We have been trying to eat both healthier and cheaper in our house and besides beans one of the ways I have been trying to do that is to add more squash into our diet. I love squash. I am really excited about our zucchini […]
A few days ago I posted about our strawberry picking and how we froze and dried the berries. We have been snacking on the dried berries all week and they are delicious! On top of drying and freezing our berries we also made two batches of strawberry jam. My husband and I love to make jam together so it took us a couple of days to coordinate our schedules so that we had enough time to finish. We kept the berries in the fridge and they were still delicious. You can store some varieties of berries such as Rainiers in the fridge for a few days before you make jam but others such as our favorites shuksans need to be processed as soon as they are picked. We had picked regular can be kept in the fridge strawberries so we had time to wait.
If you are new to jam making it is really important to do your research first. There are a bunch of awesome books and websites out there that walk you through the steps to process your canning jars safely and with minimal risk for spoilage. Some of my favorite are:
The Ball Book of Canning (The canning Bible)
There are many many more and a quick Google search can find you what you are looking for. We used the instructions that came in our box of Sure Jell Pectin for both batches but for the second batch we added a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
We wanted a “lower sugar” jam which you can do with strawberries but it still used 4 cups of sugar so don’t be fooled into thinking it is actually low in sugar, it just means you use less sugar to process it. Before you do any canning you have to make sure all of your jars, utensils and surfaces are clean and sterile. I always wipe down the counters and put a clean dry towel down to work on. We ran our canning jars and bands through the dish washer on the sterilize cycle. Before we placed our lids on our jars we put them into the boiling water for a few minutes to warm up the seals and kill any germs on them. We used the Kerr brand wide mouth jars and lids but any of the brands are fine. We just got a good deal on them so that is what we use.
The first thing we did was measure out and crush our strawberries. For the first batch we used a potato masher for chunky jam and the second batch we used an immersion blender to make a smoother jam.
Then we measured out our sugar and spit it into two bowls and added the pectin to one.
Next we put our crushed strawberries into a pot and added the first batch of sugar/pectin.
We stirred that up and brought it to a boil.
Then we added our second batch of sugar and brought it to a rolling boil again for one minute.
Then we quickly poured it into our jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space. We used this Ball canning kit I found at our local grocery store to make sure we had the correct amount of head space in the jars.
Yum! Chunky strawberry jam. We opted not to skim the foam off but many people like to do that so that their jars look prettier. We won’t be giving a lot of it away so for us it wasn’t a big deal.
Next we wiped the jars clean with a paper towel so that they would seal correctly.
Then we used the little magnet thing to put the lids on the jars without touching them and screwed on our bands to finger tight.
Next we made sure the water in our canning pot was fully boiling and then we added our jars, brought it to a boil again and left them in there for 10 minutes.
This year I broke down and bought the special tongs for pulling the jars out of the water and let me tell you they are amazing. I don’t know how we went without for so long. They make it so much easier and I wasn’t worried at all about the jars slipping so if you only buy one canning tool I highly recommend the jar grabbing tongs.
After our jars were processed we put them on another clean towel to cool. We check them the next morning and only one of ours did not seal so we will be eating it this week. I am not complaining, our jam turned out delicious!
We had a great time with our strawberries this week and I feel much better about eating our own jam rather than buying some in the store that may or may not have high fructose corn syrup. I am already thinking ahead to raspberry season in July and how much raspberry jam I will be eating. Raspberry is my favorite and Costco has been out for months. I fully plan on canning a bunch of raspberry so that we don’t run out this year!
What types of jam are you making this season?
Strawberry Jam by Sure Jell
Make your own strawberry jam!
- 12 cups whole strawberries (6 cups crushed)
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 package Sure Jell Low Sugar Pectin
- Step 1 Use a dry measuring cup to measure exactly 12 cups of strawberries with the tops cut off.
- Step 2 Measure exactly 4 cups of sugar into a bowl.
- Step 3 Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar from the bowl with 1 package of Pectin in a small bowl.
