Tag Archives: canning

Jam!

This Wednesday is not wordless. Oh well.

Two weeks ago we made pickles. This past weekend the girls and I made jam. On the left is peach jam with cherry brandy. On the right is plum cardamom.

The cherry brandy was not the good stuff. It was literally the dregs of a bottle of cheap brandy that tasted like cough syrup and had been left behind by the previous owners when we bought our first house in 2006.

But it adds a decent, not overwhelming. amount of cherry to the peach jam. And I can finally recycle the bottle. Phew.

The plum cardamom is a redo of the jam I made on a whim a few years back. Sadly I didn’t have any dried orange zest this time. So it’s not quite as good. But it’s still really tasty. It’s just blue ribbon jam and not best of show jam.

Also? The date 9/9/18 is really fun to write over and over.

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Pickles

It’s been years since I made pickles. And I’m not really sure why… They’re so easy! This long weekend I made up for that oversight in a big way.

First the cucumber pickles. These are classic dill with a twist. There’s ginger in the spears, and the coins have a zesty orange chili blend in them (along side the usual dill, garlic, and mustard.)

These are refrigerator pickles. I’ve tried canning cucumber pickles a number of times and they always end up mushy. I figure I have space in the back of my fridge for a couple tasty jars. I use the old farmer’s almanac recipe except the vinegar is half white and half apple cider (because I ran out of white.)

Next up: dilly beans! Are you sending variations on a theme? I had purchased a large bunch of fresh dill, and wanted to use up as much as possible.

Beans, garlic, shallot, dill, and mustard seed. I followed this simply canning recipe.

I didn’t have 4 pints of green beans, so I used the same brine to make:

Pickled cauliflower:

with dill, garlic, shallot, and corriander.

Pickled romanesco:

with dill, garlic, shallot, and green peppercorns.

And pickled carrots:

with dill, garlic, shallot, and clove.

I checked that the processing times for all these veggies was still just 10 minutes (it is) and switched up the spices as labeled. I think they’ll all be delicious. I’ll have to resist opening all 4 at once to compare flavors…

Blueberries

I took the girls blueberry picking the last weekend in July. This is becoming a tradition, I remember taking them last year when Willow was just 3 weeks old.

This year the berries were so plentiful there were clean, ripe ones literally falling off the bushes. So that occupied Willow. With Windsor’s help I picked seven quarts.

Next came one of my favorite times of year. The week when we all just eat as many blueberries as we can stand. It’s amazing.

But this weekend,,, whole week out from the harvest some were starting to go soft. So I sorted them, put the best quart back in the fridge for snacks, and put the rest into jam:

Five pints of blueberry cinnamon jam. It’s been a long time since I dug out the canner. It felt good!

Jams

Our elderberry bush had a really good year. Which means I had enough fruit to try another batch of jam! In fact I had enough even after Windsor “helped” by picking and eating the berries off two or three clusters of fruit.

ederberries

I did not, however, have enough berries to try and make a seedless batch. Maybe next time… But the seeds are small like raspberries or blackberries so they don’t detract too much from the sauce.

elderberry mush

Oh yes. I said sauce. Because the jam didn’t set. Again. Anyone have a good tip for elderberry jam that actually firms up? I have this problem every time. This time around I added the amount of pectin called for in the recipe AND I cooked an apple down into the berries (apple adds bulk and natural pectin.) It’s pretty good elderberry sauce, I think it’ll be amazing stirred into yogurt. But the surprise winner for jam this year is the other batch pictured here:

elderberry etc

That’s plum orange cardamom. The plums were going squishy in the fridge drawer by the time I made it*. Also they weren’t very tasty fresh. And I only peeled about half of them. But I didn’t want them to go completely to waste so I made up this recipe without even checking the Internet. I think it was something like 2 cups of flesh and juice from some small, slightly bitter, plums and an equal part sugar. One apple, some amount of pectin, a bit of dried orange peel, and a sprinkle of cardamom.

Ohh myyy is it amazing jam. Bright, tart, flavorful, zesty. I’m very sad about how few jars there are.

*these jams, and these photos, are at least 2 months old. This is just how far behind life I am right now.

Blueberry Sage jam

I’ve made another batch of freezer jam. This time I used blueberries we picked earlier this month. But then we went camping, and they got squished in the cooler. So I tossed them into the freezer for “later.”

blueberry jam 1

I’m glad later came this month, instead of next year! Again I just made up the recipe. Apparently having a baby makes me even MORE unable to follow directions… I mixed the blueberries and sugar: three cups of each. And then I let them sit in the fridge for a week. (I swear, I’m not doing this every time on purpose) Finally I cooked them down, tossed in some pectin, and some sage. That last bit was Neil’s idea – and it’s brilliant! Sage complements the blueberries perfectly, earthy and just a little green bitterness to counteract the sweet, fruity blueberry. I used 1.5 tsp for the 3 cups of berries and I highly recommend it! But possibly you should follow an actual recipe. This jam is delightful, but it never quite set up…

blueberry jam 2

Jelly

Remember those frozen grapes?

