Blackberry Jam

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Each summer, I wish I knew how to jar/can things to make jams. So
last fall, I learned from my dear friend Joyce how to can applesauce.
She kindly gave me her canning tools – so this year I was determined
to can some of these lovely looking berries that I’ve been seeing and
picking.

The boys and I picked a bunch of blackberries with some friends, and
geared up to make some jam! Little did I know, jam recipes are not
all the same. I literally spent days searching the internet, reading
sunset magazine, looking in cookbooks, and talking to friends. I hope
this post helps you if you are newbie to this whole process as I was.

Freezer jam is a great alternative if you want to bypass the whole
“canning” thing. In my case, I wanted to give it a try, so I decided
to go with a non-freezer jam.

Pectin is used in some recipes but not all. I had the hardest time
deciding if it was necessary to add or not. The pioneer woman
described it best as “helpful but not necessary”. Well, I wanted all
the help I could get, so I opted for pectin.

All the blackberry jam recipes I found added lemon and lemon zest, so
this was a keeper.

I settled on a mixture of two recipes – one from Martha Stewart and
one from FoodInJars.com Martha suggested letting the berry flavor
stand out on it’s own, adding only lemon zest, juice, and a bay leaf.
FoodInJars added cinnamon and nutmeg, so I decided to leave those out,
but in general I followed her recipe aside from these two spices. I
also appreciated how she strained the berries first so the jam was
seedless. I hate chomping on berry seeds.

So here is the end result! I think, for a first time, it came out
really tasty. But, FYI – don’t be like me and only make half the
recipe. I ended up with 2 jars of jam, after all that work!!! ha!

And, if you want a reminder of how to can, Pioneer Woman does a great
demonstration with beautiful step by step pictures.

Seedless Blackberry Jam
makes approximate 3 pints

6 cups blackberry pulp (8-9 cups of berries, mashed through a strainer
with the back of a wooden spoon)
4 cups sugar
2 bay leaves
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 packet liquid pectin (half the box) or 1/3 packet of dry pectin

Prepare your jars, start your lids to simmering and bring your canning
pot to a boil.

In a large, non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enameled cast iron),
combine the sugar and fruit pulp and bring to a simmer. Add bay
leaves, lemon zest/juice and stir to combine. Let the mixture reach a
boil, stirring frequently to prevent it from boiling over. When the
mixture appears to be thickening a bit, bring it back to a roiling
boil and add the pectin. Let it boil vigorously for at least five
minutes to activate the pectin. Remove bay leaves before filling
jars.

Fill your jars with the hot jam, wipe rims, apply lids and rings and
process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes. Turn off heat, let
jars sit in water 5 more minutes.

Remove from canner and allow the jars to completely cool on a
dishtowel-lined counter top.

Once the jars are cool, check the seals, label them and eat jam on
toast in January!

Mexican Lasagna

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UPDATE 5/19/13 – this is doable with any variety of veggies!  tonight instead of corn i mixed in some cooked beets.  also, would be great with butternut squash or pumpkin in the fall!

This was great! I’m always a big fan of any meal that my family will
eat that is vegetarian – and doesn’t leave us hungry later. Great way
to get zucchini into my toddler!!

Thanks to Bites for this one!

Mexican Lasagna

2 tsp olive oil
11⁄2 cups chopped onion
1 lb zucchini, diced (about 3 cups)
21⁄2 tsp ground cumin
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with chiles
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed
1 can (11 oz) corn niblets, drained
1 can (10 oz) mild enchilada sauce (or make your own!)
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro
5 (8-in.) whole-wheat flour tortillas
11⁄4 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar
Garnish: reduced-fat sour cream

Heat oven to 400ºF. Coat a 3-qt round baking dish with nonstick spray.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion
and sauté 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cumin, and sauté 5 minutes or
until zucchini is crisp-tender. Stir in tomatoes, beans, corn and
enchilada sauce; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in
cilantro.

Put 1 tortilla in baking dish. Top with 11⁄2 cups zucchini mixture;
sprinkle with 1⁄4 cup cheese. Repeat layers 4 times.

Cover with foil and bake 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly around edges
and cheese is melted. Cool 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with
sour cream, if desired.