Saturday, August 8, 2009

books and ball jars

I'm reading a book called Goat Song, written by a Vermont author-turned-farmer. It's about a couple who decide to raise Nubian dairy does and start a small cheese operation on their land. Since Kessler is a writer first, herder second, his way of writing about being new to the experience is beautiful and wonderfully observant of the tiniest details of human and animal behavior, but with moxie. I just finished the section about having their virgin does bred for the first time and it was part hilarious/part wild kingdom. Grab it at a bookstore or your library.

It's going to be a busy weekend here at the homestead. Any minute now my neighbor Lynn will be delivering a cord of wood. Together we'll unload it from his truck and I'll stack it under my porch alongside the hay. I had a good fire last night. It doesn't feel like summer anymore. The temperatures after dark have dropped into the mid 40s here on the mountain, and every morning feels crisper... a little closer to that holy October. Getting wood delivered on a chilly morning will make me even more excited for the cold nights and warm fires to come.

Besides wood there are 11 jars of strawberry jam here I cooked and canned last night. I think I finally nailed it. The jam turned out wonderful and I am stocked for the winter. I feel good about those ruby jars lining the cupboard. Sure, they're just jam but that's one thing I never have to buy in the grocery store all year. I only spent six dollars on the ingredients and maybe eight dollars on the reusable mason jars, but the equivalent in homemade jam would run up to five dollars a jar at market. Maybe more? If your eyebrows are raised, I can assure you (even as a brand new canner) you could buy strawberries, a lemon, sugar and some pectin and make great jam tonight. If you don't want to can it (which is really easy in a water bath) you can buy freezer containers and set it aside that way. If people are interested I'll post last night's recipe.

Later today I'll cook and can tomato sauce and I'll also be making my first every fresh-pack pickles. I found a great recipe in Carol Costenbader's Preserving the Harvest which will suit me just fine. It's for sweet bread and butter pickles you cook and keep in the fridge. Since my own cucumbers are just gherkins, I'll have enough for maybe one or two experimental pickle jars. But if it turns out well, I'll grab a bunch from the market tomorrow and can a pile of jars. So today's about putting things up for winter: wood, jam, sauce and such.

Is anyone still going to post to FIddler's Summer? If not I'll set us up to vote Sunday. And I have collected prizes for the top few. The winner will certainly be getting som strawberry jam!


Blogger Carol Murdock said...

Jenna, I put up some of the best pickles I've ever eaten in my life from a recipe I got at Http://
Colorado Lady's blog called "Refrigerator Pickles". No cooking involved except to bring syrup to a boil! You should try them!!

August 8, 2009 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Karen Sue said...

last night I took my Borders reward coupon into the store, walked straight to the computer/finder section and typed you in. Just as you were coming on screen, a nice lady walked up behind me and asked if I needed help and I said 'please point me to this'. Well, I guess they've been moving sections around a bit this summer, but we found it and it was on a more open side, so when she said 'oh that section is here' I spotted your book FACE OUT on the bottom shelf, easy for me to find and above it was the book GOAT SONG! I did glance at it quickly, but the Backyard Homestead was there too and I want that one next, BUT I know just where to go now and I have a good recommendation for the next purchase on my wish list!! I have a glass top stove that says NO CANNERS in the manuel (wish I'd read that first), but got the idea from another blogger who bought a single portable burner and actually does it outside, to keep the house cooler. I've just been looking for another way to do the canner. I'd only done grape juice one year in a canner borrowed from the MIL when I needed to replace the cooktop and got squashed. I just got this info this week and you know, the book purchase was HI-PRI, so a little research and I'll be ready soon. My mom did more canning when I was young, then she got a big freezer and switched to freezing.. we still do tomatoes together...Happy canning...

Do you still make soap? How often do you need to do it?

August 8, 2009 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Sharyl Suzanne Morris said...

I made strawberry jam for the first time a few years ago, and I must have had beginner's luck because it turned out perfectly. I'd wonder what was so hard about jam whenever I heard anyone fretting over it. Last weekend I made plum jam with some plums I'd picked from a coworker's tree, and it turned out runny. I'd used overripe fruit, boiled it for too long, and doubled the batch. So, yes, it is possible to screw up jam--but I do think it's one of the easier ways to "put food by," and believe everyone should give it a shot.

August 8, 2009 at 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Annie said...

I love making my own jam, too. We have wild blackberries that make a great jam.

