How to make great JAM!

I met the most wonderful woman when I lived in Bremerton WA (the second time). It was 2001 and I had just popped out my second little beauty and was working nights at a local retail store. My routine consisted of coming home just in time to take my older daughter to preschool at the local Lutheran church, and then go home and sleep until she needed to be picked up. Generally I needed more sleep than that so both girls went to daycare for a while.

I had noticed a lady that walked to the church, pushing a baby girl in her stroller, to pick up her daughter from preschool. One day we started chatting and she invited me to come over to her house to chat. Being somewhat shy (most of my friends will say this is not true, but it is), I declined and after she asked me three times, I had to say yes. So over we went.

Long story short, or at least less long, she taught me how to make jam. I used a recipe until two years ago. Ha! That first year I entered my jams in the Kitsap County Fair, and lo and behold, won three first place ribbons! Since then I have expanded what I can, beyond jams. Last year, I entered my goods in the Texas State Fair and won 3rd place for my dilly green beans, 2nd place for my corn relish, and 1st place for my whole blackberries and whole blueberries. OK so now that you have my credentials, let’s get to the good stuff!

There are 3 easy ways to make jam (real jam, not freezer jam): 1. Look online for recipes. 2. but the Ball Blue Book of Canning. 3. Use the little fold out inside the pectin box.

If you just want to make good ole’ strawberry jam, just use the booklet inside the pectin. I would recommend the book if you are looking to expand beyond basics, and looking online if you really want to get creative. But there are a few secrets that those sources won’t tell you…

Let’s start simple: Strawberry Jam

Ingredients:

  • 3 quarts strawberries, hulled and chopped (should be 5 cups)
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 box pectin (I prefer Ball or Kerr, the basic stuff, or all natural)
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp butter

Tools:

  • soup pot
  • big spatula for stirring
  • small plate
  • metal spoon (like dinner spoon)
  • ladle
  • clean jars, and the lids and screw caps
  • big BIG pot, half filled with water
  • small rack to fit inside the BIG pot (if you have one) so the jars don’t rest on the bottom
  • tongs
  • towel
  • wet washcloth

OK, to prep, put all your stuff out on the counter. Your BIG pot with water is how you’ll seal your jars, so you may want to see how many will fit in there. When the jars are full, you’ll need the water to come an inch over the top of the tallest jar. To the side of the stove, put the towel on the counter and your jars atop the towel. Put your jar tops and screw bands to the side. Put the wet cloth nearby the jars.

Put your strawberries, lemon juice and pectin in the soup pot and turn up the heat. Stir with your big spatula and ensure the pectin dissolves. Add butter (it reduces foam). Once your fruit starts to boil, turn your heat down to minimize foam and stir constantly for about a minute. Begin adding the sugar. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT ADD ALL THE SUGAR AT ONCE! THIS WILL CREATE TONS OF BUBBLES WITHIN YOUR JAM! Either use your ladle or sprinkle it straight in from the bowl, but only add as much as you can stir in. Once it is all incorporated, turn your heat back up and get it to a boil again, continuously stirring. Once it boils constantly, turn the heat down and count to 60. Take the pot off the heat. Use your metal spoon to skim foam off the top and onto your little plate. Go ahead and turn up the heat under your BIG pot of water.

Now, you will want to ladle the jam into the jars, and you can do it all at once or one jar at a time. How do you know when it’s full? Well, you need to leave “headspace” so the vacuum can be created inside your jar, so don’t fill it all the way up. You need to leave about 1/4″ headspace in the jar. If you have a little extra that doesn’t fill a jar, just stick it in the fridge and use it first.

Once you get your jars “full”, use your wet cloth to wipe the rims. They won’t seal if the yummy jam is in the way. Screw on the lid, but not tight, then the air won’t be able to excape to seal the jar. Be careful – your jar will be hot at this point. Repeat this with all your full jars.

Use your tongs (or if you have a jar lifter, even better) to carefully put the jars into the water. Once the water boils, count ten minutes and turn off the heat. Use your tongs again to remove the jars from the water and place them back on the towel. Don’t worry if any water stays on top of the jar. Now comes the hard part. You have to leave the jars alone for 24 hours.

This should get you on your way my friends! Happy canning!

Advertisements

We have produce!

I am quite happy to report that my garden is showing signs of produce! It’s not near the volume of the guy down the road, but I’m happy it has something to show. Some plants have fruits, some have flowers, some both! I should be happy with all the rain lately, but I think my garden needs to dry out a bit. I’ve got some rouge mushrooms popping up in the bed.

After all the lightening, my green beans have come back to life. I had previously thought they were getting too much nitrogen from my fertilizer, and being next to the peas, which need a lot of fertilizer, I was unsure of what to do. Mystery solved! I will continue with garden food as soon as I give the garden a good rest from moisture. Hopefully that will encourage some upward growth!

For a closer look, click on a picture.

Happy gardening my friends!

