Making Strawberry Jam

032Farm fresh strawberries are finally ready to harvest in Southern Ontario.  With that said, it’s time to make some jam.  But, let’s be honest….it does not qualify as a serving of fruit in your daily diet.  As I remind my kids, now and then on  biscuits, pancakes or toast,  accompanied with peanut butter on some bread, or as a topping on ice cream, strawberry jam is a great addition to a snack or meal.  Not to mention that its flavor is a great reminder of summer when it’s minus 20 degrees in February!

Ingredients

4 quarts strawberries (9 cups crushed berries)

14 cups sugar

2 packages of pectin (57 g /2 oz.)

Yields 16 -250 ml (8.4 oz. or half pint) jars of jam

Note:  Make this jam in two separate batches.

Directions for 8 jars of jam

Fill your canner up with hot water to the height of the jars that you will be using for your jam. It will take a while to get this volume to a boil so you better start now.  If you get ahead of the game, you can always turn it down later.

Fill a medium pot with water and add the seals and screw rings.  Bring this to a gentle bowl.005

Sterilize your jars in the oven at 225 degrees fahrenheit  for 10 minutes.  Continue to keep them warm in the oven until they are needed.

011Wash and remove the hull from 2 quarts of strawberries.012

Mash the berries up in a large bowl.  If you like your jam to be more “chunky”, then decrease the amount of mashing.

Combine mashed berries and pectin in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add all the sugar.  I add 1/3 at a time and stir in order to dissolve all the sugar and not have it stick to the bottom.014

Note:  Make sure you use a LARGE pot to make this jam.  The volume will really INCREASE when the jam begins to boil.  The last thing you are going to want to happen is have this sugary mixture bubble over in the pot and catch FIRE on your burner.  Been there and done that!

Once the sugar is dissolved, return to a hard boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat. Stir and skim for 5 minutes.  This step is crucial in order to get a foam free jam (skimming part) that doesn’t have the fruit rising to the top of the jar (stirring part).028

020

Pour jam into warm sterilized jars to 1/4″ from rim.021

Wipe the lip of the jar with a wet paper towel in order to ensure that no jam is on the rim of the jar.  This could prevent a good seal from happening.  Cover with sterilized lids and tighten the screw rings.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars with canning tongs and cool on a rack over night.  Soon you will hear the sound of success as those lids start popping and ensuring a good seal.025

Congratulations!  Try not to eat it all in the next few months.  Save some for the Winter when you will need a few reminders of summer!031

Advertisements

Ah….Hello???? Easter was a while ago SWIFFER!!!!!!

002The egg count has been a little low for the past  few weeks and guess who’s not putting forth a regular contribution to City Boy Hens.  If you guessed Swiffer.. then you are correct.  Now, I know there’s going to be a few of you out there who will be sure to defend Swiffer by asking how I know that it is she that is not laying.

Well…as any self-respecting chicken owner will attest, I can tell which hen lays each particular egg. It also helps that I only have 3 hens on my urban homestead.   At City Boy Hens, Honda lays a large egg that is slightly elongated.  Rosie’s contribution is gigantic (extra-large) and Swiffer lays an egg that is not too far off from the size of a Ping-Pong ball.  Okay…I may be exaggerating a bit, but it is definitely the SMALLEST egg each day!011

So.. in the last few weeks, some of the “smallest” eggs have been missing from the coop. Initially, I thought it was odd that Swiffer would be slowing down so soon, considering that she only began laying last October.  But then again, nothing that Swiffer does is too surprising because she has always been a bit of a strange chicken.

Anyways, this morning I went out to feed the hens and collect the eggs.  As I walked past the cedar hedge, something caught my eye.  There, nestled around some dried leaves was…..an egg….THE SIZE OF A PING PONG BALL!!!!!!   There was no second guessing.  This was Swiffer’s egg!002

Well…Swiffer, you’ve managed to lower the bar AGAIN!!! Now….. you’ve taken it upon yourself to not even bother to lay your egg in the coop.  What’s the problem?  Are the “digs” not good enough for you?  Feel like your slummin’ it at City Boy Hens?092It’s bad enough that you won’t use the nest box, but now you’ve taken it upon yourself to just start dropping your eggs around the backyard where ever you see fit!  Ah…..Hello???? The backyard is not even that big.  I’ve seen how far you can run when I come out with some vegetable snacks.  Surely, you could waddle your lazy ass back over to the coop in order to deposit your egg.

Is this some kind of joke??????  Do you think I’m going to start a covert operation every day in order to find your egg?????  Is this some kind of Easter Egg prank????  It’s bad enough that you picked on Rosie for a month, that you took forever to actually start laying eggs and that you lay the SMALLEST EGG every day, but now you are going to hide them for me to find.  Let me tell you what’s coming down the pipe.  Look into the crystal ball.  Do you see a large soup pot with a fresh free-range chicken flavoring the broth?  No???????????……………..  LOOK CLOSER!!!!!!

