Dancing with the Jars

Jars are the stars,
Stay outta your cars,
’cause the fruit’s
the big loot. 
Just put your ink on the label, 
There’ll be food on the table.
Oh baby, I’m dancin’ with jars
’cause jars are the stars.

Okay, so rap isn’t my calling.  But jammin’ sure is, and this week I’m happily taking inventory, counting jars and lids, ordering pectin, and getting psyched.  There’s no such thing as too much jam.

Huge 104 glass jar herd, right out of Jarasic Park.

My Twenty Something son has helped me can fruit numerous times, voluntarily.  We also sometimes make bread together when he is around.  He is a calming soul in the kitchen just as he is on the Ultimate Frisbee field, which is his preferred territory.  This past weekend I watched him play in the National Championships.  After I got over the thrill of seeing him live on my computer screen (thank you CBS Sports), I basked in the language of the Land of Ultimate.  The frisbee is the disc, and you can huck, pull, cut, flick, hammer, grab or dump it, but never diss it by spiking it.

 Likewise, canning has its language, and we know the parts.  Jars, lids, rings, funnels, jar lifters and grips, and the magnetic lid wand.  The beautiful glass jars, molded with diamonds and fruit shapes and classic Ball and Kerr logos, can be wide-mouth or regular mouth; and quart, pint, 3/4 pint, and half pint in size.

You can seal them with lids, which are single-use, available at grocery stores for 20-25 cents each (12 regular mouth for $2.50).  You can also seal jam with wax, but I haven’t done that in decades.  The metal rings are just to keep the lids in place during processing, and later for protection.  I have a huge box full of them.  Once the jar is opened, I throw the lid away and use nifty storage caps.

Here's my jar system. Also pictured is the 1 pound plastic bag of pectin (thickens the jam) I ordered this year for $50 -- Pomana's Universal Pectin. It can be used with any or no sweetener, keeps forever, uses just a couple teaspoons per batch and should be a lot less expensive than all those little $3 boxes per batch.

People have returned jars to me from cross-country trips, packing them with their socks.  Most of these are jam jars, but I also give away other soups de’ jars — fruits in syrup, tomato sauce, spiced cabbage and pickles.  I don’t have a pressure canner, which is for less acidic vegetables.  Straight tomato sauce with no other veggies is acidic enough, though, to use my regular old, inexpensive 21-quart water-bath canner.
I also dry tomatoes in my dehydrator and then mash them down into plain old recycled jars with olive oil and spices and voila!  Sun-dried tomatoes which keep on the shelf just fine.  I make pesto, too, to go with the sun-dried tomatoes on pasta all year-long, and I freeze those jars.  This year, I’ll get the basil for that pesto from the finished hoop house!

The whole thing came in at $600, and there's 330 sq. feet of ground and lots of hanging space. It's like the Amazon in there. I'm going to try those Topsy Turvys for tomatoes. I planted a lot of little seeds: basil, spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, kale, and two kinds of flowers, zinnias and poppies.

The white labeling stakes are from 1/4" thick plastic sheet remnants we got in the remnant barrel at Ace Hardware. The Bearded One cut the 2"x10" pieces on the table saw and I reuse them every year. Usually the indelible ink fades by the end of the season, but it also scrapes clean with an SOS pad.

The Bearded One and I installed the plastic together, in between watching Ultimate Frisbee games.  The whole time I imagined our son watching us from the sidelines and describing the action: “He cuts the plastic with a nice breaking flick.  He dumps the little trimming.  Cuts again, this time a big one.   He hucks it downfield!  Mom comes down on the floaty plastic.  She goes to the inside and rolls the edges.  The Bearded One, on the outside, places the lath and hammers it.  Good job, you guys.  A nice, clean game.”


6 responses to “Dancing with the Jars

  1. Christine Widman

    You’re my sunrise read today. Much more “enlightening” than my on-line NYTimes.
    My morning treat – eating your jam on toast to the early birdsong of dove and quail.
    I’m beginning an airfare search for a NW summer trip so some of your little jewel like jar jams will be tucked into my suitcase. I’m sure they will be starry eyed with joy to return to their jam jar family.

  2. kathie prater

    Jammin with Christie, was my afternoon treat, Now I wish I could come to your house to eat! The conversation too, I’m sure would be fun, my dear friend, and the bearded one! Thursdays come now with much anticipation, I think I’m a member of the “Farmlet” nation. Here in Ohio, things are not so great, a scandal is brewing at Ohio State, I’m tired of people bemoaning the coach, when he behaved like a cockroach, this wonderful issue is a breath of fresh air….the only way to improve it, is if I was there! I would love to be there among the green, with the bearded one and the lovely Christie Killien! Looking so forward to next weeks post. Your blog is the one I love the most……Sending hugs and happiness!!! 🙂

    • Ha! Kathie the Rapper, my sister from another mister! I’ll be sending you some strawberry jam as soon as the berries ripen. Happy Birthday yesterday to Andrew, too!

  3. Love the garden, the cat, the herbs, the jars and your lovely face. Stumbled upon you while looking for a picture of jars, imagine. God moves in mysterious ways. A very nice blog!

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