Friday, July 26, 2013

Around the Garden

Here are some views from around our garden this week.
A visitor

Creeping Thyme (wooly thyme)

Balloon Flower
From left to right: Tiger Eye Sumac, Purple Coneflower, Liatris, Bee Balm, Carl Foerester Grass

Black Eye Susan (rudbeckia)

Roma Tomatoes
The corn lodged in a big storm (i.e. it blew over). So we made it stand back up.

Training the Grapevine up the Pergola
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Harvesting Onions

This weekend it was time to harvest our onions.  Most years we grow two or three varieties of onion from seed with the goal of planting enough onions to last until the next year's harvest.  This year with the weird weather not allowing us to get seed into the garden early enough, and with our thoughts on moving (how much stored produce do we really want to move across country) we planted a small number of onions from sets.  Well a small number for us anyway.

An onion set is a small onion bulb.  Some grower somewhere planted onion seeds and grew them for a while until each seed grew into an onion bulb about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter.  The grower harvested all these little bulbs, cured them, bagged them up, then sold them to a middlemen who sold them to a retailer who sold them to me. 

We took the bag of onion sets home, prepared a garden bed for them and planted them in the soil.  Two months (give or take) later the onions were ready to harvest.  Onions tell you when they are ready to harvest by falling over.  Garlic does the same thing.  Rather handy actually.  If you leave the onions in the ground after they fall over, it won't be long before all those green onion tops dry out and eventually blow away making it difficult to find the onions.  So I try to harvest before the tops dry out.
Onions laying down and ready to harvest
Harvesting onions is simple in a properly prepared bed.  Grab the neck of the onion as close to the top of the bulb as you can and gently pull.  Usually the onions pull out easily.  In the picture below you can see how few roots the onion bulb has.  While it was growing it had a much larger mass of roots. 
Pull gently
I put all the onions into trugs for easy hauling around the yard.

Onions harvested, now the real work begins
Now that the onions are all harvested, we have to do something with them.  If I only grew a few, I would just rinse them off and keep them in the kitchen to be used up.  But I have more than a few days worth of onions so I need a way to store them for a longer time.  In order to store onions, they need to be properly cured.  Curing is a process where the outer layer of the onion bulb and the neck of the onion (the place where the green top grows out of the bulb) is dried so that the onion inside stays usable for months and months.

I like to rinse the dirt off of the onions before I cure them.  First I laid the onions out on the driveway in a single layer.
Laid out and ready for a rinse
Next I rinsed the dirt off the onions with the hose.  My helper had great fun with this task.
My helper
As you can see from the before and after rinsing pictures below, this is not going to make the onions dirt free.  But it will make them a lot cleaner.
After - not perfect but much cleaner
Once the onions are all rinsed, I leave them on the driveway to dry out for a couple of hours. 
Rinsed off and left to dry
After the onions dried out on the driveway for a couple of hours it was time to tie them up in bunches.  Depending upon the size of the onions, I group them into bunches of 6 to 10 onions then tie up each bunch with twine.  I use 18 to 24 inches of twine for each bunch.  After each bunch is tied up, I cut off the green tops 8 to 10 inches or so above the twine. 

Tied and ready to cure
In the picture above you can see all the onions tied up in neat bunches ready to cure. 

The pile of onions above the bunches are onions that either did not have a green top to tie up (because I pulled the top off while trying to get the onion out of the ground) or were not really fit to be cured.  A few of the onions had really thick or big necks.  An onion with a large neck will not cure well.  Usually those onions rot after a month or so of harvest because the neck never dries out "sealing" the onion inside.  So this pile of onions I just move into the kitchen to be used up first.

The last step in curing the onions is to store them somewhere where they will get lots of air circulation and be able to dry out the outer layers and neck properly.  For us, this is our garage.  It is warm all summer and has ceiling fans running constantly.  I hang the onion bunches on a ladder in the garage and leave them there for 2 to 3 weeks until they are ready for storage in a cool pantry in our basement.  Someday I hope for a root cellar.  For more information about storing onions, see my Storing Onions post here.
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kid Snack - Marinara Sauce

To go with homemade meatballs you need to have homemade marinara sauce.  Marinara sauce is so simple!  And once you discover that, you may never buy pre-made again.

Here is my recipe.

1-2 minced garlic cloves (I grow my own)
1 Tbls olive oil (I wish I could grow olives)
4 cups tomato sauce (I can my own)
1/2 cup tomato paste (I can my own)
1 Tbls sugar (this is optional but makes the sauce more kid friendly)
1/2 - 1 tsp baking soda

In a medium sauce pan, over medium-low heat sauté the minced garlic cloves in the olive oil. 

