Saturday, October 04, 2014

Jam and Jelly Contest

This year, I am entering the Downtown Home and Gardens annual Jam and Jelly Contest.   I haven't entered it in a few years because I usually don't make all that much variety...usually just some strawberry jam, but this year I've been obsessed with foraging wild fruits and started making jelly for the first time ever.

I don't know why I hadn't tried jelly making before - I had a jelly bag for years but I thought it would be a hassle to have to hang it and wait for the juice to strain, but it is actually easier in a lot of ways than making jam that needs added pectin or apple butter, that require putting the fruit through a food mill.   I use my KitchenAid fruit & vegetable strainer, which makes it easier, but it still is a lot of cleanup.     I have one that can stand on my large measuring bowl:

and it's easy to boil down the fruit and hang the bag overnight to make the jelly the next morning.   If the fruit needs extra pectin, I've thrown in an apple (or a hand full of crab apples) seeds, peels and all into the boiling fruit - no food mill necessary.

This year, it's been my goal to forage wild fruits for jam.  I was inspired by my visit to the Jam Pot in the Upper Peninsula this summer.   We took our son for his campus visit at our alma mater, Michigan Tech, and while we were up there, we stopped for some of stellar baked goods at the monastery.   I was reminded about when the brothers started their work, they used to forage for thimbleberries and rose hips at the house I lived in during graduate school, and after surveying their wild berry jams, I knew I wanted to try my own this year.  

In our neighborhood, there is a bumper crop of wild grapes.   Usually, I've used their leaves to help keep my pickles crisp, but the fruit is too sour to eat out of hand.   I did a little research and found out it makes excellent jelly, so I tried it out and the flavor is much better than grocery story stuff.   Check out how I did it here.    Last fall, I made some crab apple butter from my neighbor's tree.  Her tree bears fruit every other year, and last year was it.   And then lastly I tried my hand at currant jelly.   A colleague from work is a fantastic gardener, and he has 3 currant bushes and generously gave me some.   I think currant jelly is my new favorite; tangy and beautifully colored.   The best part about canning all of this is that it is almost free!  I just had to buy the sugar and the jar lids.    I'm looking forward to making some more stuff yet this year; my church friend Liz has a pear tree with tons of pears on it she wants to give away, and there is still more grapes and crab apples to be had.   

Today is cold and rainy, so it's a perfect day to stop by Downtown Home and Garden and vote for your favorite jam or jelly....hopefully it will be mine!

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