Lost in a jam session & can’t stop. Please send help…and toast or biscuits!

Raspberry and red plum and blackberry...oh my!

Last month, fellow blogger Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic posted several stories about the jam she was canning. Strawberry, to be exact. Since then, I’ve had jelly on my brain (figuratively, of course). I used to can things every summer but that was years ago when we still lived in Owasso, Oklahoma. Summers there were not as unbearable as they are here. Once we moved to Houston, the heat and humidity killed my desire to can anything, since it required hours spent over a hot stove. Then I saw Kirsten’s strawberry jam, and became a woman obsessed. She planted a seed; a crazy demon jelly seed. Suddenly, I couldn’t walk past fruit without imagining it cooked into jelly or jam and packed into cute little Mason jars. Heaven help me; I do love a Mason jar.

Enter the $1.00 raspberry sale at my local grocery store. As we walked into the produce department, I was slapped in the face by a poster board sign that read “Raspberries – $1.00 a box!” Yeah, you bet your sweet ass it deserved an explanation point, Mr. Produce Stocker Man. Those little boxes have been going for $4.00 all summer. Naturally, I grabbed 10 boxes and thought about grabbing 10 more. Thanks to a spontaneous intervention from The Complete Package, I stuck with the original 10. But as soon as we got home, I broke out the sugar, pectin and jars and got to work. As I said, I was a little jelly obsessed.

Sweet little jars of fruity goodness; labels are print-your-own stickers

This past weekend, TCP and I stopped in at my favorite fruit stand – Froberg Farms in Manvel, Texas. I love this place more than I love chicken-fried steak. Someday I’ll take my camera out there and share it with you. Where else can you walk out with an entire brown paper bag packed full of freshly picked produce for around $20? It’s incredible. We love to stroll slowly through all the gorgeous produce, dried beans, canned fruits and vegetables. They also sell little fried pies, whole pies, farm eggs and fresh milk. AND they have a little trailer outside that sells all kinds of fabulous, smoky meats. This place is crazy wonderful.

Clockwise: Grandma, Mom, Big Sis & NanaBread

When I saw fresh red plums, I immediately grabbed a big bag full, and again we raced home to make jam. Red plum jam. I don’t know why, but it reminds me of Grandma Montgomery, who died when we were young. She had the most magical root cellar stocked with jars of homemade jams, jellies, pickles and canned veggies. Oh, how I loved the smell of that root cellar. Here’s a photo of her sitting with Mom as we all ate berries and ice cream. I love this old photo of us on Grandma’s porch. I’ve often wondered what Big Sis was thinking at that precise moment. She looks stunned & I look happy. I probably stole her last strawberry. Sorry, Sis. If it’s any consolation, I’m the one with the embarrassing ice cream beard. But I digress; back to jelly!

Old-fashioned red plum jam - it's seriously good stuff!

There’s no real recipe for jelly or jam. It’s just fruit, the right amount of sugar, and some fruit pectin. In fact, pectin manufacturers have made it so easy, they’ve printed a how-to which includes the proper fruit-to-sugar ratios inside the pectin box. How easy is that? The real key is in preserving it. I went old-school and used sterilized canning jars and a boiling hot water bath. If done correctly, jars of jam processed this way can have a shelf life of years instead of months. If you don’t want to process your jars in a water bath and preserve them for all eternity, Ball now makes plastic containers with screw-top lids. You can’t store this jam in your pantry, but you can certainly keep it in your fridge or freezer. Kirsten posted a great freezer jam recipe on her blog with a full-color photo tutorial. Please check it out. So now that my raspberry and plum jams are packed away, I’m eyeing a recipe for peach marmalade I got from a friend a few years ago. Peaches, oranges and maraschino cherries all cooked into a gorgeous, sticky marmalade. Oh, my. I may just have to do it. I should do it. I must do it!

Speaking of my canning bender… do you know what else I used to can years ago? Spicy sweet pickles. And do you know what’s brewing in my kitchen right now? Homemade spicy sweet pickles. It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve made them, but when we found some beautiful pickling cucumbers at Froberg’s last week, I decided to make them again. They’re from an old family recipe that has been passed down through TCP’s family for at least 3 generations. How good are they? Good enough that every time we eat another brand, we look at each other and say, “they’re good, but they’re not Aunt Teenie’s sweet pickles.” Which brings us to a recipe card mystery, a little family controversy, and my next post – Aunt Teenie’s Sweet Pickles: are they or aren’t they? Stay tuned!