Carefully add the sugar, tomato sauce and tomato paste (carefully so the olive oil doesn't splash up on you).  Mix well.  I use a whisk to combine the sauce and paste together.

Let simmer about five minutes. 

Taste.  If the sauce is too sour, acidic, or tangy (choose your adjective), which is often a problem with home canned tomato sauce and/or paste, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  Do not freak out.  The baking soda will fizz and bubble in the sauce.  The fizzing is from the acid in the tomatoes reacting with the baking soda, making the sauce less tangy.  Mix well until the fizzing stops. 

Note: adding sugar does not reduce the sour, acidic or tanginess of the sauce.  It might mask it a bit but does nothing to change the pH. I add a small amount of sugar to my sauce to actually make it sweeter to suit my daughter's taste.

Taste again.  If still too sour, acidic, or tangy for your liking, add another 1/1 teaspoon of baking soda, mix well and taste. 

Cook for another couple of minutes.  You do not need to cook the sauce all day.  You need less than 10 minutes for a yummy marinara.  Remove from heat and use or freeze for future use.

I like to use ice cube trays to freeze the sauce.

Once frozen, the individual cubes can be put into a ziptop bag for storage.  When ready to use, put the frozen meatballs and two or three cubes of sauce into a small sauce pan over medium-low heat to warm up for a nutritious and yummy snack.

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Kid Snacks - Meatballs

Homemade meatballs and marinara sauce
I know my daughter loves meatballs and marinara sauce.  So I thought I would make up a bunch of both then freeze them for future use.

The meatball recipe is:

2 lbs ground meat (I used 1 lb ground beef and 1 lb ground turkey)
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
2 Tbls olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbls milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Into a heated skillet add the olive oil, bell pepper, onion and mushrooms.  Sautee until soft.

Put sautéed vegetables into a food processor with the milk and process until soupy.

Combine all the remaining ingredients along with the pureed vegetables into a large mixing bowl.  Mix well by hand or with a stand mixer. 

Next line a cookie sheet or rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment paper.  You actually can skip the parchment paper.  But I have found using the paper keeps the meatballs from sticking to the pan.

Using a food portioner like the one pictured below, scoop out the meatballs onto the baking pan or cookie sheet.

I could get 20 meatballs on my half-sheet pan.  After the meatballs were scooped out, I went back and hand rolled each scoop into a ball.

The meatballs when into the 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  This recipe will give you about 50 meatballs, depending of course on the size you choose to make them.

I put all the cooked meatballs onto one half-sheet pan which was lined with wax paper and put the pan into the freezer.  Once the meatballs are frozen, they will go into a ziptop bag for future snacks.

When needed, place a few meatballs into a small sauce pan along with some of the marinara sauce.  Gently heat until warm.  These are much healthier if you don't microwave them warm, just saying.

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Kid Snacks - Peanut Butter Bananas

So I am always looking for snack ideas for my daughter.  It is way too easy to grab a bag or box of something.  Even when that something is marked "organic", if it is highly packaged, it probably has the nutritional value of paste.

My first attempt was the classic "ants-on-a-log" with peanut butter stuffed celery topped with raisins, craisins, or chocolate chips. My daughter loves peanut butter so I thought it would be a winner.  But I was wrong.  The first thing she said was, "I don't like celery."  And the complete lack of eating pretty much proved that to be a fact.  Too bad I didn't take a picture though, they came out rather lovely I thought.

So my second attempt was peanut butter on banana slices topped with chocolate chips along with some strawberries.  I thought these were super yummy.  My husband thought they were super yummy.  My daughter said, "I don't like bananas."  Sigh.

That is when I remembered that she really never did eat bananas. How does one forget this?  Even as an infant she would not touch baby food with banana in it.  On a rare occasion now she will have a few bites of banana but apparently this was not one of those days.

But if you have a normal child who likes normal kid food, either the ants-on-a-log or these peanut butter bananas should make a yummy and nutritious snack.  As for me, I will keep trying and let you know how it goes.

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Nourishing Meatloaf

When you think of meatloaf, you probably are not thinking so much about nourishment.  You are probably thinking of a basic meat and potatoes man-pleasing dinner.  And it certainly is that.  But with a little thought, meatloaf can be a surprising nourishing meal.

