Okay, it is STILL raining!! This is week five of nothing but rain. Thank goodness for the 2 hours of sunshine that we got for our 4th of July BBQ. Hopefully this rain is not wreaking havoc on your garden! Blight can become a big problem when it is so wet.
This is a picture of this years blight that I found in the MOFGA news letter.
It seems that this year in particular there is a very nasty case of blight going around. If you see any signs of slimy, moldy, black spots on any leaves, stems or fruit, immediately pull up the plant without touching any plants around it, put it in a trash bag, throw it in the garbage (NOT the compost) and wash your hands! There is little you can do to prevent blight in this kind of weather, but it is a good rule of thumb to try to stay out of the garden when it is wet... if at all possible!
On the agenda today was to put up some Strawberry Jam! One of the benefits of farming is that there is always something to eat. To ensure that we eat during the winter, we do a lot of canning, drying and freezing of fruits and vegetables. I thought I would give a canning primer using strawberry jam since it is so darn easy!
Here is a picture of some of the items you should have ready before you begin.
Look for an aluminum canner at any farm store, or even Renys (if you're in Maine). I bought one that would just fit pint jars because it was cheaper... I wish I had the bigger one now! Wide mouth quart jars would be perfect for pickled beets and canned whole tomatoes.
From left to right, the items are, plenty of clean towels, more clean jars then you think you will need, new jar lids, a canner with a basket, jar tongs and a magnetic wand. The thing that I am missing in this picture is a jar funnel. You can get the tongs, wand and funnel in a package together just about anywhere you can get jars. Also you will need the screw bands for the jar lids.
Tips for successful jamming!
Read through the instructions carefully. I use the recipe that I find in the box of pectin, but you can use whatever recipe you want. Just make sure that you follow a recipe. My favorite canning book is Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine. You can find it on Amazon.com for about $15. It has all kinds of unique hot water bath canning recipes.
After reading the recipe and instructions carefully, get all of the equipment and ingredients that you will need together before you start. This will make jamming so much easier.
Start with a very clean kitchen, because when you are done jamming, your kitchen will be sticky mess with lots of big sticky dishes and rags piled up. You will just get frustrated if there is extra stuff in the way.
Measure all of your ingredients out EXACTLY. If the measurements are not exact, your jam will not "set up". This means that you will have strawberry sauce rather than strawberry jam. It happens to us all at one point or another.
Keep some butter and a clean knife handy. If your jam starts to get to foamy at any point, stir a little dab of butter into the hot jam mixture, the foaming will subside. This is the same trick that people use when boiling down sap to make maple syrup in the spring... pretty clever!
Always sanitize more jars than you think you will need. It is such a pain to realize that you need another jar when you're almost done!
This recipe would be most helpful for first time canners. You probably don't need all of this info if you are an avid canner. I have lots of pretty pictures, but for some reason they won't load, so I will have to try again later...
This recipe makes about 8 cups of Strawberry Jam.
2.5 quarts strawberries
7 cups of sugar
1 package of powdered pectin such as "Sure Jell"
Thoroughly wash and destem the strawberries. Cut off any soft parts of the berries.
To sanitize the jars, fill the canner about 3/4 full of water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Using the jar tongs, place 10 half pint jelly jars into the water, cover, and let the water boil for 1 to 5 minutes.
Use tongs to carefully lift the jars from the water, place upside down on clean towel and set aside until ready to use. You can use a dishwasher to sanitize your jars instead of boiling them. Just run them through the dishwasher ahead of time, leave them in the dishwasher until you're ready to use them. If you do this, you will want to fill the canner about 3/4 full of water, cover and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. leave the cover on, and move to the back of the stove where it won't be spilled. This way the water is hot when you are ready to begin canning.
Mash the strawberries 1 cup at a time using a potato masher. Measure EXACTLY 5 cups of berries using a measuring cup made for wet ingredients into a large pot. Set aside. Put the excess strawberries in the refrigerator. Using a measuring cup for dry ingredients, measure EXACTLY 7 cups of sugar, using the straight edge of the back of a knife to scrape off the extra sugar in the measuring cup, into a bowl. Set aside.
Pour the package of pectin into the strawberries and stir. Heat the strawberries over high heat until they come to a rolling boil (the point when the liquid continues to boil when stirred). (Be ready with the butter, because if you need it, this step is usually the time) Add the pre-measured sugar to the strawberries and quickly stir it in. Bring the strawberry mixture back to a rolling boil, and let boil for exactly 1 minute, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat. Ladle off any foam into a bowl, set aside to use later as your first taste test!
Put a small saucepan on the stove with water in it. Place your new lids and the screw bands in the water and bring to a boil. Once they are boiling, set on a hot pad next to your clean jars. Have a clean towel, and your funnel, magnetic wand, and jar tongs handy. Clean up any clutter that has accumulated over the course of cooking the jam, now you're going to start canning your hot jam.
Turn over the first jar, place the funnel over the jar, and ladle the hot jam into the jar, filling to within 1/8th of an inch to the top of the jar. This is called "head space". Flip over your next empty jar, set the funnel on it, set aside. Dip the corner of a clean towel or paper towel into the hot water with the lids in it. Wring it out and use it to wipe the rim of your jar. Using the magnetic wand, take out one lid, dry the rubber gasket on the lid with your clean towel and place it on top of the jar. Screw on the screw bands until "finger-tip tight" or as tight as you can using only your fingertips. Continue filling jars using this method until all of the jam is gone.
Fill your teapot with water and start to boil so you will have extra water if you need it. Also have a mug near by so you can ladle excess boiling water out of the canner if you need to. You can set the rack to an elevated level by setting the indented hooks on the handles over the edge of the canner. Place the jars on the rack, and slowly lower them into the hot water. You need to have 1-2 inches of water over the tops of the jars. This is where the boiling water or the mug comes in. (If you don't need them, make yourself a cup of tea and have some toast and jam while your jam is processing!)
Cover and bring to a boil. Let boil on medium high for 10 minutes. Don't start the timer until the water is boiling.
Carefully lift the rack out of the water, and set to the elevated level. Use the jar tongs to lift each jar out of the water. Set jars on a clean towel about an inch apart from one another. Start boiling the next batch if needed. You will hear the lids start to "PING!" as the seals are made. Let the jars cool over night. Make sure that the lids have sealed, you can test them by pushing on the top of the lid, if it pops, you need to refrigerate that jar. Make sure to label your jam with the contents and date. You can store the jam for up to a year in your pantry.
Good luck on your next canning adventure. I hope you found my tips helpful. Please let me know if you have any good canning tips. Thanks for reading and eat well!!!