Things I did well this month:

1) Be a Mommy
2) SCA
3) Keep one step ahead of the Vegetable Garden
4) Knit
5) Crochet

Things that did not go quite as well this month:

1) Updating Blog
2) Can Jam
3) Sleeping
4) Quest for world domination via chickens

I am afraid that canning this month took a back seat to other commitments (and a horrible new obsession called Ravelry). But I did squeeze in a little time for tigress’s can jam theme …erries. And luckily my mother came through with the ‘erries. She trucked down to the Atlanta State Farmer’s Market and picked up a metric butt tonne of strawberries. So many, in fact, that she was unable to process them all and gave a half a flat to me.

This made my choice of ‘errie quite easy because, hey, FREE!!! Now I love strawberries and I really didn’t feel like doing anything creative or fancy – I just wanted to taste Strawberries. So with a complete lack of creativity and originality I followed the instructions in the enclosure for the packages of Sure-Jel low Sugar Pectin.

Mostly.

And I got this:

Strawberry Jam on Ice Cream

Move over chocolate, now there's something 'errier!

Which, frankly, I couldn’t ask for more. I can now make my son’s ubiquitous PB&J’s with home-made jam. Totally HFCS free without a mortgage! And I will be on the lookout for Blackberry season to make some plain ole blackberry jam for the same nefarious purpose.

No recipe for today because I really did use the one in the Sur-Jel packet. The only thing I did slightly different is that I didn’t use a potato masher to “mash” the berries. Really, who does that? I tried it, I laid some berries out in a glass pan and took the masher to them – they laughed heartily at my efforts and I was all “That ain’t gonna fly” and chucked them into the food processor. Other than that, it was jam by the book, er, pamphlet, er, insert.

So in conclusion, strawberries are delicious enough to not need to be mucked about with – do you have anything that falls into that category for you?

ps: I hope that someone is seriously considering cucumbers for next month’s theme because I, um … over-planted a wee bit.

The can jam round-up will be happening this weekend and I am guessing if I don’t have this recipe up by then I might have some cranky readers. So here it is. I don’t have a picture so it is way boring. Hopefully I will get a picture soon to break up the monotony of words, words, words. Finally had a pretty day so there are now pictuers. If you are looking for citrus I have two entries Orange Coriander Thyme Jelly and Meyer Lemon Kiwi Marmalade. While this has citrus – it isn’t the star.

When I fell in love with the home we live in, it wasn’t just the house that wooed me. It was the whole property. Finding 1 1/2 acres within a 25 minute drive to Downtown Atlanta was quite the coup as far as I was concerned. But many things cinched the deal. One of these things was the absolutely enormous Fig tree in the back yard. And by enormous I mean well over 25 feet tall.

It should have never gotten that tall, so the fall before last we had an arborist come out and trim the ever-loving-crap out of the big boy. As a result my fig harvest this past year was not quite abundant. We had a steady crop of figs, but never more than 10 – 15 figs were at a state of perfect ripeness at the same time. Considering the fact that most fig preserve recipes call for pounds and pounds of perfectly ripe figs – I obviously had a problem

My solution – a dehydrator. I picked the pendulous little guys on an almost daily basis, and every few days I would run them through my dehydrator. Once dried I packed them into freezer bags and put them in the freezer. I figured I would find a recipe for dried fig preserves sometime in the future. This also had the benefit of allowing me to concentrate my canning efforts on the multitude of other produces that were demanding my time. Sin in haste, repent in leisure. I would can the figs during the canning “off season”.

Cryo-Dehydrated Fig.

Little did I know that tigress would declare that 2010 would have no off-season. My grand total of dried figs was 4 quart bags stuffed to the gills. The first recipe I used was out of Small Batch Preserving (a fabulous book) and while very good, it was a bit too sugary for me. It used commercial pectin and a whole boat load of sugar – the result was a very tasty jam. But I wanted something better.

I spent a goodly amount of time on the internet trying to find what I wanted, but couldn’t. I ended up taking a little bit from here a little bit from there and Frankensteining together my own recipe. It is not what one would call “traditional” but I think it is pretty good.

