Saturday, September 26, 2009

Peach jam

The mess began small, just some tools sprawled out across a table. But it was much more than a mess than we were after. My GF and I worked on making jars of peach jam for everyone as Christmas gifts. The experiments with blackberries and blueberreis turned out so well, it was only natural to make the peach jam next, since they're in season and all over the stores right now. I love a good peach, and I love being able to package it up for a later date.

The process seemed simple enough. Boil the jars to sterilize them, and keep them boiling while prepping everything. Peel the peaches, measure the sugar and lemon juice, crush the peaches with the potato masher, mix it all together, and keep it boiling over high heat until it begins to set. Then, we ladle it into the hot jars, put the lid on, set the jars back in the boiling water to process, and pray that we don't give all our friends and family botulism.

The first stage of the procedure is peeling the peaches. We had some conflict of opinion on proper methods, and I turned out wrong. So, in case you're wondering, here's what to do: Start a large pot of covered boiling water. When the water is at a rolling boil, drop in all your peaches that you intend to peel. Keep it in there for about a minute. Riper peaches will peel easier than unripe ones. Lift a peach out and feel the skin to see if it slides on the flesh at all. If it does, it's probably ready to go. Drop it into an ice water bath, roll it around for a few seconds, then use your thumbs to slide the peel off.

Crushing fruit is surprisingly theraputic. It's also one of the few times I really get to use my gigantic potato masher. I really don't know what I was thinking when I bought that gigantic thing, considering the fact that I probably spent more on it than all of my spatulas combined. But, it got its mileage when we turned this pile of unsuspecting fruit into pulp.

The fruit is then mixed with sugar, lemon juice, and the pectin. Some fruits are high enough in pectin where all they need is to be reduced. This was certainly the case with the blackberries and blueberries. Peaches are just not so. We made two batches, one with full sugar, and one using a "no sugar added" pectin that ended up tasting too tart to enjoy. I added some sugar to it anyway, which helped the flavor. We'll give them out as 'low-sugar' instead of sugar-free.

The hot peach jam goes into the hot jars, which are then sealed and submerged in boiling water for ten minutes. This is to make sure we got out all the nasty nasties to keep the food safe for human consumption. And I must say, this stuff is tasty, so we ultimately want some human consumption involved.

I'm glad I got the canner, but I should've read the label. This canner is designed for quart-size jars, and we had pint-size jars. They were falling over sideways in the pot and required a little babysitting. One of the lids came off as I was lifting it out. We could not trust it to be shelf stable anymore. (Darn, I have to keep one!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fun with Telemarketers #1

So, before getting into this, I think it's safe to state that there is no real good time for a telemarketer to call. However, there are worse times than others, such as 8:15pm while my son is reading me his bedtime story. However, I've come to see telemarketer calls a free license opportunity to screw around with people.

Tonight, however, I couldn't be bothered with it at all. I got the call and was ready to give them hell when I answered the call... only there wasn't a human on the line, I was greeted with hold music.

So, I thought I'd return the favor. I ran across the room to my clock radio, quickly found the first station with semi-clear music, set the phone down by the speaker, and returned to finish my story.

I was anticipating a chance to pick up the phone, hear a voice, and put them "on hold" again. Let's see when the next call comes in. I have an older and more interestering technique which I'll share next time...

Quick update: Repeated the procedure again on the following night. Can't these guys take a hint? All they need to do is wait for me to finish and I'll talk to them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pardon the gap in transmission, I've been working very hard on papers for school. My weekly essays are all one-pagers about current news articles, so it hit me today - why not post them in my blog?

This is my first paper from four weeks ago. The teacher docked one point out of ten for being too opinionated in the response. Haven't made that mistake yet. I'll publish each of my other papers later, perhaps this weekend.


Title: Oracle gets clearance by Justice Dept. for Sun acquisitionDate: Aug 20, 2009, 5:01 p.m. EST



The US Federal Governement has approved the purchase of Sun Microsystem by database software company Oracle. Although many different sites reported the event, I opted to write about the article in Market Watch because they restated a very important fact I had since forgotten - "Sun acquired MySQL AB, the developer of MySQL, for $1 billion in early 2008."


The purchase brings good news to Sun, whose stock price dropped drastically in 2007. The software company that maintains the Java programming language will likely find some new stability as a result. I am concerned about the impact on the MySQL community, as well as implications on competition between the two database technologies. Will Oracle eventually kill off development on MySQL? What does this mean for the billions of companies (like my own) that rely on MySQL to do business?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"

Okay, my situation isn't so drastic that I need C. Everett Koop to send paratrooping ambulances to my house, but it still sucks.

My leg has been steadily becoming more and more painful every day. It felt at first like a cramp or pulled muscle in my hip, but now it's feeling more serious. I even had a hard time laying down on the couch last night. And when laying on a couch becomes painful, then there's a problem.

Urgh... I hate dealing with this stuff...