I made eight jars of strawberry freezer jam to use as hostess gifts this summer. I'm not super big on jelly or cooked jam, but I do love freezer jam because it's crazy red (because it's uncooked) and tastes so fresh. I used these pretty jars instead of plastic containers. (I'm no expert, but I freeze my glass jars and leftover containers regularly and have never had a problem; you need to leave room for things to expand a bit when they freeze.) I actually think I'll make more, because the jam keeps for a year in the freezer and it's a nice present.
Especially if you bake some bread to go with. Ever since my big day a year or so ago when I baked bread from scratch for the first time in my whole entire life, I have been baking bread (or making homemade pizza dough) about every week or so. I use my Kitchen Aid now, I must confess. If you have one, bread is SO EASY. So easy. Try it. It kneads the whole thing for you. I use the recipe for A Loaf of Fresh White Bread (except I substitute 1 cup of whole-wheat flour for 1 of the cups of all-purpose flour [sometimes I use bread flour if I remember to buy it] ) from the glorious River Cottage Family Cookbook. I love that thing. I have made a few other breads but this one is my favorite. I follow the recipe exactly, except that I also turn down my oven a little bit, to 450 degrees F for the first ten minutes, then 400 for the last ten or so minutes. I also don't take it out of the pan and turn it upside down for another five minutes because I find that at that point the bread is still a bit soft and it always flops over to one side and squishes. I use a very good dose of olive oil on my bread pans and that seems to crisp up the bottom crust quite nicely.
I made two loaves yesterday and wrapped one up for my next-door neighbors, who are having a beautiful fence built along the property border that we share. I used one of my precious crazy-expensive but seriously adorable chef medallions on top of the jar, because they are cool people (and, er, they are paying for the fence, so I figured it was the least I could do).
I bought these little labels for myself with my birthday money from Andy's grandpa this past year. I probably would've gotten them sooner but it took me about three years to pick out which drawing I wanted (there are about a million) as they are all so stinkin cute I couldn't decide.
I walked the bread and jam next door to the cacophony of saws, drills, nail guns, air compressors and all sorts of other tools I try not to have to know how to use. It's been pretty amazing watching how the fence comes together. I came back to my house and made myself a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and then made two more, one for each of the worker guys, who have been about five feet away from my kitchen window all week and who I could hear (I'm not making this up) talking to each other about peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches just moments before they even saw me walk outside the first time. Voila. Your wish is my command. The shock on their faces, when I came back out and handed them each a little still-warm parchment-wrapped red-and-white-striped-string-tied sammy? Martha Stewart must get that look all the time. They're all, "For reals?" I'm all, playing it cool, "Yah, no prob." Inside: [Giggling]. It was pretty cute.
I didn't have any brothers growing up, so whenever I hear guy conversations I about fall over laughing. Then again, I myself have, without a shred of embarrassment, written entire blog posts about pancakes. And cats. And the pleater. So I probably shouldn't laugh.