I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am working at this blog thing a little more earnestly. Trying to post once a week – every Tuesday-ish. The post deadline is getting me organized, schedulized. I am becoming the baker, cook of this family I have wanted to be.
I am getting on top of the piles of laundry. There is harmony overflowing in my home. My husband and children are eating well, all from my labor and creativity and resolve….
No, I’m just kidding! The laundry is not done, there are dishes piled in the sink, papers scattered all over the kitchen table – I just shoved them just now to the side to set up my lap top. And my husband and children have been living on hot dogs, cheese sticks and grilled cheese sandwiches for the past few days.
But I have been baking! And it is Tuesday and look at that – Boom! Here I am!!
I made my first ever batch of preserves on Saturday after I picked up fresh rhubarb from the farmers’ market and the most beautiful mint ever! I had blueberries in the fridge and my first thought was, of course, pie, however, I am the only one in this house who will eat rhubarb and honestly, I just cannot allow myself to eat a whole pie.
Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.
So what to do, what to do….oh hell, give this jam thing a go is what I thought, even though I was sure I wasn’t prepared for what I was getting myself into. Actually, I did have some sort of idea.
A long time ago, I watched my parents and I think a couple of grandmothers, maybe an aunt or two, make batches of concord grape jelly in our kitchen. It was hot, messy, sticky! I mean sticky everywhere – the kitchen table, the counters, the floor, the handle on the refrigerator, the dog, the bathroom door knob, the top of my head.
Even from a kid’s perspective (of whom wasn’t allowed to touch anything and had to be reminded again and again to stay out of the kitchen – Please! We have angry fruit spewing scalding juice in here!) it looked like a lot of work.
But it sure did smell sweet in there and with so many adults all working together in such a small space, bumping elbows and laughing out loud at times, it looked like a party. And the end result was the prettiest, darkest, be-jeweled, sparkly-ist shade of purple you ever did see!
Now thirty-plus years later I have given it a shot on my own. And I’ve learned first -hand that making jam is fun! It’s quick- cut up some fruit, add sugar, stir and freeze some of it for later. You can create your own flavors and I guarantee even the worst jam you make yourself will still taste better than what you will find on the shelf at your grocery store.
P.S. After I made my first batch of Rhubarb Blueberry Mint Kissed Jam, I went to the book store and bought The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders, a beautifully, if not hefty – it’s over 300 pages, crafted compilation of everything jam, jelly, marmalade.
And though this book is a complete delight and an amazing source of creative inspiration to me, it has made my husband a little nervous. Are you making your own jam now? was what he said. What he was thinking was Here she goes again. And my oldest son, Will we still have grape jelly from the store for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Mom?
All I can say to both those questions is Maybe Darlings, we’ll see;)
Here’s the recipe!
First, place a saucer with five metal teaspoons on a flat spot in your freezer.
Next, into a 4-quart, non-reactive pot, place
- 3 cups of fresh rhubarb, rinsed, then chopped into 2-inch long pieces
- 2 cups of fresh blueberries, rinsed
- 3 oranges and 1 lemon halved crosswise, quartered lengthwise, and then sliced crosswise, resulting in quarter-circle slices (leave the rind on)
- 3 cups of granulated sugar
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the juice begins to run from the fruit. Then increase the heat to high. Continue to cook, stirring very frequently, until the mixture boils. Once it reaches a boil, cook it for 10-15 minutes more, stirring frequently, and decreasing the heat slightly if the jam starts to stick. Begin testing for doneness after 10 minutes.
Put a scant teaspoon-full of jam on one of the frozen metal spoons and place it on the saucer in the freezer for 3-4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should be neither warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment.
Take the spoon back out and tilt it vertically to see whether the jam runs; if it does not, it is ready. If it does, cook the jam for another few minutes, stirring and test again as needed. When ready the jam will look glossy and gorgeous.