Canning Gear – Second Hand!

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If you think you want to get in to canning your own jams, jellies and salsas, or if that’s your bag already, try checking out second-hand stores! I got the entire haul above for $21. That’s 20 jars, plus a giant canning pot complete with jar lifter inside! Each jar was only $0.29 at Value Village. I’m never buying new again!

All the jars are currently running through my dishwasher, along with the ring halves of the lids.

I’ve written about canning a few times, all those posts are here.

!IMPORTANT CANNING INFO!

If you are going to buy jars second-hand, never use the flat half of the lid to can your jams. The disc part only seals once, and if you’re buying used, you don’t know what it was used for before it became yours. After it’s been opened it won’t seal properly again. If you want to keep dry goods (rice, spices, paperclips), feel free to use them, but never use them to can again. I save mine so I can store stuff in jars if I want to, but I make sure to mark all used ones with an X in Sharpie so I don’t mix them up with the fresh lids.

All I need is a pack or two of lids and I’m ready for the summer canning season! P already complains about the number of jars we have in our pantry…. he’ll thank me when they’re full of plum sauce and mango chutney though.

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There was only on of my very favourite pattern – the quilted diamonds. Any jam that goes in the few of those jars that I have stays here.

I already had a pot I use for the boiling-the-jars part of canning, but this one is huge, plus it has the lifter. My old canning pot may turn into a dye pot sometime soon, so it isn’t a waste! Not that a pot that size for $12.99 is a waste either way.

Do you can? You should!

Poptart Heaven

The last show I worked on was a contemporary drama that involved a lot of food. Generally, I find theatres try to find ways to write out or ignore the food in scripts. It’s just too awkward, and a big old drag. My recent show had a lot of food in it. So much so that it couldn’t really be written out. So I as the assistant stage manager got the glamorous job of cleaning this up after every show:

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Yup, that’s 6 full bus trays of dishes and assorted bottles. The food was mostly real (with rubber pork chops and cunningly painted styrofoam bacon) and the drinks were mostly various shades of food colouring in water. The white wine was white cranberry juice though. This show also had some other things I didn’t have to clean up – like the box of Cap’n Crunch ceral, and the boxes of pop tarts we went through.* The redeeming part of this job was that although the pop tarts didn’t get eaten, you could tell when they were broken because the little foil packages looked all lumpy and weird, so those ones had to be ‘disposed of’ and new ones set for the next night. I don’t know that I’d ever eaten a pop tart in my life before that show – I had a very homegrown, homemade diet as a kid, which I am very thankful for.

Time came for the potluck for this show – we try to do one on every show, and sometimes there’s a theme. This time the theme was ‘food inspired by the show’, so naturally I knew I had to use Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for homemade poptarts.

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I made a double batch – one with regular pastry and my own spiced wine peach jam, the other with SK’s suggestion of wholewheat pastry, and a brown sugar & cinnamon filling.

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They were a hit! Luckily there were enough to go around, so both P and I got to try one of each flavour, plus the ones that broke that the potluck peeps never saw. The brown sugar ones were a cinch to get off the pan, the jammy ones were a little messier – a couple of them burst and stuck to the tinfoil, but it all worked out in the end.

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The credit for actually baking these goes to P – I made the pastry one morning, then though I could assemble and bake them the next morning. I didn’t leave myself quite enough time to bake them all and get to work, so I put P in charge of taking them out of the oven at the right time. I’d say he did an excellent job.

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As much as I enjoyed munching on the odd commercial pop tart during the run of this show, it was so much fun to make these, and proves to me yet again that homemade will always be tastier than preservative-filled, HFCS-filled storebought things. Which has more calories? No idea. But I know exactly what went into each of my tarts (really. I made the jam, remember?) and I know that I can pronounce every single ingredient, which is what scares me about a lot of pre-made grocery store things.

*Amusing side note: one Friday the props department delivered items we were getting low on. I got a shopping bag full of pop tarts, condoms, and joints.** Party on!

**Actually the filling from herbal cigarettes rolled up to look like joints.

A Canning Primer

When I tell people I make my own jam, I get varied reactions. “My grandma used to do that!” “That sounds so hard!” “Won’t you poison yourself?” and of course, “Can I have some?” The answer to the last one is generally yes, depending how much I’ve got, and how much I’m hoarding it. Once I tasted the plum sauce I made last year, I turned into Gollum and didn’t let a single jar out of my sight! I’m going to do an extra-large batch this year, but I digress.

I want to encourage any bride-to-be, waiting-to-be-engaged person, heck, the whole world to make their own preserves. I’m just picking on you wedding-y types, because A) this is a wedding blog, and B) jam seems to be a hot favour! The process isn’t scary (follow the recipe, and you won’t poison people) or dangerous (if learn from my mistakes, and always wear long sleeves. Hot sugar spatters hurt!) and is a lot of fun. I learned a lot from my mum who worked so hard every summer, canning up all the produce our garden produced. It was a lot!

