A Very Cherry Couple of Days

If I never see another cherry…

Not really. Actually it is sad to see the end of cherry canning come so soon. The past two days have been spent finishing up the sweet cherries, using up the last of the rhubarb, and canning all but about 8 pounds of the tart cherries. The tart cherries will be finished on Friday by making Grace’s all-time favorite Tart Cherry Jelly and with the pulp Tart Cherry Preserves for cream cheese pastries and turnovers.

Most everything I made these couple of days are new recipes. My goal was to try as many new recipes as I could so that next year I can concentrate on just those that turn out to be family favorites. So far I think at least three of the recipes are definitely going on next years Canning To-Do List.

The first recipe I did yesterday was based on one I found online for a 50/50 Cherry Jam. I am not really sure why this had to sit overnight before finishing, but it was definitely worth the wait. I changed the proportions of cherries (it originally had 2.5:1 ratio, not even close to 50/50), the amount of sugar, and of course used Clear Jel. I call my version Very Cherry Jam and this would be wonderful in crepes, on Belgium waffles, as a filling for pastries, or on ice cream.

Very Cherry Jam

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2.5 Pounds Sweet Cherries, pitted and chopped
2 Pounds Tart Cherries, pitted
2 Cups Sugar
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 1/3 Cup Water

Day 1: Pit and chop sweet cherries. Pit tart cherries. Combine cherries in ceramic bowl with 2 cups of sugar and lemon juice and let sit overnight in refrigerator.

Day 2: Combine cherry mixture with Clear Jel slurry in large stock pot. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Let boil hard for 1 minutes. Remove from heat, ladle into jars, and process in water bath canner for 15 minutes.

This is spreadable, but if I were to make this a true jam I think I would decrease the Clear Jel to 4 Tbsp. in the future. I like it thicker. It works well for using as a filling this way and as long as it spreads, I’ll eat it on toast too.

Besides jams and preserves, I wanted to experiment a little using cherries in concentrates. Being that tart cherries were so scarce, I didn’t want to use them, but found the sweet cherries worked very well. I made two versions of a Sweet Cherry Lemonade. The first was a 50/50 Lemon-Limeade which was very mild, almost like a juice moreso than a lemonade. The second was a true Lemonade, tart and sweet.

Sweet Cherry Lemon-Lime Concentrate

6 Cups Sweet Cherries, pitted and chopped in food processor
2 Cups Freshly Squeeze Lime Juice
2 Cups Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
6 Cups Sugar

Combine cherry puree, juices, and sugar in large stock pot. Bring mixture to about 170° so as to release the juice from the cherry pulp.

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Run mixture through food mill, extracting all the juice, leaving the pulp.

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If any pulp remains, strain again through a fine-mesh strainer. Return liquid to stock pot and bring to 190°. Ladle into hot jars, cap, and process in water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Sweet Cherry Lemonade Concentrate

6 Cups Sweet Cherries, pitted and chopped in food processor
4 Cups Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
6 Cups Sugar

Combine cherry puree, lemon juice, and sugar in large stock pot. Bring mixture to about 170° so as to release the juice from the cherry pulp. Run mixture through food mill, extracting all the juice, leaving the pulp. If any pulp remains, strain again through a fine-mesh strainer. Return liquid to stock pot and bring to 190°. Ladle into hot jars, cap, and process in water bath canner for 15 minutes.

This was a good way to use up some of the cherries I bought last week that were getting a little on the ripe side. Although eating an over-ripe cherry isn’t all that appealing, it is perfect for juicing.

Another recipe that I made this year that took more than a day to complete was Maraschino Cherries. Although I am not a big fan of these very sweet, candy-like cherries, Grace enjoys them and I do enjoy the juice in Coca-Cola on occasion. This recipe took 4 days to complete but each day there wasn’t all that much work to do.

Maraschino Cherries

4.5 lbs. Sweet Cherries, pitted
8 Cups Sugar
3 Cups Water
Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Tbsp. Almon Extract

Brine: 8 Cups Water
1 Tbsp. Kosher Salt

Day 1: Pit cherries. Place cherries in covered pan. Heat brine on stove to dissolve salt. Pour over cherries and let soak overnight.
Day 2: Drain cherries. Rinse in cold water. Combine cherries, water, sugar, and lemon juice in pan. Bring to boil. Cover and let sit 24 hours.
Day 3: Remove cherries from juice. Bring liquid to boil. Remove from heat. Spoon cherries back into heated liquid, cover, and let sit 24 hours.
Day 4: Bring cherries and liquid to boil over medium heat. Add almond extract. Using a slotted spoon pack cherries into hot jars leaving 1“ headspace. Add liquid to 1/2“ headspace, remove air bubbles, and cap. Process in water bath for 20 minutes.

