Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Eight links in one post! A new record!

I've been trying new things this week.

Sunday evening Eric and I were eating our after-church lunch/snack. We usually eat supper out at Eric's parents home (lucky us!), and it's always good food (and the company is even better), so we try to eat pretty light for lunch to save room. This particular snack consisted of toast, string cheese, and a little bit of salad. As Eric was spreading jam on his toast, he mentioned how much he loved the jam, and how he was a little bit sad that we were nearing the end of it.

The jam in question was made several years ago by Heidi, while we were roommates. When she moved out (over two years ago), she was kind enough to leave some of her possessions behind, including a couch, a table with chairs, some bookshelves, a porch swing, a George Foreman Grill, a blender, 5-6 small containers of delicious strawberry freezer jam, and a few other items, all for my owning pleasure. (What a gem!)

My mother also makes awesome strawberry freezer jam, and as Eric mentioned his fondness for it, I briefly considered asking her to bring a container or two to our next family gathering. Before I managed to pick up the phone however, I remembered that I'd recently read about two of my friends who had blogged about successful jam making experiences. That combined with the fact that strawberries were currently on sale in every grocery store in town made me decide to try my hand at making the coveted jam myself.

So, last night, I bought 3 pounds of strawberries* a package of pectin, and a 10 lb bag of sugar (you don't need this much for jam of course, but we've been running low), and came home to start the strawberry adventure. One short easy hour later, we were the proud owners of 5 1/2 containers of what looks like delicious strawberry jam. It was so easy! The recipe was right there in the pectin box (I used Sure-Jell), and it was the simplest thing in the world for me to follow. Basically, you mash up the strawberries, add a whole bunch of sugar (and I do mean a whole bunch of sugar. If you've never made jam before, you'll die when you see how much sugar goes into the mix), soften the pectin in boiling water, add that to the strawberry-sugar mixture, and stir it until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then you pour it into containers and let it sit at room temperature for a day. After that, you put it in the freezer and you're done. How fun!

The other new thing I've been trying is the OpenOffice Suite from Sun Microsystems. Eric told me about it a couple of weeks ago, and then I read about it in Journal of Accountancy, and I've decided to give it a try. Basically, its a suite of software programs that are very similar to the MS Office programs, but they're free. As you may remember, I've had my share of frustrations with the MS Office 2007 programs, and so I'm all for trying out something new. So far I've been pleased with my experience. It's only been a day or two though, so I'll wait before giving it an official thumbs-up.

And that's life these days. Strawberry jam and software. Could anything be more thrilling?

*1 pound for jam
1 pound for healthy snacking
1 pound in case I find myself in dire need of chocolate-dipped strawberries soon

(Note--I totally lifted the picture of the jam ingredients straight from Angie's blog. Is that bad?)


Bamamoma said...

yeah, I noticed that you used Angie's picture - that cracks me up. So efficient! I'm glad you tried it and that it worked well. I'm a little sad that now that you know how easy it is you won't hold me in quite as high esteem when you think about those few containers I left for you. :) In a somewhat related matter, I had a tamale the other night and it was GROSS. I need your tamales recipe! Eden and I are headed right now to the P.O. with a package for your babe. Fun!

Tasha said...

If you are done dying from the amount of sugar you have to put in jam when using pectin, I will tell you that there is a product called clear gel that you can by from Giggi's in SLC that uses about a third of the sugar, but does cost more to make because it uses lots more fruit - still easy and no boiling - if you are interested let me know.

Charlotte said...


I'm TOTALLY interested. My e-mail address is the same as the first part of my blog address (charlottelaughs) with gmail dot com at the end.



Here's the tamale recipe. It's the one from the "Maseca for Tamales" bag, but I think I tripled the ingredients for Christmas production. Maybe the next time I make tamales, I'll take pictures of the process and post the recipe as its own post, just for kicks.

Tamales (From Maseca for Tamales bag)

4-5 lbs boneless pork loin or shoulder (you may substitute chicken or beef, but I like pork best)

Tamale Dough (see below)

3 oz chile pasilla or California pods (4 small to medium handfuls of the small dried chiles works really well, increase or decrease proportionately for more or less meat)(actually-this is what I USED to do. Now I just use one or two of those packets of taco seasoning that you buy from Lowry's or whoever. If I want it more spicy, I add dried red pepper or chili powder in as well)

¼ cup cooking oil (if you're trying to save on calories, you can use less oil here)

1 ½ cup water (not necessary if you use seasoning packets)

1 Tbs. salt

1 bag corn husks

Put meat in crock pot, cover with water, and cook overnight, or until very tender. Remove inner pot from heating element, and refrigerate until ready to make tamales. (probably not more than three days or so) Remove from refrigerator and skim fat. Scoop up as much of the broth as you can and warm it up in the microwave to use in the dough (this is optional-you can just use water in the dough if you want).

Make Dough (see instructions below).

Lightly sauté clean chile pods (removing stems and seeds ) in cooking oil. Place in blender, add water and blend until smooth.(don't bother with this if you're using the seasoning packets)

Cut meat into small pieces, and cook in cooking oil until browned. Add chile mixture (or seasoning packet(s) and salt to meat, cook for approx. 7 minutes.

Soak corn husks for a few minutes and rinse well. (I just fill the sink with warm water and put the corn husks in, taking the outer husks out and draining them on paper towels as I need them, 5-6 at a time) Spread masa evenly (and thinly-amount of dough made doesn’t accommodate for large helpings of dough) over corn husks with the back of a spoon.

Place a tablespoon of meat mixture in a line down the center. Fold both sides to the center, fold bottom up, and crease.

Place in steamer. (I use a big stock pot with one of those fold-in vegetable steamers in the bottom. I cover the bottom of the pot with nearly enough water to come up to the steamer, but not quite. Then I put a mason jar in the center of the vegetable steamer and fill it with water. I stack the tamales vertically in the pot, leaning them against the mason jar. If necessary, I refill the mason jar with water as it evaporates) Cover with lid or a wet cloth and steam (on low heat, just enough to make some steam, not enough so that all your water boils out) until dough appears to be set, 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Makes one large stock pot full of tamales (approx. 45-50 small)

6 cups of maseca for tamales
6 cups of lukewarm broth or water
3 tsp. Baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
2 cups lard or vegetable shortening (I ALWAYS use shortening)

Combine Maseca, baking powder and salt in a bowl, work broth or water with your fingers to make a soft moist dough. In a small bowl, beat lard or shortening until fluffy, add to masa and beat until dough has a spongy texture.

Good luck!

Tonya said...

I love freezer jam and strawberry is my favorite. I just may have to give it a go.

Ryan & Angie said...

I'm totally honored that you would use the picture from my blog. I don't think it is bad at all. :)

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