Friday, August 14, 2009

Berries and Jam

Truth be told, I'm terrible at following recipes - even my own. I'm always trying something new, just to improve. Maybe it's trying a new method for lowering fat content, or adding fresh veggies to make something more healthful, or maybe it's just changing up cooking methods. It's always something. And, most of the time, the results are pretty good. You'd have to ask friends and family for the true answer there - if you've eaten at my place, you've tried my experiments. But, I like to think that what I'm actually doing is simply editing recipes, whose ever they may be. I'm just adding my own touch, as I omit tastes I'm not fond of, and add tastes I like. I usually encourage others to do the same.
Berries are ripe now, and they're everywhere. Big, luscious, sweet berries mark every other stall at our local farmer's markets. Shades of blue, black, red, yellow - they all look scrumptious and ready to eat right now. However, I know their bounty won't last. Soon any berries to be found will be found in the grocery store. Those berries will have been grown in hot houses with forced climates, and cost a flippin' fortune, if I can find them. They'll be either too small or too big for their type, and will lose their true taste of summertime. They'll also be the store-found imports that have travelled half way around the globe, from somewhere south of us, just starting their true summer.

I feel some kind of primordial need to capture the essence of summer, and I've been busy freezing some berries, for smoothies until next spring. Also, I've been whipping up jams, jellies, and salsas. Now, jams made with pectin don't allow much room for experimentation. And, what makes canning veggies work is the level of acidity. So, little or no changes there. While this is somewhat frustrating for an itinerant food editor, the pride of finished canned jars makes up for the frustration. They'll soon be gracing a table or given as a gift, all with a remembrance of their season.

What's so nice about canning or making my own jam and jelly is that I can control the contents. There's nothing in there I can't pronounce. Also, while making your own may seem like a daunting task, it's incredibly easy. I hate to give this secret away ... but you'll find easy directions on a packet of pectin.

Stealthy Cooking Tip: Making your own jam and jelly is an easy way to make sure you've got 100% healthy ingredients. You can easily start with organic produce from your farmer's market, or backyard, if you're lucky enough to grow some of summer's sweet berries. Either way, you'll be saving money, plus eating more healthy food. Just make sure to follow directions on the canning label. If you're ready for more, pick up a copy of a canning guide - you'll get lots of ideas for ways to enjoy your produce all year long!

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