There was a lot of juice leftover after canning these cherries. Although I could have just canned it as it was and used it for Cherry-Cokes, I decided to thicken it slightly and make a syrup out of it.

Maraschino Cherry Syrup

Leftover Juice from above recipe
7 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/2 Cup Water

Combine juice and Clear Jel slurry in stock pot. Bring to boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Ladle into hot jars, cap, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

This syrup is definitely an acquired taste. I’m not sure I would make it again, as Zeb will probably be the only one willing to eat such a sweet syrup on his pancakes. I think I can still use the syrup to make Cherry-Cokes, I’ll just have to be sure to mix it very well in order to dissolve some of the jelling.

The one aspect of canning that I find challenging as well as satisfying is finding ways to make sure none of the fruit or vegetables I am canning go to waste. Be it in another recipe or tossing scraps in the compost heap, I want to be sure that no scraps get left behind. So, when I decided to make a Rhubarb Jelly this afternoon, I had to be sure that all the pulp from the rhubarb was not wasted, especially as it took a ton of rhubarb to get just 3 cups of strained juice.

Rhubarb Jelly

3 Cups Rhubarb Juice
2 Cups Sugar
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/4 Cup Water

For Rhubarb Juice: Place 12 cups of finely chopped rhubarb in large stock pot with one cup water. Slowly bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and let simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Using stick blender puree rhubarb. Transfer puree to strainer or jelly bag and let drain for 1 hour.

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Combine rhubarb juice, sugar, lemon juice, and Clear Jel slurry in large stock pot. Bring to boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Ladle into hot jars, cover, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

This jelly is probably my favorite recipe I made. It is tart and the perfect consistency. Next year I am going to be sure to pick even more rhubarb and use this recipe to make a rhubarb syrup by decreasing the Clear Jel by half. It’s a shame it takes so much rhubarb to get so little a yield. That’s okay though, because I used all the pulp to make Rhubarb Sauce.

Rhubarb Sauce

Pulp from 12 Cups cooked, pureed, and strained Rhubarb
2 Cups Sugar

Combine pulp and sugar in large stock pot.

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Heat mixture over medium heat to near boil. Remove from heat, ladle into hot jars, cover, and process in water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Rhubarb sauce is just like applesauce, just less sweet and on the tart side. This will be a great side for pork or chicken dishes or even as an ice cream topper.

So many recipes, so many canning jars, so much more to do. Of the list of recipes I wanted to try this year, I didn’t get to four. That gives me something to look forward to for next year, along with any other new ones I come up with in the meantime, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Summer Melon Jams

Does anything scream summer more than watermelon?

This week at my favorite grocery store, Meijer’s, they are selling seeded and seedless watermelons for $2.99 each. I prefer the ones with seeds, while hubby enjoys the seedless, so I bought both. I knew there was no way we’d finish two whole watermelons before they spoiled, but I had a plan.

Last summer I made Watermelon Jelly for the first time. It was one of the most unusual tasting jellies I’d ever made and quickly became a favorite in our family. I decided then that I wanted to try to come up with some new variations of jams/jellies using watermelon. With watermelon such a good price, today was the day.

This morning I decided to make two jams of my own design. Having made so many jams and jellies this past year, coming up with my own combinations of ingredients was not that difficult. Plus, using Clear Jel I don’t have to worry about the jam setting. Last year I had to redo the watermelon jelly three times, adding more pectin each time in order to get it to set. With Clear Jel I did it once and was done.

One thing I truly believe when cooking is to use what you have. So today I worked with a variety of melons and kiwi, as they were both on the kitchen counter. These are the results.

Summer Melon Jam

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1 1/2 Cups Honeydew Melon Pulp
1 1/2 Cups Cantaloupe Melon Pulp
2 Cups Watermelon Pulp
4 Cups Sugar
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
7 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/2 Cup Water

  • Remove melons from rind, seed, and run through food processor. Combine melon pulp in large stock pot.

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  • Add sugar and Clear Jel slurry.

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  • Bring to boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes.
  • Ladle into hot jars, apply lids, and seal. Boil in water bath for 10 minutes.

