Posted by wendiwendy
According to the On This Day app on Facebook, Dave and I signed the lease for our house a year ago today. June 2015 has been much more calm and stress-free than June 2014, thank God.
Even though the house was ours as of July 1, we had so much still to do at the old house that we didn’t move until the last week of July. We drove here a few times during the month, though, bringing things with us each time (to lessen the possibility of not having enough room in the Relocubes for all our stuff). We had to come out to pick up the keys, get the gas turned on, get the cable set up – that kind of stuff. During one of the visits for setting up utilities, we wandered the yard and picked a bunch of berries, then brought them back and froze them.
At the time, I didn’t really pay attention to the difference between mulberries and raspberries; I just knew we had them both, and they were both a dark purple color. When we picked them, I just tossed all the berries in the same bucket. Now I can easily tell the difference – mulberries grow on trees, raspberries on bushes. Mulberries, to me, have kind of a flat, sweet flavor (and no seeds). Raspberries have an acidic, tart note to go along with their sweet berry flavor, and tons of seeds. Plus they look totally different, now that I know what I’m doing.
This year it was fun to walk around and keep tabs on the berries as they ripened. I watched the mulberries as they first formed, saw the raspberry brambles fill with life. The mulberries ripened first, and we entertained ideas of harvesting them (put a sheet under the tree, then shake the tree … which always makes me think of the song The Joker). Then we kind of wimped out and decided it wasn’t worth it – all those little stems, and the fruit is okay but (in my opinion) would need to be mixed with something else, like rhubarb, to brighten the taste.
Raspberries, though – I just love them. Dave isn’t crazy about the seeds, but he likes them too. I’ve been watching the berries turn red for the past week or two, and now the berries are turning purple hand over fist.
Before raspberries, though, strawberries came into season here. (They don’t call this area the Fruit Belt for nothing!) We picked up a couple pints from a local farm stand, then a quart from a farmer’s market, and then we went all in with a flat from Shelton’s Farm Market when they went on sale. We froze most of them, made strawberry shortcake, made strawberry rhubarb compote more than once, and then I decided I wanted to make strawberry jam.
Dave is the one that does the canning around here, although I’ve gotten more involved in recent years. This time, though, I wanted to try it myself. I didn’t want to actually can the jam in a water bath though; we should really use a canning element on the electric stove here, and we don’t have one. (If we do any heavy duty canning this year, it will probably be outside on a camp stove.) I found an all-purpose jam recipe that made a smaller quantity, and I figured I’d throw a half pint in the fridge, and put the rest in the freezer.
I cooked the heck out of the strawberry puree (the recipe didn’t use pectin) and even though I cooked it far longer than the recipe called for, it never really set up like jam. It was more like a compote or sauce; it was delicious, but it wasn’t jam. (It kicks ass on vanilla ice cream and vanilla yogurt, however.)
I did some searching on strawberry freezer jam, trying to find out what I did wrong. I figured that was what freezer jam was – you cooked it up, and then put it in the freezer instead of canning it. Instead I found an even easier method, better suited for hot summer days because you don’t cook it at all.
So that was experiment #2. I picked up some instant pectin at the store (I love how easy it is to find things like that at the stores around here; I even found rennet tablets the other day so now I can finally try making cheese other than ricotta) and gave it a shot. All you do is mash/puree the fruit, add some sugar (far less than you do if you’re cooking it) and the pectin, pour it into jars and you are DONE.
Can I say again how much I love the fact that I can make jam without heating the house up in the summer, when all the berries are in season? When you don’t have central air, you embrace all the non-hot cooking methods you can.
The flavor is all fruit – it stays bright and fresh-tasting because it isn’t cooked down. (Not that I mind the flavor of traditional jams, mind you!) I like that you can be flexible with flavor combinations; this afternoon I’m making a mixed berry jam using blueberries and raspberries. Cherries are in season next; last year we missed cherry season by about one week, which was heartbreaking.
We just bought a chest freezer and if I’m not careful, it’s going to be full of nothing but jam and frozen fruit. 😉
About wendiwendyI'm a real-life bionic woman.
Posted on June 30, 2015, in Food & Cooking, Not Related to Hearing Loss and tagged canning food, freezer jam, Fruit Belt, mulberries, raspberries, southwest Michigan, strawberries, strawberry jam. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.