Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bold choice in my quest for jelly

So I "have to" deal with these delicious looking muskadines and scuppoernongs. It is time to make jelly. All I need are the berries, jars, pectin and sweetener. So my grocery envelope has 55 cents left and I have no pectin to make the jelly "gel."

What I do have is beef gelatin from my marshmallow experiment (part one, part two and part three). aside: I do believe I will be trying those again with honey this winter. Unfortunately I read online that animal based products lead to spoiling. Alas - but then I remembered... I bought agar powder! Agar is a red algae vegetarian substitute for gelatin. Now technically I need pectin, not gelatin. But I figure if the only reason not to use gelatin is the meat content - then I should be safe to use agar. Does my logic make sense?

So since there is no other website that I can find that has documented this much less gives the quantities - this will be an experiment in the highest degree. So I'm going to take you along the journey and see what happens....

12:15 p.m. Put Faith to nap and them wash all the berries.
12:20 p.m. Realize kitchen is in no shape to produce food - decide to clean kitchen first ;-)

12:40 p.m. Much better. Twenty minutes to clean and I even fielded a phone call about the caterer for our fundraiser dinner. Here's my Gracie washing the berries and removing (many of) the stems. :-)

1:45 p.m. Muskadines and Scuppernongs are lightly boiling, started cracking the peels and smelling quite lovely. Discovered that okra in fridge was getting desperate too - so cut and frying that right now as well.

1:50 p.m. Looked over some writing work and cranked up Explode the Code online for Gracie. Strained the juice through a colander, then through a lightweight cloth (from my cheese experiments). Set the juice to simmer for about half an hour. Feeling weak, realized I fed children and never ate. Well, looks like the okra will make a fine lunch ;-)

2:30 p.m. Added agar power, 2ish cups of grape juice and a half a cup of honey to sweeten. I kept adding agar power until I put a spoon in the fridge and it jelled! I have no idea how much I put in. Probably a couple of tablespoons? Stirred it in with a whisk (one of my favorite kitchen tools).

3:00 p.m. Boiled water in my stock pot to sterilize and proof the jelly.

3:30 p.m. Realized that full quart jars cannot fit with an inch of water boiling over the top of them. Perhaps should have bought pint jars, but I'm low on funds til Friday and couldn't go out anyway - Faith sleeping.

3:40 p.m. Water boiling - barely meeting the top of the lid. Hoping for the best. Realize I do not have a jar lifter. Called our neighbors to see if they had one, but they weren't home. Sterilizing the jars was already a little tricky using towels and hot mitts.

Catching you up - after they lightly boiled for 15 minutes, I removed them from the heat and very carefully lifted them out onto a towel. Babysitter arrived and we left for a staff social. When we arrived home I checked the jars.

They gelled and they sealed! If they actually taste good I will have reached the pinnacle goal of my afternoon (including finding a great price for food for our fundraiser dinner LOL). I'm going to save the taste test for tomorrow morning on my toast. I am pretty sure it tastes good though - I did some sampling to adjust for the desired sweetness. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Challenge for Natural Sweeteners

This week at the market, I was so excited that my "bag of CSA goodies" included both muskadines (right) and scuppernongs (left). If you not from the deep south, you may have no clue of the deliciousness of these wood grown wild grapes.

So here's the challenge - my favorite way to consume them is in the form of JELLY! But we gave up sugar - agh! So I am on a search to try to discover if it is possible (and etible) to make either unsweetened jelly or honey-sweetened jelly. I know I have some beef gelatin from my marshmallow experiments (saga part one, part two and part three). So join me (advise me ;-)) as I pursue another hilarious experiment in food preparation. BTW yogurt making with photos coming soon!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Moving with a Natural Twist

Well, I am so excited to tell you that we are about to become homeowners! We've been renting over 3 years and because our current residence is slated to become a parking lot - we feel like it's a good time to move LOL.

Through a series of ways that only Christ could direct - we are planning to purchase a house across the street. So you will likely be invited to the journey of moving and decorating with a natural twist. I'm already recycling ;-) We're using boxes that would have been thrown out from a restoration company.

Because this semester is already delightfully busy (yes - delightfully, I really mean it), I want to pace myself in the process. I have not made any graham crackers, cheese or breakfast cookies lately. I am making yogurt and of course the required food for maintaining a husband and & two little monkeys.

To keep a steady pace of life (or maybe to try to achieve one), I'm packing five boxes per day. We will be moving sometime between Oct 1 and 20th. There are a few factors in that- I won't bore you. Anyway - there are boxes stacked high already and as soon as the camera batteries are recharged - you will have a photo to see for yourself.