Monday, May 27, 2013

Strawberry Jam

There's nothing like fresh, in season strawberries.  They are exceptionally sweet with just enough tang, and their juiciness can't be beat.  This year it has been a little more difficult to get a really good berry though.  With all the rain, they have been a little watery around here.  So when my mother-in-law came to visit this weekend, she brought with her three flats (equivalent to about 3 gallons) of berries from Tucker's Farm in Madison, NC. I think Tucker's grows the very best berries.  They have so much more strawberry flavor than you find anywhere else, even at some of the other local pick-your-own farms.  

The problem with these berries was that they needed to be used right away.  So, I immediately hulled, washed, and froze two flats for use later in the year in strawberry topping and fruit leather.  I then used part of the third flat to make macerated strawberries to serve on top of angel food cake with a little whipped cream.  The remainder of the berries went into strawberry jam.  

I decided to make the jam because it was a quick way to use the berries, but also because I need a little gift to give some folks who helped me out at work this year and thought it would be a good, yet inexpensive, way of showing my appreciation.  

I have made a lot of strawberry jam in the past, and I usually make it the old-fashioned way with no added pectin, but cooking jam like that takes a long time and produces a jam that has a more caramelized flavor.  For this, I really wanted something quick with a fresh strawberry flavor, so I went with the recipe on the box of Sure-Jell.  It is a no-fail jam recipe that will have you in and out of the kitchen in a snap.  You can purchase pectin for reduced sugar jams, but in this case I just used the regular stuff.  

All you really need, other than your standard canning supplies, are five cups crushed strawberries which is equivalent to approximately four pints of berries, some sugar, and a box of pectin.  About five minutes of cooking and ten minutes of processing, and you will have eight jars of bright, strawberry goodness.  

Strawberry Jam- makes about 8 cups

This is the recipe from the box of Sure-Jell pectin.  Do not reduce the sugar in this recipe unless you purchase the reduced sugar pectin.  

5 cups crushed strawberries, about 4 pints hulled berries
7 cups sugar
1 box powdered pectin 

Prepare a water-bath canner.  Sterilize 8 half-pint jars.  Pour boiling water over flat lids, and wash rings.  

In a large pot (at least 5 1/2 quarts large), combine the crushed berries and powdered pectin over high heat.  Bring this mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the pectin.  Quickly stir in the sugar, and continue stirring until the mixture comes back to a boil.  Once at a rolling boil, cook, stirring constantly, for exactly 1 minute.  Remove the jam from the heat.  Skim the foam from the top of the jam.  

Ladle the jam into jars leaving 1/8 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims to remove any residual jam.  Top each jar with a lid and ring.  Process for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from the canner, and allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.  Label and store jars.  

Printable Version


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Broccoli Harvest and Freezing Spinach

This time of year means transition in the garden.  It will soon be too warm for cool weather crops to continue to thrive, and it is time to plant those warm weather veggies we all crave.  So, this weekend, I went out to harvest the broccoli we have been growing since the beginning of March.  Here is some of what we cut. 

I was growing broccoli and spinach in the same bed, and I needed that bed to plant warm weather veggies, so I went ahead and cut the remaining spinach as well.  Some of the leaves were a little larger than what you would use in a salad, so I decided to freeze what was left to use in spinach dip and other meals where frozen spinach is used.  I did not have a lot of spinach to work with, but that was okay because spinach (and other greens) are so easy to freeze.  

Here's what I did...

First, I washed the spinach several times to ensure it was clean and bug free.  I did this by soaking the leaves in a big bowl of cool water and giving the grit time to settle on the bottom.  Then, I removed the spinach and repeated with fresh, clean water.  

I then plunged the leaves into a large pot of boiling water and left them there for two minutes. After two minutes, I removed the leaves with a metal strainer and plunged them into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and lock in their bright green color.  

After they had cooled completely, I placed the leaves in a salad spinner and whirled them around until they are were fairly dry.  

I then packed them into freezer bags, rolled the bags to remove any excess air, and labeled them.  Don't ask me why I wrote "frozen" on the bags. I'm pretty sure that when I remove the bag from the freezer I will realize it is frozen.  

I have heard of people freezing greens without blanching.  I have never tried it myself, so I stick with the tried and true method.  

Have you ever frozen greens raw?