Dried Fig and Citrus Jam: this has been monkeyed around with enough that I cannot attribute to anyone but myself. This also means that it is totally not approved by the USDA – I expect to have the MIB at my door any day now. If you make this, store it, and then open it up and it has the funk please, please, please do not eat it.

The Hardware: see The Canning Thing, you need enough jars for 4 1/2 pints, a knife if you are industrious a food processor if you are lazy like me.

The Software:

1 lb Dried Figs
2 Big Tart Apples, I used Granny Smith
1 Lemon
1 Orange
4 3/4 C Water
3 1/2 C Sugar
1 t Ground Ginger
pinch Salt

Peel and core apples then chunk up into the food processor, add figs and whir them up until they are finely chopped. Dump into a large cook pot. Cut citrus in half around the equator and juice into a liquid measure, remove seeds. Your goal here is a total of 2/3 C juice, if you don’t get that much you can round it out with bottled lemon juice.

Scrape the pulpy stuff out of the inside of the orange and add to the pot, toss in the halves of the lemon whole – not the whole lemon because you cut it in half – but the whole halves. Does that make any sense? Cut the nubby tippy top ends off of the orange halves and discard. Then use a super sharp knife and slice the orange peel very thinly. I find it easiest to cut the cup shape in half so you can flatten it out and then do your slicing. Add the orange rind to the pot along with your water.

Bring mixture to a gentle boil and keep it there for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. And by a gentle boil I do not mean a simmer, but also avoid a rolling boil. Get it good and going but don’t scorch it capice? Reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer for another 10 minutes.

During the cooking, measure your sugar, salt and ginger into a bowl and have it at the ready. When the first 20 minutes of cooking is done, add the sugar mixture and stir in well. Simmer for an additional 20 – 25 minutes stirring occasionally (or obsessively – I cannot walk away from things because I live in mortal fear of burning stuff).

Towards the end of the cooking you can start checking for jelling if you want to – use any method that works for you. I like the plate in the freezer method personally. When the cooking is done and you like the look of the jelling, fish out the lemon halves and throw them away.  Stir in juices and remove from heat.

Ladle into hot, clean jars and proceed with canning techniques. Remove air pockets, wipe rims, two part lidding, process leaving 1/4 inch head-space.  Boiling water bath for 15 minutes if you are in the 1K – 2K altitude region or adjust for your distance from sea level.

In the dead of winter there is something beckoning about the sunshine-y orbs of citrus at the market. Resistance is futile. Even though I have satisfied my can jam obligation, I have not satisfied my lust. One object of my attention was the Citron. In the aisles I hefted it into my hand, caressed it, sniffed it, threw longing looks in it’s direction after I had replaced it in its’ pile. Even I could not justify purchasing it, having NO CLUE what to do with the thing.

So I transferred my affection to the Meyer Lemon, bastard offspring of the Lemon and Mandarin Orange. I knew it would be kind to me as opposed to the fickle mistress the Citron. And I had a recipe! Many years ago, when I first tried my hand a canning, it was because I went out and picked several pounds of blackberries. Then I realized I had no idea what to do with them – backwards I know. At the time the canning section at my local book store was slim pickings so I ended up with one slim volume: The Joy of Cooking All About Canning & Preserving. It is not a book that I have seen much mention of on the Food-Blogosphere but I find myself liking it more and more.

Doubly so because it brought this into my life:

You had me with the freckles you saucy girl you.

You had me with the freckles you saucy girl you.

Meyer Lemon Kiwi Marmalade: from All About Canning & Preserving – Joy of Cooking Series

The Hardware: Canning stuff – I think I might need to make a seperate post just for this. OK, I did it see The Canning Thing. This makes 7 – 8 half pint jars.

The Software:
1 1/4 lbs Meyer Lemons
4 C Water
1 1/2 lbs Kiwi (firm/ripe)
5 C Sugar

Wash your lemons well and then slice them all in half along the equator. Using scissors, snip out the center star of white membrane and discard along with seeds.

The next step is to slice the lemons thinly and place in a big bowl with 4 cups of water. The thin skin of the lemons proved to be too challenging for my cheap a$$ “mandolin” and slicing them by hand was no pic-a-nic either. And I have sliced more things than the a-ve-rage bear. Let the whole mess sit overnight in the ‘fridge.

