Category Archives: Canning

The Last of the Jams, maybe

The other day, I mentioned to the husband casually that I was running out of jars for canning. He gave me a look. A long one.

Then he said, “I thought you were canning less this year?”

“Weeeellll, yyeeeesss, I have, sort of.”

It is true, I have canned fewer jars of jam than last year, but I have more of some things. This year, in addition to jam, we also have plum sauce, peach bbq sauce, peach salsa, and applesauce. We also canned more peaches and pickles than last year. Overall, we have more food put up than we did last year, but we have less jam, ummm, maybe. I haven’t actually counted the jars.

Let’s just ignore the overflowing cabinets for a moment and talk about, surprise!, apples. You didn’t think I was going to skip making apple jammy goodness just because I already have a gazillion jars of jam, do you? No.

Just to make things interesting, though I did play around a little bit.

Firstly, I made apple-grape jelly.

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The boys love grape jelly, and I was able to find some organic “wine” grapes at Whole Foods one day, so I thought I would give jelly a try. I combined the grapes with apples to make it a) cheaper, b) easier to set, and c) use up some of our mountain of apples.

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Jelly is easy, but you do need a special setup. The first step is easy; just chop up the apples, get all the grapes off of the stem, toss them in a pot with a little apple juice or water, and boil until everything is soft.

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The next step is the crucial one. You need to buy a jelly bag and bag holder or, you can use several layers of cheesecloth in a strainer. Suspend the bag or strainer over a large bowl and scoop the hot, soft, cooked fruit into it.

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The only thing you have to remember is this: Do Not Ever Press Down on the fruit in the strainer. This could cause fruit bits to get through the cloth and then your jelly will be cloudy. I know this seems counter intuitive. After all, don’t you want as much juice as possible? Well, yes, but you have to let gravity and time do the work, not you.

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After about 24 hours, you have juice. In this case, I had about 3 cups of juice. Now, at this point, if your juice looks cloudy, even though you did not press down on the fruit in the cloth, it is ok. Jelly making is a little magical. Watch what happens next.

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I added 3 ounces of lemon juice and 16 ounces of sugar to the juice and set it over medium heat. As the sugar dissolves and the mixture gets hot, the juice turns clear. See?

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Ok, I know it’s a little hard to tell in this photo, but trust me, it was so clear that I could see the bottom of the pot. I told you it was magical. Anyway, the next part is easy. Boil the mixture until the setting point is reached. This basically means that if you put a few drops of the jelly on a frozen spoon or dish, it will gel up after a minute or two. You will be able to turn the plate or spoon vertically and the jelly will not move or it will move very slowly. If you push a finger through it, the surface will wrinkle. It took my jelly about 15 minutes to get to this point. I suggest checking every five minutes or so.

Then, you shut off the heat, skim all the foam off the surface, ladle into your prepared jars, and process. I got barely 3 half pint jars from this batch. I think the boys will be happy to have this in the pb&j sandwiches.

Wow, this turned out to be a longer post than I was expecting. I think I will have to tell you about my unconventional apple butter next time.

Recipe for Apple Jelly, a summary

Basically, I wrote all the directions in the post above, so I am just going to list the ingredients here for easy reference and give the basic skeleton of directions.

2 pounds wine grapes, or any other seeded grape will do. Someday, if I ever find organic concord grapes, I want to try those.
2 pounds apples, any variety, but tart ones and small ones will have more pectin and set more quickly
1 cup apple cider
1 pound sugar
3 ounces lemon juice, about 2 lemons

Special Equipment:

Jelly bag and frame or cheesecloth and a strainer
3-4 teaspoons or saucers placed in the freezer for testing
3-4 half pint jam jars with lids and seals, sterilized and ready for processing

Directions:

1. Wash, chop, and cook fruit with a little juice.

2. Strain juice through the jelly bag for 24 hours.

3. Place spoons or saucers in the freezer, prep jars for canning.

4. Boil juice with sugar and lemon juice until setting point is reached.

5. Divide jelly among jars and process.

6. Store jam and try not to eat it all at once.

makes about 3 half pint jars of jam that will keep for a year

Next: Apple Butter, revised.

