No stirring required?

I have a very small kitchen with next to no counter space. There is just enough room for a microwave oven, a toaster, a small coffee maker and an electric can opener, and those use up almost half of my countertop. So when I think about buying an appliance, I also have to consider where I am going to put it because I know it is not going on the countertop. The utility of the appliance has to outweigh the hassle of owning it.

I got bit, or perhaps re-bitten is a better term, by the canning bug this year. In my lifetime I have canned almost every kind of vegetable you can think of and made pickles, jellies and jams. For whatever reason, I had to do it again this year. Being early in the year with nothing coming in from the garden, I turned to fruit. Jams and jellies seemed like a good idea, so in addition to getting the latest copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, I started cruising the Internet for ideas. That’s when I found something new – the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker.

freshtechAn automatic jam and jelly maker? Cool beans – I didn’t know they made such a thing. Well, they didn’t, at least not until last year. Interestingly enough, around the same time Philips came out with a Jamie Oliver self-stirring pot that has some things in common with the FreshTECH J&J Maker. It makes me wonder if they are the manufacturer for Jarden Home Products, which produces Ball® branded products.

Now, do you really need an appliance to make jam and jelly? Heck no. If you have a pot you can make jam. But if you’ve ever made jam or jelly, you know that you have to keep the stuff moving the whole time it is cooking or it will sitck and burn. It can be a real pain in the butt, specially when you have bad knees and standing in one spot for a long time really gets to them.

After cruising the Internet reading reviews, I decided that it might work for the small scale jam and jelly making that I wanted to do. It’s only me here, and I can only eat so much, though gifting is always an option. I don’t have my own fruit sources so I will have to buy the fruit to make the jam and as that isn’t always cheap, small batches will be my norm. Maybe something that typically is supposed to produce four half pints at a time would be good for me. I had not felt the need for any additional appliances in my life until now. I started looking for the best deal.

The typical list price in $99.99, which is what you will pay if you buy it straight from Jarden Home Products and many other suppliers. I also saw it listed for as high as $130.00, with the lowest usually being $79.00. I didn’t want to pay $100 for this thing, but I thought I could justify $79. and luckily I found it on the Walmart web site for that price. Whoopee!

All primed to buy, I went to the store. I eventually had to ask where the heck they were hiding the canning stuff, but I found it, and was shocked to see the price was the standard $100. What the heck? Pissed off, I left. Here’s a lesson learned – going home I double-checked the Walmart web site – yep, it was listed at $79., but apparently only as an online order price. Oddly enough, you could order it online and then pick it up at the store. Hmmm, let’s try this. Sure enough, I bought it online and the next day I went back to the same store that had it on their shelves at $100. and picked up my $79. jam maker. As goofy as that seems, it was the deal I was looking for and that’s good enough.

I got it home and put it together (you really only need to assemble the knob on the lid) and am now ready to get jammin’. Strawberries are at the top of their season, so that’s going to be the test run. I’ll let you know how it works.