Thursday, April 28, 2016

What College Taught Me About the Ampersand

I'd always wondered how we ended up with the ampersand sign. I wondered who decided that squigly represented "and", and how it got to be used widespread. 
Really. It's just a random squiggly. 

And then I discovered the truth. All on my own! A later Google search confirmed, but I was pretty proud that I figured it out before Google searching! 

One day while playing with fonts for my business writing class assignment I saw a font with a different ampersand sign than normal. 

 I don't know if that is the exact font I found, but it's similar.

I took 3 semesters of Latin at the University of Arizona. In latin, the word for "and" is "et". Do you see the E and the T in there?! That was it. Suddenly I realized our modern ampersand was just a morphed cursive form of "et"!

I'm a nerd, but this made me super excited and I shared it with my Latin class the next day. I think maybe only one other kid acted interested. But that didn't dampen the excitement of what I'd discovered. 

So if you need a piece of random trivia to give out at the dinner table, this will do it! 



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Kett Files: Strawberry Jams

Over the weekend the community has been inundated with flats of strawberries from a truck that wrecked. So many strawberries!! 



My cousin's wife and I decided to take advantage of the free fruit and had a canning day together yesterday. We figured between the two of us, and with our kids having each other to play with, we could get through 5 flats. That seemed doable. 

10 hours later....we were beat, the kids were going crazy, we'd had take and bake pizza for dinner, and every single jar both houses were used up. 


And, we only got through 3 of the 5 flats. Whew! 

But we're super excited for what we were able to get done! We did tried and true strawberry jam but decided we didn't want 5 flats worth of just plain strawberry jam and wanted to try some different variations. Some worked, some didn't. 



Batches 1 & 2: Strawberry Jam. 

These did did pretty straightforward, following the instructions out of the Sure Jell packet. They turned out great, sealed, and set up beautifully. 

Batch 3: Strawberry Blueberry Jam

For this batch we followed the directions for Mixed Berry Jam off the Sure Jell packet. These turned out, sealed, and set up! 

Batch 4: Strawberry Raspberry Jam.

Same as Batch 3. But oh boy this one smells heavenly!! I can't wait to crack into it! 


At this point I went home and grabbed my Victorio Strainer and some Prickly Pear Juice. We were done cutting the strawberries into little pieces and mashing them by hand. We thought we'd try the strainer, even though I don't have the berry filter for it. Mashing the strawberries went SO much faster! But then we realized...we didn't know whether to treat the strawberry pulp as juice or as mashed berries. So for the first few recipes we treated it as mashed berries, and now we're thinking we should have treated it more like juice. 


Batch 5: Strawberry Lemon Marmalade

We got this recipe out of the Ball Blue Book for canning. It wasn't hard to put together, but somewhere we did something wrong (maybe the strawberry pulp?) because these didn't set up at all. So we have strawberry lemon marmalade syrup! 

Batch 6: Strawberry Prickly Pear Jam

I have Prickly Pear juice that I canned on my shelves at home. I LOVE prickly pear jelly and thought it would be fun to try seeing if we could make Prickly Pear Strawberry jelly work. A quick search online didn't yield a recipe so we decided to just wing it. For this batch we decided to try doing half of the original Prickly Pear Jelly recipe and half of the Strawberry Jelly recipe. It didn't work. Well, at least it didn't turn into jelly or jam. It's syrup. But it's really yummy! 

Batch 7: Strawberry Syrup

This one was the most involved recipe of all of them! This recipe was also out of the Ball Blue Book. We were sure glad that the husbands were home by then and they could field the kids because it took both of us working to get this done in any decent time. Jackie stirred the syrup concoction trying to get it to the right temperature while I worked on squeezing the cooked strawberry pulp through a flour sack (we get the Blue Bird Flour sacks specifically for the cloth sack it comes in) to get the juice out. It took forever on both ends! Finally we got it done, but it was an ordeal! It tastes good, but not as flavorful as we hoped. 

Batch 8: Strawberry Jam

This batch was with the strawberry pulp and we treated it as mashed fruit and tried to make jam. We're thinking we should have treated it like juice again and made jelly, as none of these jars set up either. 

Batch 9: Strawberry Prickly Pear Jelly



Finally we were down to the last bit of strawberry pulp. It wasn't enough to make plain strawberry jelly or jam, and we were just done. So I decided to try one more experimental batch. And this one worked!! 

1 3/4 c. strawberry pulp (it was slightly more than 3/4 but not quite a full cup either)
2 1/4 c. prickly pear juice
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 pkg sure jell pectin
6 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp butter

Combine the pulp, cactus juice, and lemon juice. Stir in the pectin. Heat to a rolling boil. Add sugar. Heat to a rolling boil (adding butter if the mixture becomes foamy), and boil for 3 minutes exactly. Pour into prepared jars and seal.

This one set up beautifully and is SO yummy! I love the combination of the flavors. 

So lessons learned:
  • Use pulp as juice, not mashed fruit. 
  • 1 flat of strawberries yielded about 3 batches of jam. 
  • Syrup isn't worth the time and energy, lol. 
  • Canning is WAY more fun and easy with a canning buddy. Especially if they have kids and you have kids and the kids can help keep each other company. 
  • The crockpot was perfect for keeping the seals/lids warm and ready! Jackie was a genius!! 
  • Being a domestic goddess is so totally not my thing, bahaha. But I already knew that. 
So today I'm going to slice up my remaining strawberries and put them in the dehydrator, and Jackie is working on individually freezing a flat of strawberries for smoothies. And then we think we're done. We thought we did a lot, and then I saw people who had 20-30 flats of strawberries that they are working through. Holy cow! I'm happy with our work though and can't wait to taste each variety.