- Step 4 Crush your strawberries and measure out 6 cups of crushed strawberries into a pot.
- Step 5 Add your sugar/pectin mixture and bring to a full boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
- Step 6 Stir in remaining sugar and return to a full boil. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Step 7 Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon if desired.
- Step 8 Immediately pour into prepared jars, filling within 1/4 inch from the top.
- Step 9 Wipe jar rims and threads, cover with lids and screw bands tightly.
- Step 10 Place jars into boiling water making sure they are covered with 1-2 inches of water.
- Step 11 Process for 10 minutes or adjust time based on Altitude.
- Step 12 After the jars are processed remove from the water and place on clean towels. Check the seals after the jars have cooled down.
- Step 13 Let jars stand at room temperature for 24 hours before storing in a cool dry place for up to a year.
When my husband and I first started really looking into our food many years ago one of the first things we looked at was high fructose corn syrup. We discovered it was really difficult to buy jam without out it so we decided to try […]
My daughter loves to play with baking soda and vinegar. She always helps me deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring the vinegar down the drain and making bubbles. Today my son got to watch and he was fascinated.
We were talking about how much she loved helping me and I remembered that last year she was obsessed with this activity I found on Pinterest (but unfortunately didn’t pin for some reason) where you put a bunch of baking soda in a dish and let the kids squirt different colors of vinegar on it to make a rainbow effect. My son was interested so I though I would let them out on the deck to play with some baking soda and vinegar for a bit. I opted not to use dye since I had no idea if my son would actually play with it or if he would decide just to dump everything out and I didn’t want to deal with dye in clothing today.
This activity is super simple. I just grabbed a couple of Tupperware containers, poured some baking soda in and leveled it, poured some vinegar into another Tupperware container and we were ready to go. I got my plastic eye droppers off of Amazon last year. They are super easy to clean and I ended up giving some to a friend since the 12 pack was more than we needed. Since they are plastic there was no worrying about the kids dropping them and breaking them. I just rinse them out in the sink and we are good to go.
The reaction goes pretty quick since the eye droppers don’t hold a lot of vinegar. My daughter loved to make patterns in the baking soda and systematically covered her available space. She is very focused when she works and it is always fascinating for me to watch her thought process.
My kids love bubbles so they had quite a bit of fun with it even without the dye. I am probably going to let them use a lighter color like yellow next time since my son was pretty good about it. It makes the bubbles much clearer and if you give them primary colors it can help teach them the color wheel.
My son always tries to figure everything out and if there are other possible ways of doing them. Part of his process today was grabbing a handful of baking soda and dumping it into the vinegar container. He was really pleased with the extra bubbles it produced! Most of his time was spent trying to scoop the baking soda with the eye dropper since he wasn’t quite able to squirt it with the vinegar.
We had some pretty patterns in the baking soda when we were done and the kids got to dump the rest of the vinegar into their baking soda containers which my daughter really loved to do! This baking soda and vinegar activity is one of the easiest and cheapest science experiments I have found to do with my kids. I buy baking soda and vinegar in bulk at Costco (maybe $10 total for both) and there is enough for hours and hours of bubble making fun. If you were really creative you could even fill a bottle with baking soda and a balloon with vinegar, mix them together and see how the balloon fills with gas. I may have to try that next time!
I haven’t posted an update about the garden in a while since we got really busy and I ignored it for a bit…I am definitely paying for it now with weeding and chopping back, I mean pruning, the massive growth on our many ornamental bushes. I was keeping an eye on the bushes but we had a few days of sun and they seem to have all grown a foot and put out their flowers so I feel pretty bad about chopping those off. I tried to just trim where it was necessary such as along paths and to keep plants from growing too close to the house. This week I focused on weeding the larger weeds, installing soaker hoses in the vegetable beds and trimming back bushes where I could.
