Triple Berry Jam


I’ve decided to celebrate Independence Day this year by breaking free!!!…

…of pectin, that is.

As long as I can remember, I’ve equated summertime with homemade jam.  I’ve also always equated homemade jam with Sure-Jell.  In fact, I felt I could never create the perfect jam without it.

However, after producing a few bland batches last summer, I began to wonder if there was a better recipe out there.  A recipe that would render the bright, rich jam I was striving for.

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So with a little bit of research, I stumbled upon a great blog called Northwest Edible.  Erica’s tutorial on pectin-free jam was so informative and inspiring that I couldn’t wait to round up some fresh fruit and get started.

Since the berries were especially fresh and fragrant (and on sale) this season, I decided my first pectin-free experiment would be a triple berry jam of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

The results?

Wow.  Just…wow.  The flavors were deeper, the color richer, the texture more velvety.

But my most favorite part about the recipe was that I didn’t have to stress about how much of this or that I needed to add or at what specific times I needed to add them.

Instead, I was free to taste and tweak as much as I needed in order to transform my bowl of berries into the perfect batch of jam.

So if summertime means homemade jam for you, here’s the recipe in case you want to break free of pectin, too!

Pectin-Free Triple Berry Jam

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Makes 5 8-ounce jars

You will need:

*2 pounds+ fresh berries (I used 6 lbs of fruit: 2 lbs strawberries, 2 lbs blueberries and 2 lbs raspberries)

*1 gently rounded 1/2 cup of granulated sugar per 2 pounds of fruit

*1 Tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice per 2 pounds fruit

Step #1: “Marinate” the berries

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Dump fruit into a large, non-reactive bowl (no metal or aluminum).

Toss fruit with sugar until well combined.

Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.  Allow berries to macerate for up to 24 hours.

Step #2: Cook the Jam

First, prepare a water bath by filling a large canning pot halfway with water and allowing it to come to a full boil over high heat while you cook the jam.

Second, sterilize your jars in either the dishwasher steam setting or by placing them in a container of boiling hot water.  Leave jars in water until it is time to process the jam.

To cook the jam, pour the macerated berries into a large saucepan.  For larger batches, divide the fruit between two sauce pans.

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Cook berries over medium-high heat until fruit is tender but not falling apart.

At this point, add lemon juice.

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Mash fruit with a potato masher or use an immersion blender depending on how you prefer the texture of your jam.  (I prefer large bites of fruit in mine.)

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Continue to cook the berries until thickened (about 50 minutes), stirring frequently to prevent burning.

Once the jam starts to thicken, test the jam for readiness by ladling a small amount on a cold plate.

Allow jam to cool a few seconds and then run your finger down the middle of it.

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If the jam stays separated and doesn’t run together quickly, it’s soft-spoon ready.  (If you prefer firmer jam, cook for another 10 minutes and test again.)

Step #3: Adjust the Flavors

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Take a bite of the jam you just tested.

Does it need more sugar?  Stir in a couple tablespoons of sugar to the batch and taste again.

Is the jam tart to your liking?  Stir in just a teaspoon of lemon juice to the batch and taste again.

*Remember: It’s better to add smaller amounts of sugar and lemon juice than larger ones!*

For more ideas on flavor combinations, follow the Northwest Edible link above.

Step #4: Process the Jam

Keeping jam over a low simmer, fill hot, sterile jars with jams and wipe the rims thoroughly with a clean, damp, lint-free rag.

Place an unused canning lid firmly on top of the jar, and screw on a canning band to finger tightness.

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Place jars in boiling water, cover the pot and process the jars at a full rolling boil for 10 minutes.

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Remove jars and allow to cool before storing in a cool, dry place.  Will stay at peak flavor for up to a year.

Store opened jars (or jars that have not sealed all the way) in the refrigerator for 1-3 months.

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Here’s to freedom and the best jam you’ve ever made!

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To see more Celebrate Summer ideas, check out this fun collection of projects and recipes from my other Blog-Hop buddies!

Patriotic Popcorn & Decor

by Simply Domestic Blog

A Patriotic Star Garland

by A Bright and Beautiful Life

DIY 4th of July Wreath

by Live Like Grace

Canada Day Sweets Buffet

by Red Cottage Chronicles

Red, White and Blue Ribbon Garland

by Create & Babble

Being Where You Are


Your big opportunity may be right where you are now. -Napoleon Hill

Imagine how much different life would look if you believed in this statement!

Would you wake up each day more hopeful?  Would you feel lighter; more content?

Ever since we got back from our lovely, lovely trip to Maine this past September, I’ve been struggling to be where I am.  Thoughts like “Is Clyde the best we can do?” and “Are better opportunities waiting for us somewhere else?” have all but made me want to quit making improvements on our house, working in our garden, even engaging in our community.

However, a few weeks ago, while lying awake at night, I decided to make an evaluation on what life was really like where we were.

“Let’s see,” I pondered, “We have great friends and connections, friendly neighbors, we have a place in the community, we are close to family, we have a neat house with a big yard, the cost of living here is low…”

Though I didn’t want to admit it, life sounded good.  And my evaluation made me wonder:

If your life isn’t broken, then why try to fix it?

