You know when there’s so much change happening at once you kind of stand still in the whirlwind, unable to make decisions or even to move? I feel like this. If I don’t plunge forward I’ll never know what could be, and miss this chance, but if I move along too quickly I may trip up. I’m lacking grace right now, and apparently coherent decision making skills.
Let me show you what I’ve been doing.
That’s Rhubarb Vanilla Bean and Blueberry jams there, 13 pints (yeah, bad photo) Both fruits came from local organic sources first and then from my box freezer. Which is now empty. The new donut shop is using my fruit preserves as fillings and toppings. I can’t wait for their gluten free/ xanthan free line!
So here is the catch. I have what’s called a 20c exemption through NYS Ag and Markets, basically, my home kitchen is approved for food processing within certain limits. I am allowed to sell my high sugar, high acid preserves and certain baked goods at farmer’s markets, fairs, and community events. I make a lot of preserves and am constantly honing the jamming skills. Lately, I’ve had inquiries from shops who’d like to carry my preserves, that brings me to the 20c license. I need a commercial kitchen to rent ( I have a not-so-perfect one I can use), and I need the income to put into a new venture start up. Gone will be my canning jars and little ‘dog tag’ labels. I need the gumption to just get going and keeping it going during the sweltering hot months (losing weight may be the bonus!) in an un-air conditioned basement kitchen. I am lucky to live in NY State where support of DIY small food business is growing. I started writing this post yesterday then back burnered it until I read this post by Hitchhiking to Heaventhis morning. I really thought California was way ahead of us, goodness, they have a huge growing season and so many people doing amazing things! Shae set me straight on that thinking, and though my woes are not the same, I feel her frustration.
I keep singing ‘should I stay or should I go’ . If I go for my commercial license I forfeit my home exemption. I could then make chutney! and pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, husband’s hot sauce, salsas (all as long I keep them refrigerated, more rules). Until the spirits ring down on me with some enlightenment (uh.. feel free to leave that enlightenment in the comment section). I offer you a recipe.
Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Jam (2 day process)
4 lbs Rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces, if the stalks are thick, slice them down the length as well.
3 lbs sugar, I prefer organic
3 oz lemon juice, fresh squeezed or bottled organic (that doesn’t contain preservatives)
1 Vanilla Bean
Put your rhubarb in a non reactive bowl or plastic container and top with the sugar. Leave this to macerate overnight. The juices will begin to flow from the rhubarb. This process enables flavours to deepen and more juice (with pectin) to draw out of the fruit.
When ready to cook and can, place three spoons in the freezer on a small plate, pour rhubarb and sugar syrup into the pot you are using for jam, scraping out all the sugar from the bowl into the pot. Add the lemon juice and whole vanilla bean. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring frequently so the sugar does not burn. Once at a boil, lower heat to keep it bubbling but not too fiercely, stir every 10 minutes or so and then more frequently when the jam is close to set. At the 15 minute point remove the vanilla bean, let it cool then slice it open lengthwise and scrap all the teeny seeds back into your jam.
Meanwhile get your jars and lids ready however you usually do (or if you are new to canning go here for good instructions).
When the jam begins to thicken, and a sheen is forming, start your freezer testing. Remove jam pot from heat, using one of the spoons from the freezer, put a small amount of jam on it then return it to the freezer for 2 minutes. Take it out and check for set, the jam should not be loose or runny. If it is, turn the heat on under the pot and cook for 5 more minutes, re-check with the freezer test. The jam should be close to 220* on a candy thermometer, though I find this method not very accurate. I’ve made jam ‘candy’ by only using a thermometer, and being a bit distracted. Remember, jam, jelly and marmalade continue to set after they’ve been processed! (truly, I could soak the jar in hot water and un-mold it.. slices of jamcandy anyone?)
Fill and process your jars for 10 minute in a boiling water bath.
Remove from water and let rest overnight before checking for seal.
Find a nice sunny corner and eat with a spoon.