Whole Cloth Quilt

Most of the time I have a top to quilt, I find my inspiration in the fabric and the pattern. I use those aspects to guide me. Sometimes the client’s situation brings forth inspiration to what to quilt.

For example, I once quilted a double wedding ring quilt in all-over hearts. The backing was heart-filled material, and the quilt was lovingly made for the woman’s daughter-in-law, dying from brain cancer. It only seemed fitting to cover the entire thing with hearts.

I just today finished what is basically a queen size whole cloth quilt. I applied some larger applique pieces on the center, and otherwise had a vast, white kona cotton to play with. I made the quilt for a man to give to his wife for their anniversary, and he had no specifics aside from the applique portion as to what he wanted the quilt to look like. We priced it based from an all-over quilted design, so I had to think carefully to fit all these points.

What I ended up deciding to do is a beautiful pattern of curls and arcs, with feathers randomly placed throughout. It creates an eye-catching pattern, because the curls and arcs continue in various directions, almost swirling about the curling feathers, but it isn’t too arduous of a pattern to complete.

I am very pleased with the turn-out; we shall see tomorrow what my client thinks! Happy quilting my friends!

The BEST snack chip EVER!!

I found these in a bin on sale at Kroger a month or so ago. Then I found them at the local Sprouts Market. Now, they are also found in my pantry, every single day. 🙂

The brand is “FOOD SHOULD TASTE GOOD”. Their food DOES taste good! They offer both large bags and single serve, in a variety of flavors. My personal favorite these days include the Multigrain and Sweet Potato chips, both vegan, among many other wonderful qualities.

The chips are GMO free, certified Kosher, all natural, no MSG, etc. The list literally goes on. For more details, please visit their website (included below!)

These chips are fantastic, crunchy, lightly salted and very few ingredients, which allows all the natural flavors of the main ingredient to shine through. I find myself satisfied with FAR fewer of these chips than the more highly processed brands.

I encourage you to try their product. They encourage you as well! There is a $1 coupon available on their website! Check it out! http://www.foodshouldtastegood.com/#/home/

Happy snacking my friends!!

Gardening!

Hobbies are a fantastic way to ease one’s mind after a long day at work, or during some free time on the weekends, whenever it is we find the time to give to ourselves. My hobby used to be quilting, and I had always wanted a garden. I finally had the opportunity to grow a huge vegetable garden, but it was really laid out for me in the house I moved into back in Olympia, WA.

So coming here to Texas and having the yard to make a garden, I finally dug in and made one! Well actually, I built it up. It’s a raised bed, about 25 feet long by 4 feet wide, 18 inches deep. I put over 4 yards of soil and compost in it, but thereby didn’t have to deal with tilling this dang clay soil.

Last year I planted a number of crops, the only one of which that grew being the okra, which I had no clue how to cultivate, so I planted seeds and let it go. Well, I ended up with many 6 foot tall plants and enough okra to make a few stews and some fresh fried okra (yum!)

But everything else started up and died. So this year, building the raised bed, I’ve taken more care in feeding and fertilizing my soil with organic matter and liquid feed. The pictures below show the sprouting proof of my tender care! The beauty of my garden is that I know there are no chemicals added or in the soil, no GMO’s, no wax coating on the produce. I will be able to feed myself and my children all natural goodness at near no cost! Happy gardening my friends!

Chain piecing

This is basic for anyone sewing blocks or strips together, and I mean a LOT of them. I just finished a quilt with about 1275 squares, each 2 inches finished, and chain piecing was essential to getting it finished timely.

Think about this: whenever you want to sew something together, you have to place your piece with your 1/4 inch seam allowance, lower your foot, pull back on your bobbin and top thread (to ensure the material isn’t pulled into the bobbin casing or that the thread gets all tangled), and then go. If you stop, take the piece out when finished, and do that all over again, you are wasting a lot of time and effort you really could use to keep sewing!

 

cutting the "chain link" = thread between setslining up the next set to sew

 
This pic shows me cutting the thread between the chained pieces. Some people prefer to iron them first, I prefer to cut them first, then iron them flat.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This depicts lining up the second set of fabric to piece together… fitting it under the foot just as the last one goes through. Prime situation is to have a little space between them, but you don’t need to clear the foot prior to putting your next set under the foot.
 

lining up the next set to sew

 You do want to keep the pedal going, you can pause as needed, but you want to keep your thread going, and that alleviates the need to keep cutting, pulling excess thread to the back, lining up, starting slow, etc. 

  
the chain

This photo shows the chain after I have removed it from the machine, prior to cutting the chain. Give it a try, and you may be surprised at how much time you save!!

 
Happy quilting my friends!

Vegan Treats!

As much as I’d like to take this moment to push my own fruit based jams that fall into this category, I really wanted to share with everyone the wondrous treat created by “Sweet & Sara”. It’s a NYC based company and the marshmallows they create are incredible. They are VEGAN and delicious!!

If you have a moment, vegan or not, check these out. Great flavors are available, and eating thse ensures that you are not consuming a product made with some sordid animal parts.

http://www.sweetandsara.com/

Y U M !!!