In the mean time…all free-ranging for you will be strictly curtailed until one Ping-Pong sized egg appears in the coop each day.  No egg………no recreation time!  The decision is yours.  Man…I can’t believe you……….even after I wrote a great post about you last week!006

City Boy Granola

027Ya..I know that granola has been popular for a long time.  I can even remember as a kid when it became a breakfast cereal and I begged my parents to buy it in the grocery store which, by the way,  never happened.  So I might be a bit behind the curve in writing about granola, but I thought I would share my City Boy Hens Granola Recipe with you.  Around here we’ve all been eating oatmeal lately for breakfast and granola makes a great topping to a somewhat bland and boring breakfast.

Ingredients

008

3 1/2 cups  rolled oats (I use “quick” oats)

1 cup  sliced almonds

1 cup  shelled pumpkin seeds

1  cup of shredded coconut

1 cup  raisins

1 cup dried and cubed papaya

1/2 teaspoon  sea salt

1/2 cup  honey

1/4 cup  sunflower oil

1 teaspoon  vanilla extract

1 egg white

Note:  Feel free to omit or substitute different ingredients.

Directions

Combine oats,  almonds, pumpkin seeds, and coconut together in a large mixing bowl.  Add salt and stir the dry ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, combine the oil, honey, egg white and vanilla extract.  Note:  Add the oil first.  This will help prevent the honey from sticking to your bowl.  Add these wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and continue to stir until everything is nicely coated.010

Spoon the granola out of the bowl onto 2 baking sheets and place in the oven for 45 minutes at 300 degrees Ferinheight.011

Remove the baking sheets from the oven every 15 minutes in order to stir the granola.

After 45 minutes, the granola should be light brown and smell incredible.  Pull the baking sheets out and add the raisins and dried fruit.  Put the granola back in the oven for 5 minutes.  Note:  If you were to bake the raisins and dried fruit for the entire duration of time, they would be incredible hard and/or burnt. 017

Remove from oven, cool, and pack into 2 mason jars. 027Enjoy as a quick snack or as a topping on oatmeal, yogurt, or…………..

034

City Boy TRAPPER??????

003For the last few weeks there has been a raccoon “visiting” our property.  He has left his messy calling card at my garbage bin several times and my wife informed me that he even paid a visit to the chicken coop in the middle of the afternoon last week.  The deal breaker came Sunday afternoon when he attempted to scale the property fence in order to sample my free ranging ladies.

As you may have guessed, our dog, Stanley was fast asleep inside the house on every occasion when Mr. Raccoon dropped by.  I say this because I can’t blame the dog.  No animal (not even a squirrel) will venture into the backyard if Stanley is on patrol.  But, age is catching up to old Stanley and sleep has become his favorite pastime these days.  Now that I think about it…..sleep has always been Stanley’s favorite pastime.009

So last night, I borrowed a trap from my brother and then proceeded to bait it with a delicious aromatic sardine.  Like clockwork, Swiffer woke me with her dreaded EGG SONG this morning and I stumbled outside to take a peak at the trap and……….GOTTCHA!002

Ya… I know there’s a bunch of you out there saying “Oh…he’s so cute”.  Well…it wouldn’t be too darn cute to wake up one morning and find that buddy has gotten in to the coop and killed my hens.  Not to mention that free ranging during late afternoons and weekends has been severely curtailed now that Mr. Raccoon is boldly walking around my property in the middle of the day.  So much for being a nocturnal animal!

Well Mr. Raccoon….you are officially being EVICTED from City Boy Hens!   So off we went, wife (camera person), myself and one freakishly stinky raccoon for a “little drive”.  Note: My brother passed on this great tip. Make sure to put a plastic liner (tarp) down before placing the trap in your vehicle……just in case Buddy decides to leave you with a thank you present for the relocation favor.  Pick up trucks and trailers would work great in these situations because the trapped raccoon would be outside of the vehicle’s interior, thus preventing the “present” from stinking & staining  your vehicle interior.

Once you arrive at your destination, point the front of the trap towards a covered area.  This will help the raccoon  feel that the odds are in his favor for a successful escape.

Next…carefully open the door to the trap.  You’ll need to have something on hand to keep the door open at this point. Your hand is probably not a good choice!   For me, my 1986 Titan 1020 hockey stick was the perfect tool for the job.006

“And down the ice comes Sittler…….He sees a break in the defence.    He moves to his right…..fakes a shot……….He shoots……He scores!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!007

008

Oh…I almost forget…….Make sure you wear your best flannels and steel-toe crocks for the job!  It’s always important to look your best in your safest gear!