When it comes to food choices, I do not worry about sugar, calories, or fat grams. Instead I concern myself with nourishment.  Is what my family puts into our mouths nourishing us?  Is this giving us what we need to live in a strong and healthy way?  Is this actually food? 

I am paying attention to things I do not want to put into my body like chemically altered ingredients (shortening, margarine, any hydrogenated fat, sugar substitutes, etc.), preservatives, non-food food dyes, poison, and similar items. 

Nourishment involves eating actual food containing all the things your body needs and preferably none of the things your body doesn't need.  So back to the meatloaf.  My meatloaf recipe is not only nourishing, it also helps use up some of the summer garden abundance. 

I start with a selection of vegetables fresh from my garden in summer (and fresh from the grocery store or freezer in winter) and grains.
Barley and Kamut along with garden veggies add a large nutritional punch to the meatloaf
First the veggies are chopped and sautéed in a little olive oil.  I love my cast iron pan.

While the veggies cook, I boil the grains.  Grains cook like rice (not minute rice).  Generally 1 part grain to 2-2 1/2 parts water.  If you don't cook the grains before adding them to the meatloaf, someone might need a trip to the dentist.  One note, rolled oats (like the stuff in instant oatmeal) does not need to be precooked. Steel cut oats do need to be pre-cooked.  Rolled oats are already precooked (betcha didn't know that did you).

Any grains you have on hand will do including rice, oats, wheat, barley, and quinoa.  I chose to use Kamut wheat and hulled barley. 
Cooking the grains
While the veggies and grains cook, combine one pound of ground meat with two eggs.  I used ground beef but any ground meat will do.
Once the grains and veggies are cooked, add them to the meat and eggs.

There are times where I will puree the cooked vegetables before adding them in.  It tends to hid the presence of veggies.  My daughter is pretty good about eating her veggies but she goes through phases.  Personally I like to see the chunks of bright color in the mix.  You will also want to add some bread crumbs to help hold the meatloaf together.

At this point I add in any seasonings.  Usually I use a little salt and pepper, some catsup, Worchestershire sauce, and various herbs.  Sometimes I also add parmesan cheese for extra flavor.  But feel free to spice up (or down) the mixture to your own liking.

Mix everything up together real well.  You could use a stand mixer for this purpose but I just use my hands.  If you use your hands, be careful, the vegetables and grains could be hot.

Once everything is mixed together real well, shape the meatloaf.  I like to make individual loaves which cook faster than a bread pan full of meatloaf.  But the choice is yours.

Cook at 350 for about 40 minutes.
Ready for the plate
Here is the recipe in a more concise manner:

1 lb. ground meat
2 eggs
2 cups chopped vegetables (try onions, carrots, peas, bell peppers, green beans or any combination)
2 Tbls olive oil
1/2 cup uncooked grains (wheat, oats, rice, barley, quinoa, or any combination)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup catsup
2 Tbls Worchestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Add grains, stir, then cover.  Turn heat down to simmer and let cook for approximately 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, turn off heat, check to see if the grains need a small amount of extra water, recover sauce pan and let set for another 10 minutes.   

Into a heated skillet add the olive oil and chopped vegetables.  Sautee vegetables until soft.  Once soft you can puree the vegetables or not at your choice.

Put the ground meat, eggs, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, catsup, Worchestershire sauce, and salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl.  Add cooked grains and vegetables.  Mix well.  You can use your hands or a stand mixer.

Form into individual loaves and put on a rimmed pan for cooking. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes until internal temperature is 160 degrees.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Peas, Wonderful Peas

You may recall I have mentioned my pea vines here and there is another good photo of them here. The vines were tiny and just starting to climb.  But things have changed! 
Here are the peas next to a five year old.
We are growing an heirloom variety of shelling pea called Telephone Pole. They are supposed to grow about six feet.  The supports they are on are just a little less than five feet.  The vines have over grown the tops of the netting and are folding down on themselves on the other side of this wall of vines.  I think the vines have well exceeded the six foot mark and are working on about seven feet right now.  The Rain Barrels are behind and right next to the peas but you can't even seen the barrels over the vines any more. 
Look at 'em all.
And they are producing like crazy.  I haven't had an opportunity to really look over the garden this week with the Garage Sale going on.  But when I went out this morning the vines where covered with peas ready to go.  The picture above is our first harvest of peas.  Enough for several meals for our small family. My daughter helped me shell these peas.  She insisted on helping.  We may make a farmer out of her yet.  Don't tell her.  She wants to be a cowgirl. 

