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Posts Tagged ‘canning’

Last week, middle Georgia got it’s first frost of the season, when the temperatures dipped down to the high-20’s and all the plants shuddered and drooped in the chill. This was my first experience with the seasonal urgency to get in as much produce from the garden as possible before the sun set. Grandpa had three 150-ft rows planted of the prettiest peppers you ever did see: sweet peppers, hot peppers, and hurt-you-where-you-live hot-hot-hottest peppers. But the frost coming would be a killing cold, and so we picked for two days in a row, right up until the sun set and we couldn’t see to pick anymore. In the end, we salvaged about 12 bushel-baskets of peppers.

Now, peppers, once picked, don’t last long on the counter top, but they are too good to waste. I took a bushel home with me, and proceeded to (once-again) make pepper-jelly. This time, I used one cup of bell peppers, and a half-cup of hungarian wax with a half-cup of jalapenos, attempting a bit more heat than the last batch. I am happy to report that all went well, now that the Great Pectin-mystery of ’07 is put to rest.

So, on Saturday, I set out 6 jars of fresh and perfect jelly on my grandfather’s vegetable stand. And they all sold! In fact, folks were calling others on their cell phones to tell them that they’d found homemade pepper-jelly and would they like some, too! I couldn’t believe they were selling, especially at my ridiculous asking price of $4 per 8 oz jar.

After figuring out my expenses, I’ve determined that the first three jars covered my initial investment in jars, pectin, and sugar, but the last three jars were PURE PROFIT. Yep, that’s $12 in pepper-jelly profit that I don’t have to report to the IRS.

Shoot…..when you add that to the $10 I made in green bean sales this summer, I’m fairly rolling in the garden money!

[See, if I put an exclamation point after saying something silly like that, it gives it emphasis, and hence, credibility, right?]

So buckle-up, Drummer Boy! We’re cruising along on the high-finance highway of home-produced……..produce. Where will this take us next: Pepper sauce? Pepper relish? Pickled peppers? The plethora of pepper possibilities pose potential profit!

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Damn pectin heads…

So, in my many new adventures in life, I have (tried) to take up canning. Afterall, it seems such a natural extension of gardening. Anyhow, this summer, I made 12 quarts of fig soup. It was supposed to be fig jam, but it didn’t set. Oh well, it makes a great sauce for poundcake and icecream.

Last night, I made 5 quarts of hot pepper soup. Now see, that’s a problem, because hot pepper sauce doesn’t really go well with either poundcake or ice cream. And besides, I followed the directions as written. It should have set! I didn’t mess with the proportions or the timings!

All the recipes say, “add one botle of Certo liquid pectin”, both the old recipes passed down from my great-grandmother and the new tested recipes from the Georgia Agricultural extention.

Here’s the catch: Certo doesn’t come in bottles anymore. It comes in packets, like the gooey cheese sauce in the boxed mac and cheese. Two packages to a box. I like to think I’m a reasonable person, and so I like to assume that others are two, especially the good folks at the Kraft Food corporation. Therefore, I assumed that one package was the equal of one bottle.

Wrong. In my frustration today, I called the Kraft Food customer service line and said, “Look, none of my jelly sets, and I’m following the directions. Yes, I’m following the directions exactly. Yes, timing and ingredients. Look, I’m a freakin’ instructional technologist and doctoral candidate, I know how to read AND follow directions, so what gives with the pectin?” [Okay, maybe I just wanted to say that last bit out loud, but I’m sure it was expressed adequately in the tone of my voice.]

Guess what: two packages of pectin is the equivalent of the formerly mentioned defunct bottle. So, essentially, I’ve only been adding half the necessary pectin to make it gel.

No, it’s not mentioned on the box anywhere. It’s not mentioned on their website. It’s not mentioned anywhere! How many jars of delicious jelly were senselessly ruined by the lack of such important information???

Okay, maybe that’s a pretty mundane topic for a blog posting, but hey, YOU spend three hours one evening cutting peppers and sterilizing jars, only to find out you’ve been doing it wrong despite your best attempts to do it right, and then spend two hours the following night remaking the jelly, and you’ll find it’s heavy on your mind, too.

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