Before They Go Bad

My really ripe strawberries were threatening to go bad, and quickly.

I threw a bunch of jars in the dishwasher on sanitize, and grabbed my already sanitized fermentation bucket. I knew that was going to take a while, so it made little sense to start on the jam quite yet. I did throw a big pot of water on the boil for canning. That will take some time to get heated. Time to start the next wine.

I filled a jug with a gallon of water, just to have the quantity set aside. I grabbed the juicer/blender thingy, and threw some of the water in along with 10 ounces of pitted dates. To that I added ~4 pounds of strawberries, following the same procedure (add water in the blender, add fruit, blend, pour into bucket). Oh, did I mention there was a bag in the fermentation bucket to hold all the blended solids?

Anyway, to that I added 2 pounds of agave nectar (blended with water, as well) in place of what would normally be sugar or honey. I then added my smidgen (1/20 tsp.) of potassium metabisulfite, 1 tsp. of yeast nutrient, 1/8 tsp. of wine tannin, and 1 tsp. of acid blend. I then tossed in the rest of the water and tied off the bag. Little bit of stir and push down with a sanitized spoon, top bucket with lid and air lock, and we are set to wait 12 hours. All that activity just to wait…

So if you didn’t catch that, the next batch is a strawberry-agave wine, with dates to add a “spice” note, if not some additional body. Wife not being fond of strawberry wine; I’m thinking 1 gallon for this experiment is plenty. I haven’t used agave nectar before, but tasting it suggests somewhat of a smoky-sweet note. We’ll see what we get!

That all taken care of, jars nearly done, and water on to boil, I turned to the strawberries for the jam. I had about  five pounds, same as the last batch, but I’d say they were in much worse shape than before. I carefully sorted through while chopping them, removing bad spots (and berries). Still ended up with a quite a panful. The end result indicates that there was still plenty of strawberry to go around, I might add. Berries chopped, I threw them onto the heat wit a 1/4 cup of lemon juice, smashed with the potato masher as the heat rose, and finally tossed in the now 8 tbsp. of pectin combined with 1/2 cup of sugar. You may remember that my last batch had a less than perfect set with 7 tbsp. I’m upping it just a little.

In any case, heated to full bubble, tossed in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of sugar, and then reheated to a full rolling boil. After a full minute cooking at that boil, I removed it from the heat. There was a lot more foam this time (which is actually quite tasty, though an odd texture), more than last time, for sure. I used the spatula to get rid of the foam (well, to get it off the jam) and then set to filling jars. Eleven jars later (same as before…), and scraping the bottom, I found I wasn’t going to have the “sample” I did before which allowed me a feel for the set. Ah, well. It wasn’t terrible before, and should be a bit better this time, I’d think. I canned as before, 10 minutes in the water bath, and then set aside for 24 hours.

That’s it for tonight!

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Sigh (A Good Sigh)

As I sit here with a glass of mead nearby, I can finally review the day. Oh, I hear movement upstairs. That means Kim is finally back from coffee night with the ladies. Most immediately, that means the 11 jars of strawberry jam sitting on the counter. But as I pause I also consider a well-executed sermon by my pastor, a busy but not-too-stressful afternoon, the meal I prepared for dinner, the reception of my first attempt at ginger-beer/ale and the conversation after dinner with my re-group. All in all, I’m grateful for so many things.

First 2014 Batch of Strawberry Jam

First 2014 Batch of Strawberry Jam

The jam-making went pretty smooth, as far as I’m concerned. Five pounds of strawberries were chopped up, then smashed with a potato masher and put on to heat to a solid bubble. Before the bubble set in, I tossed in a 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and once it was at a good pace, I added 7 tbsp. of pectin mixed with a 1/2 cup of sugar. I waited for a boil that would continue after stirring, and I then quickly added in another 2 1/2 cups of sugar (for a total of 3 cups). Once that was all at a rolling boil, I gave it another minute, before removing it from the heat and parceling it out to heat-sanitized 1/2 pint jars. I did need to first remove some pink foam, but that went smoothly.

Now, I only expected 8 jars. So 11 is nice, but it probably explains a less than perfect set; there was simply too much strawberry for the amount of pectin. Still sweet, but a more noticeable tartness. Kim was not so thrilled with last year’s sweetness, and asked that I lower it. I cut by a 1/4 from last year’s 4 cups of sugar. A brief pause to check with Kim’s taste buds…she is much happier with the lesser sugar, though not as pleased with the set. ho hum.

Each jar received the suggested 10 minute boil. And now they sit on the counter for 24 hours. I’ve already heard numerous pop! sounds, indicating a seal being completed.

I have another 5 lbs for a second batch of strawberry jam; maybe I’ll use 8 tbsp. of pectin this time. I also have another 4 pounds on the counter for a strawberry wine. Kim is not so fond of strawberry wine, I have come to learn, so rather than make a bigger batch, I’m just going to do a single gallon. I think this time it will be strawberry-agave, using agave nectar rather than honey or sugar. I just happen to have quite a bit on-hand. Also, I think I’m going to add a mild amount of dates, for additional flavor and body.

As for the ginger beer, it seemed a hit with my friends. I had one who suggested I make her a batch to take home in the future, despite my comments that it was an easy thing to make on one’s own. I may just help her out with that. I have another batch of my own in mind, this time with blueberry as an additional flavor. All I can really think to comment on the ginger beer is that it is more sour than your typical commercial ginger ale, definitely a potent ginger kick (though I can see myself increasing the amount sometime), and less sweet (as expected). Actually, much less ginger for the amount of gingery flavor. I’m a fan, plain and simple.

Well, I think I’m going to go do some reading. Maybe finish the book I’ve reading since the start of last month. Maybe not. In any case, typing is keeping me from finishing the mead. And we can’t have that.