The bushes near the front of my house are starting to bloom and it will be gorgeous when all of the white flowers are out. I started the annual spring trim of these bushes so they don’t completely take over the front of the house but I didn’t get very far since it was so hot. I am hoping to finish next weekend but it will depend on the vegetable garden.
My gigantic Hydrangea bushes in the front have a couple of flowers just starting to bloom. I love these bushes and they were a selling point for me when we bought the house. I am a little concerned though because last year I spent many, many hours deadheading these bushes and even though I cut it back pretty severely last fall it apparently wasn’t enough to prevent massive growth. It seems to be extra bushy this year with lots of new branches and each and every one of them has a flower bud on it.
I am also concerned I will have the same problem this year as last year with the blossoms being to massive for the branches to support their weight when it rains. Most of the branches fell over last year and I had to cut the flowers strategically so that the branches didn’t break. I may have to cut these back even further this year and see how they do.
Our apple tree seems to be doing well. It is leaning a bit which is concerning but it did produce fruit! There are a few apples on a couple of the branches.
I was really excited to see them but I may end up pinching them off so the tree can grow a little more since it was planted only a year ago.
Our raspberries, blueberries and strawberries have quite a few fruit on them and the kids have been checking them periodically to see if they are ripe. I know once the blueberries begin to turn blue I will have a hard time keeping my three year old from sneaking over there and eating them before they are ripe. I did a little weeding in the fruit beds and pulled some of the outlying raspberry starts. There are way too many of them and I was afraid they would crowd the blueberries or the pear tree that is planted next to it. I may have to rethink my raspberries next year and move them into a planter to keep them from taking over my garden bed. I don’t have time this year though so that would be a project for fall.
In the vegetable beds we have some quick growing bush bean sprouts and some tiny broccoli starts. The beans popped up overnight. I took this picture on Sunday night, installed soaker hoses that night, turned them on for an hour and by Monday night the bean sprouts had doubled in size. I should hopefully be able to thin them this week.
Our watermelon (lower right) seems to be doing so-so. I think I may have left it too long in the cup since it has barely grown. The soil in the garden bed was a little dry so I am hoping that with the soaker hoses the plants will do better, despite my best efforts at watering.
We have flowers on our pumpkin plants! I am hoping the yellow one was pollinated by our busy bees!
Our squash and zucchini are doing well. I was having a hard time watering them without getting the leaves wet and I had to pull a few of the leaves off of them but they still had quite a few leaves so they should recover. Our cucumbers however bit the dust. I apparently planted them too early but thankfully I still have a couple of seed starts under the grow lights that I can harden off this week and get in the ground hopefully next weekend.
My lettuce is flourishing in it’s pot and my daughter has been grazing off of it every time we go outside to play. She will not eat salad but she helped grow this lettuce and has been helping water it for me and now she is actually eating it. It really shows how getting kids involved in gardening will help then expand their palates.
It is kind of hard to see but our asparagus is also blooming. They have not sent up any new shoots besides the first few in the spring but I think that is because we have kind of neglected them. They are pretty weedy and I may have forgotten to mulch them at the beginning of the season. I am hoping to at least get them weeded this week and possibly look into a large quantity of mulch to cut down on my weeding time in the future.
I did a rather hasty soaker hose install on Sunday night using rocks to keep my hoses down. I ordered clips a couple of weeks ago from Gardener’s Supply Store but they have not come yet. I am hoping to plant pole beans, luffa and peas this week so I will be moving the hoses around a bit next weekend to get a better fit.
They seemed to work ok. I ran them for an hour the first night and will try again in the morning. My soil probably needs some mulching in this bed so it will hold moisture better.
I had to get a little creative in the corner and I will have to hand water the marigolds but after an hour the area was pretty well soaked.
Here is a view of the entire set up. It is pretty ugly as is but after I tweak it a bit it should look better. Overall it worked pretty well. The carrot starts were a little iffy with the water so I may have to continue to hand water those but everything else seemed to get quite a bit.
I am really excited to see my vegetable garden take off in the next few weeks! What’s going on in your garden?