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Saturday, July 9, 2011

TIMES TIDE AND PEAS WAIT FOR NO MAN

Do you know that scene in Raiders of The lost Ark where the ark is revealed and their eyes begin to melt out of their heads?  That's how hot it feels lately.  OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but not a lot.  Of course, all this humid heat is just the thing for the garden so we are harvesting things left and right.  The cool spring and early June was a real boon for the peas. We had quite a bumper crop.  And the shells are plump with their green goodness.  Strawberries needed picking also. And the blueberries are ripe.  Hurray! Time to get out the canner.  I know that I write a lot about canning and some of you don't can, but I really want to encourage you to give it a try.  Before you go out and buy a lot of expensive equipment. maybe it would be a good thing to try your hand at making up a small batch of jam.  You don't need a canner for that.  I often use a large stockpot for making jam instead of dragging out the large canner.  Just place a couple of tea towels on the bottom so that the jars don't come in contact with the bottom of the pot or the jars might crack.  I had a real Lucy and Ethel moment when I did this once.  Apparently the tea towels I was using hadn't been rinsed well enough and all that boiling produced a lot of suds that boiled all over the stove and the kitchen floor.  So make sure you use well-rinsed towels before attempting this!

A lot of people are afraid of canning because the think they'll accidentally poison their families.  To make certain the food is safe use your senses.  LOOK at it.  It should be the same color as the day you canned it.  SMELL it.  It should smell the same as the day you canned it.  FEEL it.  The lid should be hard to pry off.  If it comes off easily, toss it.  When in doubt, throw it out.

Jars not sealing properly are what causes most spoilage.  Two things that I find causes most failures in the jars not sealing are that I didn't allow for the proper amount of headspace.  I use a ruler and measure now, instead of just guessing.  The other thing is forgetting to wipe the rim before placing on the lids.Another thing to remember is that canning is serious business, treat your preparation area like a lab and make sure every thing is clean, clean, clean.  There's no such thing as overkill when it comes to this.

The hot days are good for drying herbs also.  I put mine in the bottom of my broiling pan and put them inside of my car.  It makes the best dehydrator.  And your car smells like the herbs afterward.  Be forewarned,  if you dry dill in your car, expect to have cravings for dill flavored potato chips.  Or maybe that's just me!

Speaking of herbs, my favorite herbalist Marqueta is having a giveaway on her blog:  sweetefelicity.blogspot.com/  If you've never visited her blog, I'll know you'll enjoy it.  Marqueta is a wonderful mother with the most adorable children.  She is also one of the kindness, most Godly woman that you could ever hope to meet.  As we say around here, she's the real deal.  Her giveaway is for her E-Book, The Young Lady's Guide To Natural Health is chockablock full of  wonderful information.  And although no one will ever call me a young lady anymore, I enjoyed it also and found it informative.

I know that you probably have your own favorite recipe for strawberry jam but just in case ....

Strawberry Preserves

1 quart of roughly sliced strawberries or whole ones if the do not have hollow centers ( I measure them by placing them in a quart-sized  ziploc.  When I can just barely close the bag, that's the right amount)

5 C. sugar
1/2 C. lemon juice

Place the  the strawberries and sugar in a large non-metallic  pot and let them set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  Heat the berries/sugar and bring to a boil.  Boil for 20 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and boil an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Stir and skim the foam.Place in sterilized  half pint jars, leaving a 1/2" headspace.  Wipe rims and place sterilized lids on.  Process in a hot water bath  for 15 minutes.

19 comments:

  1. Dear Jane,

    Thanks so much for the review! Now I owe you big time! :) I'm so glad you're getting a bumper crop. I can relate to the heat and humidity right now, and you made me chortle with the reference to Indiana Jones!

    Using a tea towel and a ruler when canning, I'm getting out my notebook and writing those tips down right now! And to use a well-rinsed towel, of course.