Coming soon: spicy sweet pickles from an old family recipe

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10 Comments

Filed under Family Stuff, Food & Recipes

10 responses to “Lost in a jam session & can’t stop. Please send help…and toast or biscuits!

  1. First, I’ve got to say how weird it looks to see my name/blog name in your tags section. I read them and said “Hey! That’s me!” just like a little kid. ;) Thanks for the shout out. I’m glad I inspired a little canning obsession, even in the Texas heat. (Please forgive me, TCP.) I always say that I’ll scale back the jam production each summer because it is hot business, but then I see a flat of fruit or sparkling new mason jars, and I’m done for. This post isn’t helping matters–that peach marmalade sounds awesome!

    Now I’m thinking of interesting flavors like Megan’s Blackberry/Grand Marnier, apricot/basil, blueberry/lemon, etc. Wait until you see the cake I’m making for the Baby’s birthday this week–it’ll give you something to make with all that jam in your house! ;)

    I look forward to the pickles! I’ve never canned anything but fruity stuff, so I expect you’ll start a pickle revolution in my house.

    • Ha! I feel the same way when someone mentions me in their blog. I think, “Look! My name’s in print! I should call my mother!” Thanks for sharing your freezer jam photo and for inspiring me to make my own jams this summer. I appreciate it more than you know. Slathering a piece of sourdough toast with butter and your own homemade jam is good for your soul. And it just tastes so much better than the store-bought stuff. Can’t wait to see that cake you’re planning. I can’t believe the Baby is another year older already. Yikes! How did that happen? The pickles are easy to make, but the process takes a while. If you’re not opposed to the smell of brining cucumbers, you’ll love this recipe!

  2. Froberg’s!!! I grew up in Alvin!! Ahhh I am homesick now!!! We used to take our pecans there so their machine could crack ’em. Your pictures have me in a slobbering mess. My baby and I will be going back to stay with my parent sometime soon…we’ll have to find something seasonal at Froberg’s and can it!

    • Yipeee!!! Someone loves Froberg’s as much as me!
      I had no idea you grew up in Alvin. That’s so cool. What a small, small world. My very favorite thing from Frogerg’s is the fresh okra in the summer. TCP will attest that I could eat fried okra until I almost make myself sick. I can only get it when it’s summer time, and I can only buy it Froberg’s. After that, I always stock up on dried cranberry pintos (SO good) and fresh veggies. My favorite piece of equipment is the machine that stone grinds corn into grits. Nothing beats stone-ground fresh grits. Geez… do I sound like a died-in-the-wool Southerner, or what?

  3. Papa

    I’m anxious for your spicy sweet pickle recipe (no matter whose it is)! I canned dill pickles for the first time last year, so I’m really looking forward to some diversity…

    • Awesome, Papa! It’s a good one. They’re spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, celery seed and a bottle of pickling spice, along with a ton of sugar and vinegar. Once you get past the brining and start pickling in the syrup, your house will smell SO wonderful!

  4. Kat

    Oh heavens, I’m simply Astonished at all of the Canning Productivity you’ve been Actioning. It looks beautiful. I never knew I would say that about jarred jellies and jams, but now I have.

    I don’t know that I’m quite ready to go all the way with the hot water baths and such but freezer jam gives me hope that there’s somewhere for me to start!

    • I guess it all comes down to where you are on the jelly train. I grew up making it the old-fashioned water bath way, so it comes more naturally for me. It’s more work, but I know HOW to do it. Making freezer jam would probably make me a little nervous, since I’ve never done it. If you decide to try Kirsten’s freezer method, let me know how it turns out. I’d love to hear. For me, it doesn’t matter how you make it; homemade jam just tastes better. Some might even say it’s an 11/10. {wink}

  5. Deb

    I JUST had a dear friend come to visit and show me how to can this year!! I have been wanting to learn for YEARS!! I bought all the stuff to do it about 7 yrs ago but was so afraid to just try because I was sure I would kill someone with a canned tomato! I even moved it all through two military moves, listening to my dear hubby gripe about it each time ; )) LOL Now I am like you and seeing all the fruit, I am dying to make jam next!!! Your pickles may be right after that…. I will be looking forward to them!! ; ))

    • How cool, Deb! You have to try something soon so all that planning and lugging jars around will pay off. I’ll give you my tips on how to keep from killing someone with home-canned foods – clean jars & high heat. You can keep any food safe while processing as long as your jars are sterile, the ingredients are boiling hot, and the jars are sealed properly. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked. I can’t wait to hear what you tackle first. Keep me in the loop!

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