Food was an intricate part of my childhood. We had family dinners every night--it was something that was very important to my family.
The first time I made food by myself without adult supervision was in 2nd grade. I went to elementary school in Iowa City, Iowa. One day in January it was snowing really hard. We listened to the radio to see if school was cancelled. The radio said that Irving B. Weber elementary was delayed one hour. My dad waited with us for a while, but needed to get to work. He asked my younger brother and I if we would be okay waiting for the bus together and gave me a key in case we needed anything. My brother and I waited at the bus stop with a handful of other kids. We waited and waited and the bus didn’t come. Another kid’s parent came out to the bus stop. School was cancelled. But, these were in the days before cell phones. I couldn’t call my parents and I’d never been left home alone before. One of the other kids waiting at the bus stop was in 5th grade. At the time it felt like she was practically an adult, so I asked her to babysit us in exchange for lunch. I knew I wasn’t allowed to use the stove without permission. I’d never cooked before, other than “helping” my dad make cookies by being his official taste tester. We did, however, have bread and lots of jam. It was one of my go-to breakfasts. So, I toasted some store brand sliced bread, and spread them with strawberry and red raspberry jam. To my brother’s, I added sugar on top. On that day, toast with jam took about 10 minutes. Today, I’ll go over my 390 day version.
Step 1: Start a Garden and Plant Fruits (I Did Strawberry and Rhubarb)
- Join or get on the waitlist for a community garden, or start one at home.
- register a community garden plot
- Till soil with compost
- plant strawberries, rhubarb, and other goodies. Wait 388 days to harvest strawberries and rhubarb. Neither will produce much the first year. It's okay, they'll come back stronger than ever.
- Alternatively, buy fruits at the store.
Step 2: Gather and Prep Fruits
Harvest or buy fruits. Wash thoroughly and chop into small pieces. Remove stems from strawberries.
Step 3: Weighing Ingredients
I’ve made pectin jams before, but the store down the street didn’t have any, so I opted for a slow pectin-free marmalade. I made strawberry-rhubarb jam and cantaloupe-mango-rhubarb jam. The cantaloupe and mangoes were bought at a store, because neither are in season in Wisconsin.
Ingredients are simple: just sugar and fruit (and possibly lemon juice) Weigh fruits and sugar. I did approximately 1 lb of fruit per 2 oz of sugar to start, then added whatever was needed to taste. I ended up adding a lot of extra rhubarb to the cantaloupe-mango marmalade because it was very, very sweet. One way to make a pectin free jam is to add sugar and fruits and set overnight in the fridge before adding acids. I did that with the strawberry-rhubarb jam. With the cantaloupe-mango marmalade, I added the fruit and sugar to a small pot and cooked uncovered on low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. You want most of the water to evaporate and for it to get very thick. As you cook, the fruits will begin to fall apart. You can lightly mash fruits while they are cooking with a spoon. Let cool and pour into jar. If you’re making a large quantity, you will want to sterilize your jars. I made a very small batch that I plan to eat immediately, so I just placed the jam in the fridge instead.
Step 4: Make Jam
For pectin-free marmalade, cook on low heat for about 3 hours, or until fruits have fallen apart on their own and the mixture is nice and thick. It'll thicken even more when it cools. I like marmalade more than jellies because you can do a lot more with the flavor, it is a little more acidic, and I prefer the texture.
As you make your jam, be sure to taste it every half hour or so and tweak as needed. At first, this jam was a little too sweet, so I added more rhubarb, but you could also add lemon juice.
When it's finished, let jam cool slightly. If you plan to can large batches, you should sanitize your jars, but I'll leave that for another Instructable. I was making a small quantity that I planned to eat immediately, so I refrigerated it instead.
Step 5: Make Bread & Eat Toast
I did a loaf version of a no knead bread using a modified version of the New York Times no knead bread (http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11376-no-knead-bread).
My housemates love bread, so I made a quadruple batch, and used rye flour for ¼ of the flour.
- No knead bread is very simple! To make four loaves, mix 12 cups flour, 1 teaspoon of yeast, a tablespoon or so of salt, and 6½ cups of water. The dough will be super goopy. Make sure the flour completely combined with the liquid.
- Let the dough sit in a warm room for about a day. You'll know that it's ready when there are many bubbles on the dough's surface and it has doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Divide evenly and place in loaf pans Cook approximately 25 minutes, or until internal bread temperature is at 195.
- Wait for bread to cool.
- Cut a slice of bread and toast it.
- Open your jar of jam or marmalade and use a spoon to spread jam on your bread.
- Eat it and enjoy!