Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Strawberry Picking + Jam

Over the weekend Nathan and I went strawberry picking at Lewis Farm, located about fifteen minutes from our house, with some friends. It was a gorgeous day, perfect for picking, and it seemed like half of Wilmington had the same idea. 

Nathan and I ended up with 12 pounds of berries, which came to the grand total of $18.00. Obviously, I needed to make jam. And not freezer jam, which I've made a few times in the past. No, I wanted to make real jam, and put it in a cute jar, and place it lovingly on a shelf, where it would later be surrounded by all the other things I would can and preserve and sauce, building a homemade pantry that would get us through the cold months of winter. (As you can see, my dreams tend to get big fast.) I dragged my canning equipment down from the attic (my dear friend Chay gave me her extra set right before we left Texas, and I had yet to use it), bought a new cookbook (any excuse for a new cookbook), gathered my ingredients (which required three separate trips the grocery store), until finally I was ready to jam. 

Full review coming once I make a few more things.

I ended up getting a brand of pectin at Whole Foods that uses less sugar, because it's made from a citrus peel and thus jells more easily. Since the amount of sugar in jam has always seemed excessive to me, I was curious about this claim. I followed the instructions in the pectin box, mashing fruit, blending pectin with apple juice concentrate, bringing the strawberries to a boil, heating the jars in our big pot. It was hot in the kitchen, and I was wearing a sweet apron my friend Lucy made me and blasting some Riot Grrl music because it felt appropriate, when, just as I was about to funnel the jam into the jars, I realized I had not added any sugar to the mix whatsoever. Hm. That seemed strange. I decided to look at the instructions one last time. 

Apparently, there were four different recipes, and I had accidentally chosen the "all fruit" option, instead of the "low sugar" one, which would have yielded a more traditional jam. Since it was too late to fix my error, I went ahead and canned the jam, hoping it wouldn't be bitter. I boiled the jars for ten minutes and started washing the million dishes I had dirtied (canning jam is messy business) and then fished them out, only burning myself once, and left them on the counter to cool while I washed another thousand dishes. While I was scrubbing, I heard a pop, then another, then another. The jars were sealing, which meant that I got the canning process down, even if the contents of the jars is still a work in process. 

Of course, the best thing about chopping six pounds of strawberries (I had to save some of our bounty for straight up eating) is giving the greens + hulls to the chickens. The big girls love strawberries, probably because it's the treat they get most often. They are creatures of habit.

And I didn't want to leave the little ladies out, even though I was pretty sure they would be terrified of the strawberries. It turns out they've been getting braver every day - instead of hiding in the corners, they came running and attacked the berries with an adorable ferocity.

I'll let y'all know how the jam turned out once I'm brave enough to try it. In the meantime, I'm already dreaming of pickles, which is next on my canning bucket list. 

Also, before I forget: the winner of the Honest Fizz giveaway is adr, who would try root beer first. Adr, send me your information and I'll make sure your prize is mailed to you!