Apple Frenzy

I am sure you have noticed that the subject of most of my posts lately have been about apples, and, if they haven’t been about apples, they probably mentioned the apples at least once. This happens every year and, even though it is a ton of work to get through 5 or 6 or even 7 (some years) half bushel baskets of apples, I know that Fall would not feel right to me without this yearly apple frenzy. In fact, I did have one year while the husband was in grad school when we were unable to find a local pick your own apple farm, and, therefore, we had no bushels of apples. It may or may not have been a major reason why I was unhappy that year. In any case, rain or shine, we pick apples and then I cook like crazy with them for awhile until we all turn into apples–just kidding!

Anyway, this year, I thought I would share with you some of the apple craziness that is happening in the kitchen, so this will begin a series of posts that I will affectionately call the Apple Frenzy Series. In this series, there will be some recipes, recipe reviews, and recipe adaptations that will all feature apples. There might be some other fun stuff, too, like apple bobbing or tossing, I don’t know. You’ll just have to come back and see! The series has no set end date; I’ll just keep going until I run out of apples.

Now, I have already gone over some apple activities with the poached apples that none of us liked and the apple swirl whole wheat bread that was pretty yummy.

The next thing I did was to use my handy dandy apple-peeler-corer-slicer aka the Best Apple tool Ever to peel, core, and slice 15 pounds of apples. All this went into a big pot with a few glugs of apple cider, a few cinnamon sticks, and the juice of 5 lemons to cook until it was all soft and mushy. This took probably about an hour. Then, I fished out the sticks of cinnamon, added a cup of light brown sugar and used my immersion blender to make a slightly chunky applesauce.

Veteran canners will notice that I did not go the usual route for making applesauce, which involves just quartering the fruit, cooking it down, and then putting it through a food mill. This is because of the boys. Inevitably, little bits of skin make it through the mill and it severely hampers their enjoyment of applesauce, so I decided to do it this way this year. Honestly, I think I prefer it. It’s much easier to peel and core the fruit up front when it is cold than wrestle boiling hot cooked apples through a mill, though I probably sacrifice some yield in the process.

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I think we did pretty well, don’t you? 15 pounds of apples made 9 pints of applesauce, with a little leftover for the boys to scarf down. I only got a spoonful and the poor husband was at work, so he didn’t get any. Oh well, he’ll get some in a few months when we open the first jar!

Next time: Savory Apples and a non-apple recipe

Blood Orange

I know it is not really the height of citrus season. I’ve still got almost 4 half bushel baskets to get through and I am running all over town looking for those purple Italian prune plums. I saw them once at Costco a few weeks ago but did not buy them because I felt too busy, and now I can’t find them anywhere! Argh! So, when I saw blood oranges at the store, I bought some, not really caring that it is not citrus season here yet and they had to be shipped from Australia. What’s the lesson here? Get it while you can, maybe? Hmm…

Funny, I don’t think I have ever actually eaten a blood orange, or at least, I don’t remember doing so. In any case, when I bought them, I had some ideas of making a cool colored blood orange apple jelly thing, but instead, I made marmalade. I was very excited after all the ingredients were prepped and the fruit started cooking. It looked really cool with the flecks of deep dark red scattered among the orange pieces.

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It took longer than I anticipated to cook down to the right consistency (about 45 minutes), but it was worth it. The final color of the marmalade was more of a burnt orange, but I think you can still see some flecks of darker color. It is a milder tasting marmalade than the last batch I made a couple of years ago, but really tasty. We are really looking forward to eating this in the middle of winter!

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Don’t wait too long to make your own! Here’s a recipe to help you along.

