Sunday, August 26, 2012

Time for Jam

August is quickly coming to a close.  Labor day is just around the corner and the football season is about to begin.  August means the end of summer and getting ready for school to begin.  For me, August also means it's time to "can."  With roadside vegetable and fruit stands full of fresh, delicious produce and the Farmer's Market bursting at the seams, I have a tremendous urge to preserve all that "goodness."  I usually "can" sporadically over the late spring and summer, but move into a "higher gear" in August.  

Some of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering why go to all the trouble to preserve food when there is such a plentiful supply at the grocery store?  In other words,   Why "Can"?   I "can" or preserve for a few reasons;  
1.  Once you have the supplies and can reuse the jars over and over, it saves money, especially if the produce comes from your own garden.
2.  The product tastes better.   I know what goes  into the product; there's no preservatives, artificial flavors, and lots of fruit and/or vegetables, no fillers.
3.  With so many amazing recipes available, you can create new products and tailor them to your family's tastes.
4.  Home preserves can be a nice gift to give to those you love. And, yes, I know that not everyone appreciates home preserves, but I try to limit giving my preserves to those that  I know will enjoy the gift. 
4.   I come from a family that preserves food.  My Grandma used to can hundreds of  jars of food, layer meats with fat in large crocks, and have other crocks full of pickles.  She lived on a farm and grew most of the produce.  She had a root cellar for potatoes, onions, apples, squash, etc.  She preserved enough food for a family of eight for a year.  Now, that's a lot of preserving.  Canning was not a choice for her, but a necessity.  My Mom and Aunts also preserve food.  My Mom is 84 years old and just finished canning pickled beets and  a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes.  My daughter also "cans."  So,I guess it's just what we've learned to do and what we enjoy!
3.   Last, but not least, having a pantry lined with homemade preserves is a really gratifying feeling.  I love looking at the jars all lined up, knowing that I am ready for the year! 

This year I tried a new recipe:  Blueberry Lime Jam.  It turned out really well.  The lime juice and zest really gives the blueberry jam a light, crisp taste.  My family seems to love it.
 Decorating the jars is fun and seems to showcase the product.

When canning, fresh produce is a must.  Although limes do not grow in Michigan, there is a fruit market that provides really nice produce that I use when I cannot get really fresh produce.

The Blueberry Jam recipe that I used is from the "Ball Blue Book," a necessity for all those that preserve foods.  I thought I would share the recipe for those interested:

Blueberry Lime Jam

4 1/2 C crushed blueberries
1 pkg. liquid pectin (Certo)
5  C sugar
1 T lime zest
1/3 C lime juice

1.  Crush blueberries one layer at a time.
2.  Combine blueberries, sugar, lime zest, and juice in a large pot.
3.  Heat to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
4.  Add Certo and let return to boil.  Boil for one minute stirring constantly.
5.  Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary.
6.  Ladle into clean, very hot jam jars.  Wipe jar  rims and add lids and rings, leaving 1/4" head space.  Water bath, if preferred.  Lids will seal with a "pop."  If  lids do not seal, refrigerate jam. Please see "Ball Blue Book" for "canning" specifics.

Have a wonderful Labor day weekend, and try making a batch of won't be sorry!

Monday, August 6, 2012

"V" Cookies

You're probably wondering why on earth I would make a couple of dozen "V" cookies.  Well, my "niece" was about to graduate from the University of Vermont (YEA!) and my "cousin", her mother, was planing a graduation/family reunion party in Vermont to celebrate this amazing accomplishment.  Since out last name begins with the letter "V", it seemed an obvious choice.  I'm glad she thought of it!!  I decided to used The University of Vermont's colors of "green and yellow" to decorate the cookies.  I really wanted to make each cookie different, which was fun, but took a bit longer to finish.  As you can see, I was really reaching for ideas near the end...
 From plaid, to polka dots, to lace, flowers, and grapes, I was having fun!

At about this time, I started adding butterflies, caterpillars, hearts, balloons , and more plaid and polka dots.  Yep, polka dots are always fun!

My cousin reported that the party was a lot of fun; it's always fun to gather our extended family together.  She said that everyone enjoyed the cookies and each person got to choose their "favorite!"

I'm so glad that I got to make cookies for the occasion.

And of course, Congratulations to the graduate. 

 Good Luck to you, Rachel, we wish you the very best.  Follow your dreams!

Letter cookies can be used for almost any occasion; you can make these cookies as complex or are as simple as you  like.  They are always a winner! 

Happy August...hope you have a great week!