Thursday, August 27, 2009

No Promises

While on our vacation in Maine, we went blueberry picking the day before the drive back home. We figured we'd stick them in the fridge that night, and put them in our cooler for the drive back. The woman who ran the u-pick farm thought we were nuts (or maybe she was just over-protective of her blueberries), but it ended up working out just fine. We picked over 6 pounds of blueberries, paying the scandalous price of $1.75 per pound, and brought them home for my first foray into jam making.

I did this at my parents' house because they have a big kitchen with a fancy stove and miles of granite counter top that I can put hot pots on. I don't know why I get such a thrill out of being able to take something off the stove and put it directly onto the counter top; apparently I am easily amused. Anyway, jam-making involves some seriously hot liquids, all kinds of boiling water (for the canning), and the need for a bit of counter space and for my first experiment, I wanted some elbow room. I found a few recipes and canning directions on the internet, and along with the package insert that came with the jar lids I bought, I came up with the following recipe. The information on the Bell insert clearly says that if you try to double the recipe the world will end, but I ended up doubling it and lived to tell the story. Which is:

8 cups mashed blueberries (This started out as 12 cups of whole blueberries which probably was a little under 6 pounds. I ended up smashing these with my hands after I lost patience with the potato masher. I gave them a pretty good mashing, but there were definitely still whole blueberries in there).

7 cups of sugar

2 boxes of pectin (make sure to get the regular kind if you are using sugar, not the no-sugar kind).

The juice of 2 lemons

I cooked the mashed blueberries and lemon juice and sprinkled in the pectin and stirred it all up. Stirring constantly, I brought the entire mixture to a boil, added the sugar, then stirred until it came back to a boil. Once it reached a boil, I let it go for another minute, then I canned it according to the directions I found here and here and on the Bell jar package insert. I ended up filling 7 8-ounce jars and 3 12-ounce jars (all of which I recycled because I can't ever throw a bell jar away, despite the fact that I've never canned before now). I thought the canning process would be much more complicated and scary, but it really was no big deal. I guess I felt OK about it because I know that jam making doesn't involve all of the scary botulism potential that tomato or other canning does, so if you are new to the process, it's a good stress-free way to dive in.

As this entire process required the cooperation of one sleeping three month old, I quickly whipped up some labels (which was crazy easy in Word) and didn't have time to trick them out with little pictures of blueberries. Next time. I also must admit that I was trying to not get too attached to the jam since I had no idea how it would come out (hence the "no promises" disclaimer in the title), but my mom tried the jam this morning and said it was excellent. Yes, yes, my reviewer is my mom so of course she liked it...but to my knowledge she hasn't fallen ill, so at least I'm confident that the canning process went smoothly.

Next up: I'm going to try making my own jam recipes using the lemon balm that is growing in our new raised beds. The potential of making jams with herbs has me all a-twitter.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Place...

...because I need a cow.

I made mint chocolate chip ice cream today.
This involved a lot of mint from our crazy potted mint plant that comes up every year and is huge and beautiful through no effort on our part. Seriously, this plant likes to be neglected. I don't think I've watered it once this season. OK, we've had an incredibly wet summer, but still. I hardly ever think of this plant.

So we're starting with really fantastic mint.

I used this recipe from epicurious, which involved 6 egg yolks. And as luck would have it, I had 6 eggs in the fridge, given to me by the only chicken we currently have that is laying (Kateski). I saved the whites because I'll try to make these meringues, but I need to wait for this crazy humidity to break first. But I digress...

Fantastic mint, super-fresh eggs. If only I had my own lactating cow.

Regardless of whether you have your own mint plant, chickens, cows, or cocoa beans, make this ice cream. I omitted the nasty green food coloring (why the heck to people need their mint chocolate chip ice cream to be fake green?) but otherwise followed the recipe exactly, despite the fact that some people suggested using only 4 egg yolks or futzing with the cream/milk ratio to make it less rich (what the?). And it is good. I'm talking standing-at-the-kitchen-sink -licking-the-freezing-bowl-clean-with-a-spatula good. How long can you blame your chub on the new baby?

made. by k.d.