My Favorite Things: Homemade Jam

Name: Leigh M. Lane
Current obsession: Homemade Jam

Jams

Leigh’s Homemade Jam

A few weeks ago, some good friends invited me over to pick as many cherries from their tree as I could carry. I ended up coming home with over four pounds of the fresh, juicy fruits. I’d played around with previous batches, making pie and other treats, and I made a couple of batches of tarts this time around (and enjoyed many raw and cold from the refrigerator). We’d picked many of them late in the season this year, however, and it was evident that they were going to go bad before I could use (or eat) them all.

I decided to try my hand at canning. Reading up on recipes and proper processing, I felt discouraged initially: Process them incorrectly, and various microbes will end up growing in the jar. It seemed I wasn’t alone in my concern; nearly every first-time canner has fears of poisoning their families with improperly processed foods, and the fear of botulism is at the top of the list.

I researched a little more and learned that botulism isn’t really a threat in acidic foods such as jams; botulism prefers low-acid foods like green beans, potatoes, carrots, and corn. The most common threat to fruit preserves is mold, which is visible (unlike botulism, which can be undetectable by both sight and smell). Summoning the courage and taking a leap of faith, I opted to give it a go.

Not only did I cook and process the most amazing jam I’ve ever tasted, I found it all strangely soothing despite the fact that a lot of work goes into making and preserving the fruit.

Here’s the recipe I followed: http://www.marthastewart.com/339798/cherry-preserves

Jam Gear

Canning Tools

In addition to the recipe, there’s a strict protocol one needs to follow to ensure the jars are properly sterilized. I was surprised to learn that there are specific tools necessary for efficient sterilization and sterile canning: canning tongs, canning funnel, jar boiling rack (and a massive stock pot it will fit inside), canning measuring stick, and magnet stick for pulling lids out of boiling water.

I have to say, I never thought the day would come when I would seek out advice of any kind from Martha Stewart … makes me feel a bit like my soul is under the threat of possession by Suzie Homemaker or some similar but equally nefarious domestication demon. Of course, I made my batch in a cauldron with eye of newt and an incantation to ensure my horror-writing humanity remained intact.

After my first successful batch, which yielded a little over three jars (one of which I gave to my friends who’d provided the cherries), I realized I’d caught the canning bug. I wanted to try all different types of fruit preserves and found recipes for stone fruit (plums, peaches, nectarines) jams and apple butter. All of them have been delicious, although there seems to be a learning curve to making apple butter (my first attempt turning out more like apple sauce).

Jars

Sterilized Jars

Recently, I invited one of my nieces over to make a new batch of cherry jam, and I learned the hard way that the quality of fruit has a huge effect on the final product. Instead of the plump, juicy, freshly picked cherries I’d used the first time, I used store-bought cherries that had the size and consistency of olives. What I ended up with was a blob of candied, dehydrated cherries.

Live and learn.

While I have neither the time nor the energy to make preserves on a regular basis, I’ve definitely found a new hobby in it and hope to have a nice collection of jams and apple butters before my favorite fruits go out of season for the year. Practice makes perfect, and I’m enjoying all the yummy rewards along the way.

Find out more about Leigh M. Lane, go to: http://www.cerebralwriter.com

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Don’t miss the next installment of this
favorite things series when my writer friend
Chantal Noordeloos
will talk about her obsession.

Do you have something you collect or obsess about and would like to share with my readers? Feel free to comment below or if you’d like to do a post on your obsession, email me at emzbox13@gmail.com

The Great Vampire Dispute ~ Leigh M. Lane’s Vamps

Next on my list for modern vampire writers is Leigh M. Lane. Leigh is a new friend of mine that writes a vampire out of the norm. Jane the Hippie Vampire is broke, homeless, and vegan. Not quite the sultry, romantic trope we’re used to, but interesting just the same. When asked about her series, Leigh said, “Jane is a transient, her encounters modeled after the 70’s series Kung-Fu. Each “episode” offers a piece of her past as well as a glimpse into her current search for redemption.”

