7 September 2008

Berry Nice

Yes, I know, lame title. That is what happens when you over plan a blog post. This is my 'berry harvest' from yesterday (with a few peas thrown in). Mulberries and strawberries. This is the mulberry tree's second year (first year it was still in a pot though, poor thing, while we waited to get out here to plant), and we're getting a nice taste of mulberries this year. Many of these were picked up from the ground after the recent rain and accompanying wind. Tasted nice, but could be a little sweeter, probably because some of them could be a little riper.

The strawberries are doing well too, but they taste Soooo yummy, that I am beginning to wonder if we're going to get many to make jam. I'm afraid I'm the worst culprit for strawberry eating, I keep eating them as I pick. They are so totally unlike the strawberries you buy in the shops, or even at the markets. These are the old variety, from my Grandmother's plants (Grandpa used to have a farm, and I have feint memories of going there and picking strawberries from their huge strawberry patch). These haven't been bred and modified to travel well, or be huge, or extra red, they are just the way they are, and you can taste the difference. Not even a hint of bitterness, just as sweet as can be. I'm not even going to bother trying to buy any newer commercial ones (the last ones I tried died anyway, oops), just keep making more and more and more of these.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was just beginning to wonder yesterday if we were going to get enough to make jam, and we were down to our last jar of jam... when I found a bargain at the markets this morning. A whole box full of strawberries, for the bargain price of $5!!!! So I bought them home, diced them up, and here they are in my pressure cooker! None of the saucepans were big enough to hold them! There is still at least a punnet load of the nicer ones left for eating and, more likely, juicing (have to post about my new juicer soon...)

I don't think I've posted about making jam before? We make all our own jam these days, and it's really easy. Basically, just dice up your fruit (and there are lots of options other than strawberries, pineapple, apricot, rosella, raspberry, etc etc). Put it in a saucepan with equal parts of sugar (I often put slightly less sugar, and it hasn't affected the eventual outcome). If it's a low pectin fruit (which strawberries are), add some lemon juice (about one lemon to 2 cups of strawberries), and boil it up. After a while (time seems to be dependent on the temperature of your stove) it will 'gel'. You should be able to see the change in the pot once you get used to it. The jam seems to go darker, it doesn't boil as quickly, and it 'feels' thicker. Then pour it straight into sterilised jars (I just rinse mine in hot water from the tap), and put the lids on quickly before it cools. If you have 'pop-top' jars, the tops will pop down as it cools, and seal the jars. I keep mine in the fridge, but I think it is OK to keep sealed jars in the cupboards, though I'm not sure how long.

This lot of strawberries made 11 jars of jam! So for $5 for the strawberries, and maybe $2 worth of sugar (I buy in bulk, 15kg at a time, works out at a little less than $1 a kg if I recall correctly), about $1 worth of lemons, that's about 70c a jar. Hopefully that will keep my family in jam for a while, although I won't hold my breath, we go through a lot of jam. So long as it's strawberry anyway. The pineapple and apricot have been sitting in the fridge for months. While I was at it, I poured a little into a bottle before it hit the gel stage, to see how it works for strawberry sauce.

I wonder if they'll have more boxes next week?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My mother used to do jellies using resued jars too but put hot liquid parafine on top of the jelly to seal the jelly then when cool added the lids. When it cooled it looked of course like the wax that it is. I think you only needed about a 1/4th inch of it. I don't remember if you put the parafin on the jelly after it cooled or when it was warm...I think cooled. Your agriculture people should be able to tell you. This way you were prety assured that the jelly in the cupboard would keep. I usually use canning jars when I make it but want to go back to not having to do it this way and so not having to buy the new lids every time. So I will be researching this too. Love your blog...found it from Down To Earth. Thankyou for writing.