Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Rant - Natural Girl

I've said it before and I'll say it again, natural's the way to go.

No, no, I'm not talking about grooming habits, that would be a whole other kind of blog.

I'm talking food. Jam/preserves to be exact.

You see, I've never been that big a fan of jam. PBJ sandwiches didn't hold much sway on me as a kid, and now, if I make a PB sandwich, it's much more likely to have honey on it than jam.

My mother, grandmother and aunt do make great jam (especially elderberry jam. And I haven't tried my aunt's crabapple (I think it was) jam she gave me at Thanksgiving, but I'm sure it's good). But I never really jumped on the jam bandwagon.

And then I made my own. Apple butter, pumpkin butter, cranberry orange preserves. And man, am I now a serious convert. I'm sure it's partly the fact that I actually made that jam. I guess in my head, jam was kinda like bread - I know that people make it themselves (obviously my relatives do), but I'd never seen it made and so it was all rather mysterious. The first (and only, thus far) time I made bread, I had the same sense of accomplishment, looking at the loaf on the counter and saying "I MADE that!" That's the same way I feel about the fruit butters.

I had a little left over, not a full jar, of each of them (well, actually, I haven't tried the pumpkin butter yet, but I've tried the rest). And man, I'm seriously hooked now. I get to work thinking "oooh, so when's it snack time, I want my toast and jam!"

I think part of it is that the jams you buy at the store are so bland. And they're not usually all fruit and sugar (they have preservatives and such in them). You grab a bottle of Welch's grape jelly and it tastes rather like a grape jolly rancher. That is to say, really fake-ass jam. And bland as all get out. Sure, it's super sweet, you can taste the flavor, but it doesn't have pop. (and yes, I fully recognize that not having much experience in the supermarket jam department, there may be some that are good, but I'm turning a blind eye at the moment, yes I am). Also, I tend to gravitate more towards different flavors. Given a choice between raspberry, strawberry, or apricot, I'll take the apricot any day. The more common ones just aren't as interesting to me.

So I realize that the jam-makers need to keep prices low (reducing the amount of actual fruit they use) and sweeteners high (because with less fruit comes the need for more sweet flavor). And cheap jam definitely is a plus because it makes low-cost meals like PBJ available.

But homemade jam just tastes so much better, and it's all natural. Now, I'm not sure how long it's good for, but I figure, since they're sealed in sterilized jars, that'll keep a good long time even without the preservatives.

My next all-natural food project? Ice cream. I'm considering getting one of those "throw in the stuff and it makes it for you" ice cream makers (not the ones that you have to freeze and the churn yourself. We'll'd be awesome to have natural sherbet and gelato and ice cream, since ice cream sandwiches and fudgsicles are one of the few pre-packaged foods I regularly buy at the grocery store.


Crabby McSlacker said...

My compromise, being too lazy to make jam, is to overpay for premium boutiquey type jams made locally. However, with the economy being what it is... I should think about making it myself. But will probably just switch to honey or crappy supermarket jams instead!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Making jam is definitely a commitment...each time I made it, it took me a good portion of the day (and the pumpkin took even longer, more like a day and a half). The good part is that once it's in the pot, you don't have to pay too much attention to it.

I have tried some yummy boutiquey jams too, but you're right, they can definitely get pricey!

Tami said...

The only jam I ever made had twice as much sugar as fruit in it, and still had a box of that jelly-making crap.

I didn't feel like I'd achieved "natural" at all, so I was dissatisfied.

Do your recipes skip all that hoopla?

Leah J. Utas said...

I've only ever made freezer jam. OMG it was good. I've made strawberry (heaven), apricot, and and peach. It's been years since I did it though. Now you've made me miss it.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Tami, I did skip that hoopla, because I didn't actually make jelly or jam (though I've been referring to it as jam, it's really not), but fruit butter and preserves. So the only ingredients are fruit, sugar, and spices. Does definitely take a lot of sugar, but I avoided the box crap :)

Leah, I'm intrigued....what's freezer jam?

Leah J. Utas said...

It's simply fresh fruit with sugar and added pectin. Mix together, store in freezer until needed. Lasts about three weeks in the fridge (Like it lasts that long around me! Ha!) The linky above is the basic idea. It's dirt easy and damned tasty.

GroundedFitness said...

Its frightening how much sugar is in jelly. I always buy smuckers no sugar added.

Kelly Turner

Charlotte said...

My sister just gave me a bottle of her homemade pumpkin butter. Best Christmas gift ever!! MMMM. I'm so bad at canning.

Barbara Gavin said...

I am sure you knowo this, but supermarket wise, in order for a product to be called a jam or jelly is *has* to have a certain (high) perecentage of sugar. If you like lower sugar products, llok for "spreads". We jsut had some Shaw's brand apricot stpread here and it was not too much money and not to sweet.

NeverSayDiet said...

i've been wanting to try applr butter for EVER. I need to bite the bullet and just get some - sounds delectable! even the name just sounds yummy.