knitting and canning--two skills i've been dying to learn. and, thanks to a generous 30th birthday gift from my mom, i've now dipped my toes into the world of food preservation. she treated me to a 6-hour "triple berry" workshop held by happy girl kitchen--a popular little company dedicated to jamming, pickling and fermenting. the class took place at an old victorian house oakand's temescal neighborhood--a gorgeous home with a carriage house still standing in the backyard. my day (sans children!!!) was topped off by an insanely delicious lunch prepared with local & organic veggies, cheese and fruits. having not eaten very many meals without a small person clinging to me in, oh, 9 months or so, i must say i savored every single bite. and then went back for seconds. i left class with 6 half-pint jars of yumminess--2 each of strawberry-lavender jam, strawberry-blackberry jam and whole preserved berries in honey water. you know when you're surrounded by total, inspiring beauty and it's overwhelming? maybe it was just the spirit of the day--after all, i was doing something solely for me--but everything was so outstandingly beautiful in its simplicity. the house, the yard. the berries. in hopes to capture that beauty, i took about three (blurry) pictures. and then my camera battery died. go figure.
so you'll just have to take my word on the beauty of the day--i was inspired by great heaps of fresh berries mascaraing in grainy piles of sugar, by roses blooming in frenzy all through the garden. by like-minded people who had gathered to learn together, each taking turns stirring massive pots of simmering jam. oh, and i was also inspired by this little girlie, who paid me a visit during lunch: anyway. the best part of the class was coming home with the information needed to do it all again in my own kitchen. yesterday was spent transforming 10 pounds of peaches and 10 pounds of blackberries into jam.
we got a deal on peaches by purchasing "cosmetically challenged" fruit. contrary to the writing on the box, 10 pounds of organic peaches cost us $15. unblemished organic fruit runs $3-3.50 pound. part of making jam should be in the frugal aspect, right? i think it's important to try and seek out deals on fruit, especially when purchasing in bulk! my favorite farmer's market jam runs about $1 an ounce--$8 for a jar. our peach jam cost about $1.50 per jar. that's counting organic fruit and organic sugar, plus a few cents extra for electricity and water. i already had the jars. moving forward i'll have to factor in the cost of new lids--about 10 cents each.
the chickens went nuts for the peach skins! another great part of making jam at home is that it is, for the most part, a waste-free endeavor. fruit from the market (no bags). sugar from the bulk bins (reusable bags). reusable jars and bands (only the lids will need to be tossed--and can actually be kept for use in non-canning applications). the chickens ate the compost (and all three were inspired to lay eggs today!). boiling canning water got dumped in the yard over a patch of weeds (it works!).
of course, you do need some items to make canning easier. i'm the proud owner of this vintage canning pot (though contrary to the description it did not come complete with rack!). i also own a flat bottomed wooden spoon, and my $26 pot is a superstar for simmering jam because of its wide, flat bottom. the rest of my canning necessities (the pot rack, jar tongs and a stainless steel funnel) came in the form of another belated (and much-appreciated) birthday gift from my sister in law, nev.
on to the jam...
nev and i ended up with 13 half-pints of peach jam. i used a low sugar, no pectin recipe--mostly because i can't bring myself to use as much sugar as fruit! that's just mind-boggling to me. and i learned in class that a few slightly unripe pieces of fruit will eliminate the need for pectin, as pectin is already present in unripe fruit--it breaks down as fruit ripens.
jeremy picked 10 pounds of blackberries from a local backyard, and we were at it again later in the afternoon. this time it was me and my good friend molly--with 4 kids underfoot we almost burned the jam on several occasions, but all was well in the end!
the haul--isn't it pretty? molly and i are gearing up for 20 pounds of blueberries next week. should be another good (and slightly hectic) time. then it's on to tomatoes! i'm officially addicted to "putting up" food!