Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer ritual

Today kicks off the official beginning of Jam Making, a very much enjoyed (and tasty) summer ritual. The various pastures around our place boast several Mulberry trees which we attempt to harvest ahead of the birds and raccoons. The children's summer ritual involves eating enough Mulberries to give them diarrhea ;-) Actually, I'm glad to have them do this, it works as a sort of early summer cleanse I think. I looked up the health benefits of Mulberries and was surprised at some of the info. All of the below is from

Antioxidants, capable of eliminating the damage caused by free radicals in the body and slow down the process of aging, seem to be the main constituents of the fruit juice of the Mulberry tree. Scientists mention resveratrol as the most promising component in this respect. For this reason, they now try to discover as much as possible important information about this element. It is suggested to have cardio protective, antiviral and anti-cancer action. It may also lower bad cholesterol and work to alleviate chronic inflammation, as well as postpone the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Anthocyanins – pigments in the fruit – also have antioxidant action; thus, are medicinally valuable as well. They have been studied primarily as the means to fight cancer and showed excellent results. Their content is the highest in the fruits, which are grown in the warm climate with much sunshine.
Flavonoids in the root bark of the Mulberry tree were discovered to increase the level of insulin in the body and reduce blood glucose level; therefore, they may help in controlling diabetes. The root bark is considered a mighty diuretic and expectorant. The bark of the tree has anthelmintic property.
Mulberry leaves are used to treat diabetes and hypertension, but the old leaves have tranquilizing properties and may cause hallucinations, headache, and upset stomach, so, their remedies should be used with the extreme caution.
Mulberry contains large amounts of vitamins C and K, minerals magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron, carbohydrates glucose and fructose, free acids (tartaric and malic), fatty acids (linoleic, stearic, and oleic), protein, pectin and fiber. The health benefits of the Morus tree are tightly connected with the elements composing its chemical structure.
Health Benefits
Lately, fighting diabetes and cancer with Mulberry became the primary issue of scientific research. These diseases are difficult to manage and Morus fruit seems to possess the necessary properties, which could be of great help in controlling these conditions.
On the other hand, strengthening the immune system, relieving pain from chronic inflammation (for example, caused by arthritis or atherosclerosis), and nourishing the blood have a long history of treatment with Mulberry fruits.
In addition, naturopaths recommend to lower bad cholesterol levels (thus, helping to avoid the development of cardiovascular disorders), shed excessive pounds, increase bone strength and fight osteoporosis with Mulberry remedies. Besides, maintaining healthy liver and kidneys, soothing the nerves, eliminating weakness, fatigue, and anemia is possible with them. It is interesting to note that premature graying of the hair may be stopped with Mulberry.
Do not forget that the treatment with Mulberry remedies is not only effective against the mentioned disease, but pleasant due to the taste of the fruits as well.

I have never really been interested in making jam from them though because you can't easily remove the stems but we decided to try it anyway. The results were very pleasing!

When I first began making jam I made loads of freezer jam, a super tasty method that is probably the most popular right now with home canners. I did make one batch of strawberry freezer jam for my folks, my Mom likes it on ice cream. ;-) But the majority of our jam this year will be the good, old fashioned cooked version. Also, I really want to get away from store bought pectin because it costs money and has ingredients that I don't like in it, so I made our jam without added pectin. This results in a different "set" than what I'm used to, but I wonder if that's because the artificial, mass produced product seems "normal" whereas the real deal seems "off" to us? I've found that to be true in so many cases, for instance, what does corn really taste like? Likely you've never had anything but the super sweet, hybridized candy thing that we call corn. It's such a shame how much we've lost. The biggest down side to cooked jam is the loss in yield, we ended up with about half of what we would have had by doing freezer jam (and I can just hear Angie now saying that she's not going to all that trouble to only get half, lol). I also added very, very little sugar, this gives a tarter taste but is more in keeping with our philosophies about sugar consumption. We all loved it when we did the taste test though, so apparently no one misses the sugar.

The other new thing I did this year is to replace the traditional bands and lids with Gulf Wax. I really debated this one because paraffin is a petroleum by-product which I don't like but lids are a constant expense and I don't like that either. Just so you know, the USDA does not recommend using paraffin wax to seal anything because of mold contamination. But I think the USDA is suspect anyway, probably representatives from Ball sit on its advisory board...... but I digress. The nice thing about the wax is that it's endlessly reusable! I really like that, plus it looks quaint and old fashioned which is a nice bonus. Aesthetics are important, right? The USDA representative did say that the only real danger would be mold, which is easily seen upon opening the jar, so it's not like you'd be playing around with botulism or something that can't be seen or tasted. I hope that I will like it as much as I want to like it!

I have found that I can't make too much jam in the evening because it makes my feet swell up, so I try to be finished before noon. I can then go and enjoy the breeze on the porch which is where I've also been doing my sewing lately. I'll have Mr. G or Aleks carry my "sewing table", which is actually my Great Aunt Elizabeth's canning table, out to the porch and I can sew with a comfortable breeze blowing. I like to be there and watch the children play and depending on where Tansy is I can watch her graze. It is a very peaceful feeling. ;-) All of my "work" (should I even call it that?) brings me such a sense of satisfaction. The cooking, canning, dehydrating, sewing, hanging laundry, mending....... none of it is a chore. I'm so thankful that I don't have to leave home to earn money. I really sympathize with those who are compelled to do so!