Monday, June 29, 2009

Jelly Jars and Strawberries

I made my very first attempt at home canning and preserving over the weekend.

This winter, when the ground was covered in deep piles of snow, I started dreaming about growing cucumbers in my backyard so I could make pickles. I figured I could start out with pickles, and then work my way up to jams, salsa, etc.

I'm not the only one interested home canning these days. The growing need to save money and the rise of the local foods movement have more people turning to home canning, according to a recent article in the New York Times.

Last week, I was shopping in the local grocery store and came across a 5-pound box of strawberries for $5.45/lb. I couldn't resist the impulse to buy the box and turn the berries into jam. Nevermind the fact that I don't own any canning equipment.

When I got home from the store with the box of strawberries, I rushed to my laptop to order the canning kit I've been eyeing on Amazon. I ordered the kit with one-day shipping. (I'm an Amazon Prime members, so one-day shipping only costs $3.)

I started making strawberry jam as soon as the box arrived. I used a recipe from the book "175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades & Other Softspreads." I also used advice from Iowa State University Extension.

Now I'm wondering why I never tried to make jam before. It was so easy, and the jam tastes even better than the store-bought kind. Just see the results for yourself:

Don't you just love how the light shines through the jelly jars. It's like a work of art...

It did, however, take a lot of time. I spent three hours in the kitchen, but that's probably because it was my first attempt at canning and I needed to keep looking at the recipe.

I had so much fun with my kitchen "experiment," I can't wait to try again. I'm thinking maybe apricot jam, since it's my husband's favorite.

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