Tuesday, April 22, 2014

we're jammin': notes on preserving kitchen memories

we’re jammin’: notes on preserving kitchen memories

When I started to write this post, I was so tired.  The truth is that jamming, canning and preserving take a good chunk of time.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it; it is, but it is also a lot of work and a lot of photos as well.  So I kinda hemmed and hawed and didn’t want to write it.  But today I was making some chicken curry for my family,

 straight from the handwritten recipes from my mother, who made a book for me a year before she was diagnosed with cancer.  And as I added coriander, turmeric, ginger, and onion, the smell alone took me back to my kitchen memory. 

No matter how tired she was, and she was plenty tired working full time and commuting a distance, my mother cooked for us.  Mostly she would spend the weekends she should have relaxed in cooking and cleaning for the week.  She never complained.  It just struck me hard today that no matter how precious are other memories of her, the sights and smells of her kitchen brings me right back to her.  And in the end, that’s what these cooking posts are about. 

My boys help me in the kitchen, they measure and mess, they stir and count, they laugh and spill their way to the recipes that have found their home here.  It just struck me hammer hard that their own memories of me may be kitchen memories as well.  And such a thing makes me weepy and nostalgic for them even though they are still small.  So not to get all up in the crazy about it, but when you do these recipes, when you do them with your children, any recipe at all, your making kitchen memories too.  And that’s well, pretty grand.  So on we go.  Let’s call a jam session.

We’re jammin’ today.  Well, to be honest, we truly jammed awhile ago but let’s not split hairs.  We went strawberry picking during the Break and got lots.  And lots.
that's 10 quarts of berries !

We can’t eat them all.  We never do.  So the obvious choice for me when we started to pick back home was to can the fruit and make my own jam.  It was intimidating to be sure.  I’d never done it before.  

So I did what I always do in such situations and headed to the library.  And lo and behold, it’s a throwback to a way of life that has made a much needed comeback!  Lots of books out there.  Lots of folks who are looking to economize and feed their families better.  No preservatives, no bad stuff.  Just you, some time, some jars and some fruit.  Of all the resources I found, I loved two most: Tart and Sweet and Canning for a New Generation.  The last one I became super duper enamored with because Liana Krissoff uses no commercial pectin—just green apples.  She tries nifty flavor profiles and less sugar so the taste of the fruit comes through.  The final thing, I had a pantry stocked with jars suitable for hostess gifts and teacher appreciation all the year-long.  So here is her actual recipe for Strawberry Preserves, and here’s my step-by-step.  Ready?  Smuckers is going to be soooo jealous.  Let’s go.

First things first.  You need a canner.  This is a large pot.  You can order canning kits, or you can go to Walmart and get these pieces separately, whatever you want to do.  A kit has lots of stuff, but what you really need are: a canning pot, a jar stand, a funnel, clean bowls, clean jars, clean towels, a couple of fine mesh colanders, a jar lifter and a lid lifter.
Ball jars, lids and rings

You will also need about 3 lbs of rinsed and hulled strawberries
1.5 cups of sugar
3 TB strained fresh lemon juice

An interlude: Hull the Berry

1.place the straw at bottom end of
rinsed berry
Wanna know the easiest way to hull a strawberry? With a plastic straw.  Preferably from McDonalds, they are ridiculously sturdy.  Here's how.
2.push the straw through firmly
3. push until stem end reached

4. the stem should remain in the straw
5. you can pull the stem out of the straw
and discard it

6. voila! the hulled berry!

Layer the strawberries and sugar in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in fridge overnight.

Prepare for water-bath canning:

You will need to fill your canning pot with water.  Place the inner insert into the pot before you fill it.  Then fill it up with cold water.  Haul it over to the stove and place about 6 half pint jars in it.  

Crank up the heat.  It’ll take at least a half hour for it to boil.  You need to wash the jars well before you place them in and about 10 minutes at a full boil should sterilize them.  Do not skip these points.  (Bacteria will get in wherever it can, so you must keep the jars, the towels you use, etc, clean.)

Set aside some clean kitchen towels to place the empty then filled jars on it. 

Make sure you have new lids and rings for your jars.  Jars can be cleaned and re-sterilized but rings and especially lids cannot.  The seal is important to keep the bacteria out and once it is used it is done. 

step 1
Step 1: After the night in sugar, gently pour the berries into a 6 to 8 quart pan.  Bring to a simmer and stir gently then continue to cook for about 5 minutes. 

Step 2
Step 2: Pour into a colander set over a large bowl. 

mid point
Step 3: Return the juice to the pan and bring to a boil over high heat.
at start

full boil

Boil, stirring once in awhile, until syrup is reduced to about 1.5 cups which will take about 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 4: Return the strawberries and any accumulated juices to the pan.

This little gizmo is from
Martha Stewart Macy's. 

Step 5
Step 5: Add the lemon juice and bring to a simmer.

Simmer, stirring gently and frequently, until the strawberries are glossy but still hold their shape, about 10 to 15 minutes. 

Remove from heat and stir gently to distribute the fruit in the liquid.

Ladle some boiling water from the canning into a bowl with the lids.

Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the canning pot, carefully (it is BURNING HOT WATER) pour the water back into the pot from each one and place them upright on the dishtowel.

Drain the water off of the lids and rings.

Step 6: Ladle the hot preserves into the jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace in each jar top (usually where the rings are). 

Step 7: Use a damp paper towel, dipped into the hot canning water to wipe the rims of the jars.

Dry the rings and lids and place a lid onto each jar.

Step 8: Put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so it is finger-tight. 

Step 9: Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, make sure the water covers the jars by AT LEAST 1 inch.


Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes to process. 

Step 10: Remove jars to a dishtowel and do not disturb them for 12 hours.

After 1 hour, check to see if the center of the lid has sealed.  Sometimes it makes a satisfying “thwack” sound, but you should see the indentation there.  If any jar hasn’t sealed after 1 hour, immediately put that jar in the fridge, otherwise allow them to cool for the full 12 hours.  Label and store.  AND USE! 

You did it!!!  You did it!!  Yeah you!  Now you can have someone else make you a dutch baby while you spoon a little strawberry preserve on it.  Drink some heavenly berry bliss while you eat it.  Cheers and well done!

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