I don't know about you, but my house is usually a direct reflection of my brain.
Yesterday, my brain looked a lot like this:
Not pretty - it freaks out my boys, and makes my girl run and hide for calmer, more personal messes in her room.
It probably happens because it's that time of year where we make the transition from a school-year schedule to a summer schedule. Transitions are good - but they take a few weeks to find that comfortable groove around here. It may also be because in addition to having two of my kid's birthdays ten days apart in July, the berry season is in full swing, and there is something about the berry/fresh fruit season that revs up my inner hyper-productivity genes like nothing else.
So anyway I have both of the genetic traits of fun and hyper-productivity in spades - and in many ways they live at peace with each, but every so often they create the perfect storm, which always equals a HUGE mess.
The problem with all of these messes and things that get added to my mental (and I mean mental) to-do list, is that they are all things I want to do. I honestly look at a flat of berries and say "wouldn't it be fun to make jam and pies!", forgetting in that moment that I have to sing at church on the weekend, and have a couple of birthday celebrations that I have to prepare for. Even if I remembered that - the berries are only around for a week or two, and I tend to think of it late in the season, so, busy wins again.
It's a disease, really.
I am getting better - but then there are days like Friday. It's semi-dangerous getting in the way of Hurricane Karina, and I'm truly hoping that making fun of myself is the first step to recovery. I have to believe there is hope, and that one day I will be okay with just doing nothing on a Friday afternoon.
First the title...
I have decided that I am going to use the word "rustic" as often as possible when I describe my activities in the kitchen.
Rustic, if you haven't already figured out, is cook-slang for "lazier". However, when women all over the world see the word "rustic" they all ooh and ahh and are willing to pay five times the price for something "rustic" whether it's a reject barn-wood shelf, or, in this case - jam.
Also, it's worth noting that while I haven't made jam save for a few times - I always find a way to make it without adding pectin, and do a lower sugar variety. That's mostly to do with the fact that I never have pectin in the house and when I decide to do something I don't want to wait, plus I'd like to think it's possible to make jam that tastes more like the fruit in it, rather than sugar - so without further adieu, here is:
Rustic Low-Sugar Pectin-Free Strawberry Jam -
Yield: 8 perfect pints, plus two teaspoons for testing - and maybe a couple for eating right away.
12 cups (ish) hulled strawberries, measure first, mash second - no cutting - it's rustic!
7 apples, blossom and stem ends removed - roughly chopped (including seeds etc)
1 1/2 lemons, roughly chopped (including peel and seeds)
6 cups sugar (I can hardly believe that's low sugar, but believe me, it is!)
8 pint jars, lids and rings
very large pot... I'm not kidding.
Place apples and lemons in large pot, just cover with water. Simmer for 20 minutes till nice and soft. Drain, press through sieve or run through food mill. Better yet, make one of your kids do it!
Mash the dickens out of the strawberries. Better yet, make one of your kids do it! (Did I say that already?)
Choose the right kid to help though - or you may find a lot of taste testing happens. Don't worry - we'll boil all the germs out of it. Two year old germs are kind of cute, anyway.
You do know it's impossible to make lunch without carbs and cheese, right?
Feel guilty that, in addition to mostly ignoring them for the morning, you are only feeding them carbs and cheese, and make a fruit smoothie to assuage your guilt. That's much better.
Add the strawberries to the strained apple/lemon mixture. Make sure there is a lot of room in the pot because it will expand and bubble quite a bit. Boil for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
At twenty minutes take a heaping teaspoon of glory from the pot and place it on a plate and put in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Hint - set a timer or you WILL forget, because you will start trying to clean your kitchen in that five minutes!
At five minutes run your finger through the blob - if it stays separated well, then it's done, if not keep boiling, stirring and checking till you're happy with it. Mine took about 25 minutes.
Ladle jam into the washed pint jars. You will have one jar that doesn't need processing in the canner - it can go directly into your fridge. The other seven will need to be processed so they can last for months! Wipe the rims clean to ensure a good seal. Place a lid, that has had the seal properly softened in hot water, on the jar, tighten with ring until finger-tip tight. Over-tightening can cause jars to break while processing, and that will make you cry. And it's really gross to clean up.
What? You don't have a magnetic lid lifter? It only costs a few dollars, but is worth a million when it comes to canning - run to your nearest Home Hardware and get one now!
Place into canner that is half-full with boiling water, making sure the jars stay upright.
(When canning pints in my quart canner - I don't lift the grate and then drop it in once full - the jars tip & move around too much. So I submerse the grate and carefully place pint jars in the bottom. )
After burning your hands a few times trying to sneak the jars into the bottom of the canner, realize you are not invincible and it's not saving you any time, so start using the jar lifter.
Place the lid on the canner, bring water back to a boil, and then keep at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. use the handy dandy magnetic wand to lift the hot handles out of the water, then raise the jars out. let cool for just a few minutes then place on your counter for 24 hours before you start pressing and poking the tops to see if they actually sealed.
Realize that your house is in such disarray now, you may have an apoplectic fit. Convince the kids it's in their best interest to help you do a 15 minute shakedown to make the house look better. Whatever doesn't get put away in that time, get's put into a laundry basket to deal with tomorrow.
There. You feel much better. AND, you just made jam.