Strawberry Jam

With strawberries in season, I thought it was time to make a batch of jam! This is my first ever attempt at home canning.  I did a ton of reading on it, and slowly accumulated all of the needed equipment.  Excited like a kid on Christmas morning, I headed out to a local produce stand and picked up 2 quarts of strawberries.

The most important thing about canning that I’ve learned so far is to have everything ready! I washed all the jars, started heating the canner, and measured out the sugar and lemon juice needed while I washed and hulled the strawberries. Now it was time to crush the berries! For this task, I used a potato masher which made the job a breeze.

The process of making the jam was actually easier than I thought.  You just add the lemon juice and pectin (whisk well to make sure pectin is dissolved) to the crushed strawberries in a big sauce pot and then bring it up to a boil. Then you add all the sugar and mix well. Bring the jam back up to a boil that can’t be stirred down, then you start the clock for one minute. After one minute, the jam is done!

Now it’s just a matter of getting the jars filled to the correct headspace of 1/4″ and making sure all of the air bubbles are removed. You put the lids on with the bands and then you process in  a water bath canner for 10 minutes. After processing cool the jars on a towel overnight. The next day check for seals and label!

Gotta love hard water (that’s the white film you see on the lids)! No big deal, it wipes off easily. The recipe made eight half-pint jars. Now all I need to do is give some away to family and friends! 🙂

Bohemian Pilsner

My first brew of the year, a Bohemian Pilsner is almost done! It’s in the fridge lagering away at a cool 38 degrees.  I have to say that I used to be so intimidated by the idea of brewing a lager. It just seemed so complicated to me.

For my first real brew of the year I decided to jump in head first and brew a pilsner (recipe from Brewing Classic Styles). Since lagers are fermented colder than ales, your yeast cell count has to be massive to minimize the lag in the start of fermentation. I ended up stepping my yeast starter three times.

Using my own water (with the water treatments) instead of going out and buying spring water on brew day was so nice (less expensive and of course less of a chore)! I mashed the grains at 150F for 75 minutes, sparged and started the boil. The only thing new that I’ve never done before is boil the wort for 90 minutes. I fell about a gallon short in my final volume which wasn’t that big of a deal to me.  Next time, I’ll know to up the total water needed by a gallon or two!

I cooled the finished wort overnight to the recommended pitching temp of 50F. That next morning I pitched the yeast and headed off to work! The next 24-36 hours I waited nervously for fermentation to begin, and sure enough it did! I let the fermentation go for about 3 full days at 50F and then I ramped up the temperature to 68F to do the diacetyl rest.  The diacetyl rest is needed so that the yeast can clean up after themselves and get rid of the butter/butterscotch flavors that is considered a flaw in lagers. After that, I tested the final gravity and it was done fermenting! I racked it to an empty keg, pressurized it, and now it’s lagering away for about four weeks.

Pictures of the final product will come later when I tap the keg!