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Archive for July, 2012

I wanted to make some jam that wasn’t sickeningly sweet and highlighted the fruit flavor better.  I tried to modify a no-pectin strawberry jam recipe with less sugar, but came out disappointed.  The flavor was good (and for no-pectin jam, the recipe I used was here, and it worked great to separate the juice from the berries to prevent scorching and add back some fresh flavor.)  But you really need more sugar.  I cooked and cooked and cooked that jam, was careful to watch my temperatures, did test plates to check the gel in the freezer, and only after a significant amount of cook time did I get it to thicken enough to be tolerable (read:  it’s still runnier than I would have liked- and won’t work well for PB&J to travel, but it’s still yummy jam!)  That long cook time also significantly decreased my yield- I expected I’d get 12 pints and I ended up with 7.  Needless to say, don’t skimp on the sugar if you make this no-pectin version!)

I ran across Pomona’s universal pectin and decided I’d order some and give it a try.  There’s nothing like hours over a vat of strawberry jam to kick the DIY cheaper out of you…

My mom has been picking her blueberries and red raspberries and always gives me a bunch (Thanks mom!).  I’d gotten some strawberries and threw them in the freezer so I’d be ready when I got my pectin, so triple berry jam seemed a great place to start.  I picked a few wild black raspberries, red raspberries, and a handful of the first to ripen blackberries, so really it’s more of a 5 berry jam, but that’s beside the point.

I read the directions carefully- although it seems hard to mess up, I didn’t want to end up ruining my jam (although it sounds as if it’s easy to fix if it’s too stiff or too runny).

It says you can double or triple your recipe- something you don’t dare do with normal pectin.  So I did.

I did a double batch first.  I mixed up the calcium water and set it aside.  8 cups of mixed mashed berries, 4t calcium water, and 1/4 c lemon juice (only part of my berries needed lemon juice added) went into the pot and I heated it to boiling.  I added 1/2 c sugar, too, to help get the juices flowing from the strawberries.

Then the sugar and pectin is added.  (You can also use honey or other sweeteners- The pectin is activated by the calcium water, not the sugar).  I mixed 4 teaspoons pectin into 2 cups of sugar, then added it to the pot and stirred.  So my total sugar added for 8 cups of berries was only 2 1/2 cups.  Normal pectin would have required 8 or more cups!  The recipe guide on the little paper suggested 4 cups, but your sweetener choice and quantity (if any) is completely up to you!

I brought it back to a boil, then ladled it into my jars and processed it in a hot water bath.  My yield from the double batch was 4 1/2 pints.

SInce that went so quickly and easily, I whipped up another batch, tripled this time.  Same process as above.  I added a touch more lemon juice for flavor and a bit more sugar just to see if there was much difference.  This yielded 6 1/2 pints.  So I’ve got 10 pints of jam for the shelf and 1 in the fridge (I jus mixed my 2 half pints together).

Easy, delicious, and great real berry flavor!  Not to mention I saved money by using only a fraction of the sugar I would have on jam with normal pectin…

And for a price break-down:  If you can’t get it locally, you can buy pomona’s online here (shipping costs included).  I about fell out of my chair seeing the price was $6 a box, but that box makes several batches of jam, so I think the price evens out fairly well.  It also drops in price if you buy in bulk quantities, and it supposedly will not go bad over time- so you don’t have to worry about if your pectin is too old to set your jam anymore.  Add to that the savings from not having to add as much sugar, and I think I’m making in cheaper now than before, not to mention being healthier and tastier!

Since making the triple berry, I’ve moved on to plain raspberry, blueberry, blueberry raspberry, and strawberry.  Each batch has been completely successful with perfect texture, no picky treatment required, and all have been triple or quadruple batches.

33 pint jars of jam on the shelf so far this year, plus we’ve enjoyed some in the fridge.  So far, I think it’s well worth trying!  It seems to be a very flexible pectin (not texture, but use).

*I have no connection to pomona’s and I’m not being paid or reimbursed in any way to write about it.  I just tried and liked the product and thought I’d share.

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So if you’ve been in the stores, the back to school sales are starting.  That meant spiral notebooks were $0.17 each (half the price of filler paper, if you’re a comparison shopper).

I picked up quite a few, since even though I don’t have any kids in school yet, they’re pretty handy (and I know I’ll need them someday).

I was just thinking about a new journal, and thought I’d try a notebook refashion of sorts instead of starting from scratch with copy paper, sewing the little booklets together, binding it, and the whole bit (although I love the process and am extremely thankful for 8th grade studio art with Mr. Wolfe to learn to make them.  I’ve made dozens in various forms since!)

Here’s a shortened version, utilizing the spiral of the notebook to replace the binding process.  The cloth covering remains much the same as I first learned it.

First, cut your spiral notebook in half.  Mine was 5 1/4″ to center.  I used a utility knife and cut through as far as I could, flipped open what was cut, and repeated until the paper was in 2 pieces.  DON’T cut the wire.

