Goodness gracious Sugar Pie Sistas, this summer is flying by like the warm gusts of wind that blow across the top of the ridge where my farmhouse sits! My little Summer Rose turns eleven this week and then school starts August 20! The end of summertime is bittersweet for me…you see, while I am anxious for the fall to arrive with all of it’s apple-cider, candy corn and pumpkin wonderfulness, I am also loving the time I get to spend with my little redhead at home….at the lake….reading books on our front porch rocking chairs….discovering new things on our little road trips…growing tomatoes…slurping Popsicles…enjoying the sights and sounds of Silver Dollar City….spending time with family and friends.
Delightfully, this week I decided to savor the best of summer with a little bit of fall and Christmas in mind….
It all started with a bowl of fresh juicy plums kissed with the flavor of summer and the desire to stock my pantry with it’s yummy goodness. Making jam gives me the same delicious domestic feeling that I get from making a pie… it’s just so rewarding to see the finished product…and it’s something that can be shared!
Plump little jars of this scrumptious jam make a perfect hostess gift for Thanksgiving as well as a sweet little down-home treat to bless someone with at Christmastime. It’s comfort and joy in a jar!
I put my favorite fall music on… the soundtrack to Little Women…..tied on a cute apron…..got out my Canning kit, washed the jars and brand new lids in the dishwasher set to sanitize mode. Once they were sterilized, I put the jars in a roasting pan, then into the oven to keep warm until I needed them. I filled the big kettle with water, set it on the stove to get boiling.
With everything laid out, including the sugar and liquid pectin, I was ready to go!
The recipe calls for three pounds of plums, chopped into chunks with the skin on and into the pot to begin cooking down with 7 1/2 cups of sugar . Normally I like to use red plums, but the market didn’t have any, but no worries, the skin has enough red pigment in it to create that rosy color that turns out the most beautiful ruby jam.
Once the fruit is cooked down you heat it up to a full boil, add the pectin and skim the foam off . At that point, it needs to boil hard for one full minute, then you take it off the heat because the cooking is all done! Easy peasy!( By the way I just use the recipe that comes with the Liquid Pectin.)
Out of my warm oven I took my roasting pan full of clean, hot jars to begin filling them with the yummiest jam ev-ah! Make sure to use tongs and a tea towel to handle the jars…they’re hot! Be sure to wipe any drips off the rim with a damp paper towel.
The lids and rings need to sit in a pan of scalding water until it’s time to use them. I use a wand with a magnet on the end to pick them up. Once the jars are filled, the lids placed on and the rings twisted on tight, I put them onto a metal rack where they are lowered into the large kettle filled with boiling water. They need to take a nice bubbly bath for ten minutes.
My favorite sound after I take the jars out of the boiling water is the little “Clink” that happens which tells me that the lids have been properly vacuum sealed and will be safe to store in the pantry for several months. The other test is to take your finger and press the top of the lid, if you can push the dimple up and down then it did not seal properly. Most likely that will not happen if you give it the 10 minute boiling water bath.
Sparkling little jam-jars all in a row gives me a happy heart!
“You have to look for the joy. Look for the light of God that is hitting your life, and you will find sparkles you didn’t know were there. “~ Barbara Johnson
I cut squares of cheesecloth, secured them with a rubber band then tied with twine for an Old Fashioned homespun look. Very inexpensive…were talkin’ pennies! When I get ready to give these jars away, I’ll make a little tea-stained tag embellished with a little white glitter just to add a frosty little sparkle!
Here’s the thing… (as Monk would say–love that guy!)…When making this jam I decided to sneak in a little more fruit than what the recipe called for, because then I could fill a few more jars…yeah-well, don’t do that. Unless you would rather have a topping for your ice-cream, yogurt or pancakes. The taste will still be fabulous but it will come out more syrup-y than jam-y. But not to worry if that happens, I found out (by google-ing for advice) that you just dump the jam back into the pot, bring it to a full boil again and add a little more sugar (1/2 cup) and another packet of pectin, boil for one full minute and you are done. Yes, it is a bit of a hassle, because you have to sterilize the jars again (in the dishwasher if you have a sanitize mode) and you have to use new lids ( but you can re-use the rings). I went for it because I wanted jam not syrup and I wanted to see if the solution worked. It really didn’t take that long–the longest part was waiting for the dishwasher to do it’s job, plus Summer Rose came to my rescue and helped fill the jars again. We had it done in no time! And as you can see in the picture above, it worked! Yay!
If you haven’t tried making jam before, why not get a girlfriend and make it together! It’s always easier and more fun to cook with a sista! The end result will make your heart leap for joy! Look how pretty these babies are! I’ve listed the supplies you will need with a link to Amazon if you can’t find them in your area.
Here are the little gadgets that you’ll need:
In the midst of stirring the bubbly hot jam, I was thinking about the women, back-in-the-day, who would spend days harvesting and putting-up dozens of jars filled with preserves and produce from their gardens, farms and orchards. They would labor hours over a hot wood stove, in the heat of August and September, working hard to get the job done before the fruits and tender vegetables spoiled. They had to chop the wood for the stove and fetch the water from the well or spring and lug the heavy buckets up to the house. I can’t imagine having to do this while taking care of little ones and all of their everyday chores and responsiblilites! But preserving their harvest was not an option. They knew that come winter, when the cutting north wind would blizzard it’s way across the prairie, this was the only way they could insure their children’s tummies would be warm and well fed. I’m sure there were days when they didn’t feel like doing it, but it was a matter of survival. A Mama’s got to do what needs to be done for the well being of her family…whether she feels like it or not. That is the Farm woman’s mode of operation.