I want to recommend a couple books that I think will help people looking to dip their jars in the pot:

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving

This one is great, because you don’t end up with gallons of jam. I love making it, but Cinnamon Buns and I don’t actually eat much jam ourselves. I just enjoy the process! This is the book with the plum sauce recipe that anyone with access to plums needs to try.

Canning For A New Generation

I got this one from Cinnamon Buns for Christmas, and oh my goodness. This is the book everyone needs to read. Read the intro! Read it all!! This woman could be me. She shares my same dislike of using pectin – this is the first book I found that agrees with me about that. Mum never used pectin, why should I? Jam should have two ingredients: fruit and sugar. Three if you include water! Besides, recipes with pectin make way more jam out of the same amount of fruit. Economical, but you’re basically diluting the taste! That little soap box-part of me aside, the recipes are all delicious-sounding, arranged by season, and it is just a beautiful book. I can’t wait to get a few authentic jam spatters on it!

Small-Batch Preserving has helped me a lot in the past few years, but Liana Krissoff seems to be my canning-sister-separated-at-birth, if her book is anything to go by. Go buy! We’ll need these skills when ye greate apocalypse comes. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or, if you just want cute, tasty favours for your wedding.

Do you can? Do you have a favourite book? Recommend it!

We Be Jammin’

Cinnamon Buns and I went back to visit my parents this Christmas. It was a great break, and it was wonderful to see green grass and green plants! It’s the first time Cinnamon Buns has had a green Christmas in a long time, but it is what I grew up with on the West (Wet) Coast. As happens around the holidays, we came back home with much more than we left with. Some of the things weighing down our suitcases on the way back were these lovely boxes:

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Wedding favours! Cinnamum fulfilled her part of the bargain – mixed berry, blackberry, and raspberry jam. Also in that tower-o-jam are the blueberry and the peach that I made over the summer. The only thing left is the strawberry jam, which will have to wait until strawberry season starts up again.

Now that we’ve got so much of the jam, I started thinking more seriously about how to package them up. We bought the fabric ages ago, and I still want to use it, because I think it is a cool way to show what type of jam it is, without having a giant label. The 125mL jars are pretty tiny, so big labels don’t work so well. There are a couple ways to secure the fabric over your jam jar – you can use the 2-part canning lid that they come with:

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(from the Weddingbee forums! Thanks daniellemybelle!)

Or you can secure the fabric over the 2-piece lid with elastic or string:

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(from Geoparent)

Originally, I wanted to do the first one because I felt it would be easier than fiddling with elastic and string, but now the adorable-ness of the fabric and string is getting to me!

We’re going to have 6 different fabrics, and about 12 jars of each, so the favour table won’t be matchy-mcmatcherson but I’m thinking I could unify it all by using the same colour of bakers twine and have our little labels be all the same. As I said above, these jars are a little too short for sticky labels on the glass, so I’m thinking a little circle tag threaded on to the bakers twine that is holding the fabric on. I hear you asking ‘But, if the fabric signifies the flavour, what goes on the labels?’ and I will answer you:

Puns.

All the best jokes in the Cinnamon Bun household are greeted by groans. We try to never miss an opportunity, and congratulate each other when we get particularly good ones. I want to come up with an assortment of short-but-sweet jam puns that will fit onto a little cardstock circle. They don’t particularly need to have anything to do with the flavour of the jam, they just need to be groaners. I want to make a bunch of them, so there are lots of different ones to read in the favour display. When I told Cinnamon Buns that I wanted to make punny labels for our jam, he said “I like you. I’m keeping you!” so I know he is up to the challenge.

To brainstorm, I wrote down a few words that had to do with jam, then tried to fit them into a statement that started with ‘Thank you’. It is really important to me to thank the guests for being a part of our day, and I want the jam to be an obvious “Thank you!!” gift. My brainstorm words were: berry, jam, sugar, sticky, sweet, peach, jar, can, toast… And so far I’ve come up with:

  • Thanks for jammin’ with us!
  • Thank you berry much!
  • Thanks for a peachy evening!
  • Thanks for being so sweet!
  • Thanks for sticking with us!
  • Thanks for spreading the love!
  • Thanks for helping us seal the deal!
  • Thanks for a jamtastic evening!

On the labels, I want to make the pun word stand out a little, either by bolding or highlighting in some other way. Obviously, the berry and the peach ones would need to be attached to the appropriate jams. I don’t think ‘sticky’ really comes through in the ‘sticking with us’ one, so that might be out. I know there is something we can do with the word ‘toast’, but my brain is just not computing at the moment. And of course, I’ll need to come up with something witty for a sign to go nearby, so people know they’re meant to take one!

