Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Comedy of Terrors

Boil...boil...toil and trouble....
I have a love/hate relationship with making jam at home.

I love having it to eat and to share.

I hate (hate hate!) making it.

The instructions are so precise - measure "exactly" this and "exactly" that, cook it for "exactly" this much time. I wondered if there was an inside joke at the pectin company to see how many times "exact" or "exactly" could be worked into the instructions and still pass institutional muster.

My Mom was apparently scared enough she kept a wide berth from home canning and home canned goods. When neighbors gave us anything in a mason jar she'd as often as not taste a teensy bit, pronounce it suspect and dump it out.

She was a registered nurse and somewhere along the line somebody scared her half to death about the potential for killing off beloved family and friends alike with botulism. As fears go, this one was a doozy and she nearly passed it along to me.

I say nearly not because I am not afraid of killing somebody with my semi-casual home canning attempts, I totally am. However I am not so afraid that it stops me.

That nagging fear does make me edgy as all hell until I get the stuff safely done and jar lids have made their popping noise and refuse to bounce back after the appropriate amount of time. It is well after the jam seems to have set in its jarry home and I have refrigerated, opened up, and sampled some with no ill effects before I begin to relax and casually inform friends of my foray into Little House on the Prairie/Suburb territory. My relief will be so great I will obnoxiously be working that announcement into conversation at every turn.

"Sure, I'd read about that school closing for a week. You are right, parents must be freaking out. Say, speaking of home canning...."

Last year when I made loquat jam for the first (and second) time I think I quintuple checked that each batch had set, rotating the jars so often it was a small miracle I didn't drop and smash one on the tile floor in the kitchen (and not that I am superstitious but now I have written this what are the odds I won't do precisely that in the next week or so. Hmmm? Bets anybody?)
Last year's loquat jam.
This year I was slow getting to the tree with the larger loquats. They come in two sizes in our back yard. I have no clue why - both trees were planted at the same time. I ended up with mostly the teensy variety and knew I wouldn't have enough for an entire batch of jam. Feeling insecure about trying to figure out fractions of a pectin package I thought I'd combine whatever loquats I could get with some local organic strawberries.

The goop left on the stirring spoon tastes like fruity sugar sure enough. I am currently using my not for canning stock pot and not for canning tongs to gently maneuver the jars into their boiling baths, four at a time, and keeping my fingers crossed we will end up with a year's worth of jam and not a year's worth of fruity syrup.

They look pretty, sure enough.
This year's strawberry/loquat jam (I hope!)
But it won't be until tomorrow if I know if everything went well bath wise and later than that to see if it all sets up the way it is supposed to.

I hate waiting. I hate the slightly terrified totally frazzled way I feel when I do this. I love the jam (so far anyway) and the way I feel when I can give somebody a jar of organic home prepped goodness.

I am hearing the requisite reassuring "plink" of the jar lids sealing as they are cooling. Maybe three is the charm and next year I will feel all relaxed and wonderful when I try my hand at jammin'. Maybe.....

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