A few months ago I bought an awesome set of Kitchen Aid attachments to help make my food storage process less physically demanding:
They are lovely, aren't they?
I was really excited to receive them, so you can imagine my frustration when my older sister Anne called to ask if I had gifted her a set of the same attachments. She knew I hadn't (they are a pricey little toy) and only I knew that stupid Amazon has given me fits about changing my default "ship to" address - and since the first thing I shipped when I set up my Amazon account was to Anne, then of course my default is HER address. IN MICHIGAN! No biggie...I just had to wait an extra week or two to receive them and since the biggest item I would be using them for doesn't ripen until the fall I figured I was fine.
Anne shipped it out quickly (how much do I owe you for that?) and it was waiting at my door after one of my recent trips - thankfully my neighbor didn't want all of those Kitchen Aid attachments because UPS just left it right there. Which is actually fine because I received the package...unlike when something is shipped through the US Postal Service, a rant I will save for another blog post.
Back to strawberry jam...on my second strawberry picking trip I was ready to try out my new toy so I pulled out the necessary grinder attachments:
And cleaned and de-stemmed my berries:
What followed is what I like to call the "Strawberry Massacre."
I'll say this much, the grinder attachment worked great! I had smashed up strawberries, there is no doubt. I had some in the bowl, lots down the front of my shirt, some along both walls adjacent to the Kitchen Aid, and plenty on the floor. The best part is that when you smash strawberries for jam by hand you still get very clumpy jam. It makes the most amazing jam you will ever taste in your life, but in my opinion it's a little hard to spread. I don't like "jelly" so much, and something right in the middle would be quite ideal and the "strawberry massacre" gives you pretty much just that. I did only run about 3 cups worth through the grinder and ended up smashing the rest of the batch by hand and mixing the grinder smashed berries with those.
I processed about half of the 17 pounds of strawberries I started with (the rest are sitting in my fridge for tomorrow night's adventure) and using one of the recipes (doubled) from the Ball Blue Book I had:
4 quarts (16 cups) smashed berries
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 boxes regular fruit pectin
14 cups sugar
I was going to use the "low sugar pectin" with this round, but they didn't have any at the store. The fruit was not going to wait and I can't afford to just throw 17 pounds of hand-picked strawberries in the garbage! Even with the large quantities of sugar I still feel good about making my own jam and I know exactly what I put in it, so I'm happy. Last year I did try a low sugar recipe that Anne gave me that used white grape juice, but it makes a runnier jam and I wasn't a fan. What?! It kept sliding off my PB&J!
With tonight's batch I processed 14 pint jars of jam. And I only had to turn off the burners and run to the store once (when I realized I had no lids!) What I wouldn't do for a teenager with a license or a husband at that very moment.
And look at these two beauties...at the end of last year Anne shared some canning jars she inherited from a friend in Michigan that was moving/downsizing. In the box she gave me where some gorgeous old Mason jars:
I did make a few adorable soap dispensers out of some of them for Christmas gifts. I love these old jars, they remind me of little old ladies canning fruits and vegetables from their own garden a million years ago. Can you imagine how many different kind of foods have once been stored inside these jars before my jam filled their walls?! I just love it.
Once I process the second half of the 17 pounds I will run the math and see how much each pint cost me. I know right now that with gas at $4/gallon and the drive to pick the berries using half a tank I'm going to be up from last year...but again, I really enjoy this (even with the extremely large mess I have to clean up.) I really do need to find a patch closer to my own home. Or maybe one of these days I'll get those 20 acres I dream of and plant my own massive fields of whatever the hell I want!
April 19, 2012...strawberry massacre learnings:
As it turns out (thank you Anne) it appears that you measure the 2 quarts of strawberries BEFORE you smash them. Meaning that when I made jam last night I used too many strawberries and not enough pectin. When I get some time I will be reprocessing the jam and adding pectin. Should be interesting. Hopefully tonight's batch will turn out better and actually set.
Learning #2: Don't double your batches.