    Love and blessings,

    Marqueta

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  2. Thanks Jane! That is exactly what I needed to read today, because I just made...and canned..fig jam. In review, the only problem I might have is that I used powdered pectin instead of the liquid called for in the recipe, and I substituted it equally, and now I'm researching online that the ratio is not equal. (I'm great for researching after! I also had to run and google "fingertip tight" in the middle of canning). But, I'm a beginner, and time will tell what it turns out like. This week, I will try out some. love,andrea

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  3. Andrea, I've been canning for over thirty years and I've never heard of the term "fingertip tight". Really, some of these sites make canning so overly complicated! You'd think you would need a degree in Home Ec to do it. I know some very uneducated people that have been doing it for their entire lives. Just like the silly advice about composting that makes it so scientific. Usually you find out the people behind those articles have never canned or composted in their lives. Just some brainiac living in some apartment in NYC. Did the jam firm up? Then you don't have a problem. If you used too much, it will just be very firm. Usually I find that a lot of those recipes that use pectin are too runny, so might not have a problem anyway! It won't hurt the nutritional or food safety of the jam.

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  4. You're welcome Marqueta! Meant every word of it. Guess my canning tips are the type you won't read in the Martha Stewart magazine!

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  5. I love it when the garden gets hot enough to really get going. We have been much cooler than normal and our blueberries are just starting to ripen. I would really love to make jam this year. Fresh jam sounds yummy!

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  6. Thanks jane! Your advice calms down my lack of confidence! I'll check tomorrow. How do they know how juicy the figs I used were anyway...maybe I needed the extra pectin. I tend to turn out things watery more then not. love,andrea

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  7. April, I think I need to move to your neck of the woods. I not much of a hot weather lover!

    Andrea, here's a simple test to check to see if your jams and jellies are firm enough while making them. Put a saucer in the freezer. When you've cooked the jam for the required amount of time, place a dab on the saucer and place it back in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Then test it to see if it is your desired consistency (I like it fairly firm personally). Nine out of ten times, you'll find out that you need to cook it longer.

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  8. I just tried a jar for breakfast (fig jam) and it turned out perfect! love,andrea

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  9. Good Andrea! Bet you it tasted delicious!

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  10. Your posts are so interesting Jane and I always find something I can easily relate to - like the dill flavored chip craving! Oh, I get those bad!!!

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  11. The one good thing about those chips, Sandy, is that you can't eat too many before the inside of your mouth feels all pucker-ish! Don't know whether to bless or curse whoever came up with the idea of potato chips! They've been the downfall of many of my diets.

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  12. So much wonderful info Jane. I especially like the tip about drying herbs in you car. I hadn't thought of that and it makes sense!

    Blessings, Debbie

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  13. Well I never thought about using my car as a dehydrator, but it sure makes sense! It certainly gets hot enough, and no worries about moisture or bugs getting on them!

    I have nothing but tomatoes in my garden, the heat has gotten to almost everything else. Good luck on your harvest!

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  14. Hi Debbie and Charlene! I also let my bread rise in the car in cooler months. But not now. It's so hot right now I bet it would bake in there. I actually burnt my fingers on the pan when I took it out of the car the other day. Just be forewarned, if you do use your car to rise bread, make sure to put a cookie sheet under it. I didn't once and the dough spilled over onto the seat. What a mess!

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  15. I never thought of drying things in the car, but what a great use of free energy!

    I'm wondering if I can learn to can on a smooth range top.

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  16. Shara, there are special canners for smooth topped ranges. I misplaced my canner, but I found an electric waterbath canner that plugs into any outlet at KitchenKrafts.com. I'm think about getting one of these so that I can set up a summer kitchen on the covered porch on the side of our house. Keeps the heat out of the house.

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  17. Love the idea of a summer kitchen--that's what they did during the "olden days" here in the south--wonder why no one kept that tradition? Sure does make sense with today's high cost of energy!

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  18. I think it's an old-fashioned idea that should be revisited Charlene. My son and daughter-in-law set up a small kitchen in the corner of their garage (they have a huge garage) complete with a cute pink retro stove and kitchen cupboards. They can all their food there.

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