So here we go hive, I’m asking you: what puns can you think of? Which are your favourites? Pun it up in the comments! (Miss Jam, I will be stalking your posts for jam puns from now until June!)

Last-Minute Gift

We’ve all done it – either forgotten about a Christmas party, or decided to go to one at the last minute. Well, today I did the latter. I ran out to the liquor store and bought a bottle of wine, but I decided I wanted to bring a little something else. Mostly because I changed my mind so late about the party, I haven’t RSVP’d. Oops. I thought I’d be more tired than I am right now, it’s not that I didn’t want to go!

So I’ve been practicing my Copic colouring, mostly with my Magnolia stamps. This has left me with lots of little Tildas all coloured, with nowhere to go. They’re all cut out and sitting a little dish on my desk.

I decided to give a jar of homemade jam (I have plenty of that around here – I don’t know how many relatives I thought I had when I made all this stuff….) and came up with this to go on it:

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The green was a scrap just lying on my desk (not tidying it gives me inspiration!), but it wasn’t long enough to go all the way around the jar, so I did this:

DSC03237.JPG All I had to do was stick the two bits of ribbon to the cardstock, and use some foam adhesive for Tilda. I couldn’t stick her directly to the cardstock because the lid of the jam sticks out, and bent her head forward

The jam, if anyone is curious, is Spiced Wine Peach jam from my canning frenzy in September. :)

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I think this fits the Little Stamp Shoppe’s December challenge of ‘create a gift tag’ – it’s not your traditional ‘tag’ shape, but it certainly fulfills the purpose of a gift tag, namely it gets tied to a gift, with the recipient’s name on.

A New Obsession

I’m one of those people who is always starting new craft projects. I have supplies for all sorts of crafts in our storage room. I’ve found a new love, but don’t worry, it won’t stop me knitting. My new ‘thing’? Canning.

I bought this book: The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round and I absolutely love it. Mum made all our jams & marmalades when I was growing up. We had a lot of fruit on our property, way more than 3 people could eat in one summer. It is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I moved out, but I didn’t want to end up with 10 jars of jam. Buying that much fruit would be expensive, and we don’t eat that much jam. Small-batch preserving is just right! You get a couple jars of jam, which is just right.

Soon after I bought the book, but before I’d thought seriously about what to make, I went grocery shopping and found a flat of 12 mangoes for $6. So I bought mangoes.

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I cut up mangoes.

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And I made just about every mango recipe in the book. The thing with small-batch is that while you don’t end up with a lot of product (good) it doesn’t use a lot of fruit (sometimes good). Most recipes call for 2 mangoes. I still have 6 left sitting in the box.

From left to right we have: Mango Chutney, Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (no mangoes, but I couldn’t help myself), Mango-Lemon Marmalade, Light Mango Spread (I had more than 1 jar of this, but they’ve already gone to new homes!).

P’s stepdad is a recently-diagnosed diabetic, so the light mango stuff was for him. No added sugar, just Splenda, and a special no-sugar pectin.

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It gets the plastic lid, because you need to keep it in the fridge or freezer. No sitting on the shelf for 3 months for this one, eat it fast!

I’ve been looking at canning books for ages, trying to find one that meshed with what I knew about canning. Mum never used pectin in anything, saying that it just diluted the fruit. Look at a pectin recipe vs. a no-pectin one and even if you start with the same amount of fruit, you get much more product from the pectin-using one. Thus, diluted fruit flavour. This book doesn’t use it too much, which is nice.

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Mum also never boiled the jars once the jam was in. Just put boiling hot jam into hot jars. She boiled the flat part of the lids, to soften the seal, but that was it. Once the lids were on, I’d hang around the kitchen counting the ‘ping!’ noises the lids made as they snapped down to seal. And, no one has ever died or even gotten sick from eating mum’s jam. Some canning books went so overboard on the warnings it just seemed like fear-mongering to me. Small-Batch has you boil the full jars, and I did for these, but I still don’t think it really necessary.

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Most of these have been done for about a week, and the only thing I’ve tasted (apart from licking the spoon) is the Mango Chutney. I sometimes will finish knitting a sweater or socks or something, and immediately put it away nice and neat where it belongs. I won’t try it on for a while. After I’ve spent so much time on something, I want to enjoy it being completed without realising that it’s too big/forgot a button/too small/etc. I think I’m doing the same thing with this jam. What if it is too runny? Tastes bad? To stiff? I’m just enjoying the pretty jars right now, and telling myself I haven’t had any yet because you need muffins or scones to truly enjoy jam, and I haven’t made any yet.

DSC02297.JPG I think I’m going to go make some cornmeal muffins now, and while those are in the oven, I may even sew buttons on the finished $1.50 cardi that’s been folded on the shelf for 2 months now.