I had a full week off from work! It was wonderful! When I have down time, I love to play in my kitchen. However, this is serious food preservation season at my house. I’ve been putting up tons of stuff from the garden, but this week I added in some jam making. Well, preserves actually. If you don’t know the difference, let me explain. Jelly is jellied fruit juice. Jam has pureed fruit in it. Preserves have chunks or slices of fruit suspended in sweet flavorful goodness. Preserves are by far our favorites.
Once upon a time, there were three little …preserves.
First: My wonderful mother-in-law and sister-in-law brought us several pounds of pears. The kids peeled, and I sliced. We made 16 pints of candied pear preserves. Unfortunately, my husband developed a serious case of safety consciousness. I’d put my big canner on to boil, so it would be ready when the preserves were done. Then, I could simply put the boiling pears in hot jars and pop them in the boiling canner. Liam, however, decided the canner was boiling needlessly and might splash someone. So, he turned it off. Without…Telling…Me. The result was, that while I waited for the canner to return to the boil, I had to cook the pears about seven minutes longer than they needed. So, my pear preserves came out TOO HARD.
Second: Aldi had a teriffic sale on strawberries. I made about five quarts of strawberry preserves from my old-faithful recipe. Unfortunately, while the recipe is the same, the berries have changed. I researched and dug around, the best I can figure is that modern berries are sweeter and less acidic than older berries. Preserves need three things to set: sugar, pectin, and ACID. Since some of the vital acidity was missing, my strawberry preserves are TOO SOFT!
Last: Feeling a little shaken in the confidence department, I turned to the plums I’d bought. Aldi had plums on sale at the same time as the strawberries. They were $0.74 a pound and just a little tart for eating fresh. They were perfect for making preserves! Plum preserves are my favorite! My recipe calls for a little added lemon juice. They turn out perfectly sweet/tart every time! There are about fifteen quarts of plum preserves glowing gloriously pink in the sunlight streaming through my kitchen window. These preserves truly are JUST RIGHT.
I’ll spend part of next weekend reprocessing the strawberry jam (with added lemon juice). The pear preserves taste wonderful, but there is no way to ‘fix’ them. We’ll probably just eat them anyway. Sam has already been going at them with a spoon. I look forward to cracking open a jar of the plum preserves on a cold morning in November. Homemade preserves always make me feel warm and toasty inside!
Let’s see, what else is new… Well, the incubator has about six more days to go. We have ten turkey eggs and over a dozen cuckoo maran eggs in there. The three turkey poults we hatched six weeks ago are doing well. They’ve taken up residence in our old duck house and they seem to love it!
We have a lamb coming from Xander Farms this month, that will hang out with our flock until the weather turns cooler. Then, in the fall he’ll fill our freezer and feed us over winter. We butchered one of our lambs last spring, and the meat is wonderful. I’ve never been a big fan of lamb, but this meat is delicate and tender. The flavor is mild, and the texture can’t be beaten. Our sheep are St. Croix. I think the great taste is partly due to the breed, and partly due to the way we raise them.
By the way, for those of you who don’t know, a lamb isn’t just the adorable tiny creature you see on Easter cards. A lamb is any sheep under a year old. We butcher ours just under the one year mark. They’re full-sized sheep, and they’re young enough to be tender. I’ve had several friends who didn’t understand that and pictured us dressing out a ten-pound cute white lamb. It took me a while to understand why people kept asking “Is it worth it for so little meat?” and “Can one lamb really feed your whole family?” A lamb that weighs 90 lbs (average) typically yields 34 lbs of meat. That means that one lamb provides our family with about twenty meals.
In other news, the black death seems to have visited our farmhouse. (Naturally, this kicked off the day I was scheduled to return to work.) Actually, I heard Liam on the phone telling his mother that everyone but him has “a little summer cold”!* The rest of us looked daggers at him and considered clonking him with a blunt object or coughing on him in revenge.
This ‘little summer cold’ comes with eyeball roasting fevers, the inability to swallow one’s own spit, coughing that starts at the toenails and pushes the lungs out into the light of day, and muscle aches that can only be described as ‘having been run down and backed over by a Mac truck’. I’m on day five of this “little cold” and the only real change is that it’s taken up residence in my lungs. Seriously, my house sounds like a Victorian TB ward at the moment. Personally, I think it’s either Flu A morphing into bronchitis or the black death.
I think I’m going to throw on a pot of soup and some soda bread. I feel the need for easy comfort food (and maybe supplemental oxygen).
What’s going on in your world? Has anyone else gotten into a jam while preserving this year? Does anyone else have a ‘little summer cold’? Leave me a message if you have the time!
*In fairness to Liam, I have to confess that he’s actually very compassionate. He was simply trying to stop his mom from worrying about us. He keeps us all in tea, meds, lotiony tissues, and sympathy. However, if he says the words ‘summer cold’ again, I can’t guarantee his safety. 😉
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