Canning jam can be a dangerous habit

Friday, Aug. 10, 2018 4:12 PM

It's that time of year for unsuspecting landowners.

I will show up at your place, bang on your door, and ask to pick fruit off trees or bushes in exchange for a jar of jam.

It's also when my kids don't want to pick up my phone calls, because I'm offering bribes if they'll pick me a gallon of chokecherries. If bribes don't work, I used to be able to threaten bodily harm, but now that both of my boys are bigger than I am, that's not as effective as it used to be.

I do my best not to swerve off roads as I'm gawking at cherries, grapes, apricots, apples, and those wonderful chokecherries.

Chokecherry jelly and syrup are my favorites.

I usually don't make jelly because it's too much darned work to cook the fruit, run it through my processor, cook it again, then jar it up. I prefer jam - mash the fruit up, cook it with the sugar and pectin, put it in a jar and process it in the hot water canner, and you're done.

Work-wise, applesauce and pear butter are right in between the relative ease of making jam, and the hard work of jelly. You have to cook it and grind them up, then warm them up again, but it doesn't require as much cooking that second time around as jelly.

I used to mash my chokecherries through a sieve, then you're supposed to strain it, but I didn't do that because I hated the extra step. It was a huge mess and a lot of work, and even after I mashed and mashed with a wooden pestle, then a spoon, I wasn't sure if I was getting all that juice out.

My life changed dramatically for the better two years ago when my mom gave me a Squeezo for my birthday and Christmas.

A Squeezo is a big, hand-cranked grinder for berries, tomatoes and pumpkins, and it grinds through chokecherries like nobody's business. Chokes are a big pain because they have a large pit inside. And as the name implies, they're not sweet, so jelly cooks have to get rid of that pulp, get out as much juice as they can, and add the sugar and pectin to get the jelly made.

Cranking those pits out one end and getting juice down the chute is an awesome improvement. It's also sped up the applesauce and pear butter process, as well. After last year's disastrous June freeze, my canning friends and are excited to have fruit back this year.

There will be some gorgeous jams and jellies on display this weekend at the La Plata County Fair, along with some beautiful vegetables, woodwork, photographs, and our hard-working 4-H kids showing the animals they've been raising all year. I'm always impressed by the sewing, knitting and quilting, because I'm not good at any of those. After making jam, my domestic talents pretty much sputter out.

The performance tonight at the fair by Sundance Head promises to be a spectacular show, as well.

See you at the fair, and thanks for reading.