June 29, 2010

mmmmm, Homemade Honey Wheat Bread!

Do you remember as a kid growing up and the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven? Oh, you don't? Well, it's possibly one of the best smells EVER! I'm just sayin. Up until recently I've been very scared of any recipe that had "yeast" in the ingredient list. It intimidates me to have to know the temperature of the water I'm mixing the yeast into in order for it to rise properly.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to go ahead and "just do it"! Luckily my first attempt turned out perfectly so I made some more this past weekend and it turned out just as nicely. The recipe does say to let cool before cutting - but please! I'm only human. I had to eat it almost the second it came out of the oven.

I hope you'll give this a try even with my lack of pictures to show you. I promise to make it again soon and post more pic's at that time.

Here's where you can find the recipe: http://www.allrecipes.com/Recipe/Honey-Wheat-Bread-I/Detail.aspx

June 27, 2010

Blueberry Jam

Jam is just one of those things we take for granted I think. I mean, you can easily go to the supermarket and pick some up anytime you want right? Have you ever thought about making your own? I remember my gramma making other canned goods like applesauce, cherries, tomatoes and so on. But I don't think I ever actually watched her do it....

So, recently a couple of friends and I decided to try to do it ourselves. We thought they'd make great gifts and if nothing else; at least we'd know what our kids were eating. We try to buy local products so that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside too.

When making jam, you'll need to do some prep work before getting started. You will need:

  • A big huge pot (they make them specifically for canning) but if you don't have one specifically for this purpose, just get one big enough to submerge your jars with an additional 1-2 inches of water over the top.
  • large sauce pot to boil the lids and flats.
  • Large stockpot for boiling the jam, make sure it's large enough to accommodate for the amount of bubble up this mixture will do, I'd say an additional 3 inches or so more than the actual mixture before it boils.
  • Canning tools really make things easier - you can buy a set pretty much anywhere online like Amazon.com or EBay. If you don't have a set and have no plans to buy one then you can use tongs, some towels, ladle and a funnel.
  • Clean glass preserving jars - I put them in an empty dishwasher right before I begin making jam so they're still nice and hot/warm.
  • Measuring cups

I went to our local farmers market and got these beautiful blueberries. Wash them, and check for stems or bad berries and discard those.

This is when the fun begins, you get to take your frustrations out on the berries by smashing them to juicy pulp. You can do this either with a potato masher or a food processor which is what I used. If you choose to use a food processor, just make sure not to pulverize them. Three or four pluses usually does it. It's OK if some of them are whole because they'll pop and break up while cooking.

Measure out the amount needed depending on the recipe you are using. After you have the correct amount, mix in the lemon juice and then the pectin. If you're not using the pectin recipe then just add the berries and sugar to the stockpot. For the pectin recipe, don't add the sugar yet.

With pectin: bring the berries to a boil that you can't stir down, now add the sugar and bring to a full boil. Once at a full boil, set your timer for 1 minute and stir constantly. Remove from the heat and skim foam if needed.
Without pectin: Slowly bring berries and sugar to a boil, cook rapidly to the gelling point. Keep checking on it and when it begins to thicken you can remove from the heat. This takes awhile...go get something to drink, read a book perhaps.

Let the fun begin, ladle the hot mixture into your prepared jars and top leaving about 1/4 inch on top, then put on the the hot lid flats and rings. Tighten and add to your huge canning pot of water. Sorry I didn't take a picture of this part, things are moving pretty quickly at this point. I'm sure you can figure out how to do this though, I have faith in you. For the non-pectin recipe you'll want to boil the jars in the hot water for 15 minutes. The pectin recipe needs to boil for about 10 minutes or a little more depending on your altitude. These instructions are included in the box of pectin and we've found that the instructions are very precise.

Once boiled, place upside-down on a table for 24 hours. Now enjoy it, you've earned it.
As a side note, Amanda and I prefer the pectin method best. The non-pectin method took too long and the jam didn't look as good as the pectin method. I also plan to experiment with no sugar methods that use fruit juice instead. I'll be sure to post about it when I do.
Pectin Method:
4 C. crushed blueberries
(about 2 1/2 pounds or 6 6-0z containers
2 Tbsp lemon juice
4 C. sugar
Non-Pectin Method:
9 C. crushed blueberries
6 C. sugar