Well, I for one can’t wait to find out about Leigh’s hippie vampire. Let’s check her out!

LEIGH’S VAMPS

  • L White Wall 1Author name: Leigh M. Lane
  • What is the title of your series? Jane the Hippie Vampire
  • How many books are currently for sale or listen? The second releases in August.
  • How many total in the series to date? Six
  • What is the series about? Jane has had one hell of a time ever since she bumped into the wrong guy during the Summer of Love, but she’s taken it all in stride. Wandering from town to town, she seeks out the needy and the broken in hopes of breaking the curse that’s left her bloodthirsty and forever seventeen. In Love Beads, Jane crosses paths with a middle-aged man who’s encountered her kind before–but he seems happy just to have the company. Of course, appearances can be deceiving, and his secret might just prove to be the end of her.
  • Where can readers buy, read, or listen to your vampire series? http://www.amazon.com/Jane-Hippie-Vampire-Love-Beads-ebook/dp/B00L0J8ROQ

The Vampire Matrix

Garlic Dislikes. Stake That’ll kill anything.
Sunlight/ UV Allergy grows over time. Holy water/crosses Jane’s a Christian.
Running water No problem—but she hates baths. Drowning She’s not sure.
Silver Pretty. Fire A good way to dispose of bodies.
Coffin sleep a must? Nope. Homeland dirt a must? Nope.
Decapitation Probably deadly. Do they need to be invited in? Nope.
Do they sparkle? Hell, no. Do they cast a shadow? Yep.
Do they show up on film or video? Yes. Do they have a reflection? Yes.
Eye color change with hunger? No. Blood tears? No.
Die if not fed? Eventually. When killed, what is left? A body.
Eat solid food? Yes—but she’s a vegan. Create offspring by blood? No.
Have sex? Yes. Fertile? No.
Immortal? She’s not sure, but she hasn’t aged since the Summer of Love. Enhanced strength? Yes.
Enhanced senses? No. Enhanced speed? Yes.
Enhanced healing? Yes. Flight? No.
Shapeshifting? No. Psychic? Somewhat.
Mind control? Possibly. Does their blood heal mortals? No.
What are their fangs like? Retractable.
Skin color when after rebirth: No change—just increased paleness from sun avoidance.
Attractiveness after rebirth: No change.
How do they feed? Jane falls into a berserker frenzy, and then destroys the body to avoid reanimation.
What does the mortal experience when fed on? Pain, weakness, death.
What do they feed on? Human only? Evil souls only? Only humans, preferably the scum of society.
Do they kill? Or only drink? Do they have a conscious? Jane kills as infrequently as possible and hopes she might perform enough good deeds to cancel out the bad. She actually hopes she might do enough good to relieve her of her curse, but it’s most likely wishful thinking.
Are there clans or a hierarchy? Not that Jane’s aware of.

Jane4

  • How is a vamp created in your world? Exsanguination and awakening.
  • What happens when they are changed? They are overcome with bloodlust.
  • Is religion involved in you vamp world and what kind? Jane is a product of the hippie revival movement and is a born-again Christian.
  • Is war or fighting a big theme in your books? No, only Jane’s personal battle against her nature.
  • How did vampires “start” in your world? Jane hasn’t a clue, but she assumes it’s some kind of curse.
  • Who is your top vampire character? Jane, who was dosed in a bar during the Summer of Love, woke in a basement in a remote cottage, where she was a food source and sex slave for an indeterminate amount of time. She escaped after being buried alive.
  • Who is your favorite vampire writer? Anne Rice.
  • What music goes best with your series? Well, Jane personally prefers funk, but I think of ‘60s rock when I think about her character.

Thank you for sharing your groovy vampire with us, Leigh!

Join me next time Biters,
when we’ll talk to
Paul Lewis about his IMMORTAL series!