Monday, May 26, 2014

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

I learned how to make jam in my late teens, from a woman whose mother and father were Polish immigrants. The tedious job of processing the fruit --washing, removing pits, slicing, mashing--fell to me.

I also poured the paraffin she used in addition to bands and seals. Since, I've learned how to process the jam, just as safely, without the wax.

I love the taste of fruit in midwinter that canning affords, but I've always disliked the amount of sugar necessary to set the pectin.

Too sweet!

However, tons of sugar isn't necessary with the new pectins. Both instant pectin and low-sugar pectin make an excellent, tasty product. At least one company also offers a "scalable" pectin. You measure the right amount of pectin for the job: you can use a smaller amount of fruit and an every-day pot, instead of being chained to making a big batch in a stock pot or dutch oven. And, it's quick.

I usually make some variety of apricot jam, however, this year a gift changed things. A family at the local farmers' market produces ripe juicy strawberries you can smell from half a block away. I always buy from them, for the last several years, however, at the first market, they had sold out by the time I got there! All that was left was a basket of culls...which they offered me, for free, saying it would make delicious jam. It did. This week, I went back for 9 baskets and tried low-sugar jam, hot water bath processed.

6 Cups Mashed  Strawberries
4 Cups Sugar

It started to set, right away-- no strawberry syrup, here.

Only four cups of sugar, compared to the usual 6-8...and the fruit flavor is just amazing. It tastes fresh. This is the jam you want to use for cakes and fancy sandwich cookies.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Handmade Peg Loom and Woven Cuff

DIY Loom: wood frame with thumbtack pegs.
Spotted this lovely lightweight wood frame at the craft store. The depth suggested it might make a very nice base for a loom. I stopped by another shop and picked up plastic thumbtacks. The rest is history.

I left some room between the pins: I knew I wanted to do some warp experiments that included thicker material. (For a denser weave, not only could the thumbtacks be closer together, but it looks very possible to add another row of tacks--or map pins--on the outside edge, between those on top.)

For this quick cuff, I used two lengths of golden yellow and purple, on each side. I wanted a tighter weave there and I wanted the design's edge to be defined. The center two lengths are coarse ribbon, without finished edges. They folded as I worked...I rolled with it.

 The differing yarns are joined using a knitter's "secret knot." The weft is natural wool. All of the warp is silk. I have plans for a larger scarf and I wanted to test the weight and drape of this combination. I was really pleased with the result.

I really enjoy adding the color and texture in the warp,
and using a plain weft. I think it will look especially
nice in a narrow/long scarf.