Some people may not know what off-the-grid or off-grid means, so here it is --- The term off-the-grid or off-grid refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities.

Off-grid living is no longer a one room log cabin in the woods. It's energy independency. You don't have to rely on utility companies, you create your own power. Today, there are more than 180,000 off-grid homes in the US.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blackberry and Red Raspberry Freezer Jam...

11:50 am - 52 degrees - scattered clouds...

Yesterday I had some extra time so I decided to make some freezer jam.  I ended up with 9 jars of Blackberry, 9 jars of Raspberry and 9 jars of Strawberry freezer jam.  Yummm!!

Delicious Freezer Jam.
Setting up for 24 hours before it goes into the freezer.

Freezer jam is hands-down my favorite kind of jam.  With no-cook freezer jam you get to preserve the bounty of summer without the fuss, heat, equipment, and time that canned cooked jams require.  Uncooked freezer jam is slightly different than the cooked jams.  It doesn’t have that thick, cooked-down texture and flavor.  Instead, it looks and tastes like the ripe fruit.  If you were to compare a jar of raspberry (or any other flavor) freezer jam and raspberry traditional cooked jam, I think you’d be shocked at the difference.  Regular cooked jam becomes quite dull in color as it cooks, where as freezer jam retains the same pretty color as the fresh berries you started with.

Freezer jam does have two drawbacks.  The first drawback is it’s not shelf-stable.  For long-term storage, all freezer jam must go in the freezer – hence the name.  However, if you don’t have a ton of freezer space, freezer jam can be prepared and poured into quart-size Ziploc bags.  Squeeze out the air, seal the bags and stack them flat in the freezer.  When you need more jam, just thaw a bag, empty the contents of the bag into a jar, put it into the fridge and enjoy.

The second drawback (well, not really) is our kids got so used to eating delicious homemade freezer jam that it didn’t take long before they were sticking their noses up at store-bought jam, and every other kind of jam or jelly, except for freezer jam.  I can’t blame them though because honestly we all prefer the fresh, delicious taste of freezer jams.

To make freezer jam, all you need is ripe fruit, sugar, and pectin.  That’s it!  Quick and easy and before you know it, you’ll be proudly scooping up homemade jam for toast, biscuits, scones, waffles, pancakes, crepes, ice cream, smoothies, cake filling, etc!

Filling up jars of red raspberry freezer jam!

~Blackberry or Red Raspberry Freezer Jam~
3 cups crushed fresh blackberries or red raspberries
5 1/4 cups sugar
1 pkg Sure Jell Premium Fruit Pectin
3/4 cup water

Mash the berries with a potato masher or in a food processor until slightly chunky (not pureed).  Jam should have bits of fruit.  Once the berries are crushed to a size you want, measure out 3 cups and put into a large bowl.

Stir sugar into the berries, mixing well.  Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir 1 box of pectin and 3/4 cup water in a 1-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for 1 minute, while still stirring constantly. 

Pour hot pectin mixture over berry mixture.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy; whichever is longer.  (A few sugar crystals may remain).

Immediately spoon jam into washed and prepared containers, leaving 1/2 –inch headspace.  Wipe rims of containers and seal.  Let stand at room temperature for about 24 hours or until set.

Store in the freezer for up to a year, or store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.  Thaw frozen jam and stir before serving.

{Note:  You must measure carefully, jam making is an exact process and if you don’t measure correctly, you’ll have unsuccessful results.  Measure the exact amount of sugar, reducing the sugar or using a sugar substitutes will result in set failures.  If you want to make more than one batch, do not try to double the recipe, instead make two separate batches.  We usually have several batches, all in their own bowls, going at the same time.}

For the Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe {click here}.

--- Enjoy!

Digging For Razor Clams...

11:30 am - 51 degrees out - scattered clouds...

Eating locally grown food is great, but when you are able to go directly to the foods source and harvest it yourself, that’s even better!

Our last trip to the Long Beach Peninsula, (which was a couple weeks ago) just happened to coincide with clamming season.  Yea!!!

The kids and I have never been digging for clams before.  There is a stock pile of clam-digging supplies at our beach property, but we’ve never used them.  But this trip, we thought we’d give it a try.

Long Beach locals swear that clam-digging is in their blood.  But, for us newbie’s, it was a very fun (and gross) learning experience.

First, we dug out our clam-digging supplies and made sure there were enough clam guns for everyone.  Then we ran into town to get our clamming licenses at Jack’s Country Store along with a list of the clamming tides.  All clam-diggers 15 years of age or older must have an applicable clamming license to harvest razor clams on any beach.  Children don’t need a license as long as they’re with an adult who has one.

Swung by Jack's Country Store to grab a clamming license.

After not so patiently waiting for the clamming tide to come, I got all the kids (4 total) and supplies loaded into our rig and we headed for the beach – with no clue how to properly clam dig!

We dragged our clam guns and netted bags down to the wet sand, to an area that was still nice and smooth, away from all the other clam-diggers.  We were told to look for air bubbles or dimples in the sand, so we started wandering around looking.  After about a minute or so, we found a “dimple”.  I called the kids over so we could all see what would happen when I plunged the long, cylindrical tube of aluminum into the sand, plugged the tiny air hole on the handle, and pulled it back up out of the sand... and was rewarded with jumping up and down and shouts of excitement since we had just dug up our first clam!

Our first razor clam!
Razor Clam

Things got a little crazy after that first clam was dug up.  Kids were running back and forth shouting “I found a dimple!”, “ACK, it squirted me!”, “GOT ONE!” and so on.  It was quite amusing to watch as they ran around from dimple to dimple, placing their clam guns over the center of the dimple, and do their little squiggle dance as they plunged their gun into the wet sand.  When they pulled up all the sand contained within the gun, dumping the contents to the side, they quickly dug through that pile or dove down into the hole to grab that clam.    

We found dimples!  AKA Razor Clam Show.

Clam-digging cousins.

Our last razor clam of the day.

It only took about a half an hour for all of us to reach our limit of 15 razor clams each.  Being new to this, our razor clams weren’t all perfect, we did manage to cut a few in half when we plunged the clam gun into the sand, but all clam-diggers are required to keep the first 15 clams they dig up, regardless of size or if you accidentally cut them in half.

Everyone had a lot of fun digging for the clams, but the clean-up...well that wasn’t as much fun.  In fact, it was gross, but we got the job done.  If you want to clean your own clams, it’s a good idea to look up how to clean them first so you may clean them safely and correctly (click here for instructions).  Of if you don’t want to clean them yourself, you can drop them off at a local seafood store or cannery to have them professionally cleaned and vacuum-packed.

We really did luck out.  We had an absolutely perfect evening and great success for our first clam-dig. 


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