Sharyl, the good thing about jam is that if you screw up and it is too runny or too hard you can plop it back in the pan and re-do it. Check out "Blue Ribbon Preserves" for information on how to fix your preserves. I love that book even though she relies on pectin, which I never use. (I just cook the sugar, fruit and lemon until it's thick.) It's a great resource. Another one is "Putting Food By"

Jenna, you know you need a pressure canner to can most tomato sauce, right? The ph has to be below 4.6 to be safely canned in a BWB. If you don't have a pressure canner you can always freeze your sauce.

August 8, 2009 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Turtle said...

Your right, canning really is super easy. The hardest part is a toss up between the chopping and carrying all the goods out to actually do the canning. My neighbors now bring me their cukes to pickle for them, lol, as well as zucchini for relish and bread. Another set of neighbors provides me with blueberries and pears. Enjoy your weekend...yes, it does feel like an early start of fall, even here.

August 8, 2009 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Sharyl Suzanne Morris said...

Thanks, Annie! I actually have both those books and saw that I could redo the jam, but haven't yet worked up the enthusiasm. :) Meanwhile I've opened one jar and have been happily stirring plum sauce into my (also homemade!) yogurt. I don't see myself doing that for a full year, though.

August 8, 2009 at 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

My mother has canned all of her life. So, when I took an interest a few years back, she was eager to teach me. Although, I have to admidt that as a 20 year-old it was hard to admidt to my friends that I spent the weekend learning to can. But now, three years later, I am so gosh darn happy I did. The first thing I started with was my mother's prized dill pickle recipe, because I couldn't live without homemade dill pickles. Jenna, if you want the recipe let me know and I can send it too you. Its really quite easy especially if you have some canning under your belt. And they are so delicious. Just let me know...

Ps. I can't wait to try your pasta sauce recipe you so graciously shared in your book.

August 8, 2009 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger T said...

I've put up (so far) 48 jars of jam. half cherry and half 3 berry (strawberry. blueberry and cherry). I still want to make some peach and here in Ohio the peaches are just starting to come in. I can't wait - I have 36 more jars waiting to be filled!

August 8, 2009 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger nancmcp said...

Yes, please do post your jam recipe!

August 8, 2009 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Rhonda Jean said...

Jenna, your description of Kessler's work: "his way of writing about being new to the experience is beautiful and wonderfully observant of the tiniest details of human and animal behavior, but with moxie." describes you to a T as well. I'll see if the library has his book.

Well done on the strawberry jam. You know, if you sterilise your jars and lids and pour the just boiled jam into them, you don't need to process them in a water bath. The contents, if dealt with immediately, are sterile and the jars will seal just with the heat of the jam.

I envy you going into Autumn as we're heading towards Spring. How I love those cold night.

Sharyl, you should never double jam recipes. You can save your jam: get some pectin, heat up the jam again and add the pectin. Mix it in thoroughly and re-jar.

I have a delicious recipe for bread and butter cucumbers on my blog - just search for the name if you want to try it.

August 8, 2009 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I don't think a tomato-based pasta sauce needs a pressure canner? tomatoes are so very high in acid, like berries, and can in a water bath okay.

Thanks for the recipes! the pickles turned out great!

August 8, 2009 at 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Misty said...

Maybe you canning folks can help me. My ball blue book is MIA at the moment so I can't look at the recipes in there...but I'd like to make grape jelly. My uncle works for a small farm co-op in NY where they bottle 100% local concord grape juice concentrate. I can get as much as I want for free or next to nothing. Since making grape jelly is basically making juice and then adding sugar and sure-jel, can I make jelly from this concentrate? If so can you point me to a recipe? It is not frozen concentrate but I think it'd work the same way so perhaps I could use one of those recipes?

Also, I was quite excited to have gotten 3rd place on my currant jelly at our local fair. I have never made jelly before and have never made anything with currants. So I thought it was pretty good. Perhaps those of you who have entered fairs or what not with your jelly can answer my other question. How do they judge jelly if they don't taste it? I assume they look at color and consistency, but they didn't even open the jar. Is this typical? Seems weird to me.

Thanks a bunch! Good luck with your pickles Jenna!

August 8, 2009 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Rachel B. said...