After all, even though Clyde is not near the beach or the forest or even an IKEA, it is a place where good things have happened and are happening and will happen.

And no matter where Dave and I wind up, this week’s inspiring post from The Nester still applies:

Print by Lara Casey

Print by Lara Casey

Despite having a good life, it only took me one week to become totally discontent with it.

On the bright side, it only took me nine months to get that contentment back.

I mean, I won’t say that I’ll never look on New England with longing again, but I can’t afford to let greener grass stop me from being where I am and doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

How about you?

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P.S.

Thanks to my friend Rachel for sharing and inspiring me with Hill’s lovely quote.

Fast and Fresh Fajita Salad


It’s almost summer and it’s hot. Who wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen?

Since we do not have central air-conditioning, my summer cooking has to be light and fast (for the sake of my sanity!).

Consequently, my go-to summer dishes are mostly salads.  This Chicken Fajita Salad is a favorite because it’s fresh, fast and, best of all, FILLING!

Chicken Fajita Salad

Let’s make this short and sweet, shall we?

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Serve fajita mixture over lettuce and top with whatever you like!

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Other good choices also include: Black Beans, Fresh Corn, Olives, Jalapeños, Tortilla Strips

Here’s to summer and simple summer cooking!

Have any great salad ideas to share?  I might need them!  🙂

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Chicken Fajita Recipe

Serves 4

*2 Tablespoons olive oil

*12 ounces uncooked chicken breast, sliced 1/2″ thick

*1 red bell pepper, julienned

*1 large clove of garlic, minced

*1 large green bell pepper, julienned

*1 large red bell pepper, julienned

*1 medium yellow onion, sliced

*1 Tablespoon chili powder

*1 teaspoon cumin

*1 teaspoon salt

*A few dashes of Liquid Smoke

*Pinch of red pepper flakes

*Juice of 1 lime

In a large wok or skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the chicken and minced garlic and season with the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper flakes and Liquid Smoke.  Cook on one side for a minute.  Stir chicken around and cook another couple minutes until full cooked.  Transfer chicken to a large bowl.

In the same skillet, heat another Tablespoon of oil until hot.  Add peppers and onions and cook one minute without stirring.  After a minute, stir the veggies and allow to cook again without stirring.  (This will allow the veggies time to caramelize slightly.)  Cook to desired tenderness (3-5 minutes).  Add veggies to the chicken.

Toss chicken, peppers and onions with the juice of one lime.  Serve over greens or in warm flour tortillas.

The Very Important Paper Sack


For the past two months, this paper sack has occupied the corner of our bedroom.

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I’d gladly toss the thing out, but this extra large fast food carry-out bag holds precious contents.

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If you’ve ever owned a cat, then you know that they treasure:

  • paper
  • caves
  • any paper that can be used as a cave

Exposed rump aside, Baby Girl thinks she’s invisible right now so pretend you can’t see her.

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Paper bags also transform cats into ninja’s, so be prepared for an attack.

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Once a paper sack enters our house, it takes roughly two days to go from perky to disheveled thanks to multiple pouncings and rounds of “Choo-Choo Train.”  (A game where Baby Girl jumps into the bag and I pull her around the room hooting and hollering like a locomotive.)

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However, despite its torn sides and missing handles, this sack is not refuse yet.

No, sir!

Not by a long shot!

Now it can finish out its days as a:

  • lounging medium
  • cave
  • bunker
  • fort
  • slip’n’slide
  • strong hold
  • best friend

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Or maybe I should just order out from Jason’s Deli again…

Does YOUR cat have a similar fetish?  🙂

The Brodiño


Shhhh.

Proceed quietly, please.

Musn’t disturb Brody while he’s in his brodiño.

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What is a “brodiño,” you ask?

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It’s a word I made up that means “cat blanket cave.”

One day, while humming a old Mexican tune, I spotted Brody in his encasement and the word just popped out of my mouth.

(Around our house, cat-related [non] words are added to our vocabulary on a regular basis.)

We have found that Brody LOVES being under cover.  He’ll tunnel his way into the folds of his favorite mangy blanket and stay there for hours at a time.

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While in his brodiño, Brody likes to purr and knead and ponder the meaning of life.

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Pretty soon though, it will be too warm for a cat blanket cave.

Honestly, I am more than ready to rid our den of this eyesore of a blank—

“Ok, that’s enough!  You’ve lingered too long.  Go find your own brodiño and leave me in peace!”

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Oops.

Sorry Brody.

Well, you heard him.

Scram.  🙂

What are some words in your family’s cat vocabulary?

Dear Momma


Dear Momma,

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Thank you for teaching me that fresh cucumber slices refresh the skin.

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And thank you for everything else that makes you my Momma:

Like sewing our Easter dresses when we were young.

And making homemade bread and apricot-pineapple jam.

For growing tomatoes and sunflowers.

For your eagerness to laugh.

For your industriousness.

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Thank you for blueberry muffin breakfasts on the front porch.

For feeding the hummingbirds.

For your gentle direction.

For your company and conversation.

We love you so much, Momma.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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