
  • 6 cups sugar

Preparation:

Put water in your pot.  Remember that you need 1-2 inches of water above the tops of your jars.  But also remember that your sealed jars will displace their own volume in water.  Place either your wire rack, or a dish towel in the bottom of your pot.  Put your empty and open jars and lids in the water.  Heat.

Directions:

Crush your strawberries, one pound at a time, with a potato masher.  Consistency is up to you.  I like larger chucks of strawberry in my jam, so I do this step roughly.

Combine the 4 lbs in a large pot.

Cut the ends of the lemons.  Cut the rind off the lemon in strips from end to end.  Now, place the rind zest side down on the cutting board.  Using a long sharp knife, fillet the pith off of the zest.  You want to remove as much pith as you can, without damaging the zest.  Work in slow thin layers.

Rind removed from the lemon. Now to get that pith off.

When the pith is removed, stack the layers of zest.  Then slice them into the thinnest strips you can.  Place the strips of zest in a small pot of water, and heat to a boil.  Boil for 5-10 minutes, until the zest is soft.  Drain the zest, and add it to the strawberries, along with 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from the zested lemons), and the package of pectin.

Heat over high heat, stirring constantly.  The mixture must be heated quickly, or the pectin will break down.  Of course, high heat can cause burning.  So crank the heat up, and don’t walk away!  Just keep everything moving with a silicon spatula.

Heat the mixture to a full boil that can not be stirred down.

Add all the sugar at once, and stir in.  Continue to heat on high and stir constantly.  Constantly!  I can’t stress that enough.  Don’t leave.  Not to change the channel, not to use the bathroom, don’t even answer your phone.  Reheat the mixture to a full boil.  Be aware that at this point, this stuff is hotter and stickier than napalm.  It was also nearly double in volume, so a large pot is a must.

It should basically look like a volcano on your stove.

Keep it boiling at a full boil for 1 minute.  Then, remove from heat.

In the mean time, keep an eye on that canning pot over there.  You need to pull the lids out prior to the water boiling.  The hot water needs to soften the adhesive on the rim of the lids, but boiling water will compromise it.  Keep the jars in the water through boiling, and don’t pull them out unitl just before you’re ready to use them.

Skim any foam off of your jam.  It’s just not that tasty.

Using your funnel and ladle,  fill each jar with your jam.

Leave about 1/4 inch “head space”, that is, empty space at the top of the jar.

Put a lid on each jar.  Place a ring over the lid, and finger tighten.  Don’t crank down on it, air needs to get out.

Place the jars in the boiling water, ensuring that once all the jars are in, you have 1-2 inches of water on top of the jars.  Return the water to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes.

Here’s a bit of the techy side I’ve learned.  You boil the fruit, killing bacteria.  You boil the jars, killing bacteria.  You added some lemon juice, increasing the acidity, which bacteria isn’t fond of.  And now, by heating, you increase the pressure in the jars.  That force that head space air out of the jars.  Watch, you’ll see the bubbles coming from the jars.  This creates a bit of a vacuum in the jars.  And, voila, canned.  Preserved.  Safe for months.  Also, delicious.

After 10 minutes, remove the jars.  Place them somewhere where they won’t be moved for 24-48 hours.   This gives everything time to settle and seal.  After that, remove the rings from the jars (gotta re-use them, right?).  The lids are on there tight, so don’t worry.

Make yourself some sweet labels.  If you’re going to give them away as gifts, include the ingredients, and a mad on, or use by date.  If you’re really going to get in to canning, labels are a must.  You need to know what’s in that jar, and when you made it.

Plus, your pantry starts to look kinda cool when everything has your own label on it.

Domestic Preparedness

Canning has a lot of benefits.  You save money.  You know what you’re eating.  And it’s one step closer to off the grid independence.  I’m very much looking forward to the summer and fall when I can start canning my own grown vegetables.

Future caning recipes wont be nearly this detailed and tedious.  But I was trying to make this an intro post for beginners.  I hope you enjoy this jam on some homemade bread or English muffins in the morning.  The sweet strawberries, with the bright burst of lemon zest is the perfect thing to coax me out of bed int he morning.


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