Friday, July 30, 2010

Plum Jelly Adventures

I debated about whether or not I should post this in the recipe blog, but then I decided that it is virtually just taken from the Sure Jell instructions, the only thing that I am adding is pictures and commentary.  I am not experienced enough yet to go off the paper with jams and jellies.  It has been a little while since the only other time I made plum jelly.  I still agree with this post, that was written back in the day when people read my blog (and now I am closer to having the supplies and time!).

So anyway, I've decided that I like making jelly enough to perhaps go out and get some proper equipment (namely, a canner, and an elevated rack for the jars to sit on), and to start making other things like jams and sauces (well, I already make sauces, but now I will start canning them!).  If I am successful (and even if I'm not), it might be my signature Christmas gift from here on out.

Ok.  I think that is sufficient introduction.  Yesterday I made some plum jelly.  I am still in the learning phase, so there are things that I would certainly change the next time I do this, and of course, toward the end I was doing too much to also be able to stop and take a picture.  So toward the end, you'll just have to use your imagination.

Ok. Plum Jelly.
You will need:
5 lbs Plums (I must confess that when I made Plum Jelly in Lithuania, I messed up Kilos and Pounds and ended up getting 5 kilos of Plums instead of 5 pounds.  That's why I ended up making two batches :)
Pectin (I used a small box of Sure Jell Premium Fruit Pectin...1.75 oz/49 g)
1 1/2-2 cups water
6 1/2 cups sugar

Makes about 9 cups (We filled 9 and a half small jelly jars)

1. Prepare lids and jars (this is the first instruction on the list, but I actually did this step closer to the end.  It basically involves cleaning the jars and letting the lids sit in hot water until you are ready to use them).
2. Prepare fruit. Discard pits (do not peel) and finely chop plums. Place in a large saucepan; add 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring often.
I don't know if this is the proper knife or not. I tend to use the improper knife from time to time whenst cutting things. I've only had to go to the emergency room once as a result.
Early on in the boiling.
Closer to the 10 minute mark. Yum yum.

 3. Place 3 layers of damp (Crap! I didn't notice this part until just now, one day after the jelly was made.  Oh well, the cheesecloth got damp when I poured the prepared fruit into it) cheesecloth or jelly bag into a large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into cheesecloth. Tie cheesecloth closed; hang and let drip into bowl until dripping stops (feel free to make a trip to Target or run other errands while this is happening, it takes a while.  Next time I do this, I might do the "press gently" part a little sooner...and by "press gently" I mean sit and massage the bag until you have the amount of juice you need). Press gently.
Found on an end cap at the grocery the same aisle I found the Sure Jell (I think in the baking aisle, near flour).
Could also be used for Halloween decorations.
Our homemade jelly making kit. You will need: One lacrosse stick, two chairs, a big bowl, and one Friends Trivia game (in addition to the cheese cloth full of prepared fruit).

I don't know why I get grossed out by medical things and not cooking things.  Essentially, they look similar.  Also, apparently you can clean and reuse the cheesecloth.  We shall see.
4. Measure exact amount of prepared juice into 6- or 8-quart saucepot (if necessary, add up to 1/2 cup of water to get the exact amount of prepared juice needed...which is 5 1/2 cups for plum jelly).
5. Measure exact amount of sugar into separate bowl.
6. Stir in one box of pectin into juice in saucepot. Add 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine to reduce foaming, if desired (I would recommend it.  Can't hurt, right?).
7. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly (can you see why there is no photo documentation of this?).
8. Stir in sugar quickly. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any foam (I didn't need to do this, because I add the the margarine..and because a little foam never hurt anyone!).
9. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner (I need to get one of these. I ended up using the biggest pots I could find, which were just barely big enough...anyway, it is possible to do it this way, but if you are going to be doing a lot of canning, it is worth it, I think, to go ahead and get the proper equipment).  Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed. Cover; bring water to gentle boil (if you forget to cover, like I did, it will take forever to come to a gentle boil, and you will waste a lot of energy). Process for 5 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary).
The flash made the jars look darker than they actually are...and therefore made the jelly look darker than it actually is.
No flash makes for a more accurate picture for color, though slightly out of focus.  I like this one better.

10. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Store unopened jelly in cool, dry, dark place up to one year. Refrigerate opened jelly up to 3 weeks. (I feel like you can store jelly in the freezer for even longer...I have anyway).

Also, if the jelly doesn't set (if it doesn't have that jelly-like texture), there are some directions as to what to do on the Sure Jell instruction sheet.  In my limited experience, I would say to give it some time, it might just take a little while for your jelly to set...and until then, it makes a nice sauce that you can pour on your pancakes or ice cream :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Discovering coffee-flavored yogurt

This one seems pretty straight forward. In the past month, I have discovered that there is such a thing as coffee-flavored yogurt. Warning.  This post is longer than it needs to be, and very, very mundane.  After a summer of not posting much, I need to ease into these things.

I don't like yogurt, or so I thought.  Why would anyone want to eat a dairy-based, fruit-flavored pudding? That's what I sometimes would ask.

Because Steve likes yogurt, I was in the yogurt aisle at the grocery store, totally overwhelmed with all of the choices (and every one of them was on some sort of sale....9 for 6 dollars, or 20 for 10 dollars, etc), and looking at each different brand, when I discovered a small section of yogurts that is not flavored with fruit. They had plain, vanilla, and coffee. So in addition to a bunch of fruit flavored ones for Steve, I got one of each of the other 3 flavors. Then I headed to the granola aisle to see if I could find some suitable crunchy texture to add to the yogurt.  There are a lot of options, and some of them are pricey (maybe some of this post could lead into another one about reverse culture shocks...although I need more time to reflect before I post about that).

Anyway, here are the results of trying non-fruity yogurt:
The Vanilla yogurt was a bit much.  I needed A LOT of granola to get it down.
The Plain yogurt...I'm still too chicken to try it. But if I eventually do try it, and like it, then I'm in luck, because they sell it by the bucket full.
The Coffee yogurt............LOVE IT. Still need lots of granola to get it down, but it is so good! And I feel somewhat healthy eating it.

Anyway.  I have discovered coffee-flavored yogurt, and more so, yogurt.  And granola.  I would recommend Bear Naked brand and Cascadian Farm Organic.  And Dannon, for the coffee yogurt.

So long, cereal and milk.

....except Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds.  I could never quit you.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Possible Blog Topics for whenever the internet gets back

  • Discovering coffee-flavored yogurt
  • The way my heart races and I get all riled up whenever I hear someone think that people should be fluent in English on their second day in the States
  • Reverse Culture Shocks (grocery stores, cell phone usage/data plans, casual dressing, poor grammar on signs, good customer service, etc)
  • Church hunting
  • Community Building
  • Movie Rentals (Loved: Away We Go; Hated: Greenberg) 
  • Giving

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


If you look through my blogging history, you will note that I just don't blog consistently in the summer time.  So, no excuses from me, that is just how it is. I'm sure that your reader will inform you when I am back again.  Anyway, here is a picture taken from the car from earlier this summer.  Hopefully that will hold you over until the next time I blog.  Hopefully within the month?  I'm not making any promises though, so please don't hold your breath.
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