Monday, May 24, 2010

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam for Mom

So, I realize it's been a while since we sat down to chat. What have you been up to? Oh, really? How interesting. Well, since you asked, here's what I've been doing:

1. Joey lost two teeth. Surprisingly, loose teeth gross me out, so he pulled them himself. Tooth Fairy left him 50 cents and my husband called her a cheapskate. To her face.

2. My computer crashed. So long, Website! See ya, Pictures-of-the-boys-since-their-respective-births! Bye bye, photos-of-all-my-cakes! On the upside, I'm writing this blog on the first new computer I've had in 7 years!

3. DJ grew 3 inches and needed new shoes. Buzz Lightyear Sandals. He wears them to bed.

4. Joey started TBall. The Cardinals will be calling us soon, because Joey proved to everyone that he can cover any ball hit into the infield at any time. Anywhere in the infield, Joey's got it.

5. My husband's son graduated from bootcamp in San Diego. So we had to drag ourselves all the way out to California to see him. Too bad for us.

6. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law moved. Well, that really had nothing to do with me, I made my husband go help them (I am a delicate flower, after all). But I did have to pick up pizzas and make brownies on moving day.

7. I made Low Sugar Strawberry Jam for my mom. What's that? How on earth did I have time to fit that into my busy schedule? Oh, that's because I'm not human. Oh, of course! I'd be happy to share the recipe and photos of the process! I know, it's unhealthy to be this nice...
My mom was diagnosed with diabetes 37 years ago. You'd never know it to look at her, she's pretty amazing. She never asks us to get her anything "sugar-free" (she doesn't like attention called to the diabetes), and usually just eats like we eat, only in moderation. But, true to form, my dad always brings her sugar-free chocolate when he finds it, and he asked me to make this for her.
I did some research online and found that regular pectin has sugar in it, but they have brands that are "No need to add sugar". I found Ball brand that was called "No Sugar Needed". This recipe is from the insert in the box. If you're going to make these, use the insert as a guide. Don't rely on what you read here, go to the insert. Trust the experts, not the geeky food girl.

I got it at that store that rhymes with "Gall-Mart". I'm certain they have other similar brands at other Gall-Marts or Brogers, or Tublix, Eye-Dee-Kays, or Parris-Meeters.
My dad stopped bringing me strawberries, I had to go get them myself. The boys helped, and this is what I had left after 3 strawberry pies:

This is about a gallon of strawberries, give or take. Aren't they beautiful?

Cleaned, hulled and sliced. Yeah, it's a crappy job. I hate it about as much as I hate cleaning and stemming green beans. But, it's gotta be done. After cleaning/slicing/hulling, we move to the fun stuff: Squishing.

I just picked a flat-bottom bowl, put the strawberries in one layer, and started smooshing. I dumped them in a measuring cup, then repeated until I ended up with 4 cups of squished berries and their juice.

Yummy, yummy....and what a beautiful color.

Okay, we're ready to move on...let's cook those berries.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of fruit juice, with the recommended flavors being apple or white grape. The explaination is that these are "neutral flavors" and won't compete in flavor with your jams. I didn't have either of the juices, so I just used water.

Add the package of pectin slowly and stir. Keep stirring.

Bring to a boil that you can't stir down. Here comes the foam. Keep stirring or it will stick to the bottom.

The insert says you can add a little butter at this point to cut back on the foam. I'm trying to make this healthy, so I didn't add that. I just skimmed the foam. Say, wait a tick. That looks to me like it's about to boil over. We're going to need a bigger boat. But we're going to keep stirring.

That looks safer. Add 1-1/2 cups Splenda...Slowly or it will clump. Gotta stir. My arm is killing me. Skim that foam, Amy!
Bring back to a boil and remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Uh,'s necessary.
We're ready for the jars. Mine are clean and sterile (thank you Mr. Dishwasher), I just floated them in some hot tap water until ready for use. The insert said it was to keep the jars from breaking...I thought it had something to do with the seal. Either way, I did it. Ladle the mixture into the jars. If you have a jar funnel, insert here. I have one but I can't find it (shock of the century.).

The insert says to fill to 1/4 inch headspace...I fill them like this:

Can I do anything without being sloppy? No, Amy...the correct answer is no.
Now the lid...and the band, I didn't get a picture of the band.

This batch made three...are these pints? I think their pints. They're what my Grandma used to make us jelly for years. I have about 30 of these, in many different shapes and sizes.

To the canner, Batman!
Did I tell you I got a new water bath canner while I was at Gall-Mart? Yeah,'s pretty.
My new water bath canner from Gall-Mart came equiped with a rack on the bottom. If you don't have a canner, you can put a towel in the bottom of a big stock pot. Just don't set the jars directly on the bottom of the pot.
The insert said to bring them to a gentle boil for 10 minutes, then let sit in the hot water for 5 more minutes. Then they're ready to come out...this is seriously my favorite part of the new canner:
The rack comes up and sits on the rim so the jars can drip dry and cool a little before you pull them out. I know, I totally dorked out there for a second.
Pull them out (they're hot, Amy!) and let cool on a towel. If they're sealed, they won't have that little "give" in the lid. Mine were sealed straight out of the canner, but sometimes they seal while they cool. If they don't seal within 24 hours, put the jar in the fridge and eat that jam right now!

