Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in The Elementary Mommy-on-the-Run | Posted on 28-07-2011
Tags: Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run, food
I am not Amish. But every once in a while I do enjoy channeling my inner Mennonite and trying something simple, or at the very least, completely back-to-basics and non-technological.
This month’s project was making homemade jam. We had an overabundance of strawberries from our berry picking outing and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to engage in something hands-on and a bit primitive. What could be more authentic than a ritual like canning the harvest? What could be simpler than three ingredients? What could be more quaint and old-fashioned?
To begin my journey to a simpler time, I got in my SUV (Hybrid!) and headed to Target. I needed supplies like jars, lids and rings. And sugar. Oh, and a big non-reactive pot to cook my jam. And special jar-grabbing tongs and other things with a registered trademark. And four more pieces of equipment that I didn’t have as suggested by a website on preserving that accepted PayPal.
I hurried home. Among all the various methods by which my parents tried to kill me as a child — no seat belt, defrosting meat on the counter and cheese 70′s variety shows — botulism from my mother’s attempts at home canning was not among them so I figured I could probably handle the safety aspect. I Googled “strawberry jam” and downloaded a pdf file with explicit instructions.
The first step was to sterilize the jars. This could be done with the special setting on my dishwasher. Next, I was to boil the fruit, sugar and water on the stove and let the recipe work it’s magic. Thinking I was being particularly Amish-y, I decided to double the recipe and feed the whole village with my jelly.
This did not work so well. Instead of a thick, delicious strawberry jam, I seemed to have produced my own suburban wine-label — cheap, sickeningly sweet, slightly fermented fruit with subtle tones of Kool-Aid and the alcohol content of Listerine and vanilla extract. I immediately called my local ATF followed by the 1-800 number on the box of mason jars.
All was not lost, a helpful customer service rep said from her cubicle in a Long Island office park. She explained that all I had to do was add pectin, re-cook and voila! Old-fashioned strawberry jam would at last be mine. Another trip to the store more pectin, new lids and rings, additional sugar and when the digital thermometer registered 218.5 degrees, a perfect marmalade would be staring at me!
Lo and behold, it worked and I now am the proud owner of a dozen quilted-glass stamped jelly jars of thick, twice-boiled fruit and sugar that may or may not kill me and my family.
All tallied, I spent $78, 12 kilowatt hours, 7 gallons of gasoline and about a thousand terabytes of bandwidth for my simple homemade jam.
Yep, just like the Amish used to make.