Tag Archives: jam

Grapefruit Jelly Jam Yes Ma’am

Can you handle the gorgeousness of this fruit? Such amazingly fresh grapefruit, picked last weekend by the amazing boys of my life! XOXOX Vm & Babu.


Using his powers for good, my son climbed this grapefruit tree in a parking lot of the hotel we stayed at in Siesta Key and, with a little assistance from my husband, filled two re-usable shopping bags with ripe, sweet grapefruit.


Total nectar! Okay, you have to channel a German Hare Krishna monk to get the full effect of that phrase. I juiced a lot of grapefruits last nite. I learned that my $30 citrus juicer was not meant to juice a lot of grapefruit. I also learned that fresh grapefruit juice tastes best when drunk from a cheers cup.


The Babu, home from work and freshly showered, drinking his antioxidants and bioflavinoids.


Around 10 o'clock in the evening, I revealed on Facebook my plans for Friday nite: JAM MAKING! Mohini was all like, "Not without me!" And I was all like, "Duh, come over." And so she did. She even went home to get her own juicer when she saw what a dying sick animal mine was. Moaning and wheezing. It was terrible. This was Mohini's second time making jam--her first using natural pectin and doing it low sugar! Exciting times, I tell ya!


We stayed up till 3 in the morning, acting like young girls on a chitty chatty jam making binge. Only we are in our thirties and I am way pregnant and we both have demanding offspring. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.


The next morning, I stumbled out of bed at an unbelievably late 9 am and was greeted in the kitchen by these jarred jewels! Grapefruit jelly and cranberry grapefruit jam.


I set aside some for gifts and some for the family.


I have these corny gift tags from Target, so tonite I scribbled out some I.D.'s for tiny jams.


While Florida may not have a proper fall–no crabapple, no quince, no pear–we do have winter citrus! Not a bad deal at all…if you have a good juicer!



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U-Pick Here

Strawberry season has officially begun! We have a few sources for local and organic strawberries around here and I plan to take advantage of them as much as possible. Last year the kids and I were home all the time and it seemed like all we did for the first two weeks of June was pick strawberries, eat strawberries, make strawberry jam and eat hot strawberry jam. This year we mostly drive back and forth to State College for pre-school.

When I was driving the kids home from pre-school Monday I passed the Amish farm and could not help but stop short at the sight of their sign. “Stawberries.” Although they have great organic produce, their strawberries were too costly for my jam op. Better to stick with pick your own.

I checked in with the local Hare Krishna farm to see what was going on with their strawberries but it looks like they will be peaking around next week. I then called Brummer’s Farm to find out their price—same as the Amish on the already picked but the pick your own was reasonable. I told Meg that I would be by on Friday morning to pick but she seemed to think I should come right away.

My husband was leaving for work in an hour and a half and there wasn’t much time. But I do tend to get fruit panic attacks when I think of berries ripening in the field. Madhava sensed that I was getting stressed out trying to figure out when I would be able to pick so he suggested that I grab a bucket and go.

In an hour I was able to pick 2 gallons of strawberries, which isn’t that much, but a start nonetheless. And it was enough to alleviate a strawberry related panic attack. For now. At least until next week when the strawberries peak at the Hare Krishna farm.

Hopefully by then my legs will adjust to the picking squat position. Either the pain I am feeling in my thighs is testimony to the really good workout gotten from berry picking or just more proof that my physical age is closer to 63 than 33.

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"EAT ME." WIN THIS. The Contest.

Here’s a little contest for anyone out there wanting a free Human Made Sabjimata shirt. It is called: “EAT ME.” WIN THIS. The “THIS” being the shirt (like, okay, you already knew that).

So folks, here’s what you have to do. It is a bit silly, but so what. Send me something–a paragraph, a poem, a photo, a collage, opening scene montage. Whatever. You have free reign of expression.

But what you have to express is limited to this: If you were a food, what food would you be. Try to give a why with it. I know…so Barbara Walters. So what?