A couple of scriptures came to my mind as I pondered the gumption, grit and grace of these women….
“Every wise woman builds her house; a foolish woman tears hers down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1
“She looketh well to the ways of her household.” Proverbs 31:27
Oh my, as homemakers we have such an important job to do in building up our home! Of course, providing for the physical needs of our family is one of the ways we take care of our home, but everything we do will either build it up or tear it down. We will either be making happy memories or sad ones. That is a huge responsibility! I listed some of the ways we can build up our home for the good of our family, here are just a few: Pray for and with our family…say grace before every meal and prayers at bedtime….be encouraging…nurturing…speak with kindness…be forgiving…say you’re sorry…show appreciation…
develop a servants heart by thinking of ways that you can bless your husband and children every day…keeping seasonal traditions alive and fun…creating time for family togetherness…cherish each moment…give your children a sense of belonging…laugh a lot…count your blessings and be joyful about them…find 10 things to be thankful about every day and then thank God for them…be creative, make do with what you have…..create a “Happy Home Atmosphere”….take care of your house…keep it tidy and in order (now, I’m not talking about Model Home perfect! We have to live in our homes, and they get messy, when they do we clean it)…. make it a place your family loves to come home to….make it safe emotionally and physically…. cozy and comforting… peaceful….joyful…..sprinkle love in everything you do….bake some treats….make something your very own ”specialty” that your family loves and looks forward to and one day you’ll hear them say ”my mom make the best___________” …be emotionally available to your hubby and kids…give out lots of hugs and back rubs…
Love your hubby, tell him he is your hero, let him know you adore him and appreciate him…..Keep your faith strong by reading God’s Word together…go to church…use your womanly touch to bring beauty into your home….keep your home pure and wholesome…guard what comes into your home via the Internet, books, T.V., movies, video games, music… fill it with goodness… honor… honesty…. perseverance … compassion for those in need… Make choices for the good of your family even if it means saying “no” to your children and outside requests…prepare and plan ahead …stay balanced and keep God first.
The great news is we don’t have to be perfect! It’s not about being the ”perfect little homemaker”. It’s about loving and taking care of the family and home God has intrusted to us. And God will help us in this great task if we ask Him and honor His Word. Be a mama hen and protect your home and family!
Then I thought about the things that would tear down the home, here are just a few: anger…selfishness…neglect… constant complaining …. bickering…bitterness… resentment… ridicule… self-pity …carelessness…substance abuse (any kind of abuse)… unhealthy lifestyle … infidelity…discontentment…lack of morals….laziness…putting other things before God and family…foul language… speech that does not honor God and family….taking blessings for granted…a dirty environment…disrespect…lack of appreciation…being emotionally unavailable…not showing affection…being too busy to care for home and family…unwholesome movies, Internet sites, books, music, video games…. overspending….envy…gossip…disregarding God’s Word…not being thankful for what you have…just to name a few.
Stocking our pantry with food to nourish our family is one way to build up our home, but we also need to stock tender-loving care into the hearts and souls of our loved ones. It’s not about perfection (Goodness knows I am far from that!) as I said before, it’s about loving and nurturing the family and home that God has intrusted to us. Building up our home has to happen intentionally….on purpose, with planning. That is what I am striving to do and I know all of you (my Sugar Pie Sistas) are too! It’s not always easy. We may not always feel motivated to do the things that need to be done to care for our home, but just like the women before us in years past, as they prepared their harvest in primitive and difficult conditions (without our modern conveniences), taking care of our family, physically, emotionally and spiritually, is not an option and should not depend on how we feel (that is if we want the best for them…and of course we do!). So gals, be encouraged, although our job as homemaker is one of the hardest jobs there is, it’s also the most important! Keep up the good work you are doing!
“A capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman–who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls…..a woman who reverantly and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised! Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates (of the city)!” Proverbs 31:10,30,31 (Amplified Version)
Dear Lord, please help me to remember to take the time to bestow the kisses today that I want loved ones to remember tomorrow. ~Jennifer Thomas
Speaking of Pantries…..
I received a very delightful email from the author of this beautiful and nostalgic book, The Pantry-It’s History And Modern Uses. The author, Catherine Pond is a freelance writer and has written articles for Victoria magazine, Old House Interiors, New England Home and many others. She sent me her beautiful book, which I am thrilled about! It’s a history of the pantry in American homes. It’s full of charming pictures, vintage kitchen advertisements, sentimental stories , homey quotes, and a reminiscent look back at the American homemaker and her kitchen pantry. Here’s a peek…
Here is a picture of Catherine…isn’t she so adorable with her farm-girl apron on cradling a box of baby chicks! Oh Honey!
For several years Catherine lived in an ancestral 1813 Federal home in a New England village. Now she lives on her Kentucky farm with her hubby and three children and has plans to build their dream home and pantry! Her book is available at her web site and blog at catherinepond.com….please visit her and give her some Sugar Pie Blessings…tell her that Aunt Ruthie sent ya!
No other place can be so dear,
So full of charm, delight and cheer,
As home, when those within it strive
To keep it nourished and alive.
~Esther C. Randall
Sugar Pie Blessings to all of my sistas!