Okay you guys, while the weather is still beautiful and all you want to do is play outside, let me ask you to think about Christmas. Yep, I am taking you away from your summer vacation for just a minute to consider a colder, much more hectic time of year. Don’t worry. We aren’t wishing the summer away. In fact, we are doing everything we can to preserve the memory of summer. How do you like to deal with the Winter Holidays? Do you run around last minute preparing, or are you one of those people that has everything wrapped up in a neat little bow before December even hits? Believe me, I aim to be the person who has everything prepared ahead of time, but somehow there is always something (usually multiple things) that leaves me rushing around at the last minute. Still, there is something to be said for trying I guess. A sort of peace of mind comes along with starting preparations months ahead of time.
Now is the time of year that I start to think about/work on gifts in the hopes of making November and December run much more smoothly. Every summer I take a weekend or two to head over to the local farms and pick ripe delicious berries in the heat of the sun. Is there anything much more delicious than homemade jam? Last year Nick and I just made strawberry jam. We missed the raspberry picking season and the entire winter I longed for raspberry. This year we planned ahead a little bit better and are making both. Once June hit, Nick started calling the local farms to find out when they thought their berries would be ripe for the picking. That way, we were able to plan ahead to bask in the glorious sunshine feeling content that we were doing something to get ahead for once. We took a drive over to Burlington Ontario a couple of weeks ago to a farm Nick’s Mom suggested called Hutchinson Farm. When we pulled in around mid-day we were met with a couple of parked cars, but otherwise, it was much quieter than we expected. We later discovered there were two main reasons for this:
1. It is best to pick raspberries in the morning when they are still cool.
2. It was too hot outside for the people working on the farm to stay out picking berries that day, meaning it was just too hot.
With that news, we figured we were there so we would still venture out. The girls working at the fruit stand gave us a metal tray to carry around with us through the field and some containers to hold the berries in. We had water (thanks to Nick), but both of us forgot our hats. I definitely recommend wearing a hat, as well as sunscreen if you decide to go! There isn’t really any shade in the field if the sun is out in full force. Someone there even had an umbrella with them to carry shade wherever they wandered.
Being in the field reminded me so much of home that I shared some of the pictures with my Dad, figuring he would be happy to see me somewhere other than the city. His response was a thumbs up emoji for the greenery.
I think we were in the field for maybe an hour and a half total and ended up with six pints of berries. Not bad for less than a couple of hours work… I think. After maybe 45 minutes there, I realized the best way to pick was by sitting on the ground as close to the bushes as possible. There was a little bit of shade, plus no need to stand up and as an added bonus there were a number of berries hidden from sight if you were only standing above the bushes searching. Win! As you can see from the images, though, there certainly was no shortage of berries and it was a fun experience to be outside with a few people we didn’t know racing to collect our spoils. Okay not really spoils. We did pay to be there, but it felt like a steal. Each pint cost about five dollars and with the six pints we took home, we were able to make exactly two batches of jam (or 16 jars). How is that for raspberry jam math?
They say freshly picked raspberries are okay in the fridge for a couple of days so rather than rushing home to make jam, we went to Nick’s sister’s pool and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening floating around. Side note: we also tried the Beyond Meat Burger that A&W now offers in Canada and it was delicious by the way. I don’t think it is the most healthy, from what I have read, but we will definitely have it again.
So I know that you likely have all been around someone making jam in the past even if you, yourself, haven’t made it. It is surprisingly easy and quick to do. Raspberry jam is actually way easier than strawberry so that’s always another bonus. You don’t need to spend time cutting off each stem. Although, I enjoyed that while making the raspberry jam, I cannot get too excited about it because the stem chopping will be a part of the very near future for us. Anyway. I picked up 24 mason jars and two packages of Certo liquid pectin along with some sugar from the grocery store. Nick had to run out in the evening for more sugar because I did not realize there were enough berries for two batches of jam and one package of sugar was just not sufficient.
After we had all of the ingredients and tools together we followed the recipe for cooked jam that comes in the pectin box. We washed the jars in the dishwasher and then used the oven to sterilize them. The instructions for doing so come in the package of liquid pectin. It says to put them in at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes.
After washing the berries, we crushed them according to directions and put 3 and 3/4 of a cup into our giant jam pot.
We mixed in the remaining ingredients (6.5 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice).
Next, we turned the element on high to bring the mixture to a boil. Once it was boiling, we left it to cook for a minute.
Then came time to remove it from heat, add one pouch of Certo liquid pectin (each package contains two pouches) and stir the mixture while skimming the foam off the top. We somehow missed the skimming step, but the jam turned out fine. After it was all mixed in, the foam wasn’t separated from the rest of the jam any longer and there wasn’t anything to skim off the top.
We also skipped a step before we even started cooking the fruit, which would remove some of the seeds from the jam (if you prefer it less seedy). To do that, you just need to strain some of the seeds off before you start to mix everything together. This next image shows the jam after it has had some time to set. This was not the morning after we made it, but the following one (and boy did it ever turn out delicious).
Once the jars are sterilized and hot, and the mixture is cooked with the Certo liquid pectin added, you just spoon the jam into jars and put the lids on. Be very careful not to burn yourself on the hot glass. It tends to hold the heat a while. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures from this step. I think I was too busy trying to help fill the jars. After all of that is complete you sit back and listen for that satisfying pop, pop, pop sound of the jars sealing while they cool off.
Thankfully we found a good empty drawer to store the jam in until December rolls around. I am not sure where we will keep the strawberry jam or the red pepper jelly that we are going to make, but that will be a problem for another day I guess. If you have a big family and struggle to think of new things to give everyone over the holidays, this is a great place to start. We tend to make a few different items and put them in gift bags or baskets as well as trying to find everyone a specific gift. I will continue to post as we make progress on these gift baskets so that you can see how they come together over the coming months. Hopefully, it will help you gain some inspiration and get ahead. I would love to hear from you with your suggestions for little gifts to fill these baskets. Do you like to make home-made items? If so, what do you make?
For now, I hope you are out enjoying the beautiful summer and aren’t too stuck in the fact that it is nearly August already. I, personally, am heading out to visit the wonderful town of Stratford for some of the most delicious chocolates and time in the beautiful Shakespearean Gardens in the rain. Until next time, all the best!!