jammin’ 2

Tonight, I made jam with the berries from our generous neighbors. I’m still a jam newbie, so it was great fun to stir, boil, and learn. I watched the numbers go up on the digital thermometer and matched temperatures to changes in the jam’s consistency. Stirring the brilliantly hued syrup (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries) made for a stunning canvas–the jam-to-be looked like a pinker version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night with its sparkly swirly insanity. The process wasn’t without hiccups, though. Apparently, my canning jars have been used for craft projects (kids) and an undectected clump of glitter made its way into the boiling water when the jars were being sterilized. Rewash. Re-sterilize. When the jam was jarred and processed, I scraped all I could from the saucepan, wishing I could retrieve every last bit. Remembering the chocolate syrup we’d poured over our pound cake and strawberries for dessert earlier, I took the last of the syrup and stirred it into the pan. Stirred and heated gently, the simple, homemade syrup became an elegant chocolate-berry syrup. Magical. I found the chocolate syrup recipe a while back on a clone website. It was too easy and fun to make to ever go back to buying the packaged kind. It makes great chocolate milk and hot chocolate and is wonderful drizzled over pound cake and fresh fruit. And now I know that berry jam is its perfect flavor partner.

Chocolate-Milk Chocolate Syrup

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you can play around with using dark or regular–it’s all good)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 dash salt

In saucepan, combine cocoa, sugar and salt. Add water; mix until smooth. Bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, watching carefully so it doesn’t boil over. Reduce heat; simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until just slightly thickened. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in vanilla. Store in refrigerator.

homemade Hershey’s syrup–sweet!


Had a long morning. Was able to squeeze a gym trip in before heading off to church where my youngest was in the children’s musical. Next, off to the mall for lunch, hair cuts, and shoes. The girls weren’t especially poorly behaved, but I was feeling tapped when we got home. I was unhappy with my oldest, who was whining about not getting the same shoes as her sister. My repeated encouragement/scolding that she focus on what she does have rather than what she doesn’t seems to always fall on deaf ears.

As it often does, though, food turned things around for me. We returned home to our neighbor’s gift of a large box packed full with pints of fresh berries: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries. And some grapes and mixed greens thrown in for good measure. These neighbors occasionally bring us leftover food from their church and I’m excited each time we get a box. Holy CSA, Batman! Often it’s organic produce, dairy, or eggs. But never the same collection of food. (Have 10 green bell peppers in my refrigerator right now; need a good stuffed pepper recipe.) I love this gift of food because it’s bounty. It’s excess. It’s generosity. I’m ever appreciative and often bring the neighbors part of whatever I make with their gifts. Today, their gift helped me build up what was torn down. I’ll be making jam with the berries and our neighbors can expect a jar or three.

Berry Jam (from the 2009 Ball Blue Book guide to preserving)

  • 9 cups crushed berries
  • 6 cups sugar

In large saucepan, combine berries and sugar. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cook rapidly to gelling point (220°F at sea level or when jam breaks from spoon in a sheet or flake), stirring more frequently as jam thickens to prevent sticking. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into sterile, hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Seal with sterile canning lid and ring. Process 15 minutes in boiling-water canner.*

*I’ve yet to purchase a canner, so for now make do with sterilizing canning equipment in the dishwasher, then “processing” the filled and sealed jars in a stockpot of boiling water. I do have a canning jar funnel and lifter to make filling and transporting the jars to and from the boiling water easier. If you’re new to canning, read through canning instructions well before starting. For a fairly simple process, there’s a lot to it and after all of the hands-on time you’re putting into it (not to mention the fantastic fresh produce you’re using), it’s not something you want to mess up.