This jam is very sweet. I might consider using only 3 cups of sugar next year. The watermelon flavor is the most intense but still not overbearing and the consistency is spreadable, not runny.

Watermelon-Kiwi Jam

2 Cups Watermelon Pulp
3 Kiwi, chopped
2 Cups Sugar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/4 Cup Water

  • Combine all ingredients in large stock pot.

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  • Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the kiwi to cook and soften. Do not boil.
  • Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to boil. Boil hard for one minute.
  • Remove from heat and let stand five minutes.
  • Ladle into hot jars, apply lids, and seal. Boil in water bath for 10 minutes.

This jam is not as sweet as the Summer Melon and the combination of the watermelon and the kiwi gives it a unique refreshing flavor.

I absolutely love coming up with new recipes to can, especially when I find the ingredients for a good price. A wave of storms blew through last night, breaking the humidity and making it tolerable to run the stove long enough to make two batches of new jams, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Clear Jel is the Clear Winner

For the past seven days I have been picking, cleaning, cutting, crushing, juicing, slicing, cooking, and canning. Fifteen recipes, later I think I am due a break!

My next few posts will consist of mostly just the recipes and pictures I took while working in the kitchen. I’d put them all in one post, but that would be rather cumbersome to read not to mention write. For now, here is a list of the recipes to follow that will eventually have a link attached.

Strawberry Jam (no big surprise there)
Strawberry-Raspberry Lime Marmalade
Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (2 versions)
Crushed Strawberry Syrup
Strawberry Sauce
Strawberry Lemonade Marmalade
Blackberry-Strawberry Seedless Spread
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Filling
Rhubarb Pie Filling
Rhubarb-Pineapple Jam
Fruit Leather (3 types: Strawberry, Plum, and Pineapple)
Mixed Summer Berry Lemonade Concentrate
Tropical Paradise Jam
Apple Pie Filling
Cinnamon Glaze

I think that’s all of them, but I won’t really know until I got through my pictures and recipes that are stacked on the kitchen counter in the “DONE” pile. There were several recipes for rhubarb that I didn’t get to because all I have left are four lonely stalks standing in a vase of water on the counter. Not enough to do much of anything with — but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

One thing that I discovered through all this canning and cooking is hands down Clear Jel is the absolute best thickening agent for jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades, fillings, etc. No matter how much or how little I put in, everything jelled enough. Some times I might have wanted a little firmer set or perhaps a little softer, but it was still jelled. Even the firmest set jam I made, that doesn’t move when you tip the bottle upside down, is soft and spreadable.

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Plus, unlike when using pectin where you are not able to alter the amounts of sugar without risking the results being too watery or unspreadable, I changed the amounts of sugar in nearly every recipe I had in order to make the final flavors what my family likes. Some are tarter and some are sweeter. Clear Jel’s setting is not contingent on how much sugar is in the recipe.

Finally, the price factor. In order to make all the recipes I listed above, it would have cost me more than $30 in pectin. The canister of Clear Jel I have has enough left in it to make at least two or three more batches, plus I was able to make a triple batch of strawberry rhubarb pie filling and a double batch of apple pie filling. The cost for one canister was $20 including shipping. Economically speaking, I don’t know why I’d ever consider going back to pectin.

It’s been a fun week of canning, but I am happy to have my kitchen clear of all my canning supplies, jars, recipes, and fruit, even if it is just for a few days. I’m already making plans for next weeks canning agenda, raspberries should be in any day now you know. For now though I am going to enjoy waking up tomorrow morning to a clean, clutter-free kitchen with no pressing canning to get done, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Pineapple Days, Raspberry Nights

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Canning, canning, and did I mention canning! That is what I did today and if I hadn’t run out of sugar, I’d probably still be doing it. Plus my feet feel like they are on fire, my back is aching, and I’m tired, but heck, if I had sugar I’d probably never have stopped. So much to can and I haven’t even gone strawberry picking yet.

This morning I spent six hours making another batch of Pina Colada Concentrate without the pulp this time, a batch of Pineapple-Kiwi Jam, and a batch of Lemon-Pineapple Preserves. Any normal person would have called it quits after this, but I wasn’t tired of canning, just tired of canning pineapple. So I set my remaining seven pineapples aside for another day and decided to start working with raspberries.

Last week my favorite grocery store, Meijer’s had raspberries on sale for $1.00 per 6 oz. package. I picked up ten packages and stuck them right in the freezer. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything with them right then, so seeing that raspberries freeze quick and easy, they went in the chest freezer until I could get to them.

