I’m not a big fan of impending-doom-weather-forecasting. So yesterday, the news of a derecho supposedly bearing down on the Mid Atlantic was a recipe for me to spend the afternoon on an emotional roller coaster. The weather reports were so apocalyptic, even on NPR, that I turned off one of my favorite radio programs. Periodically, the skies darkened, an ominous portent that gave me reason to fantasize about how bad it was going to be.
Should I abandon the kitchen and preparations for long-planned weekend celebration with my family or should I charge onward, hoping that the kitchen windows wouldn’t be blown out by a falling tree in our tree-laden backyard?
My solution was to do neither. I did stay in the kitchen, but instead of working on planned menu, I learned to can jam.
Recently, I saw a mouth-watering jam recipe by my pal Cathy Barrow, a/k/a Mrs. Wheelbarrow. I had put it aside, thinking I would try it in my next life. But as the storm clouds gathered, now seemed like a much better time.
If you don’t know Cathy and you want to do anything that involves preserving, make her your new BFF. With the recipe, a confidence-building article on home canning that she wrote last year for the New York Times, and a set of tips from her website, I was ready for whatever the weather gods had to throw at me.
Luckily I had the two other essential elements for my plan to ignore derecho-madness: a wonderful companion (my son Liam, home for the family celebration) and a huge mass of strawberries that came my way due to a plan that required them, but had to be suddenly cancelled the evening before.
The afternoon of research, cutting, and stirring (with great music blaring), followed by cooking and canning this morning, turned my fears of yesterday into a distant memory as I write this.
Plus, I learned a new skill (canning) that I’m going to try again soon. In retrospect, my jam adventure seems like a cooking-centered, self-administered version of the advice Julie Andrews gave to her changes during a storm when she sang My Favorite Things in The Sound of Music. That’s fine with me – it worked.
Of course, it helps that the derecho never happened and that our jam tastes marvelous. We’re still waiting to see if the jars are properly sealed. I heard one “ping” that indicates a jar sealed properly, but still await the verdict on the others. Maybe I’ll have to reprocess some of the jars, or refrigerate them and use their contents within the month, but either way, my jam-and-can foray worked wonders for me. Plus, we have the jam!
PS – We followed Cathy’s strawberry jam recipe, except that we added a bit of extra kiwi and 1/4 cup of candied ginger because Liam and I both love the slightly sharp taste of sweetened ginger. The result was delicious, but the zip of the ginger probably hid the delicate flavor of the vanilla bean. (I took the bean out of one of my homemade vanilla extract bottles.) We noticed that our strawberry pieces remained rather large; we like the texture, but others might prefer to cut them smaller so they dissolve more in the jam.