June Cleaver eat your heart out

16 Jun

The day started with this:

And ended with this:

I’m not a sweets person, but this strawberry jelly is so good, I went back for spoonfuls all night long. That’s ok, it’s a fruit, right??

It was a bad year for strawberries, but we still had a lovely Sunday morning at the farm picking 2 baskets of berries.

I used these strawberries for my first real attempt at canning something.  The experience was fraught with learning.

Some things I learned:

That may not look like a lot of strawberries, but it makes a LOT of strawberry jam. Especially when you add a LOT of sugar.

Also, Tbsp, as we all know is short for TABLEspoon but if you misread the directions and think it says 1 1/2 TEAspoons (tsp) of pectin per 1 1/2 cup of strawberries, your jam will NOT set.

Strawberry jam takes  A LOT of pectin.  I’m going to make my own pectin broth from apples for the next time I can. When you pour a whole bottle of pectin into one batch of jam, suddenly $5 a can seems more pricey.

Still, it worked out ok, the jam is DE-LI-CIOUS and set just fine.  I even got to experience the full hot water processing method.  Listening to the POP as your lids seal after you remove them from the water is very satisfying.

As a bonus I found fresh sugar snap peas at Soergel’s so I was able to finally make the pickled sugar snap peas I’ve been excited to make.  These were also super easy, basically consisting of vinegar, water, a little salt, a little sugar, whole garlic cloves and hot pepper flakes (or actual peppers).  Put it all together in a jar and let it sit for 2 weeks.

Not quite as instantly gratifying as the strawberry jelly, but it sure beats the heck out of the 3 month wait for the cherries!

Along with being on my summer bucket list, preserving the local harvest satisfies me in so many ways.  It was lovely to spend the morning with my daughter picking strawberries. We talked about what it must have been like for my mother to grow up on a farm and how funny she would find it that we paid for the privileged of picking anything. She hated working on the farm, it is back breaking work, and ran as far and as fast as she could from the Murrysville farm on which she grew up.

It also calls to mind my fore-mothers, especially my paternal grandmother Olive England, who canned a good portion of what they ate every year.   The jelly reminds both me and my daughter of my recently passed Mother In Law who made Riley’s favorite raspberry jelly every summer. When we cleaned out her house Memorial Day weekend we found one last jar of jam.

We chose largely local produce to can–and plan to not only preserve our garden harvest, but the bounty from local farmers markets, the food that I hope this provides for the coming year not only is largely organic but it has an extremely light carbon footprint compared to most of what you buy in the Giant Eagle.

Really, I can’t think of too many things to do with my weekend that have such deep personal meaning, is generally good for the planet, is fun and food oriented.  Its like a fourfer!  We’ll see if I get distracted with some other obsession mid-way through the summer, but so far, I’m loving this.


3 Responses to “June Cleaver eat your heart out”

  1. mike June 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Thanks for the inspiration. Every year I say I’m going to learn to can, and every year I don’t get around to it. We’re going strawberry picking this weekend but I won’t have time to make/can those; however, lots of other great produce around the corner to experiment with. Our 18 tomato plants–if they survive the deer–will give us ample tomatoes.

    • Jennifer England June 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

      Lowe’s has a great “canning kit” that I suggest you pick up for around $14. Critical components include jar tongs for putting jars in and out of boiling water, and my favorite device, a plastic stick with a magnet on the end of it for picking up the sterilized lids. Also, if you are making something that needs pectin, I suggest making pectin stock…or at least I’m suggesting it until I try it, I reserve the right to change my mind! Let me know what you can and how it goes! I’m excited to share tips.


  1. Pickled Sugar Snap Peas « Einstein's Desk - June 28, 2011

    […] 28 Jun As a side note during the epic canapalooza weekend I made sugar snap peas (mentioned here). […]

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