Thursday, August 18, 2011

Move Over, Ma Ingalls

A secret part of me has always nursed a fantasy that one day I would be chosen to go back in time, to travel the Oregon Trail in a Conestoga wagon.  My mom took pains when I was young to make sure I knew how to do household tasks.  I was taught how to sew a button and hem pants. I learned to clean and cook and bake.  I even learned how to cross-stitch, a skill worthy of any burgeoning attorney.  

To be honest, these days I still enjoy at least sewing and cooking.  Plus, I LOVE a good living-history museum.  I even loved the Little House On The Prairie TV series, and would continue to watch it in reruns, if my daytime TV viewing minutes weren’t already commandeered by a certain explorer and her little monkey friend. 

So this summer, seeing as I have all this free time on my hands (wait, what?), I took it upon myself to make jam.  Not just refrigerator jam, which I have successfully made before, but real jam, where you boil the jars and everything.  I’m not sure why I pick up hobbies like this on such a whim, it never really ends well for me.

So sometime in June, I went to my local library for a book about making your own preserves and home canning.  I schlepped off to Walmart to buy mason jars, and the world’s largest pot to boil them in.  I made extensive lists detailing what I would can based on when the various fruits came into season over the course of the summer.  My daydreams involved lining my basement shelves with a myriad of jewel-bright jars.  I could even gift them, right? RIGHT?

Well, the first things to ripen were strawberries, and seeing as we had a pretty wet June, they were a little later than usual to arrive.  No matter.   I picked up several pints of berries, along with a sack of sugar and some of those little packets of pectin, and I was on my way. 

How NOT to can:
  1. Sterilize all your canning equipment in boiling water.
  2. Hull all your strawberries.
  3. Realize you don’t have nearly enough sugar to make jam.
  4. Go to bed.
  5. Buy sugar in the morning.
  6. Re-sterilize the canning equipment.
  7. Mash up berries and sugar in a pot on the stove. Heat them to boiling.
  8. Watch the substance in pot try to reach a boil.
  9. Watch it.
  10. Watch it.
  11. Wonder why everything in your pot has gone pink and foamy.
  12. Decide maybe that’s what “boiling” is, and start plopping the hot, pulpy, concoction into jars.
  13. Under-fill each and every jar.
  14. Boil filled jars, at a simmer, for several minutes.
  15. Forget about the jars for a moment, to catch the ending of Little House On The Prairie.   It turns out Sylvia dies.  Poor Albert.
  16. Remove jars from the water, and place them on a tea-towel on the counter to cool.
The result? Eight jars filled with an almost bitter-sweet "jam" with only a hint of the over-cooked strawberry that was its namesake, topped with an inch of crystalline jelly-sugar for that added zing.

I don’t have to worry that I’ll die of dysentery.  I’ll probably die of botulism first.

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This post also appears at Lovelinks.  Check it out!!


Lizbeth said...

I tried canning and I did something horribly wrong and it never firmed up. I would up with a syrup. Don't get me wrong, I still ate it!

Ali - My Suitcase Full of Tricks said...

Love that you at least tried. The other day my husband suggested I make my own soap. Why would I do that when we have a Costco membership jackass?

Betty Fokker said...

This is why i fear to can.

FabFawk said...

The expert has made all the mistakes, am I right?

Lindsay Schultz @sayschu said...

In the words of the immortal Jimmy Dugan, "If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it."

Angela@BeggingTheAnswer said...

@Lizbeth - at least you can still eat syrup!! Maybe it was good ice cream topping? Mine tasted horrible, like an overcooked strawberry laced with arsenic. Don't ask me how I know what arsenic tastes like.

@Ali - Make your own soap?! That's crazy business.

@Betty - I have this bad habit when I take up a new hobby of assuming that I'm going to be awesome at it.

@FabFawk - I don't hold any pretense that I'm a canning expert. I'm just a screw-up expert :)

@Lindsay - Is there crying in jam-making? No? DAMMIT!! Also, now I'm going to have to watch that movie for the second time in like a month. Thanks?

LA Juice said...

I love LHOTP reruns too!!!! So nice to find someone else that shares this guilty pleasure!!!

Laura said...

And don't forget small pox.

Angela@BeggingTheAnswer said...

@LA Juice - LHOTP rocked. You know what else rocked? Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman!!

@Laura - Crap! How could I forget about smallpox?

Ixy said...

Hilarious!! I've often thought if I would be a pariah if I lived in pioneer times (or the 50s). I have absolutely no domestic skills at all, nor any interest in them. So I'm hugely impressed by your jam escapades :)

Angela@BeggingTheAnswer said...

@Ixy - As much fun as churning butter sounds, I think I'd rather find myself frequenting the "fainting couch" hopefully with a glass of sherry (or something equally fun) in my hand. Oh dear. Every time I read that sentence it sounds worse and worse. Mind out of the gutter, people!

Mandi said...

Found myself laughing out loud at your post! Great tutorial on how NOT to can. :D


Smile and Mama With Me

Mama and the City said...

For a minute I thought you were going to do what the shopaholic did, bout a lot of items (spent a lot$$) to save money buying stuff from the store. LOL

I made jam two times and both I wanted a reduced sugar base pectin. They both had instructions so no biggie there. The fruit season was fantastic then, so no problem there either.

One time I forgot to add the lemon, let's just say that's huband's batch. The strawberry jam looks like crap - literally. He likes it. LOL

BTW:visiting from FreeFringes

Lori Lyons said...

Better you than me. Thank you for standing up for all womankind. I'll stay seated.

- said...

My husband is a history back in time kind of guy and I could care less about it! I like the now and the future much better! Canning is something I will never try but just in case, this will help! Ha!

Visiting from lovelinks #20