Blood Orange Marmalade with Grand Marnier

2 lbs blood oranges (about 4)
1.5 lbs valencia oranges (about 3)
3 eureka lemons (not meyer)
Grated zest of 5 more lemons
3 lbs granulated sugar
4 Tblsp Grand Marnier

Put a few saucers or spoons in the freezer to test for doneness later. Prepare your jars for canning using your favorite method.

Peel all the oranges and lemons with a vegetable peeler, leaving behind as much of the white pith behind as possible. Slice the peel thinly and throw it into your preserving pan. Add the extra grated lemon zest.

Slice off each end of the oranges and lemons and cut off the pith, leaving behind the juicy inside with its membranes intact. Discard all the pith.

Slice the fruit and membranes crosswise into 1/4 inch slices and the cut each slice into quarters. Throw away any seeds you encounter along the way. Transfer the fruit to the pan, along with the juices and 1 cup of water.

Stir in all the sugar into the pan with the fruit and heat over med-high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Using a potato masher, mash all the fruit in the pan to release as much of the juices from the pieces as possible. Continue heating until it is bubbling merrily. Fish out any seeds and discard as they float to the top. At first, it will look like this.

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Unlike other jams, marmalades behave a little differently while cooking, at least for me they do. Usually, there is a lot of foaming at the beginning of boiling, but in the case of marmalade, it boils like water for awhile first (picture above), and then it starts to foam like crazy (picture below). It is important to be at the stove to stir and use a big pan! If you think it might boil over, turn off the heat and let the foam settle down for a minute. Then, turn the heat back on to a lower setting than you were using before.

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After 30-45 minutes, the mixture should have reduced considerably. Check for doneness by dribbling a few drops onto your frozen saucer or spoon. You will know that the marmalade is ready if, after a minute, you can turn the spoon or saucer vertically and it does not move.

Turn off the heat and stir in the grand marnier. This is optional, but really tasty. Ladle into your jars, seal, and process for 15 minutes.

Makes about 7 cups.

A Postcard

I am being held prisoner by on vacation with the peaches.  It started out really sweet with pies and butters and bourbon.  Now it’s all turned to vinegar with Peach Salsa.  Recipe here.

Today, they are all about the condiments.  I will have a plethora of condiments when this day is over and I hope to break free  go back to my regularly scheduled life.  Wish me luck!

Giant Peaches, Numbers, and a Recipe

Four people picked Three half-bushel baskets of peaches in less than Twenty minutes.

One of us (me) picked less than Ten.

One peach=One pound

Two quarts of peach ice cream used Four peaches.

Two people in the kitchen worked for two hours with peaches and two cups of bourbon.

Five pounds of sugar and five pints of water for the sugar syrup plus Nineteen peaches made

Four little jars of peaches and Eight Big jars of peaches.

Eight giant Peachy crumb buns only used Two peaches and were gone in less than 48 hours.

Three quarts of peach pie filling for the freezer used Eight peaches.

Thirty-three peaches used so far.

Lots more left.

Do you have a lot of peaches?  Here’s a little recipe to help you out.

Summer Peach Pie Filling for Winter

For each quart of pie filling you will need:

2 pounds peaches.

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup minute tapioca

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, pit and slice the peaches into 1/2 inch slices.  If you are doing a lot of peaches, peel them by blanching them in boiling water for a minute.  The skins should slide off or at least peel more easily.  Toss them with the lemon juice as you slice to keep from browning.

When I am making more than one batch, I like to get all the containers out that I want to fill and just prep the peaches, filling the containers as I go.  This way, I can make sure I use only what I need without having any leftover.  Take the contents of each container and dump them into a bowl, along with the rest of the ingredients.  Toss gently.

Return the filling mixture to the container, wipe the outside, put the top on, and stow it in your freezer.  When you are longing for a little summer in midwinter, take out a container and let it thaw.  Dump it in your prepared pie crust.  Here’s a recipe if you need one.

One quart will make a fairly thin pie, but we don’t mind a higher crust to filling ratio!  Sometimes, I like to add a cup  of blueberries to it or use two quarts to make a larger crisp or crumble.