July 31, 2011

Summer Strawberries

Last year around the fourth of July I asked my Mom to show me how to "can" stuff. I had watched my Aunt back in Michigan can veggies in the summer one year when we were visiting. It looked really scary with a big pressure cooker and steaming hot jars and tools I had never seen in any kitchen that I had been in. Despite my initial impressions I still wanted to do it. I had seen some Paula Deen recipes and really want to try some savory sauces and relishes, like chutney and this great tomato jam from an old cookbook I picked up at (yes you guessed !) an estate sale.

Mom said - "You can do it, it's easy"!  Yes, I had read lots of recipes and it seemed easy enough for the types of things that I wanted to can, but I still wanted her motherly guidance nearby in case I had any questions right in the middle of the process!  What if I messed up? What if the big pot of long cooked yummy ingredients didn't get to the gel stage they needed to be in?  So she came over and it WAS easy. We made green pepper relish (my brother-in-laws recipe!), Paula's green tomato chutney and a lovely tomato onion jam just like Harry and David's.

Everything came out beautiful and I received new found confidence in myself to can, can away!  I always liked an  old saying - probably from the 40's  - "We eat what we can, and what we can't - we can." - Isn't that great! Now if only I could get my garden to produce more than I can eat, but that's another story.

Well now it's a whole year later and I haven't canned another jar!  Soooooo because it's strawberry season I decided that it was time to begin my next adventure in canning. It actually started with a purchase several weeks ago from the big Goodwill store. ( I know! - where else does she shop you say!)  I had found a box of these really unique canning jars unlike any I had seen before.

The brand is WECK and I had to Google them to find out more about them. Turns out they are really popular with people like (my hero) Martha Stewart! They are different because they have glass tops instead of the metal tops and rings like the Ball jars have.

My little treasure box was complete with 8 jars, tops, rubber rings, clamps and these cute little plastic caps that you put on the jars after you have canned an item and are ready to open it. Everything was new and sealed in the box never used and included a guide book with tips and recipes for only $5.00 - great deal. 

Have I mentioned that I love Goodwill!
Evidently lots of crafters and Martha type people use these because of the cute glass lids. I saw them on wedding sites, with candles, filled with home made bath salts etc.

When you go through the canning process you still use a rubber seal under the glass lid, but the lid is held down with metal clamps. They come off later when you store your food.  WECK had a whole scientific explanation as to why that was a better way of canning, but I just think they're cute!

So off to the the Farmers Market I went to pick up 4 baskets of local strawberries.

I washed, hulled and cut them up.
Then mashed them with a potato masher.

I am following the directions that come with the Ball Liquid Fruit Pectin box I got at the local Ace Hardware store. They have a great selection of canning items if you decide to take on this adventure yourself!

So following the recipe (YIKES - 7 cups of sugar!!!!! - I am going to have to look for another recipe) I cooked the 4 cups of mashed strawberries, sugar and lemon juice down and added the fruit pectin. 

** In the middle of waiting for the strawberries to come to a full boil, I stepped away from the stove to make myself a little breakfast yogurt and talk to my daughter...........bad idea.
The sugary mess boiled over! Of course, it did this the first minute I wasn't looking! Remember - a watched pot never boils - well it does if you walk away - so watch out!

I sterilized my jars, lids and rings in hot water (and cleaned off my stove from the boil over) and then ladled the sweet goodness into my eight little jars.  There was just a tiny bit left over that I put into a glass for tasting later.  The eight jars fit into my stockpot just perfectly and I processed them in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Here they are cooling on a tea towel - they still have their clamps on.
I left the clamps on until the next day, while the jam set and the jars completely cooled.

The finished product!  SWWEEEEETTT  - those 7 cups of sugar are definitely too much - but it makes a good dessert jam for the top of vanilla ice cream, or thumbprint cookies. Julia and Phil love it on toast and peanut butter sandwiches too, but I will definitely find a healthier version! Aren't they cute? The clamps are off and all the little rubber ring tabs are pointing down, which means they got a proper seal durint the process. To open a jar you just pull the rubber ring and it breaks the seal. You can leave the glass lid on to serve it - or my Goodwill treasure box came with a set of perfect fitting Tupperware like lids to go on top for a more secure seal.You can find out more about WECK jars on their website http://www.weckcanning.com/

1 comment:

  1. Mmm, strawberries get their sweetness from sunshine, and I have a Sunshine Award to share with you! It's over at my blog! :o)