Simply Mrs. Edwards

{just the life of a new wife}


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I Can-Can!

Tonight I decided to try my hand at canning. This was my first time embarking on this task solo. Other times that I have canned I’ve had my Mom holding my hand. Yep, for all the homemaking that I embark on canning has remained something that I’ve been slightly intimidated about. No more! I have conquered this beast!

Just as I mentioned in this post about making blackberry jam, canning does not have to be done huge batches, as many people assume. It can be done in a stockpot on the stovetop in small batches. Tonight, I tried my hand at canning some fresh pears from my parents orchard. I was pretty conservative in my efforts and only ended up with 3 half-pint jars. Yeah, yeah, yeah…all you canning pro’s are laughing right now. But only worrying about 3 jars was perfect for my first time solo-canning. Next time, maybe I’ll double my batch :)

First I peeled and cut up my pears and placed them in water that had some Fruit-Fresh mixed in (to keep the pears from browning). Lemon juice is also a great option to prevent browning. Once I had all my pears peeled, cored, and sliced, I heated them in a simple syrup. Simple syrup is ridiculously easy. Basically, you mix two parts sugar to one part water. Heat your water to a boil and add sugar. Heat and mix until sugar is dissolved completely. Voila! Simple syrup!

I heated my pears for about 5 minutes while I prepped my jars and lids. It’s important to wash/sanitize and heat your jars and lids before you add your fruit. I was using a large stock pot to process my jars, so first filled my pot with water and heated my empty jars in it. I heated my lids and rings (which I realized afterwards that it’s not necessary to heat the rings, duh) in a small sauce pan. Basically, by heating the lids you’re softening the rubber seal.

Once my jars were ready, I removed them and placed them on the counter to be filled. I ladled the fruit into a glass measuring cup and funneled it into each jar. Once the fruit was packed into each jar I added the simple syrup liquid to about 1/2 inch from the rim. It’s also important to release any air bubbles from your jars. You do this by using a gently inserting a knife or a plastic spacer (like the one from this Ball Utensil Kit) on the side and pushing your contents towards the center of your jar. You’ll see a few bubbles rise to the surface of your liquid.

After I removed all the air bubbles, I wiped the rims off and used my handy-dandy magnetic lid grabber thingy to fish my lids out of the simmering water. Once the lids are in place I gently screwed on the rings and placed the jars one by one into my stock pot of almost-boiling water.

I covered my pot and boiled the jars for about 15 minutes. I carefully removed each jar from the pot and let them dry/cool on a dishcloth. After about 5 minutes of sitting on the counter, I heard the pop-pop-pop of the lids letting me know that the jars sealed successfully!

And that, my friends, is how I canned my first 3 jars of pears! I’m sure my next batch will be done slightly different. I’ve found a few other ideas that may be fun to try (like this and this). Thankfully, there is no shortage of pears at my parents orchard and they’re coming to visit next weekend! My mom is a canning wizard- just tonight she posted on Facebook that in the past 24 hours she has canned blackberry jam, vanilla bean pear jam, and zucchini relish. I said, “Teach me your ways, oh wise one!” Hopefully I’ll get a few pointers from a pro next weekend :)

Have you tried canning anything lately? Did you end up with a huge haul or just 3 measly jars? Any tips that you’d like to pass along? :)

Homemaking some more,
Mrs. Edwards


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Traditions & Berries

This past weekend, I had the chance to spend a few days at my parent’s home. Their home is one of my favorite places ever- it is comfy, cozy and always filled with good conversation and great food. Wrapped up in this weekend was a trip to Ikea, awesome meals, fellowship with some great friends, and most importantly a celebration of my sweet Mom’s birthday. Since we live 3+ hours away from any family, we savor each moment we get to spend with them.  I was so so excited to find out that a rare 3 day weekend off of work would fall on my Mom’s birthday weekend, so I jumped at the chance to head home (Josh had to stay back in Santa Cruz for work, boo).

Throughout the weekend, my Mom and I had an ongoing conversation about how the “normal” tasks of the past (like homemaking, sewing, cooking, growing a vegetable garden, preserving foods, etc.) are being forgotten by my generation. I’m not sure where the disconnect is, whether if it’s the failure of the previous generation(s) to pass these skills down, the implementation of “convenience” food and technology, or if it’s the lack of motivation or interest from my age group. Whatever it is, I desire to be different. I know I’m not alone in this, as some of my friends are pursing the same things…hooray!. My hope and goal is to glean as much knowledge from women (and men too) in my life while I can, because tradition and these skills are indispensable.

With these thoughts in mind, my Mom and I spent a few hours picking blackberries on their property. It’s a bumper year for their blackberry crop, so I donned a flannel from my dad’s closet and some rubber boots to combat the thorns. While my mom stuck to harvesting the berries on the fringe, I dove right in (I still have scratches to prove it…). We had a blast and came away with a ton of berries!

I’m realizing that food preservation (canning) is one of the lost traditions that I was talking about. My Mom, Aunt & Grandma have canned for years, so I have some very wise women to learn from. Enter: tons of blackberries. The morning after we picked, my Mom spent a couple of hours teaching me the art of creating blackberry jam. I’ve watched her can different things my entire life and have helped quite a few times (like when we canned a million jars for my wedding- seen over here). But I’ve never done the majority of the process myself. Come to find out, it’s easy. REALLY easy. And so fulfilling knowing that you are carrying on a tradition and skill that most have forgotten.

Here is the recipe that we followed:

Blackberry Jam

  • 4 cups crushed blackberries (for seedless jam, you can strain/mash the berries through a fine mesh sieve before cooking)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ~7  half-pint jars, lids & rings
  1. In a saucepan, cook the berries, sugar and lemon juice on high for 5 minutes, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes more. Skim off foam.
  2. While jam is cooking, heat jars, lids & rings in warm water (my mom showed me a trick of heating these in the same pot- just set the lids & rings upside down on top of the jars in the pot- no need to use multiple pots!) Your lids are ready when the rubber seal is soft.
  3. Pull a jar, lid & ring out of the warm water and fill with your jam- leaving about  1/4 inch of space at the top.
  4. Wipe off the rim of the jar and put the lid and ring on. Set back in warm water (make sure you have 1-2″of water covering your jars)
  5. Bring water to a boil and boil for 10 minutes exactly.
  6. Remove jars from water and let sit on the counter. You’ll hear a “pop” of the lids indicating that they are sealed. Jam will thicken up as it cools.
  7. Enjoy now and later!

Canning is easy (or at least this batch was!) And there are some pretty amazing tools out there to make it even easier. My mom recently bought a Ball utensil kit (like this one) and it made a world of difference for the process. My Mom also told me that she’s always kind of been intimidated by the canning process because she thought she needed to do a huge batch to make it worth while. Not true! She realized (after 30+ years of canning) that she can do a small batch in a large soup pot….no canning kettle needed! We did 7 jars and it was a breeze!

I’m not sure what it is about learning these skills that so intrigues me, but I love it! I think it’s the thought that I’m continuing a tradition from the past. My Mom is a great resource and is so willing to teach me, it seems like it would be a waste if I didn’t pursue it!

Learning,
Mrs. Edwards