Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Sometimes when one project isn't going too well, another totally different one can be a welcome diversion.
Thus it was with the strawberry jam. On Saturday I finished up the colorbox sweater (pictures coming as soon as I find some leaf-green buttons and sew them on), and then I picked up for the umpteenth time this week the top made from ribbon yarn that I metioned in a previous post. I had cast on two or three different times and was still having trouble getting the gauge right. After twenty or thirty rows I realized once again that the gauge was still wrong, and I was going to have to rip it all out and start again.
Why did I ever decide to make this project, anyway? I don't even like knitting with ribbon yarn! I hate how its texture gets ruined so quickly by just some simple twisting, and how it makes a fabric that feels like bunched-up tissue paper against your skin. And this stupid top - I would never wear this! I was planning it for the fall Stitch & Bitch fasion show/auction, but that far-off date seemed to sink more distantly into the horizon as the reality of knitting this weird garmet loomed up ever-larger before me. Motivation... zero.
And yet, here I was at home on a rainy Saturday afternoon, having already done my cleaning and other assorted chores, having already mailed a birthday prize to a special buggy gal in DC, and with a quart of delicious organic strawberries waiting happily for me in the fridge.
So I made jam. Yum! This was the first time I'd ever made jam, and was ably guided by the Joy of Cooking and a couple of phone calls to my mom, who is a master of gardening, canning and freezing. And I enjoyed it so much that I'm giving you the step-by-step, right now.
This recipe makes a small amount - 2 or 3 jars - of jam. It takes one quart of strawberries (or any other berry you have on hand). They should be ripe, and you should remove the stems, clean and dry them before beginning. Some recipes call for pectin, which you use to thicken the jam. Joy of Cooking says its not necessary when using whole fruit, and I found that my jam thickened up quite nicely without the added ingredient.
First, sterilize some jars. To do this, put a pan of water on the stove and put your jars, about 3/4 full with water, into the pan with the tops sitting on them loosely. The jars should not be touching each other or the pan. Slowly bring the water to a simmer and just leave the jars there in the simmering water while you work (at least 20 minutes). Keep them in the hot water until you're ready to use them.
Next, put your berries in a ten-inch pot, add a little water (no more than 1/2 cup), and smash the berries just a little bit with a potato masher to release the juices. Bring them to a simmer and cook them for a few minutes, uncovered.
Once the berries are simmering nicely and have gotten soft, add the sugar. My recipe called for 4 cups of sugar for one quart of berries, but that seemed like a heckuva lot to me, so I used about 3 1/2 cups. Tasting the final result, I think I could have used even less. Stir well with a wooden spoon, and then don't stir again! The berries need to cook undisturbed so that they'll set.
Over medium heat, the berries should turn into a huge bubbling mass. Once they do that, set your timer for 15 minutes, and remember not to stir them. You can probably turn the heat down some and still maintain the bubblingness - this will help keep them from sticking to the pan.
this is what you call a bubbling mass
After your 15 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the berries cool a little. Then sprinkle your jam with the juice of 1/2 lemon, stir lightly, and put the jam into the jars. Close tightly. If you're using the kind of jars with 2-piece lids, you can turn them upside-down to seal. Leave them that way over night. In the AM they will be well-sealed and will keep in storage for a long time.
If want to read lots more about making jam, check out the tutorial at Pick Your Own.
So, anybody need about ten balls of ribbon yarn?