Since I last posted I have been busy. Dill carrot pickles, marinated artichokes, strawberry jam and at the moment kiwi-apple-lime jam. I am having so much fun. The boys are asleep right now and I have the jam cooking while I blog and have a glass of wine. I am very content. I'm weird, I know. I think I'm so excited by this jam/pickle/preserve thing as I always thought it was very difficult and detailed. Now that I'm finding it is extremely easy and there is room to cut corners I am all about it. (Note to self: by more canning jars tomorrow..... All out, or should I say all filled.) The carrots and artichoke recipes were from the class I took last week. Here is a similar artichoke recipe, except I used crused red pepper. This recipe is pretty similar for the carrots. Basically, all you do is prep the ingredients (for carrots slice into sticks, for artichokes lightly cook or thaw frozen ones then pack the veggies in the jars), prep the jars (boil to sterilize - do this just before filling as you want to put hot food into warm jars to prevent cracking), make the pickling liquid (usually a combination of vinegar, water, salt and spices boiled until salt is incorporated), pour liquid over veggies into jars leaving 1/2" head space, place warmed lids onto jars and process (submerge in a pot of boiling water with at least 2" of water over jars) for as long as the recipe calls for. I need to learn more of the science, but a lot of pickling and times for cooking has to do with pH. I didn't process the artichokes - they keep for a few weeks refrigerated and I doubt they'll last that long.
The jam.... it bodes well for me that my family likes chunky jam (less nit-picky work). I have used less sugar with all of the recipes and the worst thing that has happened is that I need to cook it a little longer and that the jam may be a bit runnier than normal jam. I have not used pectin in any recipes yet - the fruits I've used had enough natural pectin or (as in the lime jam) I added apple which has pectin in it to help solidify the batch. I look forward to Charlie being older as many of the steps (e.g I crush the strawberries by hand because it works well and it is fun) he can help me with. I decided to put the baby gate up between the living room and kitchen though, as I just don't want him in there with all of the boiling. He is not a fan, and has already scaled the gate. Hmmm. Anyway - back to the canning - if you are intimidated, don't be! It is very easy and so much cheaper than store bought jam - and so much yummier, too.