The winner will have the honor of having his or her winning entry displayed here on my very own winning blog. And oh yeah, the t-shirt is yours, too.

The rules are:

1) You have to live on the North American continent or otherwise be willing to pay the shipping costs. I’m not spending thirty bucks to send your free t-shirt to Tasmania.

2) Deadline for entries is June 15. Send entries to sabjimata@gmail.com with subject line: contest entry.

3) Want to be a whole smorgasboard? Enter as many times as you like but not with the same entry. I won’t make fun of you but I may feel sorry for you that you have nothing better to do with your time.

4) Please don’t gross me out. There’s a lot of potential for that. Don’t do it.

5) This is a meat unfriendly contest. Please keep your entries vegetarian.

6) Winner is chosen completely arbitrarily by me, the sole and only judge. All decisions are final.

7) If no one enters, I win by default.

I’m looking forward to exploring your food narcissism. And remember,”Free Shirt!”

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Experiential Learning or Complete and Utter Waste of My Time?

This evening I asked a friend to help me upload a three column template for my jam blog. Much of the sidebar content was trashed when the upload was complete and I was left staring at the screen with a thumping heart while my kids bounced off the walls in the room behind me. I spent hours upon hours trying to get this blog to look good and in a press of a button, my efforts vanished.

Last nite my son took forever to go to bed (I lie with the kids while they try to drift off to slumber) and I did not get out of his room until 11. We had a showing today (they prospective buyers will be looking at other prospects: they said our house was too big) so I had to do a big spic and span cleaning last night. While we were happy to get the showing, the call came in while I was driving my kids back from State College and my husband was getting ready to head out the door for work. So basically that meant I would be cleaning solo. By the time I could escape the kids’ room, I was too tired to bust out the mop. I set the alarm for 4 and prayed it would be enough time to clean before I had to drive the kids back to State College.

Of course, I couldn’t sleep so I got up at 3:30, grabbed a bucket of hot water with eucelyptus oil, and got scrubbing. The kitchen looked great, all shiny and new and the rest of the house, minus a few rooms I didn’t get to, looked pretty comfortable and clean enough.

So, with the all nighter, no sale on the house and then my blog layout blooping from existence, I was a pretty crabby woman. Thankfully I was able to get some clarity (but not sleep) and figured out a way to make my new and improved blog even better. Now I know exactly what I’ll be doing while I sit in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble waiting for the time to pass to pick up my kids from preschool: not working on figuring out Illustrator for the labels, which is what my original plan was.

Ahh, of mice and men, I am always the mouse.

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Just What is a ‘Sabjimata’ Anyway?

One day after my kids’ preschool, I was hanging out on the playground with some moms when one of them asked me what the name of my jam business meant. Liz, who’s partner Garret studies Eastern thought and yoga, said she knew “mata” meant “mother” but she wanted to know about the “sabji” part. Because she and Garret know I am a practicing Hare Krishna, they immediately gave me undue credit, thinking that “sabji” meant something sacred and spiritual.

Umm. No.

“Mata” does mean mother. It is actually how my children address me. “Sabji,” on the other hand, simply means vegetable. It may refer to veggies in the raw or prepared vegetable dishes like Indian curries. “Sabjimata” was my email handle long before I started making jam. Simply stated, I like vegetables.

But truth be told, I am not the original Sabjimata. Towards the end of the nineties I lived at an intentional community, Gita Nagari, with a friend of mine from Detroit. Her name was Saci-Mata and she was named after the mother of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Saci Devi. A truly transcendental cook, she was anointed “Sabjimata” by a long time resident of the place, Baladeva Vidyabhusan, himself an amazing cook in his own high-fat right. Saci-mata was able to transform the contents of a nearly empty walk-in cooler into a feast of kofta, sabji, fancy rice, dalma, chapatis, samosas, chatni and gulab jumans. In what seemed like a moment’s notice.

Saci-mata earned her Sabjimata nickname the hard way by paying her kitchen dues. Me? I just appropriated something that sounded pretty catchy.