   

Next, pull out the spiral.  you’ll have to un-bend the end of the wire so that it will twist out.  Keep twisting until it is completely out of both sides.

      

The little holes the spiral goes through need to line up on your two halves.  Hopefully when you cut your notebook in half, the cut landed in the middle of a hole, or exactly between two holes.  If it didn’t for some reason, the two halves will have to sit a little bit overlapped.  Stack the paper together (holes lined up) as well as the front cover and the back cover.  You don’t HAVE to keep both of the cover pieces, but it makes for a sturdier cover.

Glue the two fronts together- ensuring those little spiral binding holes line up.  Repeat with the back two cover pieces.  When you glue, spread the glue on, then smooth to fully cover to the edges and all spaces between with your finger or a paintbrush.

  

Weight the pieces down to dry a bit-or fully if you’re patient or have lots of other projects between steps.

Find your fabric.  Most will work, but particularly thin fabric will be prone to shiny spots of dried glue leak-through, and particularly thick fabric can be hard to manage at the corners.  Set your covers on the fabric, leaving a gap a bit bigger than the thickness of your paper stack between the two (NOTE:  if you want the spiral to show outside of the fabric when you’re done, don’t leave quite as big of a gap here).   Trim the fabric leaving about an inch around the outside of the cover.  For a more intense refashion project, pick an old shirt, dress, skirt, pants, or other fabric item and repurpose the fabric.

  

Glue the covers.  I left the very top where the binding holes are free of glue, but if the spiral will be showing outside, this is unnecessary.  If you’re hiding the spiral, leave the top free of glue.  Remember to spread the glue thin and even.  Splotches of glue will leak through the fabric and make shiny dark spots on the outside (and will knock you some points for the grade on your finished book if you’re making these for a class!)  Weight to press and let it dry a bit.

  

Now for corners.  spread a little glue in the corner of each end.  Pull the corner of the fabric in overtop of the notebook corner.  Press.

  

Then the edges.  Spread glue between the corners (not on the fabric in between the two notebook covers).  Weight the cover again and let it set a bit.

While you wait for things to press (any stage above) you can work on the inside cover plates.  You’ll cut 2 pieces of paper 1/4-1/2 inch smaller in dimension than your notebook pieces.  Mine was 5 1/4″ x 8″, so I made my cover plates 5″x 7 1/4″.  Decorate or leave it plain. use fancy paper if you like.  This can be glued on before or after you do the binding (below).  If it’s particularly nice paper, you may want to wait until after to prevent any damage to the paper while you fight with the binding wire.  Everything just gets handled a lot in the process.

Now to bind it all back together.  There’s two options- one is to let the spiral show outside of the fabric.  The other is to hide the spiral under the fabric.  Hiding is a bit trickier and pickier, but if you like, it, it’s worth it.

Directions are the same for both with a few exceptions- details at the end for the hidden spiral.

First, stack your inside pieces of paper on the cover (turned inside out).  Make sure the holes line up again- you may have to feel for them through the fabric.  The 3 hole punch will be easy to feel, and if you cut a spiral binding hole in half, that edge is easy to feel, even though it’s hidden under the fabric.

We increased the thickness of the book, so the spiral binding will need to be made a little larger.  That’s why it was important not to cut the wire when we cut the notebook in half.  (Obviously, you can also make two of these little books, skip glueing the cover pieces together, make two covers, and leave the spiral normal size, just cut in two equal portions).

If you hold both ends and twist in from both sides, it will force the wire to expand a bit.  It will need to be done in small sections (a couple inches at a time) and may not bend into a perfectly round pretty spiral like it started, but it will work.  Alternately, you could stretch the wire and twist it around something larger (like a magic marker) to make a nice, pretty, evenly round spiral again.

Take the end of the spiral wire and stick it through your fabric where the binding holes begin- through both covers.  Then continue through the first binding hole in your stack of paper (it’s easiest if this is clipped together).  You may have to get it half way through the paper and shift the end of the wire a bit to get through the second half of the stack.

Continue to twist the wire onto the paper and through the cover until you reach the other end.  As you get closer to the end, you’ll need to twist extra wire on and pliers may be helpful to keep the wire going into the next hole.

  

At the end, bend the end of the wire over again like it was originally in the notebook.  Ensure you have enough wire for the rest of the book, clip the other end of the wire and bend it there as well.

Now for the tricky notes on the hidden spiral… I made sure to fold down the center fabric below the spiral binding holes so the final wires would be inside of the book.  The beginning and end are difficult because there’s two layers of fabric.  Use something like the end of the paintbrush to separate the layers of fabric along the edge.  The inside layer of fabric goes up, the outside goes down.

The first and last spiral binding holes are the worst, so if you make it through them, you’re golden.  Press through the fabric as above, but check after you do to make sure you didn’t accidentally go through the outside layer as well before moving on.    It only is a concern for the first 3 and the last 3 holes.

Turn it right side out and enjoy!

  

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