Summerdays: Easy Jam-Making for Beginners

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As we roll into the peak of the summer season, all kinds of berries have also ripened to their sweetest. One of my favorite summer activities is to preserve the juicy deliciousness into little jars. There’s something about homemade jam vs. store bought ones. It might be because I was fully engaged in the canning process which often results in berry stained hands and counter tops. I might also be the extra TLC I put into the jam makes it tastes especially good. Anyways, homemade jams are often lists as one of my must-do items on my summer to-do list. Unfortunately, I somehow have been putting off jam-making this year until I realize I am completely out of jam (which is one of our fridge essentials) for weeks. To re-motivate myself, I put myself on a jam-buying ban. Basically, I wasn’t allowing myself to buy any jam from stores until I make my own. I might sounds a little funny but you can tell how special I feel towards my own jam, haha. After a long jam-ban, I finally got into my canning project.

This is my 4th (maybe 5th) year of making my own jam and I would like to share some of my tips on making delicious preserves for you to enjoy months beyond the summer.

Since the first year of canning, I have refrained from investing into a set of canning equipment, mainly due to the concern of keeping too many “mono-taskers” around the house. But now I feel deeply regretful by doing so, because if I would have a large, deep pot, I can totally making more jam without worrying about putting them in the fridge. This is because the canning process usually allows the jam to stay shelf-stable for about one year. Do not be scared by the name “canners” because it’s not a high-tech machine (canning is an 200-yrs-old technology anyways!). All you need to look for is a large pot with a significant depth that allows you to cover your jars with at least 1 inch of water, while allowing space between the jars. By doing so, you are able to sterilize and seal your canning product so it can be kept safe without a refrigerator 🙂

Although the following tutorial is lacking the deep canning pot, it is still going to be helpful in demonstrating the canning process. Just by substituting the regular pot with a deeper canning pot, the shelf-life of these jams will grow up to one year. Jam that are made this way do have a very long life if keep refrigerated. My jams usually stay good for at least 3 months in the fridge. For beginners, following my this tutorial will give you a taste of canning, which will help you decide whether or not if you would like to invest further into other canning equipment.

Without further adieu, let’s get canning (did you get the pun?)

Recipe (yield six 1-cup jars):

8 CUPS                   Fresh or frozen berries

2 1/2 CUPS           Sugar

1 PKG (57 g)         Pectin crystals

1 TBSP                   Lemon juice

1 CUP                    Water, boiling temperature

Water to fill the canning pot equipment of your choice

Water to boil your jars

Step 1: First we are going to start with the berries, use fresh or frozen doesn’t matter because we are going to boil the jam later anyways.  Unpack your berries into a large sauce pot. You can use any kind of berry of your choice. We went blueberry-picking about several weeks ago. I found the best way to preserve my blueberries is to rinse off any twigs with cold water then blanch them with almost boiling hot water. Dry, portion, seal and then they can be keep frozen to be used up to a year. Blanched berries are able to retain more than half of their nutrients than unblanched ones.

Sealed freshness in little bags

Sealed freshness in little bags

Pour about 1 cup of boiling water over the frozen berries, this will help to defrost the berries. After the frozen berries are softened, mash them till they turn into a paste-like consistency. Then add a dash of lemon juice into the paste.

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In the meantime, save time by setting up your sterilizing station. Remove the screw bands from your canning jars and put the lid and the jars into a pot of water. Turn the heat up to med-high and them wait till the water turns to a rolling boil.

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set up your time-saver sterilizing station

set up your time-saver sterilizing station

Step 2: According to the recipe, mix approximately 1/4 of the sugar with pectin crystals and put this mixture into the berry paste, turn up the heat to med-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir constantly.The sugar will help draw out the liquid from the fruit with reduce chance of scorching.

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Add the remaining sugar and bring to a boil again, this second boil will make sure the jam is fully cooked, free from bacteria and deactivate any enzymes. Reduce to a simmer and stir constant to prevent the jam from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Skim off any foam that has built-up on the surface.

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Step 3: After your canning jars has been boiling for over 5 min, remove them from the pot to dry completely. Ladle your jam into your sterilized & dried jars, leaving about 1/4 inch (5mm) head space. The head space will allow the jam to further expand during the canning process without exploding the canning jars.

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Step 4: Put the jam jars back to boiling water (note that the real canning process require the water to immerse over the jars) and boil for the time required for your altitude. I boiled mine for 20 min just to be safe. Remove from boiling water and let cool in room temperature for at least overnight.

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Hours later, test the seal by pressing the centre of the jar lids. Sealed lids should not bounce when pressure is applied.

Thank you for coming along with me and happy canning 🙂 Comments below if you want to see more canning projects or if you have any questions or suggestions~

Product Info:

Mason jars, no name pectin crystals from superstore

References:

New CookBook 15th Edition (pg 197-220), The Good Housekeeping Cookbook (pg 512-535)

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Summerdays: Easy Mix-It-Yourself Liquid Laundry Detergent

fresh & minty laundry anybody?

fresh & minty laundry anybody?

Thanks to the hot summer weather I have a nice collection of dirty laundry pilling up like a little mountain… My weekly laundry routine is in need to be upgraded to twice a week, which means a jump in our laundry detergent consumption. Besides the frustration by looking at my little mountain load of laundry, tackling laundry duty can bring me a sense of accomplishment: take a moment to imagine the warm, soft, fresh-smelling laundry. There’s something soothing about the smell from fresh laundry that is hard to describe by words…the smell of happiness, maybe. This is why I decided to experiment with making my own laundry detergent. Lots of blogs posts on homemade laundry detergent has already done the math for me. With the apparent increase in our detergent consumption, it is definitely worth trying. Also, I feel like picking up each individual ingredient that goes into your laundry detergent and hand-mix them all together makes me realize the charm of home-production, and the simplicity of the ingredient makes me believe my handmade product is going to be gentle on the skin as well. Plus, there’s the bonus that you got to choose your own scent (either by using essential oil or using scented liquid castile soap, which will be explained later in this post). I prefer the minty fresh smell for my laundry, so I have chose the minty scent instead of the lemon scent from the original recipe.
After some research, I decided to go with a liquid recipe. They are much harder to find than the solid ones, but I prefer the liquid formula because it’s less concentrated so it will protect delicate materials (like those chiffon tanks tops etc). Thanks to mishmashmama.blogspot.com (-sorting out the facts & -on pH balance/chemistry), I learned about the scientific perspective of homemade detergents and recipe courtesy to Michelle Jeffcoat (viewatfive-two.blogspot.com)
1 CUP     hot water
1 CUP     Dr. Bronner’s castile soap*
1/2 CUP  washing soda
1/2 CUP  Borax
1            1 Gallon clean, empty, lidded container **
*Castile soap is a natural soap extracted from castile plants. You can find this product at Whole Foods and Superstore. The soap comes in different scents. You can experiment with any scent as preferred. I used peppermint because it leaves my laundry smells fresh 🙂
**1 gallon=3.8L. I suggest using a clean milk container (the largest size you can find on market).
Use 1/4 cup each load of laundry. Use more if necessary, since this is a natural recipe, you don’t have to worry about the harsh residue left on your clothes.
Another thing to point out is that depending on your location, you can slightly adjust the Borax: washing soda ratio depending on whether if you have soft water vs. hard water. For soft water, you may use the recipe above. For hard water, you might want to slightly reduce the Borax and up the washing soda due to higher mineral content in the hard water.
Happy “laundrying” 🙂 If you decided to try out this recipe, please let me know in the comments below. I’d like to find out how this recipe works for you~Take care!