It’s my birthday today so, I declared it a holiday and took the day off from work. Marigold was happy; she got an extra day in the country.
Walking around my property, netted a huge mixed bouquet of blooms. To the left of my farmhouse there are four rows of a camellia specimen garden. No two are exactly alike. I do not know their names and wish someone who could identify them would come and do so. The solid, medium-sized white ones are my favorite.
The bulbs that we’re planted last October are all up and blooming. I was surprised to see that, down by the lower, ground-sweeping limbs, the Pride of Mobile azaleas are beginning to bud and bloom.
All the blooms were brought into the kitchen, trimmed and placed in an antique pedestal bowl.
In the remains of the old orchard, one of the Mayhaw trees was abuzz with honey bees. Come one jelly making season.
I’m an easy person to please. My nephew asked me, “You’re not doing anything for your birthday?”
My answer: “Oh, yeah, baby. I’m enjoying the solitude.”
Just give me a sweet breeze through the trees, lots of flowers to gather, the songs of birds and the sunshine. That’s all the birthday present I need.
I was going to start this with the weather report, but recently heard that was the best way to kill a writing. I also recently heard that the phrase, ‘and then the murders began’ (credit to Marc Laidlaw) can really ramp up a story. So, here goes…
When I bought my farmhouse nearly a year ago, I was pleased to find established fruit trees on the property. Two mayhaws have been blooming and are now making their tiny, bright red fruit.
On my hands and knees, I gathered the windfall and filled up my box. As I stood up, the thorns of the spindly branches grabbed at my hair. And then the murders began…
Ha! Oh, well, I tried.
I gathered enough mayhaws for two batches of jelly. If you pick this tiny pomegranate like fruit, be prepared to make jelly the same afternoon. Mayhaws are delicate and turn really quickly. I made one canner of jelly today and put the rest of the juice in the freezer.
Wash and sort your berries. Place in a big stainless steel pot and cover with just enough water. Simmer for about 25 minutes and let cool in the pot. When cool, take a cup or two at a time and make a pouch in cheese cloth. Squeeze out all the juice into a big bowl. Repeat till all of the may haws have been juiced.
4 cups of juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 box Sure-Jell
5 cups white sugar
What to do:
Have your jelly jars and lids sterilized and keep them warm. This prevents them from breaking when filled with the hot jelly and placed in the water bath.
In a 6 quart pot pour in 4 cups of may haw juice and the butter. Add the box of Sure-Jell. I use a wisk to make sure the pectin is mixed well. Bring to a boil that cannot be stirred down. At this point, slowly pour in the 5 cups of sugar. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture back up to a boil and cook for another minute. With a metal spoon, skim off any foam that may have formed. (And look, save it; slightly bitter, but still sweet enough to eat on crackers. I really hate wasting any of it. Skim it off to make your jelly jars pretty.)
Working one jar at a time, fill jelly to a 1/4 inch of the top of the jars, wipe off any spills and seal with the canning lids. Place filled jars into the canner basket and carefully lower into the water bath. The water should be a slow rolling boil. Process for 5 minutes. Carefully remove and let them rest on the counter, lined with a kitchen towel, to cool.
Label and store in your jelly cupboard. I know, you probably don’t have a jelly cupboard. Who does these days? Put in any cupboard that’s kept at a fairly constant temperature and away from sunlight. This jelly is a beautiful deep pink and it would be a shame to have it turn in color.
Enjoy. Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen. And then the murders began…!