Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Berry Season

I know you've seen the little red and white checked hut near Starbucks and if you haven't stopped by to pick up some berries from Spooner farms, you are missing out! Go now!

June brought some of the tastiest strawberries I've eaten in a long time. You just cannot go back to grocery store strawberries after that.
Now that we're in July, that means Raspberries! And raspberries means jam making.
I am not a jam making expert, but for the last several years, I've been making enough jam to last us a few months. I can't tell you how nice it is to A. have a store of jam on the shelves instead of having to run to the store and B. know exactly what is the jam we're eating!

A flat of Spooners raspberries is $21. The jam jars I bought about five years ago for around $10. I also have a large canning pot that I bought about 10 years ago. Every year, I have to buy new lids and, of course, Sure-Jell. Out of a flat of raspberries I can usually get around 10 to 12 pints of jam, depending on how many handfuls the kids grab before I start washing the berries. They are sneaky berry-fiends!

Is this cost effective? Well, there is an initial investment. The cost of the canner and jars is offset by the number of years I use them. Sometimes you can find jars at garage sales or just by asking around. Recent years have made it a bit harder as the jars became a decorating accessory, but they are still lurking in dusty basements around town.

You can buy a jar of jam at Wal*art for around $3... I figure it costs me about $2.50 for each pint (not including my initial investment). It's not very cost effictive, but that jar of jam from the store is sure to include High Fructose Corn Syrup or food dyes or any other chemicals that may be lurking.

After rescuing the berries from the kids, I wash pretty thoroughly. Spooners' berries are fresh picked, but not washed very well.

I use a pastry blender to mash them up. It works just as well as anything else. I could push the berries through a sieve to remove the seeds, but I'm just too lazy. Plus, it gets the kids to brush their teeth more!

Sure-Jell comes with specific instructions for cooked and freezer jam. Following them is pretty simple and they are step by step. Do follow them exactly and use a timer if you need to.. distractions happen. One thing to do before you start is to get something to engross the kids. Once you start stirring the fruit, you cannot stop for minute. No grabbing a towel, getting a snack or mediating an argument. I kick mine outside with the sprinkler.

Once the jars are out of the canner, they need a place to rest while they seal. It can take awhile (I heard the last one "pop" around 3 am this morning), so you need a place where the kids won't be grabbing - they are very hot for several hours.

It's labor intensive, but so worth it when you see those jars lined up on the shelf. Especially when the kids realize you made it for THEM!

Blueberries will be out soon - my own bushes are already getting picked clean by little hands and I've already picked out a few blackberry spots to watch. I'd really like to enough jam this year to go beyond Halloween. Have you made jam? How much would it take to do a winters worth for a family of PB&J lovers?

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