CORN COB JELLY

Yep, that’s right, corn cob jelly. Never heard of it? I’d bet you could find it in some really old journals or cookbooks, maybe from the early American frontier days, when people really had to use everything they had to get by in life.

The funny thing is, this doesn’t taste like it is a nourishment bourne out of necessity. It tastes like smooth honey, with overtones of corn and a hint of citrus at the finish from the pectin. If you have never tried making it, I recommend you do, or at least find some to taste. You would likely be tasting something from our ancestor’s day.

It’s crazy simple, and starts with you buying corn. Fresh = better, so if you have a local farm, get it from ‘that guy’. But waste not: blanch your corn until the kernels are bright, cool your cobs and cut the corn off. Freeze it, can it, eat it, whatever you want. Just don’t toss it. Don’t toss the cobs either; follow along my friends!

CORN COB JELLY:

Ingredients:

  • 10 corn cobs
  • 4 cups water (use the water you blanched your corn in)
  • 1 package pectin
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp butter (or oil if you’re vegan)
  • 2 drops yellow food coloring

Directions:

Break cobs in pieces, throw back into blanching water and bring to a boil for 20 minutes. Cool and strain (if you want more corny flavor, you can actually squeeze the liquid from the cobs prior to discarding). If you want, you can put the little corn pieces into the jelly liquid for some texture and appearance value. Totally a personal decision.

Measure the liquid you boiled the corn cobs in; save 3.5 cups. If you need to add water to come to that quantity, do so. Put that liquid back into your put, and add your packet of pectin and butter. Bring your liquid to a slow boil for one minute, then add sugar SLOWLY! NOTE!! Add 1 cup, stir and taste. From here, add sugar to taste. Adding too much sugar will mask the natural flavor coming out of the cobs and make your jelly taste too sweet.

Once you have added all the sugar you want, add your food coloring to make the color less blah and return to a full boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Fill your jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, wipe rims, cover and process for 10 minutes.

The only tricky thing about this jelly is that when it cools (as you fill your jars), it will get that weird film layer on the top. Just be wary and quick filling your jars.

OTHER NOTES: I actually had 37 cobs when I made this batch :). I filled the pot with the cobs and as much water as I could add to the blanching liquid to fill the pot. It ended up giving me about 14 cups so I used about 2.5-3 times the pectin and I think 5 cups of sugar.

After I boiled the cobs, I let them cool and squeezed all the milk from the cobs. I strained ALL my cooking liquid (and that milk) through a fine seive lined with cheesecloth, so there aren’t any chunks, but the liquid is opaque.

This jelly may take up to a week to set. You can ensure you have hit the jelling point by taking a spoonful of the jelly from the pot on your last boil and sticking it in the fridge for a minute. When you take the plate out, run y our finger down the middle. If the jelly doesn’t come back together, it will set. You can also judge by the boil – the bubbles look like they are boiling up through some liquid thicker than water (which they are), almost like slow motion.

 

So when winter rolls around (in this heat I know I can barely wait for it to get here!), throw some wood on the fire, grab yourself some fresh-from-the-oven cornbread and slather this on top, letting it melt just slightly. Close your eyes as you take the first bite, just listening to the crackle of the fire, and find yourself in a wonderful place.

Happy canning my friends.

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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!