I found a really great source for canning. It has a recipe for grape jelly from juice!
As for the tomato sauce. If you haven't died from it yet I guess it's okay to BWB it.
Tomorrow I get to make blackberry jam for the first time! This will be the first time canning so I'm starting small; pickles and jam. I might step up to applesauce once apple season kicks off.
Happy Canning!
P.S. I work in a hardware store that has a nice canning section. I get excited when people tell me what they're making. As for the cost of homemade jam, my local farmer's market has it for $4 for 4 oz. So I spend $9 on blackberries $1.25 on pectin and $3 on lids (i already had the jars). The recipe makes 8 half pints ($1.67) so 4 oz are 89 cents!

August 8, 2009 at 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Lynnanne said...

I believe I've read where tomatoes are considered fruit... and most all (if not all) fruit can be canned in a water bath. So I think you're safe with your sauce.

Jenna, I saw the goat book, have picked it up twice now, but went for some of the others instead. "See You in a Hundred Years" is a good read.

August 8, 2009 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger erislaughs said...

I would love your recipe! Moar recipes!

August 8, 2009 at 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be careful with tomato sauce in a boiling water canner. From what I've read, yes, it can be done, but tomatoes aren't really as acidic as most other fruits. The times in my "big book" run upwards of an hour - one whole hour - of boiling for some recipes. The time can be reduced if you add an acidifying ingredient, vinegar, etc. Personally, I've been waiting for a pressure canner to can tomatoes, and until that time, I freeze them. (Salsa, on the other hand, is a different story entirely... mmmm...)

August 8, 2009 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Rhonda Jean said...

Jenna, tomatoes are a fruit but now many tomatoes are low acid. Many of the heirloom ones are fine though. However, you'll never know which are high or low acid so when processing tomatoes, I always add lemon juice to raise the acidity. I've been doing this for 20 years and when I last looked, I was still alive. If you have no fresh lemon juice in your winter, get some citric acid from the grocery store as a substitute.

I'm glad the pickles were a success.

August 8, 2009 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I loved see you in a hundred years! Better off is an Amish version of that adventure.

to be safe i put a jar in the fridge.

August 9, 2009 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I pressure can my pasta sauce, but I also put meat in it - I'm pretty sure you must pressure can IF it includes meat.

I'm going to have to read that book. We're just starting out with a Nubian herd too, and looking at breeding our girls in the next month or two. I know it's the right time, but they just look so...small. I'll be a basket case, for sure!

August 9, 2009 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger TheRaspberryChicken said...

Like others have mentioned, tomatoes are right on the border of being safe in a regular canner. They are not as acid as was once believed. The important thing is to not add any other ingredients such as onions, meat, which will lower the Ph still further. Some also recommend putting in some lemon juice to be sure... I'm sure many people have canned tomatoes without a problem for years (including my grandma) but thats the current wisdom for what it's worth...

August 9, 2009 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

okay, you convinced me. all the jars will go in the fridge. between sauce and pickles. I REALLY need that pressure canner. Too bad no canning companies want to advertise on this blog...harumph.

Tara! I thought of you when i read it. You'd love it. Email me and I'll tell you something else about the book ( you might find interesting.

August 9, 2009 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Rosa said...

I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
I was planning to pick strawberries at a UPick farm outside the city today.
I just missed the June crop and so have to wait three weeks or so for the everbearing ones to be ready.
Do you want to know how much I will have to pay to pick my own gallon pail of berries?
I planted 12 strawberry plants in my small back yard this spring which has given us a few to munch on but somehow I'm going to have to find room to plant a whole lot more next spring!

August 10, 2009 at 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I've been away since last Thursday a.m. and am catching up. I didn't see a reply to your question, Jenna, about more postings for the Fiddler's Challenge, but I also didn't see anything more about voting on Sunday, so....what did I miss?

I've been visiting a beautiful place only about 20 mi from Galax, Va, and I couldn't get to one of the largest fiddlers conventions in the whole world while I was there! Sigh. But I had a wonderful, mellow time by a fast flowing creek. Gorgeous, just amazing place. I did not want to come home today, but home is where I am, nevertheless, safe from 8 hours on the road.

August 10, 2009 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

I just absolutely love how you describe October! You are a girl after my own heart. There is just something about that time of year that stirs my blood and makes me feel wild inside. It seems to come from our of nowhere, but as soon as my nose catches the smell of autumn leaves and woodsmoke, something clicks in my brain and I am a different person. I love this time passionately! I, too, can hardly wait for it!

August 11, 2009 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yes, please post your recipe for strawberry jam.

August 14, 2009 at 10:23 AM  
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