June 2009

strawberry jamPreserving Traditions’ first canning event, strawberry jam, went pretty well – though it was not without its moments! We discovered that the hot water was a bit…murky, probably because none of the other groups at the Grange use twenty gallons of hot water at a go! It’s probably time to drain the water heater. Luckily, the cold water runs clear; it just takes a bit longer to heat up. There was also a Kettle of Soap incident, which taught us the value of using a properly-sized canning rack to keep jars off the bottom of the canner, instead of improvising with a towel.

Despite these small setbacks, the jams were fabulous. Y’all did a wonderful job! For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s the basic recipe:

  • 3 c. strawberries, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 c. sugar (“raw” sugar or sucanat is fine, but don’t use Splenda or honey or any other sweetener)
  • 2 Tbl. lemon juice

This makes a pint or so of jam. You can double the batch, but I’ll wait to hear from participants to tell you if it’s ok to triple the batch. Jam can be tricky about triple batches; sometimes it just won’t set.

Cook everything together in a large pot on medium-high heat. Once it boils vigorously (it’ll foam up a lot), start timing. After 10-12 minutes, test the jam for jelling. You do this by dripping a very small amount of jam (1/4 tsp or so) onto a chilled ceramic plate. Let it sit for 30 seconds, and tilt the plate. When the jam is properly jelled, the drop of jelly will ooze slowly down the plate. If it’s runny, you’ll need to cook it some more. Turn the heat down to medium and stir constantly. Every few minutes, try the jell test again with a cold plate (keep the plate in the freezer between tests).

When the jam is sufficiently cooked-down, you can can it in a water bath so you can store it at room temperature. Or just pour into jars and put the jars in the fridge. They’ll keep four to six months in the fridge without canning – very nice if  you’ve only made one pint.

cherry pieAre you daunted by the thought of making homemade pie crust? Come join Preserving Traditions on Sunday, July 12 for a sweet lesson. Our teachers, Mary Wessel Walker and her dad, Jim, will lead us through making a real lard-and-butter pie crust and pie filling. (If you don’t care for lard, you’ll be able to use butter or shortening in a separate mixer.)

Each participant will take home a ready-to-bake cherry pie! You’ll need to bring the following:

  • One generous quart of fresh tart cherries (we’ll pit them at the Grange) [UPDATE: If you can’t find tart cherries, bring a quart of whatever fruit you like – fresh from the market, or even frozen!)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • A stick (4oz) of butter (bring 2 if you don’t want to use lard)
  • A pie plate

Also, let us know if you can bring any of the following:

  • A cherry-pitter, either mechanical or the handheld plunger type
  • A food processor with a steel blade
  • A rolling pin

…and let us know if you prefer not to use lard. We’ll have vegetarian/vegan options on hand for you.

Cost is $5 (free for members of the Grange). Space is limited! RSVP at http://cherrypie.sign-up-sheet.com/

Sunday, July 12
2-4:30 pm
Pittsfield Grange

There are a few spots open in Sunday’s strawberry jam canning class! Details and RSVP here…