Above is a picture of my personal Deities. Mahaprabhu is on the right. When I cook, I meditate on Him and the Matas who know how to please Him. As you can see, I’m just an imposter.

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Slow Food Deserves Slow Shirts

So, my “Human Made” t-shirts should be arriving soon. I hope. They are taking longer than expected. To make? To ship? I am not sure.

These shirts are a mystery. I emailed the person who designed them to see if he is cool with me crediting him on this blog for the shirts. He is kind of a highbrow person and I don’t want to bring down his uber-image by associating him so intimately with my humble, earthy jam. I am very grateful to him for designing the shirts. Although he hasn’t responded, in this case I will not take silence to mean consent. But I will say that his initials are R.F. And he has a job. A job that pays into Social Security. I hope that doesn’t give too much away.

The shirts are being printed by TDT Silk Screening in New Jersey. I hung out in high school with the owner, Geoff Dagastino, and he is giving me a really good rate on the printing. Chris Daily out of Harrisburg offered to print the shirts for me, but his prices were higher than TDT’s. I wish I would have talked it over with him more because I just found out he would have matched TDT’s prices. And he’s local.

Anyway, my shirts are supposed to be in transit, but I am not sure if that is the case since as of yet I have not received the invoice. So if you want to know what I’m doing these days, its sitting around waiting for UPS to show up. I am taking a break from jam making because there isn’t much to can right now and I am just trying to enjoy having a cleaned up and put away kitchen for at least a week.

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Sometimes I ask myself whether or not I really want to do this. Make jam.  Sell jam.  The whole jam business thing.

