So I'm on a roll here. An urban homesteading roll!! I have been fantasizing about a house, with a dog, a veggie and flower garden, and a chicken farm. In that order. Then Saturday after I made some butter with leftover cream we had, I added dairy cows to the list. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, in this fantasy, of course I don't work. I just maintain our home and all the animals and gardens, and keep our pantry full of home-canned goods. Sigh, maybe one day. It's the simple things, people!
So, I've been wanting to try my luck at home canning. I've never done it, but got lots of books at the library and have been reading stuff online. I bought some supplies at Ace Hardware a couple days ago. I thought I would start simple, with everyone's favorite, strawberry jam.
Saturday morning I had a great time at the Irvine Farmer's Market and got lots of goodies. An entire flat of strawberries, golden chard and red carrots, vanilla beans, and Meyer lemons! I had to stop myself from buying more.
I think I ate a whole pint of berries while I was prepping them for making jam. They're not organic, but they sure were tasty. I knew they would make a delicious jam, and I was right! It's so true what they say, that if you start with good ingredients, you can't go wrong.
Making the jam was a little tricky. I macerated the strawberries in lemon juice and sugar for about 2 hours, then simmered them for about 30 minutes. I was a little short on the sugar so I don't think it gelled as well as it was supposed to. That was the tricky part. I read that if you don't follow the recipe exactly, or double it, you could end up with unwanted results. The thing is that, I thought these strawberries were so sweet on their own anyway that they wouldn't need the 1/3 cup that I cut out. Turns out, I was wrong. It came out really delicious and a little on the syrupy side, but too stiff to be a sauce. Still really good though! Eric and I already finished off a half pint jar.
At first I thought I would just get a rack to put in my stockpot to use for canning, but my stockpot isn't quite large enough. So, I bought a boiling water canner at the hardware store, fitted with a rack. It's made of thin aluminum but is HUGE, big enough to make sure that you have plenty of room for water to circulate around each jar. Canning is intimidating at first, but once you do it, it's pretty easy and safe. Most foods that are canned are good forever but should be eaten within a year for the best flavor. What a great way to get homemade goodness all year round!
This was a fun little project and I can't wait to start canning more stuff. Especially when our little balcony veggies start to show themselves. Mmmm, pickles...and Marinara sauce...