Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I have discovered the joy of jam-making

After I got a bread machine for Christmas and started making my own bread, I realized that not only are all the jellies in my fridge seriously out of date (a few had mold growing on them) but that they aren't even that great.

So I picked up a $1.99 special Kroger-brand squeezable strawberry jelly. Even worse.

I decided that I would try my hand at making my own jam, which led to a dubious research trip traipsing across the internet looking at sites that teach you how to "can" your own jam, salsa, pickles and spaghetti sauce.

I am intrigued. I didn't even realize that people still canned things or that you could do it with a minimum of equipment. But apparently you can.

If you are intrigued as well,
please visit this site and learn all you would like to know about canning, which is kind of an oxymoron since there is no can really should be called "jarring", but I guess canning sounds better.

And in case anyone is curious,
this is the kit that I absolutely have to have after the fun I had this evening making my first batch EVER of strawberry jam. And my stupid squeezable jelly is in the trash. I'm done with it.

However, the cool thing is that you don't have to have a canning kit to make this jam...apparently it freezes well too. Who knew!?!?!?

Strawberry Jam

4 c of mashed strawberries (2-3 lbs of strawberries, hulled and quartered before mashing)
4 c sugar
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put a small dish in the freezer. Combine all ingredients in a stockpot and stir on low heat until sugar dissolves. (Make sure to use a stockpot because the fixture foams up high when it boils.) Turn up heat to high and bring mixture to a full boil, stirring constantly. Cook on a full rolling boil for approximately ten minutes, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 220 degrees. Place a teaspoon of the jam on the plate in freezer and put back in the freezer for one minute. Remove plate and draw finger through jam. If jam seperates without running back together, it is done. Pour jam into sterile hot jars and process in a water bath to seal jars, or, if you don't have a kit like me, pour mixture into freezer-safe containers, leaving 1/4" at the top for headspace, and freeze what you will not eat.

What I liked about this jam: It was SO freaking easy to make, it makes me wonder why I haven't tried to make jam before. If you can boil water and read a thermometer, you can make this jam.
What I disliked about this jam: I feel like my entire kitchen is sticky now. I dropped jam on my floors, on my counters, my stove and me, and it'll probably take me a week to get it all clean and destickyed. But I digress.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My new candy thermometer was a gem and I bought it just for this jam. I also bought Ball freezer-safe containers just for jam since I don't have my canning kit yet. But my FAVORITE gadget was my heavy-duty copper and aluminum bottomed Emerilware stockpot. From reading all the reviews on the site where I got this recipe, everyone had a really hard time bringing their jam to 220 degrees. Not me. In fact, it took NO time at all to get my jam to that temperature! I love my pot!
Tastiness factor: I licked the spoon and ate some hot jam on a piece of bread at 1 am. How's that for an answer?

And my New Year's meal since I hate black-eyed peas...

Saucy Potatoes and Ham

4 c peeled and thinly sliced potatoes
1 c chopped white onion
10 3/4 oz can of cream of celery soup
12 oz can evaporated milk
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 c cooked ham, cubed

Combine all ingredients but ham in a slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on high setting for one hour. Add ham and stir well. Cover and cook on low setting for six to eight hours or until potatoes are tender.

What I liked about my dinner: I used my leftover honey-baked ham from Christmas Eve and added a little cut up sliced ham from the fridge (sandwich meat) which in my opinion, is a great way to use up leftovers!
What I disliked about my dinner: I know that the recipe says 6-8 hours on low, but I think that's too long. I think it would have been ready after five hours. I ate it after it had been cooking for six hours, and it was a little too brown around the edges for me. If you make this, just make sure you are constantly checking the potatoes for tenderness. It is possible that this recipe was done at four hours and I just didn't realize it since I waited until six hours to start checking it. And clean-up was a nightmare; I strongly recommend spraying your Crock Pot dish with vegetable spray since potatoes are sticky. I know better...I don't know why I didn't do that. I had to scrub and scrub to get it clean.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I love my six-quart stoneware Crock Pot. Enough said! And my favorite knife, my santoku paring knife, is just the best knife for slicing potatoes. However, my large santoku knife is pretty darn good for chopping onions in a flash since you can "rock" it back and forth like a mezzaluna.
Tastiness factor: Pretty good. I enjoyed it and I will be taking it for lunches to eat leftovers.

Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome back. It's nice to know that there are some people out there who remember me! Hugs to all.


Blogger Trinabelle said...

Hey Erica!! Welcome back!

For you slow cooker, I highly recommend Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners! They come four to a box for less than $3 and make clean up a breeze! I refuse to use my slow cookers (I have 3...LOL) without a liner!

I think I'll have to try your Strawberry Jam recipe. My kids would love it!

7:58 AM  

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