I've been spending the past few days in the kitchen, surrounded by canning jars, kettles, ingredients and just an awful mess. It has not been all good. Maybe I was rushed. Maybe I was careless. Maybe I just made bad decisions.\n\nMy first try was with strawberries. I bought six pounds of berries. I had a learner with me, so it was important to do it right. We washed and hulled them and began the process of making them into jam. I use Certo for jam. I've always had better luck with that than with the other product – Sure Jel. We followed the directions in the Certo exactly. We made two batches of eleven jelly jars full of jam. But once it was cool, the jam was thick but not gelled. I tried it on a peanut butter and jam sandwich, and a lot of it just slipped out from between the slices of bread. This is not good. The only thing I can think of was the berries might have been not ripe enough. I was careful to choose the right ones and removed any that were less than bright red. So, now what? I was making them to put into the church bazaar. I guess I'll market it as Strawberry Ice Cream Topping.\n\nMy learner no longer with me, I moved on to the watermelon rind pickle. I had conferred with another person in the Virginias. I had concerns about using the seedless variety of watermelon as the rind was not thick enough. That is all I can find up here in New England. They are awesome for the fruit, but they have the bare minimum for the rind. She assured me that she had been using the seedless variety this summer and they came out fine. Okay. Worth a try.\n\nThe pieces were small. I brined them following the recipe in the Ball Blue Book of canning. I'd used that before and gotten great watermelon pickle. I made the solution cooking them with the bag of spices in it. I cooked the rind till tender then added it to the syrup. Now it said to cook it till clear and this is where the trouble came. It never got clear. I wonder if I took off enough of the green skin. I used a peeler and in the past, I used a knife. I got the rind clean of the peel. So, I cooked it, checking it often. By the last check, the syrup had turned brown. So, I'm guessing the sugar burned in the solution. I jarred it and put it through a water bath. It also tastes like topping for ice cream. What happened to the vinegar? It must have cooked out or something.\n\nSo, yesterday I had a half bushel of pickling cucumbers on the counter and a lot of doubts about my abilities. Did I really want to go through another back breaking bout of canning? With little else that I could do with that many cucumbers, I bit the bullet and salted down as much as my two big stainless steel bowls could handle. I'm happy to report that the two bowls resulted in 17 pints of beautiful bread and butter pickles. One batch I added a couple diced red peppers to the final cooking and they are just beautiful as well as very tasty. It had always been an option, but I had never tried them. I will do that again for sure.\n\nThey say that the third time is the charm, and that worked for me. Do I dare push the issue and go on with peach jam and canned fruit? In the meantime, the watermelon is going down the disposal and I see a lot of strawberry sundaes in my future.