Taking the berries from the freezer I spent the next couple hours making Raspberry-Lemonade Concentrate and Raspberry-Lime Jam. I hadn’t worked with raspberries in a few years, but knew I didn’t like the seeds. This meant using my food mill to strain out most of the seeds. A few I can stand, all is just too much.

Following are the recipes with photos. The Pina Colada Concentrate update can be found in my prior post: Frozen Pina Coladas the rest are new. All of my jam/preserve recipes today used Clear Jel as the setting agent. This is only the second time I’ve used this for something other than pie filling.  I am still learning how much to use. Any changes that I’d suggest based on the final consistency are noted at the end of the recipe. I hope you try some of these, all turned out very tasty.

Pineapple-Kiwi Jam

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3 Cups Chopped and Peeled Kiwi (about 9)
2 Cups Fresh Crushed Pineapple with Juice (1 pineapple)
1/3 Cup Water
7 Tbsp. Clear Jel
3 Cups Sugar

Peel and chop kiwi.

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Core and puree pineapple.

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Combine kiwi, pineapple, 1/2 Cup sugar and Clear Jel dissolved in 1/3 cup water in large pan.

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Bring jam to boil, careful it does not stick. This is very thick so it will stick if you do not watch it closely.

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Once it boils, it will start to burn if you don’t add the sugar immediately. Add remaining sugar and bring to boil.

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Boil jam for 3 minutes. The mixture will be very thick. To thin you could add additional pineapple juice or water.
Ladle jam into jars and put on lids. Water-bath can for 10 minutes.

***This jam turned out much thicker than I like it. Clear Jel does leave it still spreadable, but I prefer a softer set jam and would suggest decreasing the Clear Jel to 4 Tbsp. next time.

Lemon-Pineapple Preserves

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3 Large or 5 Medium lemons, squeezed of all juice, strained (shells reserved)
3 Pounds Fresh pineapple, cleaned, cored, and pureed (about 2 whole)
2 3/4 Cups Water
4 Tbsp. Clear Jel
6 3/4 Cups Sugar

Combine lemon shells and seeds in a cheesecloth bag or jelly bag.

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Combine lemon juice, pineapple, and cheesecloth bag in large stock pot. Bring to boil and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes.

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Remove cheesecloth bag and add 4 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed in 3/4 cup water. Add 3/4 sugar and bring to boil. Boil for 2 minutes.

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Add remaining sugar and boil for 1 minute more.

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Ladle into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Cover and seal. Process in water-bath canner 20 minutes.

***The consistency was perfect, however, although tart, I could not taste “lemon” in this preserve. I might consider adding the zest of one lemon to see if it would make it more lemony next time.

Raspberry-Lime Jam

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5 Cups Raspberries
1/2 Cup Water
2 Limes
4 Tbsp. Clear Jel
1/4 Cup Water
5 Cups Sugar

Combine raspberries and 1/2 cup water in stock pot. Bring to boil. Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes to release juices. With immersion blender puree raspberries.

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Run berries through food mill. This should give you approximately 2.5 cups of strained pulp.

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Zest one lime and juice two.

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Combine lime zest, juice, raspberry pulp, 1/2 cup sugar, and 4 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/4 cup water in stock pot. Bring to boil for 2 minutes.

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Add remaining sugar and boil 1 minute longer.

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Ladle jam into jars, cover and seal in water-bath canner for 10 minutes.

***The consistency was good for this jam. The lime flavor however was very slight. I would use the zest of two limes rather than just one next time.

Raspberry-Lemonade Concentrate

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6 Cups Raspberries
4 Cups Lemon Juice, fresh or bottled
6 Cups Sugar

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot and bring to boil.

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With an immersion blender/stick blender puree the liquid till smooth.

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Heat to 190° over medium-heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Put the concentrate though food mill to remove seeds.

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Return concentrate to pan and bring back up to 190°. Remove from heat, ladle into jars, cover and process in water-bath canner for 15 minutes.

To reconstitute: Mix one part concentrate with 1 1/2 cups water. Or for a more refreshing alternative, try making a Frozen Raspberry-Lemonade Smoothie (recipe follows).

Frozen Raspberry-Lemonade Smoothie

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1 3/4 Cup Raspberry-Lemonade Concentrate
5 Cups Ice
1 Cup Water

Combine all ingredients in blender.

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Blend until smooth.

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Serve in a tall glass. Could garnish with fresh raspberries and a wedge of lemon.

