Posts Tagged ‘gardening’



May 7, 2009

05 jamWhen I was wee, my grandma would come up for a few days to help my mom with canning when there were good deals on okanagan fruits at the market or we had a bumper crop of berries or beans.  I have fond memories of them working together and the whistling of the pressure cooker.  It’s been at least a decade, probably more like two, since they canned together and my mom’s “pantry” above the steps in my parents’ garage is sadly full of empty jars now.

I have yet to learn how to do real canning, but since going out on my own I’ve been able to keep the freezer jam tradition alive.  Jam for me is always strawberry, which is strange considering that I never cared for strawberries as a kid but always loved strawberry jam.  Similarly, I found that jam ruined the flavour of my favourite berry – the raspberry!  (I was so lucky to have a grandpa with a green thumb and a love for rasp’s too.)

In keeping with the example my ma and grandma set I’m not overly keen on grocery store strawberries, instead preferring to grow my own or go to a u-pick.  It’s too early to find ripe berries (or even flowers) at this time of year but thanks to some bargain prices, a good number of store bought berries have found their way into our house recently.

The other night, Kevin chopped up about 8 cups of strawberries so that I could make jam.  I had one package of pectin and so the next morning I set to work making jam before breakfast.  I’d forgotten to smash the berries up before and my attempts to fix that after adding the sugar were futile so it’s become one heck of a chunky batch.

Since I only had enough pectin for one batch of pectin the rest of the berries went in the freezer for “safe keeping”.  I was at the health food store last night and the only pectin they had was Pamona’s.  At 2-3x the price of the stuff I was used too I’d never bothered to read the details on the package before.  I’m grateful that it was the only convenient choice because I now know that it makes 3-4x as much and doesn’t require copious amounts of sugar.  Plus it has calcium, something I desperately need more of!

This morning I prepared batch #2 of jam and I must say I’m impressed.  It took a little more work since a blender is pretty much a necessity for mixing the pectin in hot water.  I was having a hard time crushing my berries and blending them with my nearly solid honey so the blender was good and dirty before I was done.  I had worried that blending the previously frozen berries would result in a runny jam but the result was quite the opposite.  I added nearly 2 Tbsp of calcium water (what the Pamona pectin uses to set) and was shocked to find a very solid jam had formed almost instantly at room temperature.  With all that blending I now have an easily spreading jam too!

Jam made with honey doesn’t taste the same as I’m used to but I like the added hint of honey.  Next time I’ll probably play with half sugar/half honey, but I’m so happy to have the option of less sugar.  Kevin likes it too since he’s nearly always doing something akin to a candida diet.

This was fun.  The challenge now is to make the jam last until strawberry picking season…

05 jam 4


seedy sunday

March 23, 2009

It’s hard to believe with how beautiful it is out today that we had a snow storm yesterday.  That didn’t stop us from stopping in at the Edmonton Seedy Sunday event yesterday.

I tend to prefer to stay home when it’s cold and snowy and yesterday was no different.  If the seed event had been one month earlier I probably would have been gung ho to go right at the start but reality has set in more recently.  I’m planning to go away for a Waldorf summer intensive for the month of July so of course I won’t be here to tend a garden in peak growing season.   Then there’s the relocation we’re planning for September, right about when most of our vegetables are ready to harvest.   None the less, I wanted to see what the event was all about so we went.

I was surprised to find familiar faces right away and then at my last stop, Prairie Heritage Seeds from Saskatchewan I had some great conversations.  I was surprised to see spelt, quinoa and millet in the catalogue so we talked about how some grains are suitable to grow at home because they’re easy to thresh – like the “newer” wheats.  Spelt of course is much more suitable for larger grain growing operations.  Darn!

Just then a “regular” showed up to pick up her order and the conversation got even better.   We discussed dried beans, different grains and the best varieties of tomatoes, beans and cucumbers.  She sounded like a master baker with in depth knowledge of different types of breads and what different nutrients they provide.  I wish I could remember everything for future seasons but the experience of this enegetic conversation was rewarding in and of itself.  Suffice it to say, I’m very happy we went out and I enjoyed the connections with friends and these seasoned gardeners.