Canning Season is Here!

JAM: a food made by boiling fruit and sugar to a thick consistency

I bought a couple of flats of strawberries and blueberries at our neighborhood farmer’s market Sunday with grand plans of whipping out a few batches of jam that afternoon.  A birthday party for Son’s friend and dinner invite provided pleasant – but significant – distraction and delay.  The canner was finally stocked and boiling with the first batch at 10 p.m. last night.

A late night and early morning combined to yield the following before I left for work this morning:

Sunshine juice concentrate (made with rhubarb from our garden)

Strawberry lemonade concentrate

Strawberry rhubarb jam

Strawberry jam

Blueberry apple jam

Our corner produce market has a special running on local raspberries.  I hope to pick some up on my way home to mix with my remaining blueberries for a mixed berry jam and a raspberry-orange jam.

With two kids in the house, we use a LOT of jam.  We ran out this year and I don’t want to make the same mistake again.

My favorite jam is Martha’s (she’s first name only like Madonna, right?) Blackberry Bay Leaf.  I pick my berries on an abandoned property near the railroad tracks that run from downtown Seattle to our neighborhood.  I’m reasonably certain that at least one dead body is lurking in the brambles, but that is the reality of urban foraging.  Alas, the blackberries aren’t ready yet.  So, I’ll continue to amuse myself with preserving the earlier berries until the precious free-for-the-fearless fruit is ready.

 

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Yeast

YEAST: a yellowish surface froth or sediment that occurs especially in saccharine liquids in which it promotes alcoholic fermentation, consists largely of cells of a fungus, and is used especially in the making of alcoholic liquors and as a leaven in baking

Bread and wine.  I like them both.  In fact, I’ve made them both – bread with more success than wine.

I like to make our bread.  Some weeks I slack and buy it at the store, but I prefer to make my own.  Homemade bread is one of those things that seems more impressive than it is.  It’s actually the perfect mommy activity.  It takes hours from start to finish, but the amount of time you need to pay attention to it is relatively small.  There are small burst of hands-on activity – generally one to five minutes worth – separated by hours of time where the yeast is doing the work for you.  And, the result is a delicious loaf that makes the house smell incredible.  I understand bread.  I’ve had relatively good success with it.

Wine is another story.  I tried making my own wine once.  In fact, I had Son help me.  I’m not sure where teaching a 3-year-old to cork wine ranks on the “bad mommy” scale:

 

I read about dandelion wine in one of my urban homesteading books and thought it sounded interesting.  I found an abandoned house and collected a gallon of dandelion blossoms from the yard.  For the record, it takes a long time to pick a gallon of dandelion blossoms. 

I followed the directions, but the results were terrible.  The wine turned out chewably sweet.  I think the recipe may have overcompensated for the bitterness of the blossoms.  We gave a few bottles to friends and family with an “it’s the thought that counts” disclaimer.  I keep a few bottles on our pantry shelf to remind me of the failed experiment. 

Can you see them mocking me from the second shelf on the right?

Sometimes I get cocky about my canning skills.  Those bottles of dandelion wine remind me that I still have lots to learn.  For now, I’ll make my bread and buy my wine.  But someday, I hope to master both.

Sunshine

SUNSHINE: something (as a person, condition, or influence) that radiates warmth, cheer, or happiness

What do I do when I need inspiration?  Procrastinate, of course! I was doing just that this afternoon instead of picking a topic to write about. Surely, something would come to me as I drafted invitations for our upcoming party.  Strike one.  Perhaps an idea would percolate up while I perused chick-flick titles at the video store.  Strike Two.

Just in the nick of time, I discovered a note in my email inbox letting me know that Stacy Dymalski nominated me for a Sunshine Award.  I extend to her my gratitude for the kindness, the affirmation, and the post topic…

Here goes my attempt to fulfill the award requirements:

First, the gratitude:

Stacy, you rock!  For those who have not had the pleasure of reading her blog, you are in for a treat!

Second, the visual:

Third, the Q&A:

Favorite color?  

For me it’s less about an affinity for a particular color and more about liking items to be the color they were intended to be.  Too many of my things have crayon marks, oil spots, mysterious goo, or the grungy not-quite-right hues that come from years of imprecise laundry sorting.

Favorite animal?

Favorite animal a decoration – a cow.  I have a cow collection that spans nearly 30 years.  Favorite animal in my backyard – a goat.  It took me seven years of marriage for Husband to agree to backyard chickens.  I will know that I have become completely irresistible when he agrees to a goat.

Favorite number?

Four – the number of people required to make our family complete.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Coffee.  I like it black, with milk, mixed with chocolate, from a barista, from a diner pot, topped with whipping cream, through an IV…really I just like it flowing through my veins.  I don’t care how it gets there.

Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook.  Birds and birds alone should “tweet.”

My passion?

Shouldn’t this be plural?

Getting or giving presents?

Giving – especially when I’ve come up with an idea that is unique or homemade.

Favorite pattern?

Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Rock, Paper Scissors.  That pattern has helped me survive the time between ordering and food delivery at many a restaurant with small children.

Favorite day of the week?

Wednesday.  It is our one “un-programmed” weekday.  It’s the day we have time for a hot breakfast.  It’s the day we can schedule special outings or playdates with far away friends.

Favorite flower?

Star-gazer lilies mixed with roses reminds me of the first bouquet I received from Husband.  Sunflowers, tulips and daffodils make me feel cheerful.  Any flower that arrives at my house for no reason is a hit in my book.

Finally, here are a few* WordPress blogs I think deserve sunshine of their own:

Slow Food Seattle

Wandering Mary

One Great Mom

Fuzz and Sunshine

The Year of What If

* I’m new to WordPress (both as a reader and a writer); please accept my apologies for only offering 5 rather than the 10 nominees requested.  What do you say we pretend it is double-coupon Sunday?

UPDATE (May 2012): Turn Around and Swim kindly nominated me for the Sunshine Award too.  Since I’ve done the work already, I kindly say “Thank you.”   You can never have too much sunshine.