Once upon a time, when I was home for 11 straight years with the girls, I had a lot of time on my hands. I loved summer because I could pop over to our neighborhood farm stand (it’s literally less than 2 miles from the house) and find all sorts of fun projects to tackle. I was still able to do a lot of that when I first went back to work roughly 5 and a half years ago because I was part time.
Now I average 32 to 35 hours a week, and wow, that kind of cuts into my personal time. (Not that I’m complaining AT ALL. You guys, I get paid to write. And read. And talk to people. What is life? I have done that for free since I was approximately 6.) Last summer, I didn’t really can anything — just some pickles, a rather disappointing box of peaches and a small batch of raspberry jam. A favorite weekend breakfast in this household is toast and jam, so when it ran out in November, I was sort of facing a mutiny.
Lesson learned, family. Sorry about that.
So THIS year, I am ON IT. (All caps so you know it’s legit.) I still don’t have a lot of time … but I can squeeze in a few hours here and there, so you know what? I’m in. Plus, whenever I can, I feel all Laura Ingalls Wilder and like, hell yeah, I’m providing for my family to get us through the long winter! I don’t know, I’m not a particularly great homemaker, but I do get jacked about canning. It’s not hard, it just takes some time.
Plus, a filled pantry of home-canned items is on my zero waste to-do list.
My to-go jam recipes have traditionally been whatever’s printed on the inside flyer of the pectin box. Sometimes that’s kind of a disaster because I forget to stock up on pectin and then have to make an emergency trip to the store. It’s also pretty expensive, but more than that, we’ve got the cardboard box it comes in (recyclable but made of trees) and the sealed plastic-lined inner bag (trash).
We can do better than that! Armed with my Ball Blue Book of Preserving (highly recommend), I flipped to the jam section and what do you know — you don’t even need pectin! You just need a crapload of sugar!
Word up, Ball Blue Book of Preserving.
First up: Raspberry jam. It’s Abby’s favorite. We let our bushes kind of go last summer when we were under water restrictions due to drought, thinking that they’d just pop right back up with the fall rains. Yeah, that didn’t really happen. We have some survivors, but not enough to produce the necessary 9 cups of crushed berries. I hit a local farm stand thinking I could buy a flat. Nope. But I could u-pick one.
Awesome, I said, I’ll do that.
But it turns out I was a week too late. Frustrated by 2 hours wasted and not even remotely a flat, I decided to fill in the rest of it in with blackberries. So my raspberry jam ended up being raspberry-blackberry, a first for me (turned out quite gorgeous and tasty, a happy accident). Next up: Blueberry jam. I’ve already mentioned our 30 blueberry bushes. We have 5 of one variety that get nice and blue on top but look underripe on the bottom. I used those because I figured enough sugar would solve any potential problems. It also turned out pretty gorgeous, so I had an insanely inflated ego by the time it was all over.
Oh, and yeah, I did both of these in the same night. Well, if you’re going to make a mess, make a mess, plus I had the jars already clean and it seemed like a bummer to waste ’em.
If you’ve never made jam before, here’s how you do it:
So there you have it: Jam 101. But I feel compelled to very strongly suggest that you don’t just take my word for it, but get a canning book for yourself because food safety is extremely important. Try the library first, or your town’s extension office (ours even has canning classes this time of year), or see if a friend happens to have a copy you can borrow before buying a new book, though. There. I feel better all the way around.
To be continued.
Next up: Laundry room musings.