The other day I thought to myself "my poor blog is so sad and lonely, I should cheer it up with a lovely post." However, it sat for a while more before I took some initiative. Because that thought wasn't so much "the other day" and it was "the other month."
In celebration of Labor Day, this morning we got up at a reasonable hour and went berry picking in Mapleton, Ut. This berry farm is so delightful, I could go there every other day. It's called McBride's Briar Patch for those who would like to have a fun little outing.
Now, I've been picking raspberries a time or two and have come to expect lots of mud and thorns. But not so! Every row has grass in-between so.. no mud! Hallelujah! As for thorns, you can wear gloves if you would like, but they do have several varieties of raspberries, at least one of which doesn't have may thorns (so I was told by my Dad who was picking off those bushes.) I didn't have gloves and picked the thorny variety and only got a little scratched, you know the kind of scratch that makes you itch a little.
Anyway, there's my plug for this quaint little farm of happiness. Here are the pictures I got of Will having a ball, but I didn't get any pictures of him actually picking and eating berries along the row with Carter... however that did happen.
Now it may look like I let Will pick up this random apple off the ground and eat it, however... I didn't let him actually eat it, jut pretend eat it. He's catching onto pretend play and I'm loving it.
Now to the berries!
Aren't they b-e-a-utiful?! It only took us about an hour to pick 5 pounds ($3 per pound) and that includes "running after Will" time.
Any time I get berries for that swell price, it's freezer jam time. And to make this post even better, I've decided to do a tutorial. And to make it even better than THAT, I have a new AMAZING product to tell the whole world about.
It's called ULTRA GEL. Yes, not the most enticing food product name... however is magnificent.
For those of you outside of Utah, it would be easiest to order it online from their website. For those in Utah, you can find it in the canning section of Harmons and the Bosch kitchen centers. I've heard you can find it at Macey's on occasion too. It's a Utah-based company, that's why there's more availability here.
It is a modified food starch that can be used to thicken hot and cold foods. Like thickening soups, gravies, etc.
But (one of) my favorite thing about using Ultra Gel in freezer jam is that it cuts the amount of sugar in more than HALF. That's right, your read correctly. MORE than HALF.
Another wonderful thing worth mentioning: you don't have mix with water and bring to a boil, like you do with fruit pectin. Which equals less dishes to clean up!
With Sure Gel you use 3 cups smashed fruit and 4 cups of sugar.
With Ultra Gel you use 4 cups smashed fruit and 2 cups of sugar.
So, on to the tutorial..
P.S. I do everything in my Vitamix (another product I am passionate about... and this tutorial may just make you want one:)
If you don't have a super blender, you'll have to smash your fruit in a bowl, then transfer into your mixing bowl.
Rinse your fruit (it can be any fruit you'd use for jam) You'll have to take the tops off strawberries (unless you have a Vitamix, then you can put it all in there and it will blend it all up and you won't even notice!)
Blend or crush your fruit as much as wanted. (in the Vitamix you can let it blend just a few seconds longer to crush the seeds into tiny bits so it's not the typical "super seedy" raspberry/blackberry/whatever seedy berry jam.) It'll end up being similar to fig newton filling with those crushed seeds.
Add your sugar and lemon juice. Blend.
Add Ultra Gel. You want to add this very slowly so you don't get clumps of it, this is especially important if you're mixing by hand. In a blender just add a bit at a time until it's all in there. You'll see it start to thicken immediately and you'll have to turn up the power on your blender to keep it swirling on top. You can see a little wisp of white swirling in the second picture, that's my amazing action shot of the gel being mixed in. :)
Disclaimer: in these pictures the lid is off of my Vitamix while it is running, the Vitamix company warns you never EVER to do this.. so don't ever do it and blame something bad happening on me. :)
Let the jam sit for 5 minutes and let it gel completely.
Pour into containers (more neatly than this picture, it's hard to pour with one hand and take a picture with the other)
Now how easy was THAT?!
From 5 pounds of berries I got 15 - 8 oz. jars. Perfect for gifts!
Stay tuned for my next Domestic Goddess Dress Up Post: Homemade Dish Soap - and how much better it is than store bought!
*UPDATE* Here is a list of places Ultra Gel is available, but the list for Utah isn't complete.