Thursday, June 29, 2006

Time to make Jelly

It's jelly making time again. Since I have a 4 day weekend coming up, I think I will probably start making some of my wonderful jams and jellies. But, first I need to inventory what I have and stock up on jars, lids, etc. Time to count how many used jars I have so I know how many lids to buy and what sizes - check the supplies of everything and estimate how much I need. For me, it is just easier to buy the store out of jars now than to keep running and looking for them. Last year I kept a spreadsheet of my jelly making - and it is fun to look back at it and see that I made 176 jars of jelly last summer (all from fruit I grew myself on my small suburban lot!). That included 18 jars of rhubarb, 18 jars of strawberry, 8 jars of black raspberry, 11 jars of currant, 40 jars of yellow raspberry (always a popular request by friends and my husband), 17 jars of red raspberry, 40 jars of grape (always popular with families with kids) and 24 jars of apple. I used 104 cups of sugar and spent 26 hours in the kitchen making the jelly (I did not keep track of time spent picking the fruit - just the jelly making time). I went through 19 boxes of pectin. The jelly ended up costing (not counting labor) a whooping 67 cents a jar to make. And what wonderful gifts they make - you cannot put a price on the love that goes into jelly making. In addition to my jelly and jam, I also made other things which I did not keep track of - so this year I am going to. I made Salsa from the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic I grew. I canned apple pie filling, apple sauce and raspberry sauce (seedless). I dried apples and tomatoes. And I canned whole tomatoes and tomato sauce. I am sure I am forgetting something - so it is time to document it all. Preserving food is a lost art, but such a wonderful extension of the garden. How do I find time to do it all? Well, last year I was unemployed for the first time in my adult life, so that helped, but I didn't do any more last year than I normally do. I do it when it is convenient for me. I pick the fruit when it is ready and then just stick it in the freezer. When I have the time, I simply thaw it and make the jam - keeps it at it's peak. What is the difference between jam and jelly? Jam is made from the whole fruit - just mashed or cut up. Jelly is made from just juice - the fruit is cut up and cooked to extract the juice and then you hang it in a jelly bag over a bowl to catch the juice. I will include some pictures of the jelly and jam making process here.

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