The canning went fast and by 3:00 this afternoon I was done canning and on my way to making dinner. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get out of the kitchen. Thankfully, dinner is done, I’m out of sugar, and tomorrow is another day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Kiwi-Lime Jam

Over the winter I spent many months looking for recipes of jams that I could make that did not require “fresh” fruit. Living in Michigan, the best months for canning are typically June through October, when local fruits and vegetables are harvested. I know I could buy almost any fruit or vegetable that is brought in from other parts of the country year round, but I look forward to canning the fresh Michigan produce I pick myself, grow myself, or can get from local farmers.

Surprisingly, I found quite a few jams, jellies and preserves that I could make during the winter and was able to make good use of my time during those long, cold days of January through March. One of my favorite jams that I discovered was a Kiwi-Lime Jam. With just a few ingredients, I was able to make a refreshing jam that reminded me of the tropics.  The recipe didn’t make a ton of jars, which I like, it gives me the opportunity to make it again.

Kiwi-Lime Jam

Kiwi-Lime Jam

Checking my inventory of jams in the pantry, I discovered that already we were down to our last jar, so today I worked on a batch. I changed the recipe slightly because I wanted a softer-set jam and wanted  to use some of my apple-pectin stock. I’ll include both recipes, depending on what type of set you prefer. The Certo pectin recipe will give you a very firm set, what I consider a jelly-set. The apple-pectin stock version offers a pourable product that could easily be used as a syrup as well as a spread.

Kiwi-Lime Jam (Soft-Set)

6 Kiwi, peeled and thinly sliced or chopped
3 Cups Sugar
6 oz. Unsweetened Pineapple Juice
Zest and juice of 1 Lime (make sure you have enough juice to measure 1/4 Cup)
1/2 Pint Apple Pectin Stock

Peel and slice kiwi.

I used a mandolin to slice three of the kiwi and then chopped the remainder.

I used a mandolin to slice three of the kiwi and then chopped the remainder.

Zest lime then squeeze out juice, adding additional bottled lime juice to measure 1/4 cup if necessary.

Zest lime, trying not to get any of the white pith.

Zest lime, trying not to get any of the white pith.

Juice lime, adding enough bottled lime to juice to measure 1/4 cup.

Juice lime, adding enough bottled lime to juice to measure 1/4 cup.

Combine kiwi, lime zest and juice, pineapple juice, sugar and apple pectin stock in pan.

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot.

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot.

Bring to full rolling boil.
Turn down to medium and boil for 15 minutes.

Watch jam carefully, so it doesn't stick or scorch.

Watch jam carefully, so it doesn’t stick or scorch.

Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars.
Cover and place jars in water bath canner.
When canner reaches a full rolling boil, process for 10 minutes.

Kiwi-Lime Jam (Firm-Set)

6 Kiwi, peeled and thinly sliced or chopped
3 Cups Sugar
6 oz. Unsweetened Pineapple Juice
Zest and juice of 1 Lime (make sure you have enough juice to measure 1/4 Cup)
1 Pouch Certo Liquid Pectin

Peel and slice kiwi.
Zest lime then squeeze out juice, adding additional bottled lime juice to measure 1/4 cup if necessary.
Combine kiwi, lime zest and juice, pineapple juice, and sugar in pan.
Bring to full rolling boil.
Boil for 1 minute.
Add pectin.
Return to boil and boil for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars.
Cover and place jars in water bath canner.
When canner reaches a full rolling boil, process for 10 minutes.

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I am so glad I researched new jams to try this past winter. This particular one is by far one of the favorites I made and can be made during those months that aren’t filled with local fresh produce canning, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Strawberry Guava Jam And Then Some!

“Time stays long enough for those who use it.“ – Leonardo Da Vinci

There was so much to get done today in so little time (I know the reality of time, but that isn’t going to stop me from denying it) that once again I got up well before the alarm clock and headed down to the kitchen.

Strawberry Guava Jam was first on my list of “Must Do Today” items. Having juiced all the guava yesterday, my job was fairly simple. All I had to do was slice the strawberries I needed to add to the guava and I’d be set. Here is the recipe:

Strawberry Guava Jam

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups Guava Juice/Pulp (see Guava Jam recipe for juicing instructions)
  • 6 Cups Sliced Strawberries (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Pint Apple Pectin Stock
  • 3 Tablespoons Lime Juice

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 minutes or until strawberries are tender. With a stick blender, spot puree.  This is my cheat for not crushing one cup of the berries prior to mixing with the other ingredients.  Depending on how chunky you want the jam, puree to your liking.  Remove from heat and let stand five minutes. Ladle jam into hot 4 oz. or 8 oz. jars and cap with hot bands and lids. Process 10 minutes in water bath.