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Scape and Basil Pesto

Now that our Garage Sale is over, I can get back to blogging.  In the middle of the garage sale madness, our garlic put on their scapes.  A scape is a garlic flower bud.  If left on the plant the scape will blossom into a white allium type flower just like the Chive Blossoms. 
Garlic Scape
The scape is the curlicue part of the garlic plant pictured above.  Garlic cloves are a type of bulb, just like a tulip, well technically just like an onion but people are more familiar with tulips.  Scapes grow on hard necked varieties of garlic.  Hard neck garlic is generally grown in the north while most soft necked garlics are grown in warmer climates.

Garlic growers usually remove the garlic flower bud, the scape, before it opens.  This forces plant growth back into bulb production rather than into flower production.  And since we grow garlic for the blub, not the flower, I snap the scapes off my garlic too by just snapping the scape off the plant, usually just below the curlicue. 

Harvested Garlic Scapes

Usually we grow enough garlic to last until the next year's garlic crop.  However, a significant amount of our garlic did not survive our insane spring weather this year.  The weather kept vacillating between fifty degrees and twenty-five degrees.  Just as soon as the garlic, and most of the other bulbs in the garden including the tulips and hyacinths, started to grow there would be a hard freeze followed by growing weather and another hard freeze.   The picture above is the entire harvest of scapes.  Usually we have at least twenty times that amount.  If you don't grow garlic (which you should do because it is so easy) you can buy scapes at the farmer's market. 

But whether we have a little or a lot of scapes, we need to do something with them.  My favorite thing to do is to turn them into pesto.  If I had more scapes this year I would also have pickled some and used them fresh in cooking.

A traditional pesto recipe is:

2 cups basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

For a garlic scape pesto there are a variety of recipes.  Some using basil and some not.  The most basic garlic scape pesto recipe uses scapes in place of garlic cloves, from 1/2 cup to 1 cup of chopped scapes in place of the garlic cloves.  Scapes taste like garlic; surprise, surprise I know. 

But since I rarely follow a traditional recipes (and I never ever have pine nuts in my pantry), my scape and basil pesto recipe is:

1 - 2 cups chopped garlic scapes (20 - 30 scapes)
2 cups basil leaves (about two large fistfuls of fresh leaves)
1/2 - 1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

This recipe has a lot of bite to it.  I think the vinegar balances nicely with the spiciness.

To start, put whole (washed and dried) scapes into a food processer to chop coarsely. 

Chopped Scapes
Then add the basil on top and pulse several times.

Adding the basil to the chopped scapes

You may need to add the basil in small amounts.  This is especially true with my rather small food processer.  After a few additions of the basil, the green mixture no longer pulses well.  This is when I start adding the olive oil.  Drizzle some of the olive oil in along with each addition of basil and pulse a few times.  Once all the olive oil and basil is added, run the food processer until the mixture has the consistency of a thin paste.  You don't want to be able to see chunks of scape or basil.

Next I add in all the grated cheese, balsamic vinegar, and salt. 

Note, depending upon your taste you may want to add the vinegar in a little at a time to suit your own taste or skip it all together for a more traditional pesto.  I often add more than the 1/4 cup.

Another note, I grate my own cheese with a micro planer for pesto.  It is so much better tasting than the pre-grated stuff in the green can if you know what I mean.  And since pesto is not cooked, the flavor of each ingredient is very important.

Pulse the pesto until thoroughly mix.  Then taste test.  If the pesto is too spicy or sour for your liking, add more cheese.  Remember the Pecorino Romano is very salty.

Ready to Use
Most often I put pesto on cooked pasta.  But it also is great as a spread for sandwiches (try pesto with salami, gorgonzola, lettuce, and capers in a whole wheat wrap... trust me, try it).  It also is great on chicken!

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Friday, July 12, 2013

The Kiddie Pool

Most of the summer my five year old spends splashing about in her kiddie pool.  And each year as she gets bigger it seems we acquire a bigger pool to accommodate the splashing.

My husband hates to leave the pool out on the grass for more than a day or so because of the damage it does to the grass.  So more often than not we are draining water out of the pool in the evenings, over the grass, making a muddy swamp out of the lawn.

Then, in a blinding stroke of the obvious, it occurred to us that rather than just let the water run out where it really isn't needed, why not water the garden with the water instead. Duh! 

