Sunday, April 1, 2012

That's My Jam

With Luke in DC for the Million Mustache March, I embarked on an ambitious food-making blitz inspired by Jennifer Reese's Make the Bread, Buy the Butter recommended by Laura a while ago.  The two and half month wait at the library convinced me that this book was prized by other San Antonio readers (akin to what Tamar Adler wrote of stale bread: It must be waited for, which gives all dishes containing it the weight of philosophical ballast, as well as dietary and budgetary ones.  Waiting reinforces the concept of a book as a valuable community resource and this is the only instance my impatience does not get the order-it-online best of me).

A fantastic book, worth the wait.  From the introduction, a passage that resonates for me as I cook regularly for the first time in my life:

The most irksome decisions I faced as an adult and working mother seemed to be made at the supermarket.  Fundamentally trivial, they were nonetheless maddeningly fraught, involving questions of time, quality, money, First World guilt, maternal guilt, gender, meaning, and health.

First was strawberry jam, as it had appeared on the grocery list:

Reese doesn't recommend making strawberry jam (no less expensive and no more delicious than storebought) but I wanted to try the slow cooker recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution.  At the same time I prepared the yogurt.

Both of these turned out to be ridiculously easy.

Jam-and-yogurt works

Testing jam on frozen plates for doneness... paging Drs. Freud and Rorschach.

Julie's first jam!

Jam: I used frozen strawberries.  Pureed/roughly chopped.  Added to slow cooker with sugar, lemon juice, pinch of salt.  Came back 4 hours later.  Transferred to Dutch oven, boiled, added pectin.  Tested set-up-ness with frozen plates.  Canned 'em.  BAM.

Yogurt: warmed milk.  Added 1/4 cup yogurt to milk.  Covered with towel.  Came back next day.  Strained.  Voila, yogurt.  BAM.  (Yogurt is ok but is vastly improved by dollop of lemon curd, recipe in Make the Bread).

I saved the strained whey from the yogurt to Make the Bread (the only non-success- lumpen and didn't rise properly.  Bread is so finicky).  Also started sauerkraut, which I don't like, but Reese assures me she didn't like it either until she made it herself.  We shall see in +/- 5 days.

Peanut butter: buy peanuts and peanut oil.  Grind in food processor.  Add salt.  Peanut butter.

With the exception of the jam, all of these are considerably less sweet than the storebought variety, something I am going to re-train my palate to enjoy.  The oversweetening of processed food even came up in the novel I'm currently reading, Gods Without Men, as an Englishman vacationing in the American Southwest notes:

But however bad the food was in Britain, at least they didn't put sugar in everything. He'd ordered the Mothership Chicken Basket, and the whole lot - meat, bread roll, chips, salad dressing, even the lettuce, far as he could tell- was sweetened.

As all of this took very little time (including a jaunt to Nordstrom while the cabbage was macerating) and wanting to capitalize on my home-ec momentum, I planted some kitchen herbs, strawberries and peppers for the summer:

Day One
And make a last-ditch attempt to Like Beets, beet ice cream:

It is a gorgeous, peculiarly vivid shade of fuschia but I fear there is a limit to what cream, sugar, milk and marscapone can absorb and emerge tasty.  Taste test tomorrow after freezing.

Thus emboldened and encouraged, the next project: ordering rennet and mesophilic cultures to make cheese!


  1. Yay for homemade sauerkraut! I haven't done that yet--let us know how it goes. I'm taking a mozzarella class in April, I'll let you know if I get any good tips. As far as the beets...try golden instead of red if you want to give them a second chance. I've found them to be much more pleasing to my palate.

    Love all the cooking and reading you are up to. I have a knife skills book on hold at the library that is supposed to be fantastic.

  2. My CSA share always has red beets :( Thanks for the idea of a knife skills book-- I've now requested two books on the topic from the library!

  3. I'm gonna have to make that jam! It's hard to find an all natural one for under $10.

    Also, good luck on the start of your garden! We've stymied the growth of a couple of basil plants in our apartment, but we keep on trying : )

  4. I will have to check out that book! Last night, I ate homemade bread with homemade jam (the jam just wasn't made in MY home). It was delicious!

  5. MBD- get Slow Cooker Revolution. This week I made the orange marmalade, also good, although I don't particularly like maramalade.