This jam is not very sweet. My husband loves it because he prefers jams on the tart side, but I don’t see why you couldn’t add more sugar if you wanted. The rule seems to be one cup of sugar for every cup of guava but with the addition of the strawberries, you could easily add two or three more cups to sweeten this up.

With the jam done and all the guava used, I moved onto my next project — corn. Over the weekend I came across two boxes of corn-on-the-cob on the discount rack. For $2.00 I got 77 ears of corn. This worked out perfectly because I just finished my last bag of frozen corn from last summer’s farmer’s market shopping.

Freezing Corn Pictorial

 

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Freezing corn is easy. The blanching only takes five minutes and I enjoy using my little kernel remover gadget to clean the cobs. In all, this project took an hour and half and yielded me 5 quarts of frozen corn — more than enough to keep us happy until July or August when Michigan corn starts showing up at the market.

The rest of my day was spent cooking dinner, cleaning the house (well that’s what I call it — others might say moving the dirt from one spot to another), driving my daughter to school and then work, and then finally I ended the day by making another batch of dehydrated apples. That was the other huge find on the clearance rack. I got three boxes of apples for $5.00. I haven’t even finished the first box yet and already I’ve gotten 4 quarts of dehydrated apple chips for the pantry.

Dehydrated Apple Chips

Wash Apples
Peel, Core and Slice

An apple/corer/peeler gadget saves a ton of time.

An apple/corer/peeler gadget saves a ton of time.

Place on dehydrater trays

Apples placed on tray - no touching.

Apples placed on tray – no touching.

Spray with lemon juice (both top and bottom of tray)

Love using a spray bottle with lemon juice - so easy!

Love using a spray bottle with lemon juice – so easy!

Set tray on dehydrater and leave for 18 to 24 hours
Let cool

Dehydrated Apple Chips

Dehydrated Apple Chips

Remove from trays and store in quart mason jars sealed with FoodSaver

It was a productive day — it needed to be. There is nothing worse than buying produce off the discount rack and then not doing anything with it until it starts to spoil. Yes, I have done this and end up suffering buyer’s remorse, canner’s guilt, and housewife shame for days after. Today I utilized the bargains I bought and added stock to the pantry, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Easter Breakfast

Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do that day, which must be done, whether you like it or not.

-James Russell Lowell

 

Can you imagine waking up and not having anything to do? I can’t. I have woken up and not wanted to do anything but that is a whole nother story.

Holidays are especially stressful since my parents stopped hosting family get-togethers 15 years ago. Not that I don’t enjoy hosting them, I do. But every once in a while, it would be nice to have the option of having someone else host a holiday so I could sit back and let them do all the work for a change.

I was 21 when I hosted my first holiday dinner. I’d been living on my own for a couple of years and thought it would be fun. Ten people in a 800 square foot apartment though was quite the challenge. Still, it was fun and I was hooked. Planning, preparing, and cooking became a passion and by the time I was 30, I was hosting most of our family get-togethers.

Through the years holidays have evolved and celebrations have been tweaked so now Easter and Christmas are celebrated with extended family over breakfast rather than dinner. This allows me to relax with my husband and kids all afternoon and enjoy an intimate dinner with them.

Breakfast gatherings are my favorite type of get-togethers to host. There are so many menu options and elegant choices, that planning new and exciting course selections months in advance is not unheard of for me.

This morning for Easter breakfast the menu looked as follows:

  • Belgium Waffles with Blueberry Topping (frozen blueberries from picking 2013)
  • Crepes with Homemade Jams and Preserves: Tart Cherry Jam, Sweet Cherry Preserves, Peach-Pineapple Jam, Prune Plum Preserves and Strawberry Sauce
  • Homemade Blueberry Muffins (again, berries frozen from 2013 picking)
  • Bacon
  • Canned Whole Prune Plums
  • Orange Juice
  • Home Canned Concord Grape Juice
  • Home-pressed Apple Cider (frozen from last fall)

The best part of this meal, other than sharing it with family, was that everything except the bacon and orange juice were homemade. Spending quality time with family, enjoying a home-cooked meal, and sharing my home canned wares, for these things I am – Simply Grateful.