So now most summer evenings, you can see us lugging buckets of water around the yard, strategically watering the garden while emptying the pool.  The neighbors think we are nuts.  But they thought that before the bucket brigade so no harm done.  And the water is doing double duty, saving both water and money in the process.

But of course, now my husband wants to get a small water pump to eliminate the buckets.  We shall see.  Have a great day!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Garage Sale Musings

So my husband and I have been preparing to have a garage sale this week.  This is the first one we have had in nine years.  As you can imagine we have gathered a lot of stuff over the years.

The impetus for the sale was when our garage became partially filled with stuff that isn't even ours. Our neighbor sold his home and moved to a smaller place a couple of weeks ago.  It seems that all the items that he couldn't store at his new place moved into our garage.

So we starting looking around at the things we have shoved into storage over the years and realized we have way too much stuff.  And that got me thinking.

My first thought was 'Wow, we have really been blessed.'  And we have been and continue to be.  God has been gracious and generous with us.  We have never lacked anything. And for that I am constantly grateful and humbled. 

My second thought was 'Wow, look at all the money we spent.'  Seriously.  We pretty much have everything our daughter has owned for the first five years of her life.  All the clothes, all the equipment, everything.  And we also have an amazing array of other flotsam.  There is probably more than $10,000 worth of stuff in the garage right now.  And even if every last item sold we would only have about $1,000 to show for it.  UPDATE: We brought in just under $2,000 from the garage sale.  From what I have been told, that is a big deal.  Told ya I had a LOT of stuff.

This led me to my third thought, "Wow, what a waste.'  Now granted there are many baby related items we truly did need (or at least relied heavily upon); but there is also so much stuff that we thought was super cool at the time be bought it, that now is in the junk category.  It was a rather disheartening feeling that came over me. What gives?

And as often happens in my reflective moments, clarity came to me through the Word of God.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

It is interesting that my husband has been having the same thoughts.  The garage sale has made very real to us the Biblical truth that stuff is fleeting and that things cannot bring satisfaction. The only satisfaction in life can be found in a living relationship with the Living God.  Everything else is headed for a garage sale.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Strawberry Jam

It's that time of year!  My strawberries are finally ready to go and only a month late.  But this is certainly a better-late-than-never situation.  My little one eats her weight in peanut butter and jelly through out the year (she might eat her daddy's weight too).  So I make lots of strawberry jam for her PB&Js.

The strawberries we grow ourselves in a lower and upper bed.  This year each bed is producing well but the lower bed is out pacing the upper bed.  I tried making Strawberry Rocks this year to help cut down on the chipmunk nibbling. Click here to see my strawberry rock post. And it actually worked!  There still is some nibbling but nothing like the damage done last year.  So I heartily recommend the strawberry rock approach.
The first step in making strawberry jam is to acquire strawberries.  I love growing my own.  I know who has touched them, what has (or has not) been applied to them, and where they have been.  Essentially I know each strawberries' whole life story.  I like that.

Whether you grow your own, pick your own, buy store bought fresh or frozen, you are going to need between 10 to 12 cups of washed strawberries. 
Washed and ready to can
The next step is to hull the strawberries.  If you bought frozen strawberries, yours are already hulled and just need to defrost a bit. 

For fresh strawberries you need to remove the stem and inner core.  You can buy a fancy strawberry huller gadget, or use a pairing knife, but I just use my thumbnail.  I dig into the top of the strawberry with my thumbnail and gouge out the stem and core; not pretty but very effective. I also remove any bad spots that I do not want to make it into my jam.
Half way hulled
After the whole batch is hulled, the strawberries need to be crushed.  I just use a potato masher.  But you could just squish them with your hands (properly clean hands that is).
Ready to crush (or mash)

Crushing the strawberries with a potato masher

You want to end up with about 8 cups crushed hulled strawberries.  You do not need to obliterate the strawberries in this step.  They will do that themselves in the cooking process.

Next put your strawberries in a non-reactive pan.  Strawberries are rather acidic so you don't want to introduce odd flavors into the jam by making an unfortunate pan choice.  Into the pan with the 8 cups of crushed strawberries add 6 cups of sugar.  Remember we are essentially making a dessert here.  Stir it all together and you will get a mixture that looks like this.

Now put the pan on medium heat and let it cook without a lid.  You want to stir often.  Oh and do not walk away for very long .  The strawberries will boil up on you like a covered pan of pasta if you are not watching.

