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making blueberry jam with folks at wind hill farm

making blueberry jam with folks at wind hill farm

open-air canning demo

smile!

smile!

Since Can It!  was released last summer, I’ve been asked to do a number of canning demonstrations. I’ve been in a hardware store, a community center, my own kitchen — but never a setting as pretty as the one last night at Wind Hill Farm in Glastonbury, Connecticut. As part of their mission of community outreach and education, they asked me if I would do a canning demo. I packed up my canning gear along with two butane burners and set up shop in a lecture area situated among the many raised bed garden plots. It really was an idea setting for promoting local and seasonal produce! Six eager and willing students showed up and together we made a simple, but very yummy blueberry jam. Despite the threat of passing shower, we finished our jam and everyone took home a jar to enjoy.

blueberry jam

sea of blueberries

sea of blueberries

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 3 lbs. fresh blueberries, washed, drained, and crushed to make 4 C.
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 4 C. cane sugar
  • 1 box dry pectin
  • 1/4 teasp. ground cinnamon (if desired)

Steps

  1. Prepare containers and water bath canner.
  2. Measure sugar and set aside.
  3. Prepare the fruit; measure exactly; add lemon juice.

    can't you just taste it?

    can’t you just taste it?

  4. Pour fruit into pot and stir in pectin, mixing in thoroughly. Add cinnamon, if desired.  Add about ½ teas. of butter or margarine to reduce foaming (if desired).
  5. Bring the mixture quickly to a full boil (rolling boil that can’t be stirred down). Add sugar all at once, stirring well to dissolve, and return to a full, rolling boil. Be careful here, the syrup is very hot and can easily spatter.
  6. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Time exactly from when the mixture returned to a full boil.
  7. Remove from heat, skim off foam, ladle into prepared jars leaving 1/4″ head space.
  8. Process to 10 minutes. Turn off heat and remove canning cover. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  9. Remove jars from canner, place in a draft-free location to cool completely. Let sit for 24 hours.
  10. Test for seal (lids will be concave and have high-pitched “ping” sound). Remove bands, wipe thread. Label, date, and store for up to one year in dark, cool location.

spring, really?

Christmas present -- today's garden

Christmas present — today’s garden

Yes, the calendar declared that spring had arrived two days ago. The day before that, we got several inches of snow along with sleet, freezing rain, and an abundance of grouchiness. If we’re really lucky today, the mercury will climb to 40 degrees, but then we’ll dip into the teens. The next several weeks don’t promise much of an improvement. My grandmother always put out her peas on St. Paddy’s Day. That wasn’t about to happen this year, as you can see from the “Christmas Present” picture! For gardeners, this is the “dark night of the soil.” What can you do? Read on…

Christmas past -- or better, Christmas future

Christmas past — or better, Christmas future

take solace in seeds

Despite the blanket of white that covers my garden, I must believe that there is hope packed in my newly acquired seed packets along with my future heirloom Pink Brandywines. The instructions say “Start indoors in a well-lighted area 6–8 weeks before planting outdoors.”

If I can believe those resources that track weather and frost dates, I should feel confident that my tomatoes will need to be ready to face the world in late May. And that means, dust off the seed starting trays, clear the south-facing window, get your seed-starting soil, and launch the gardening season!

why start from seeds?

While I can’t pretend that growing your veggies from seeds is more economical than buying your plants, it does have its benefits:

  • More variety — just look at any seed catalog. The options are many for almost any vegetable, but when you look at the tomato pages, the options are mind-numbing! Whatever you want — slicing, sauce, salad — early, mid-, late-season — heirloom, hybrid — organic, conventional — red, yellow, pink, purple, streaked — it’s available.
  • More control — there is great comfort in knowing where your plants have been and if they’ve been exposed to some nasty virus or fungus while traveling across country
  • More fun — maybe not for everyone, but for me, watching the seed germinate and then grow is the perfect elixir for the late-winter blues.

so let’s start some seeds

You can make this as complicated as you want with germination mats, custom plant boxes,  fancy grow lights and such, but the seed starting page give you a basic (less-daunting) guide to getting your hope springing. The important thing to remember is to have fun doing this. If this is your first foray, start small and simple. Don’t be tempted or guilted into buying more “stuff” than you need.

and now there’s hope

these seeds have just popped!

these seeds have just popped!

these seeds have their plastic cover during germination. The legend tells me which plants are in which cells -- very helpful!

these seeds have their plastic cover during germination. The legend tells me which plants are in which cells — very helpful!

a reprieve from the shop lights, these guys got to enjoy a few days of "real" sun

a reprieve from the shop lights, these guys got to enjoy a few days of “real” sun

these seedlings are over a month old and just ready to graduate to a slightly larger pot

these seedlings are over a month old and just ready to graduate to a slightly larger pot

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