Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Darkberry Jam...

So yesterday was some yardwork and house cleaning.. Random stuff. I did chop down all the little sassafras bits behind the garage and stuff  up by my office- figured I'd borrow the trailer and haul it all down to the firepit today, I have at least two loads there plus the cedar scraps I cut down in the front the other day that should be ready to haul now. But when I awoke, it was a rain day. Goodly enough to soak in the containers for fall planting, yay! Way more wet coming down most of the day to be riding around on the yard in the wet to do hauling..

But that's ok to not do yard stuff today, I needed to do a little shopping. I got a beta fish for my birthday, along with the return of a half gallon globe. Really cool tank, but I was unwilling to clean it every 4 days and I was a little worried about Glugg getting bored in there. So I set up the 2.5 gallon I had in storage- and realized it was kind of empty and the current was a tad strong, and I only had 3 little fake plants to use... and the current pushed all his food to the bottom of the tank. I had some chunks of coral in the tank when I first filled it, leftovers from the hermit crab tank. Then I found out real coral raises the Ph way too much for betas- oops, the coral came back out. So I went out today and got a feeder ring- it floats and has a suction cup to keep it in place. And I picked up a couple live plants for the tank, on clearance, and a tall fake lilly to help break up the current, on sale :) And a little jar of dried bloodworm for treats, on sale! He seems much happier now.

The grasses in the two front corners and the plant in the left back corner are fakes I already had. The lilly in the right back corner is fake, and the blossom is set right below the pour off from the filter, to help break up the current. The ferny thing in the middle front is live- Windelov Java Fern, Microsorium pteropus. The broad leaf bits in the middle behind the fern are live too- Amazon Sword, Echinodorus amazonicus. Live plants help the general fishy environment, and give Glugg something to swim around. The purple ring at the surface is the feeding ring- it fits perfectly, and Glugg has found out that's where the goodies are.  My total spending was under 20 bucks- not too great, but not too bad either. I might still try to get a tiny bottom feeder that Glugg can get along with just to keep everything cleaner.
I've realized I've kind of missed having a tank set up. The light is rather nice on the end of the mantel. Digging around for the tank made me realize I still had an extra nice tank setup for hermit crabs.. hmmmm. The library could really use a permanent light setup.

I wanted to hit Hardings because they had good stuff on sale. Chicken breasts and hamburger BOGO, and frozen veggies BOGO. I currently have 4 bags of frozen peas on the dehydrator, which is great since I was pretty much out of dried peas. They had beautiful cherries on sale too, so I picked up a couple pounds. I wanted to make a darkberry jam. Pretty much like my berry preserves, cept using fresh cherries instead of fresh strawberries for the main fresh fruit component.

2 pounds fresh cherries
12 oz frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup or so of frozen wild raspberries and mullberries I picked earlier this year
1/2 cup or so of frozen blueberries from the Extraordinary Berry.
3 oz of wild blackberry reduction- I had a cup of juice left over from making jelly in the freezer, and simmered it till reduced by about half, skimmed, and got about 3 oz as a result.
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 pink box Surejell pectin
4 12 oz jars, 4 half pint jars. I sterilized 5 12 oz jars, but only used 4
Pot for canning, jar lifter, lid magnet, canning funnel, ladle
Splash of vinegar for the bath water
Small pot for heating the lids
Smallest stockpot for burbling up the jam

First I sat down and pitted the cherries. Picked up a pitter last year on clearance for a buck! So totally worth it. Then I sliced all the cherries in half, though in retrospect, I probably should have quartered them.
I mashed them up a bit in a bowl with a potato masher. Then added my defrosted 12 oz berry mix and wild blackberry reduction, and mashed some more. Measured it out and came up at about 5 cups. So I tossed in a couple handfulls of wild raspberries and mullberries, then some blueberries to make the whole mash equal 6 cups. So about a half cup of each.
Dumped the berries into the stockpot under medium heat to start breaking them up, mashing them well several times while heating.
While this was going on, I got my processing kettle going. Once it was at a boil and sanitized the jars, I pulled the jars to air dry.
Then I cranked up the heat under the berries. Dumped in the pectin mixed with some of the sugar- prevents the pectin from clumping in. Once it hit a boil, dumped in the rest of the sugar, and brought it up to the boil again before taking off the heat.
I filled the 8 oz jars first, then the 12 oz jars. Wiping rims, capping, ect.
Processed for 10 minutes

Here's the jars fresh out of the kettle:
I've found I like putting the towel on a tray for pulling- saves me some carrying trouble over to the table to let rest overnight.
I only heard 7 pings... Herm... Found out during the first shaking of the jars that yep, one of the 8 oz jars didn't seal, oops. I think it's perhaps because I didn't have the lids really hot before starting. Oh well, that jar will go into the fridge instead of onto the shelf. This is a jam that needs some shaking during cooling down to ensure that the fruity chunks are well distributed throughout the liquid.
If licking the spoon is any indication, this stuff turned out good as hell! The berry preserves are kind of light and fresh berry tasting, this stuff for sure has the deeper, darker berry flavor.

Hardings also had on sale tortillas, sour cream, and cheese. So it's chicken and mushroom quesalillas for dinner tonight :)
Easy enough to make. I seasoned my chicken and seared it off, then dumped in a small can of mushrooms- with the liquid- to simmer it till done. And cook it off to au sec. Then slice the chicken thin, layer it with mushrooms and cheese onto the tortillas, then toast them up just like a grilled cheese :) Super yummy dinner!

Another lovely day on Growbox Hill :)
I had to go renew the plates on the cars today, yuck. Actually I was supposed to get it done before my birthday, oops. But now we are good to go till next year, yay!
Since I was in town, I decided to drop by Lowes to find out what happened to my 100 dollar refund they were supposed to mail me after the royal screw up on the dishwasher. Of course they had no idea what the heck I was talking about, and of course none of the managers were available. I'm starting to really hate Lowes.
I was so irritated, I decided to hit the resale shops and see if I would have some good fortune. And yep, I for sure did! Goodwill had a couple bins of Seeds of Change seeds- 4 for a buck!! And all good for 2014 too! Normally they retail for 3.49 each, so good deal there. And they had a cool vegan soul food cookbook, score. I hit Kirbys next- they had a really neat old fondue cookbook, a tagine cookbook, and the 12th book in the Wheel of Time series that I didn't have yet- all three books for one buck, another score! And on the way home I hit the produce stand and picked up another 10 pounds of beautiful tomatoes for canning up this weekend :)
And whoo-ee! Borrowed the neighbors trailer and hauled all the crap I've been trimming out down to the firepit. Easy peasy three loads in the trailer, which would have been at least 6-8 runs in the barrow- and I got it done in the time it would have taken to run a load or two in the barrow too. Can we get a hell yeah?
I also decided to try my first crack at fall sowing today- Green Arrow Peas. I planted in half a dozen containers with a dozen seeds each, so here's hoping they actually produce something!

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