I never set out to do a business. Last year I just made much too much strawberry jam.  The local Hare Krishna farm, Gita Nagari, had way more strawberries than anyone could use. And they were gooood.  I’ve never tasted strawberries so sweet.  I couldn’t handle the thought of them rotting in the field so I bought some.  Alright, I bought a lot. Maybe 15 gallons total.
Towards the end of the summer I realized just how difficult it would be to go through all that jam within a two year period.  Even with all the jars I was giving away as gifts.  My husband, Madhava, suggested I sell some.  Friends were bothering me to buy some.  So, I set up a rough blog and sent out an email.
And that’s where fate stepped in. Of course I sent the email to family, thinking that even if they didn’t want to buy any of my jam they would at least be happy that I was trying to sell some.  My cousin, Laura Levitt, then did something that was so Laura. Only she didn’t tell me she was doing it.
Laura is more than a cousin to me.  She is my familial link to feeling like I belong.  Which in my case of  being the adopted oddball, makes my position as the black sheep of the family seem even more out of place. But with Laura as my cousin, I feel like I have someone else to not fit in with. Together we can wear our black–or chartreuse or patchwork or lame’ or handloom ikat–wool and we match.  At least with one another.  In a mixing prints kind of way.
In the early 90’s I lived with Laura while attending Temple University. She opened my eyes beyond the bore, I mean, core curriculum and introduced me to a world of feminist studies, identity politics and just really good teachers.  Basically, she assisted my transformation from erratic to radical.  And she even understands how being a Hare Krishna fits in with that.  I just love Laura.
Laura is the kind of person who is actually happy for other people’s successes.  Honestly, I don’t know too many of them.  So, being Laura, this is what she did.
Laura forwarded my email to Dana Cowen, Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine Magazine. I met Dana years ago when I was about seven and attended her undergraduate graduation from Brown University, where she and Laura were not only roommates but best friends.  So without knowing that Laura did this, I received an email from Nick Fauchald, Senior Associate Food Editor at the magazine. He was asking to get a sample of my jams to try them out.
Now, the idea of this was totally off my radar but still, when introduced, had a great amount of appeal.  At that point I didn’t have many varieties, and it was all pretty basic stuff: Strawberry Jam, Elderberry Syrup (yum), Chili Pickle.  I had just bought a bushel of local peaches for home canning and that is when, through Divine Inspiration, Saffron Cardamom Peach Jam was born. And Vanilla Bean Peach Butter. And let me tell you, they’re good.
So I discovered a place where I could buy pro jars, got some bo-bo labels printed and mailed off the jam to Nick.  After a few weeks he wrote back that they really enjoyed the jam.  Okay.  Then what?  Well, they didn’t have a spot in the magazine for it at the time, but he would keep it in mind.
Was he serious, or just being nice?  I’m not sure.
But anyway, that is how the business got started. Kind of by forces beyond my control. Maybe that’s how it should happen.
So I advertised on Chakra, a Hare Krishna news site, and tried refining my blog along the way.  Surprisingly to me, I started getting orders. And not just from friends and family but people who I had no idea of their existence prior to our encounters of the jam kind.  People googling “best peach jam” or looking for quince jelly for their Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  Whatever the case, they found me on the web and I was selling them jam.
The Food & Wine thing was really a push and I started thinking about making my jam operation more pro. I considered selling my jam at the newly opened Farmer’s Market in Carlisle, but the booth fee coupled with the winding, stomach churning, one hour drive over the mountain made me think twice about it.  Besides, it’s not like there is such a huge population in Carlisle anyway (although it is a really cute college town).    It didn’t seem worth the endeavor, or the time away from my kids.
Then, on the darkest and dreariest of winter days, we decided to move to Alachua,  Florida so that our kids would have more of a life than they would growing up in the middle of nowhere in Central Pennsylvania (no offense to anyone who feels Central PA is located elsewhere).  I had mixed feelings about the move, which meant leaving behind my truly functional and fabulous custom kitchen with the 40″ soapstone sink and twin faucets.  My gardens, full of gooseberries, mulberries, crabapple, pear, raspberry, roses and other edibles, would stay behind.  And the Amish farmers, the Brummers and the Pennsylvania Backyard Fruit Growers.
I started looking into possibilities in Florida.  Or more accurately, obstacles.  I contacted the Florida Dept. of Ag and found out that Florida was not as small business friendly as Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, I am sure due to the Amish, one could process food at home and be legal. In Florida, regardless of the size of your business, you must use a profession kitchen which meets all the legal requirements.  As far as fruit goes, most of the fruit grown in Florida gets shipped to fresh market in New England and the Northeast.  Because of the growing season, Florida growers can get top dollar for their fruit since it comes in early.  That explains why when I visited Florida a month ago, the limes I bought at the supermarket were imported from Mexico.  And then there was the issue of jars. I think I found a place in Atlanta to source them from, but still, that’s about 5 hours away and I’ll have to pay for it.
But with all this discouragement, I still found hope. Friends were very supportive and I realized Florida had something which PA lacked: easy access to distribution.  The other day I called Ward’s Supermarket in Gainesville to get the pricing on their sugar.  Twenty five pounds of cane is ridiculous but the turbinado is well priced. Anyway, once the man heard I made jam and was into the whole local thing, he just short of promised me that Ward’s would carry it when I got down there.  Now, that’s more than just hopeful.
But still, I ask myself, is this what I want to do. Is this how I want to spend my time.  Jam making is very time consuming.  Taking this into consideration, it makes sense that it is made in a factory.  Except for the fact that factories are gross and use substandard ingredients.  I mean, there’s other stuff I would like to do with my time, like become a foreign aid worker, learn an instrument, learn a second language.  So what if most of these things are unrealistic? I mean, what is the likelihood of a dumb American like myself learning a second language?  That dashes my desire to attend graduate school, which would also require some kind of competency outside English.  Okay.  But there are some things I would like to do within my limited realm called my life: service at my temple, hanging out with my kids, exercising so I don’t feel like I’m 63 instead of 33, writing and cooking stuff other than jam.  Or things eaten with jam.
So while I try to keep this blog updated with my fascinating jam life and while I try to get a media kit together so I can try and drum up some press for Sabjimata, I’m also burdened with 
the existential question of whether or not jam is worth it.  

So…..what do you think?  Really, I’m interested.


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