Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Major Jam Session

This past Friday night I fell into bed feeling a little bit sorry for myself.  It had been a long week; I'm still dealing with a lot of emotional junk.  I had also made up my mind a long time ago that I really wanted to go pick strawberries this year.  I had hoped my sister would go with me but she was in Florida on the longest vacation known to mankind (I only say that because I'm super jealous of the eight days her family spent schlepping around Disney World).  I knew that the strawberry season was drawing to a close so I put out a frantic invite on facebook - please won't somebody go strawberry picking with me tomorrow?  Due to my last minute planning & the fact that I wanted to leave by 8:30 in the morning, I didn't have any takers.  But of course as I was wallowing that night I didn't think through those facts.  I just felt like a loser who wanted to do loser stuff that nobody else wanted to do.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who throws these little fits?  Someday I've got to grow up.
Saturday dawned bright & beautiful so after a quick run at the track (I'm really trying to get back into this habit - even if it kills me!) I decided I was going to go strawberry picking alone.  So I did.  I grabbed my iphone, my earbuds, some cash & I hit the road.  I decided to get the 10 lb. box to fill up & I set off down my row.  

Can I just say that it was such a great time I had with me, myself, & I.  I personally can't look at a food-bearing plant with getting all agog at God's fabulous creation.  The scent of fresh strawberries wafted over me while I crawled around straining every muscle in my lower body.  I managed to cram almost 12 pounds in that 10 pound box & then I headed home.  I wasn't even out of the farm gate when I realized I had some major hives popping out on my arms.  I dug around in the glove box & found some antibacterial wipes to try to put out the fire - YEOW!

 When I got home I popped the green tops off & gave these luscious babies a dunking.  I've read somewhere since then that if you add 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water your berries will last a lot longer.  I'm going to try that next time.

You think maybe those beauties were a teensy tiny bit dirty? 

Look at all that yumminess!
This is when I started wishing for more counter space.

After they dried off for a bit I put them in the fridge because Saturday's To Do List did not allow time for jam making.  I was hoping I could fit it in Sunday afternoon (after I consulted two experts, Joyce & Roxi, for jamming tips!).

Sunday afternoon I pulled the berries out of the fridge & started prepping them.  I lopped the tops & any bruises right off & then put them through an egg slicer into a 9x13 inch pan.

Then I attacked with a potato masher! Hi-YAH!  This part was kinda fun but could get really splatter-y right quick!

I made two rounds of jam.  The first round was for my dad.  He prefers Splenda over regular sugar because he is borderline diabetic & does a really good job of watching his sugar intake (go Dad!).  I also used Ball Freezer Jam Pectin.  I can't remember if that's the exact name...it also said something on the label about reduced sugar or sweetener sweetened jam.  I was sold on the fact that I didn't have to cook the berries.  The second round of jam making I used regular old sugar.  I know, I know...sugar & sweeteners are super bad for you.  But at least there isn't any food coloring & the berries are locally grown.  I'm doing what I can & none of us intend to eat this by the heaping spoonful every day...at least probably we won't...I can't make any promises, I guess.

Anyway, the method is super simple.  You combine the Splenda/sugar/sweetener of your choice with the pectin & you stir it all about.  Then you add your crushed berries & then you stir for three minutes.

I used my Kitchen Aid on the lowest setting because I had LOTS of berries.  I was NOT into the notion of hand stirring for three minutes over & over & over.  I just made one batch at a time because the label cautions that if you double/triple/quadruple the process the pectin might not set up right.  I'm one for erring to the side of caution you know, so I didn't take any risks.

Looks yummy, doesn't it?

Then I used a wide mouth funnel to get the strawberry goodness into the jars.  This is when I made the hugest mess.  I should not be trusted in the kitchen.  It's a wonder I didn't have strawberry jam in my ear or on the ceiling.  Oy.

I even got Mike to help a little bit.  This led to a very enlightening discussion about how he doesn't want a garden.  Ever.  As in, not in his lifetime.  As in, he knows I would expect his help, he wouldn't give it unless under extreme duress, I would pout & fume...the whole balance of our happy home would go down the drain.  It's good to know what he's thinking sometimes.

Voila!  Six jars of Splenda goodness &
eleven jars of sugary goodness!

I popped the lids on the jars & then carted them down to the freezer.  So far we haven't actually tried it.  My dad probably had some with his lunch today (he's a pb&j man through & through!) & we have a jar of store bought jam I feel morally obligated to finish first.  Then we'll have a go on our own jam & see how it is.  I'm kind of excited *grin*

But we have munched on a couple of serving of strawberry shortcake.  It was so good.  I made shortcakes with Bisquick baking mix because they are my favorite.  I think I might go home & make some tonight even though the berries are all gone.  My Bisquick love is a little embarrassing & might even border on obsession but if it's wrong I don't want to be right.
And the berries might be good even this coming weekend.  Anybody wanna go pick some?


Stew 1 said...


Enjoy your jam! It is so fun to learn how to make something we take for granted...:)

Heidi said...

I'm so glad you are back to your blogging. I love the way you write and have really missed it!

As for the strawberries, now I really want to pick some myself. Strawberry Shortcake sounds so very yummy!

TwoMuths said...

our season is still a few weeks away. I'd LOVE berries right now, hee hee!! It's such a good feeling to preserve food, I'm with you entirely on the food bearing plant fascination!!

Debbie Moore said...

Nell &I were discussing tonight our chances of still finding some berries Saturday. Wish us luck!


Sandy said...

I love your comments about Mike doesn't want a garden- too funny! And not strawberry season here yet either- but I love to go picking and can't wait. (oh and I would have gone with you and brought some helpers too) Never made jam tho- maybe I'll give it a try this year.

the johnson crew said...

my mouth is watering.

Alicia said...

Going strawberry picking this next week, hopefully! Let us know how you like the homemade jam!

Mrs.T said...

Sounds like a nice time, even by yourself. Hopefully if you went again this week, you found someone to join you. Strawberries aren't ripe here yet. It's usually sometime in June or even early July. Everything's early here this year, but not strawberries, not so far anyway. Enjoy every bite of that jam! And the strawberry shortcake looks amazing too!