Whenever you get around to it the next day toss the whole shebang into a big pot and simmer for 15 minutes. While doing so, peel and slice the kiwi into 1/4 rounds.

Put a second pot on the range and measure 2 1/2 C sugar into it – add half the kiwi. When the lemons have had their jacuzzi, move half of them over to the other pot and add the remaining sugar and kiwi to the original pot. Now you have to work on your simultaneous stirring method. I get bored and see if I can stir them in opposing directions, or even better, opposing figure eights. I don’t know why the recipe says to do it in two batches – but that is what it says.

I managed that until both pots got up until 215 degrees and then I married them together to coax them up to the 218 – 220 range. This magic temperature is apparently the “jelling” point for my particular altitude  – yours might vary. I also used the whole “put a small dish in the freezer and plop some jelly on it” trick. Let that sit in the freezer for two minutes (while you have intelligently lowered the heat on your molten lemon napalm) and see if it has set up by trying to pull a Red Sea Split on it with your finger. What finger you use is discretionary.

Pack into jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Make with the de-bubbling and rim wiping and ring tightening as usual. Boiling Water Bath for 15 minutes if you live between 1K & 2K feet like me – adjust for your altitude.

Conclusion:

The hubby and I spent a little time scraping the jelly from the inside of the cooking pots and eating it while making happy noises. I cannot wait to try this for real. It was a fair pain in the butt process wise, but I have found myself contemplating buying more ingredients so that I might make this again soon – I want to have more. One note, I ended up short 1/4 lb of kiwi, so it might have actually made the full number of half pints the recipe called for.

I am feeling pretty good about making this without any added pectin. It is only my second time doing such a thing, the first was a Dried Fig Preserve with apples and oranges providing the pectin. Even though it wasn’t done for this can jam – would anyone be interested in that recipe?

Going to Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market is an exercise in restraint regardless of how frequently I go. This time the piles of succulent citrus called to me from their bins, and I wanted to take them all home. Every kind of Orange, Tangerine, Lemon, Lime you can imagine (no Buddha hands tho) ripe for the picking. To narrow things down I decided on oranges, and further tightening the net I restricted myself to fruits from Florida. Among all of the Navels and Minnelos there was one lonely bin of Hamlins – and I decided to take them home.

Not knowing ahead of time what I was going to make, I didn’t buy quite enough oranges so I had to flesh out the juice with some tangerines from my last YDFM foray. I really wanted to make an Orange Jelly, but all I kept finding was marmalade recipes. With some poking I was able to find a Spiced Orange Jelly recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation and I thought it would work as a base, even tho I really didn’t want to do the commercial pectin route – eh win some lose some.

Hardware: canning stuff, see the ridiculously long page I wrote about The Canning Thing.

Sunshine in a jar

Orange Thyme Coriander Jelly – makes 4 half pints
based on Spiced Orange Jelly from NCHFP

The Software:
2 C Orange Juice (4 Hamlins + 2 Tangerines)
1/3 C Lemon Juice
2/3 C Water
1 box Pwd Pectin
1 T Orange Zest, finely chopped
1 T Coriander seed, whole
3 1/2 C Sugar
1 T Thyme Leaves, fresh plus whole springs for jars

Peel one of the oranges to get the zest and juice all fruit – remove seeds. Combine juice, zest, water and pectin with coriander that has been tied into a little bag. Stir constantly on high heat until you reach a full rolling boil. Add sugar and continue to stir. When you get back up to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down begin timing for one minute and then turn off heat.

Continue to stir and remove spice bag, add in thyme leaves. Place one or two springs of thyme in each of your jars (that you have been keeping in your BWB) and fill to 1/4 head space. Do the whole jar wiping, lidding process as for any other canning.  Process for time appropriate to your altitude – for me that is 10 minutes.

Conclusions:

The original recipe called for spicing of cinnamon, cloves et all – you know, the usual suspects. And I just wasn’t feeling that combo. It seems to be the combo that gets thrown into everything and it gets a little old. For apple butter I can see it – but the flavors are just too wintry for citrus as far as I am concerned. Coriander is one of my favorite spices, and it never gets to take center stage. Always in the chorus but never the Diva, now is it’s time. Or thyme. hehehe

Now the question is, other than toast – what shall I eat my concoction upon?