If you noticed, I did not act pectin to my jam.  You can add pectin to make the jam set faster and have a thicker consistency.  Instead I add a lot of slightly underripe strawberries which have a higher pectin concentration than the fully ripe strawberries (the recipes I have seen recommend using about 1/3 underripe strawberries).  I had to cook my strawberries for about an hour and a half to get them to gel stage. 
Cooked to gel stage
From the good folks at Ball jars there are three tests you can perform to ensure your strawberry jam made without the use of commercial pectin has reached the gel stage (these are their words, not mine... credit where credit is due).
1. Temperature Test Cook the soft spread until it reaches a temperature of 220°F, or 8°F above the boiling point of water. Measure the temperature of soft spreads with a candy or jelly thermometer. Always insert the thermometer vertically into the soft spread and ensure that it does not contact the surface of the pot.
2. Sheet Test Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread. Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally with edge down so that the syrup runs off the edge. As the mixture cooks, the drops will become heavier and will drop off the spoon separately but two at a time. When the two drops join together and “sheet” off the spoon, the gel stage haven reached.
3. Refrigerator Test Chill two or three small saucers in the freezer. Place a teaspoonful of soft spread on the chilled saucer and place in the freezer for 1 minute. Remove the saucer from the freezer and push the edge of the spread with your finger. A mixture that has reached the gel stage will be set, and the surface will wrinkle when the edge is pushed. Note: To prevent overcooking or scorching, remove the soft spread from the heat before performing this test.
If the test you performed shows that the gel stage has not been reached, return the mixture to the heat to cook for a few minutes longer, then retest the soft spread.

Once your jam has reached the gel stage you are ready to store the jam.  I choose to can my jam for long term storage (at least a year).  Excellent instructions for beginning canning can again be found here again from the good folks at Ball.  I will not turn this post into a full canning tutorial.  If you have never canned before, it is easy but must be done correctly or someone can die.  (Was that dramatic enough to make the point?)

First I sterilized my jars.  I did that by running them through the dishwasher while the strawberry jam was cooking down.  I took the hot jars from my dishwasher to be filled one at a time as needed.  More traditionally you boil the jars in your canner while the jam is cooking.  The key here is the jars need to be clean and very hot.

While the jam is cooking and the jars are heating I put the lids into a small pan to scald.  Scalding is basically heating the lids up so that the seal (that orange band around the edge) gets soft in preparation for sticking to the top of the glass jars.  Do not boil the lids, just simmer them a bit.
Lids scaled and ready to go

First jar filled
Each jar is filled with the jam leaving one quarter inch head space. Head space is the space between the top of the jam and the top of the jar.  You want the head space for the jam to expand while being processed. 
Lid goes on

Before the lids go on the jar, you need to wipe the rim of the jar clean to make sure there is no jam coming between the lid and the jar which can cause the seal to fail.  The lids are hot so I just this handy dandy little plastic wand with a magnet at the end called cleverly enough a lid lifter to take the hot lids out of the hot water and place them on the jar. Once the lids are in place I add the screw band just finger tight.  Do try to crush the lid on with the band that will cause the seal between the lid and the jar to fail.
Into the boiling water bath canner
Once all sealed up, I use my handy dandy jar lifter (another catchy name) to put the jars into the boiling water canner.  The canner is just a big pot big enough to fit my canning rack.  I use a canning rack to keep the jars from sitting on the bottom of the pan.   
Jars ready to process
Once all the jars in are place, make sure there is about an inch of water over the top of the jars.  Put a lid on the canner and turn up the heat to get a vigorous boil.  Once boiling, set a timer for ten minutes.  Leave the lid on an wait.  Don't mess with the heat, just let it boil like crazy.

After ten minutes is over, remove the lid, turn off the heat and set the timer for another five minutes.  When the five minutes is over, remove the jars with the can lifter.  Do not tip the jars or even dry them off.  Just set them on a towel or a trivet in a corner of your kitchen where they will not be disturbed.  Cover the jars with a towel to keep a draft off of them while they cool.  Leave them alone to cool over night (or at least 5 or 6 hours).  The jars will make a popping sound as they cool.  That is normal.  Once cooled, check to make sure each jar sealed properly.  The lid will be indented into the jar because a vacuum seal has been made.  You should be able to get the screw band off with your fingers but should not be able to pry off the lid with your fingers.  If you can get the lid off with your fingers, the jar did not seal properly and either needs to be reprocessed with a new lid, or it can just be put into the refrigerator and used.  After the jars are completely cooled, I write the date on the lid and put into storage for another day.

Strawberry jam is very easy to make even though it takes some time.  But the time is worth it!

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