Strawberry jam

One of last summer's 'Terra Incognitas' was making strawberry jam. My strawberry plants had finally hit their stride and I had more strawberries than we could eat - and we can eat a lot of strawberries.

I decided to try making jam. I started looking into recipes and 'how tos', but every recipe I found seemed more like strawberry flavored sugar to me. The ones that didn't use sugar, tended to use artificial sweeteners, which in my mind is worse, and when I read about reducing sugar, recipes cautioned that changing recipes could result in an unsafe product.

Since this was my first foray into jam making, I elected to avoid the whole issue and go with freezer jam. I tried various methods, some using cornstarch or gelatin - some using both.

In the end the method I liked the best involved neither - it uses apples for pectin and sweetness. I don't recall where I got the idea - if anyone knows, please remind me so I can credit it.

2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 large apple, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

Mix together and simmer until thickened - about an hour to an hour and a half. Use a potato masher to blend any large chunks. Pour into jars and store in freezer. 

It's so easy, it was almost no effort to make enough to last all winter, and opening each jar was like a hint of spring in the dead of winter.

We just ran out a couple of weeks ago so I made a batch last weekend with the early strawberries from the store. It won't be long, though, before our own plants will be producing and our freezer will again fill with little jars of springtime.

Salad Days

Spring has definitely arrived. The trees are budding, spring bulbs are blooming, grass is greening, migrating birds are returning - and so is my interest in eating salads.

I love having a variety of ingredients in my salads. What I don't love is how long it takes to prepare it. I tried making a big salad on weekends and taking out small amounts daily. It was okay for a few days, but it was the same salad every day and always ended up looking like nothing anyone would want to eat long before the next weekend rolled around.

I tried individual containers of ingredients that I could pull out and throw together each day. That worked as far as having fresher ingredients and more variety, but filled my refrigerator with little containers. Occasionally I'd end up 'losing' one or two little containers at the back of the refrigerator and the ingredients would spoil, which is always annoying. 

For a few weeks now I've been using silicon muffin liners to streamline school lunch packing. When I cut up vegetables and fruit for my son's Monday lunch, I fill up eight additional muffin liners for the rest of the week, (four with fruit and four with vegetables) and store them in a covered container.  In the morning all I have to do is pull out one of each and add them to his laptop lunchbox.

I figured with larger muffin liners and a larger container, I could create what amounted to a mini salad bar in one container. In the end, I bought two containers the same and used one for salad greens, and the other for toppings. I bought a mandoline at the same time, so preparing the ingredients was even easier.

The photo is just a few containers, using what I had on hand. Like all things I'm sure it will evolve over time. The container is there - it's just clear. It's one of those snap lock types, so it should keep things from falling out - or drying out.  And if it's too air tight, there is a little vent in the lid.