Monday, July 30, 2012

On Becoming a Homemaker - Homemade Jam

Now that I am feeling well, the nesting instinct from pregnancy is already starting to show its cute/exciting/stress-inducing face. I have found myself wanting to be crafty and creative, and I am needing to prove to myself that I am up to the task of becoming a mother. Lately I've been hearing a lot of people say things like, "My mom used to make the best homemade jam. I remember when she would..." Well, I want to be that mom. I want my kids to remember the good ole' days when Ma would slave over the stove making homemade jam, and said children are going to love my jam. For some inexplicable reason, I know I would feel like a failure if I did not complete the task this summer.

One of my favorite places to visit in Spokane is Greenbluff. This countryside haven is tucked away below Mt. Spokane, and has dozens of orchards that yield fresh, local produce throughout the year. I forced my mom to take a trip to the mountains with me, and we braved the Saturday morning crowds to find fresh strawberries for homemade jam. Be proud of me because I picked an entire flat of berries. And yes, my back was killing me at the end. And yes, I did demand that we stop at the Orchard House to eat ice cream and pie afterwards.

Another exciting step in the baby journey occurred this day. To my annoyance, Mom wanted to stop by some garage sales (she's a sucker for these) one our way home. As fate would have it, I found our crib at one of these sales for $35! And it wasn't even recalled. I wish I'd had the foresight to take before pictures because I definitely painted it, and it looks ah-mazing. Photos to come.

Back to my story. The first step in making jam is to decide what kind you are going to make. Naturally, you need to pick a fruit, but you also need to pick a recipe. There are two types of jam: traditional and freezer. The traditional recipes require a bit of an investment in equipment, and you need to be very careful to avoid germs and bacteria since the jar will be sitting on a shelf for months. With freezer jam you do not cook the berries, and the finished product is stored in the freezer after the jam has set for 24 hours. Per the advice of many, I went with freezer jam.

Freezer jam is the easiest to make, however, it is also more difficult to give as gifts - and gift giving is often the central reason one would make jam in the first place. It is difficult to ship a jar to begin with, and embarrassing to have someone unwrap a frozen gift, then after all that effort you would need the gift receiver to read attached instructions to keep the product frozen until use. Talk about a high maintenance gift. Due to these challenges, the jam is mainly used for Jeff and my personal use. However, we have gone through 3 jars already, and I have found you can store opened jars in the freezer without the fruit being too hard to spread for sandwiches. And I would not post about this jam adventure unless it made a delicious treat.

Basic ingredients for freezer jam include fruit, sugar, water, and pectin. I used a couple different kinds of pectin for my project, and can state with certainty that Sure-Jell was my favorite. The other brand tastes wonderful, but once I opened the package and read the instructions, I discovered two other essential ingredients that were not listed on the outside of the box. Naturally, my hormones sent me into a rant of frustration because this necessitated my third trip to the grocery store in the last 2 hours.

The whole process only took a couple hours (including the grocery store runs), AND I was even multitasking by making my third batch of Slutty Brownies. You heard me right - my third batch in the last 2.5 weeks. Some day I would like to attempt a traditional jam recipe, but for now I am happy with my delicious freezer jam.

Recipe: Gloria's Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberries and Strawberry Freezer Jam

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 cup flour (whole wheat works for the healthy cooker)
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh blueberries 
For topping
  • Strawberry freezer jam
Beat egg; add remaining ingredients in order and stir until smooth. Add extra buttermilk or milk until desired consistency. Cook pancakes. Substitute strawberry freezer jam instead of syrup for topping. Enjoy!

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