I'm not going to repeat the recipe, you just go out and get a box of the pectin. The insert is in there, I promise.

As with anything, what you buy in the store pales in comparison to homemade. If you have the means, you should try this. Go out and get yourself a package of No Sugar Needed Pectin, follow the instructions on the insert and make some jam.
It's worth it, I swear.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't tell my Dad, but I made Shortcakes.

Lookie what my dad brought me today:

My dad's family has always grown strawberries. In fact, my grandmother's Christmas gift to us every year is a jar of her homemade jelly, usually made with strawberries out of her very own patch. She is no longer able to get out and weed her strawberries in her funny trucker hat, but my daddy and my aunt are avid strawberry growers. Thank goodness, or we'd never have jelly.

Before Dad took Joey out to the strawberries this afternoon, the conversation went like this:

Dad: Your mom and I had a nice plate of strawberries this weekend, they'll be another plateful ready this afternoon...

Amy: Oh wow...I should make some shortcake then, right?

Dad: No, Amy! NO NO NO!

Amy: You don't want shortcake??

Dad: No, NO NO! I can eat the strawberries, but if I have shortcake, then I'll have to have milk with it, maybe ice cream...NO NO NO! NO SHORTCAKE!

Amy: Ok, no shortcake. Got it.

We're all supposed to be on diets, can you tell?

Well, sorry or no diet, I can't stand a plate of fresh strawberries with no shortcake. And where do we find a shortcake recipe? From the strawberry grower herself, Grandma Laura.

So, here we go.

Sift together 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar.

Cut in 1 cup of butter. I used 1 stick salted and 1 stick unsalted. While that may make me sound all detail-specific about salt, it's actually all I had in my fridge.

Some use pastry blenders, some use knives, some use food processor...I use my fingers.
Dump in 3/4 cup of sour cream and one beaten egg. Grandma Laura used milk, but you could use lots of different liquids here: heavy cream, milk, buttermilk, or any combination therein. I like sour cream for the richness and the tangy flavor...I also like using the word "therein".

Combine to form a ball. I think I kneaded this a few times to get it completely mixed. As with any baked goods, overmixing results in bread-like cakes...we want cake-like cakes. Tender, moist, melt-in-your-mouth. Crap, let's get these in the oven so we can eat them!

Pat them into something resembling a square.

Then cut into small squares. I got 16 out of this, but I'm a horrible cutter. You should see my brownies: sometimes I get 12, sometimes I get's a crapshoot. Yours will be nice and even and of uniform size.

Into the oven...350...Mine took around 25 minutes (you know I'm not good with time). Since we have the time, let's get back to the strawberries.

Here they are cleaned and stemmed. Wow, I thought there'd be a lot more...? Oh, yeah. I ate a bunch while cleaning them.

Sweeten to taste. This is about 3 tablespoons of sugar. These strawberries are sweet and have lots of flavor, but a little more sugar never hurt anyone, right?

This is another fork in the road where my grandmother and I take different paths: At this point, she would attack these strawberries with a potato masher, and let them sit in the fridge to become strawberry soup. I like them chunky, like this. I put them in the fridge for a while, and they make a little strawberry juice, but you still get the big strawberry chunks on your shortcake, and the cake soaks up the juice. Sorry Grandma.

Shortcakes are done! Hurry, get them out of the oven:

At this point, a little disappointment washed over me when I realized I should have brushed these with egg wash and sprinkled with sugar, which would have made them nice and shiny and pretty. So, you do that when you make these.

Enough with the disappointment, let's freakin' EAT!

I had whipped topping in the fridge; Fresh whipped cream would be an obvious choice, or sweetened sour cream could also be substituted for the whipped topping.

Yummy Yummy Yummy, can we please eat it?

It's so good, it'll make ya wanna turn around and slap your Weight Watchers leader.
I was supposed to just cut into it so you could see how pretty it is on the inside. I was supposed to put it in the fridge for the boys to share after supper. I was supposed to do all that, but I didn't. I ate the WHOLE thing.

Here's the recipe, in easy-to-copy form

Homemade Shortcake

(Adapted from the recipe files of Laura Sherwood)

3 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sour cream

1 beaten egg

1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water (egg wash)

Sugar for sprinkling

Strawberries sweetened to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder. Cut in butter. Dump in sour cream and beaten egg, then mix to form soft dough. Knead a few times, if necessary, then pat to square. Cut into squares, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Place on baking sheets. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Since starting this blog post, I had to stop and take the boys to Mom and Dad's, and what did I find?

A big pan of shortcake!

See? Daddy couldn't stand a plate of strawberries and no shortcake either.