A Confession:

I was weak and I didn’t just buy oranges, there were Meyer lemons and how does one say no to Meyer lemons? Those bad boys are currently soaking in the ‘fridge all sliced up and mangled, biding their time. So obviously there will be a Citrus can jam version 2.0 in the near future.

summerfest-badge

What I should be posting right now is an entry for thursday night smackdown’s Hobo Tuesday. But I am a slacker, and a chicken. Specifically the theme for this month is super spicy food, and my idea of pretty darn spicy is the regular stuff at Taco Bell. When they ask me if I want some of the Medium sauce I am all like Whoaaaa there Nelly, let’s not get too crazy.

So I found another event to participate in – it is the Summer Fest! Apparently the whole shindig started last month with Herbs, but I always tend to be a little slow on the uptake. The theme of this month is tree fruits – and well, I live in Georgia and I really do not have any choice in the fruit I will be using. I mean really, could there be any other option?

So for this soiree I am getting back to one of the core values of this blog (since I have such a long and illustrious history, snort) and that is using one of my most precious commodities – time – to compensate for one of my more unsavory character traits – cheapness.

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

One of the best cheap tips I can give you is to cut out the middle-man. If you can, buy your produce straight from the Farmer/Grower. Luckily I live in a State that believes in that very principle and sponsors the Atlanta State Farmer’s Market, a place where you can go year ’round and purchase produce directly from the Farmers that pulled it out of the ground, or off of the tree, or plant, or … you get the picture. There is even a meat market there that has three butchers there every week day – prices & sizes like a warehouse club without any taxes.

My mother and I toodled down there a couple of weeks ago and picked up a 1/2 bushel of peaches. Glorious peaches that smelled like … peaches, not those rock hard impostors you find at the grocery. Those, the best thing you can do with them is hot-glue on some googley eyes and try to recreate the ’70 pet rock craze only fuzzier. And the best thing, for our 22 lbs of peaches we paid $11. That’s right, .50 per lb. Does little cheap-ass happy dance.

And Here is Where you start Robbing Peter

We have beautifully high quality peaches at rock bottom prices, but we also have 22 lbs of highly perishable fruit that has to have something done with it NOW! So we pay for it with time. An entire day of canning with my Mother to be precise. But ooooh, the rewards.

Angelic & Delicious

Angelic & Delicious

The Yield:

6 Quarts of Peach Pie Filling
6 1/2 Half-pints of Peach Preserves
6 1/2 Half-pints of Ginger Peach Preserves
8 Quarts of Frozen Sliced Peaches

All total 20 quarts + 1 pint of peachy perfection to last us for the coming year. Trying to calculate how much money we saved would be difficult. Figure that each 1/2 pint of “gourmet” peach preserves that you buy at the grocery would run you at least $3 x 13 half-pints and you get $39. Already $28 more than we spent on the fruit. Of course you have to factor in the cost of the canning supplies – but those are re-usable and I really do not want to get into amortizing the crap. A quart sized bag of frozen peaches is going to run you at least $2.50 x 8 =  $20. The peach pie filling, and let me tell you this isn’t anything like the stuff that comes out of the can, you would pay at least $5 a jar for this x 6 = $30.

So, for our $11 basket of peaches and lets say and additional $15 in supplies (including sugar, spices etc…) we yielded $89 worth of the good stuff. $89 – $26 = $63, obviously not enough to compensate two such talented ladies for an entire day’s work (or at least one talented lady and one who can almost stir without drooling into the pot) but that is where the love comes in to play.

I think we might need to go buy more peaches before the season is over.

p.s. I haven’t included any recipes because they all came from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I usually avoid posting recipes if I haven’t made some changes to them because that would run afoul of copyright issues. And anyone reading about home preserving will know full well that if you change anything then OH MY GOD YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE AND YOU WILL KILL YOUR FRIENDS WITH YOUR CANNED GOODS!!!!!!!!
I may exaggerate slightly.

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