Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jelly Making

I was having a great debate with myself as to whether to title this post 'The Fruits of my Labor' or 'Plum Tired'. As you can see, I ended up choosing neither one. Just too big a decision for this time of night. 'Why are you so tired?' one might ask. Well, even if you didn't ask that, let me tell you. I've been making jelly. Lots of it. After twenty four pints of plum jelly from the plums off of the trees in our yard, ten pints of blueberry (my sad little plants didn't yield this year, so we went to a pick your own blueberry farm), and twenty seven pints of wild plum jelly made from plums my husband picked in West Texas last weekend, I'm tired of the whole thing. The good news is that I learned how to can and am willing to share what I've learned with you!

According to my mother-in-law, you can make any type of jelly you want without the aid of fruit pectin (more commonly known as Sure-Jell). After boiling the fruit long enough to get it soft, smash it up to get the juice and pulp out. Combine two cups of juice with two cups of sugar and boil it for ten minutes. To that mixture, add two more cups of juice and two more cups of sugar. Boil it for another ten minutes. Pour this syrup into your prepared jars, apply hot lids and relax. Each batch yields about two pints of jelly.

She says that starting with three or fours cups to make the process go faster just won't work. For whatever reason, you have to stick with two. I don't know the validity of that argument yet. I got tired standing over the stove stirring tonight, and started adding an extra cup of juice and sugar now and then. My figuring was that if you added a little extra, it would boil down a little slower, so you should add a couple of minutes to the boil time. I don't know how it will jell, as I just poured it into the jars and sealed them, but the liquid consistency looked about right.

If you want to make pectin free jelly with a tested and approved recipe, stick with the one above. I've sampled and tested plenty of it this week and definitely approve! Tonight's experiments may or may not prove successful, but I'll have fun finding out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jenny - A Word on Hay

Hi y'all. Jenny here. I see that a lot of us have large melons cooking in our gardens, so it's a good time to talk about hay. Keeping our gardens well watered is essential for tasty fruit and veg, but the moist soil can sometimes cause rot spots in our large melons, strawberries and other things that lay or touch directly on it. It'll break your heart to see a gorgeous melon ready for the picking, turn it over, and... an icky, depressed soft spot. I've heard some tell me that they just try to turn the melons a bit to keep any one side from taking too much of the weight, but this seems like a good way to snap the thing right off the vine to me. I like hay for this job.
You get yourself a small, square bale of hay. You don't need a lot. If you have horse-loving friends or ranchers, perhaps they'll sell you a small portion of what they buy by the truckload. You lay down a couple inches of hay underneath your fruit, and voila, that should help reduce or flat out eliminate the rot spots. It lifts the fruit up off the soil and keeps it from getting too wet under there. The hay can even act as a mulch, keeping the soil underneath it from losing too much moisture in our burning hot, Texoma sun. That reminds me, don't substitute with your flower garden cedar mulch here. It's too strong.

Happy gardening!