berries

They weren’t the focus of that post or of that photo. But they’re back! For this jelly I put the grapes through the squeeze-o, so it’s somewhere between a jam and a jelly. After all that work I left the juice in the fridge for almost a week… That wasn’t part of plant but it turned out okay.

grape jelly jars

When I finally found time to make jam I started looking for recipes and discovered that I maybe shouldn’t have added water to the squeezo to get all the pulp through (reason #2 this is somewhere between jam and jelly) So I kinda had to make things up as I went along… So, 1 quart of pulp/juice/water, plus 2 cups of sugar. (a bit of a guess, but it seemed a safe amount because that’s about how much puree I had originally.) The pectin was the real trick, turns out buying it in bulk means I never know how much to use when recipes always call for “1 packet.” So I guessed (are you sensing a theme?) and added 3 tablespoons.

grape jelly bubbling

But it worked! After about 10 minutes of boiling we had a successful crinkle test. And once in jars the jam set up gorgeously. It’s a deep purple, sweet and a little spicy from the who-knows-what grapes. It’s not crystal clear, I won’t be winning any awards at the fair for this jelly. But in flavor? It’s perfect.

grape jelly

berries

I bought strawberries at the farmstand last saturday. To make jam.

berries

And I pulled last year’s grapes out of the freezer for jelly. I even managed to get them through the squeezo!

Now they sit in the fridge, waiting for the next step*. But so far, I haven’t found the time to sterilize jars…

*Well, the grape juice is waiting. The strawberries seem to be disappearing…

Finished tomatoes

Remember the 75lbs of tomatoes I got earlier this summer? We did, in fact, get them all put up. It just took awhile. Neil and I made the final batch of sauce over two weeks ago. But I was low on energy and time (being almost due at that point) so the gallon of sauce went into two big jars in the fridge and sat for two weeks.

pasta sauce

Finally this weekend we passed Windsor back and forth and managed to get the sauce re-heated, into jars, and canned. Now we have 24 pints of pasta sauce and another batch of ketchup.

Oh yeah, and I picked up 10lbs of cauliflower at the farmstand last weekend. Apparently I believe I’ll have time to freeze it all…

Sauce time!

It’s sauce season! Also known as the time when my favorite tomato farmer calls me up and says It Is Time to pick up my bulk tomatoes

sauce tomatoes

We got 75lbs this year.

What can I say? Neil and I like pasta with red sauce. It’s hands-down our favorite, quick, meal. And why not, when the home-made pasta sauce is so very VERY tasty?!

So the past weekend Neil helped me process half of them into 16 pints of deliciousness.

sauce ingredient prep

It’s a good thing he’s willing to help, because I’m not sure it’s a good idea for me to be on my feet in the kitchen all day right now. So Neil and I took turns manning the squeezo:

sauce squeezo

I’ve told you about my squeezo right? (answer: yes, right here) I still love it. I mean, it’s as old as I am, and it’s been doing yearly service all this time. I’m not going to suddenly stop loving it!

Also on the list of canning hand-me-downs I’ve gotten from my Mom is this giant kettle:

sauce canning

Although it turns out to only hold 14 pint jars (whoops.) But still, it is so large that one burner on my stove will not bring it up to a full boil, not only can it cover two burners, but I actually have to run them both on high to get the water hot enough!

So yeah, that’s the scattered recollections of last weekend. Next weekend will probably look very similar. I have another 35lbs of tomatoes upstairs…

the tomatoes

Since I didn’t grow any tomatoes I knew I would need to find a good source for them in order to make my traditional pasta sauce for winter. A really good source. After all, I usually process upwards of 40lbs of tomatoes, and we usually run out of sauce by March.

pasta sauce a lot of tomatoes

So I put myself on the canning tomato list at Lewis Creek Farm. And when I got the call I drove an hour there (it’s an hour from my work, there’s a mountain ridge in the way…) to pick up my 75lbs of tomatoes.

pasta sauce tomatoes

On sunday I started processing tomatoes. I chopped them up and put them through the Squeezo*. The squeeze pulp and juice came out the other end.

pasta sauce goop

And I squeezo’ed and squeezo’d and squeezo’d some more.

And 2.5 hours later? I’d processed HALF my tomatoes. And I had more tomato goop than would fit into a 4 gallon pot. So I got that simmering, simmered it all evening, and got it low enough that I could add the 2 bottles of merlot** that I needed for this triple-batch recipe.

With the rest of the tomatoes back in the fridge, and the pot on the back burner, I went to bed. I let the whole mess simmer overnight. In the morning I got up and chopped herbs and added spices and drank tea.

pasta sauce herbs

And by lunchtime I had 14.5 pints of delicious, AMAZING herbed merlot pasta sauce. The best (most tiring?) part is that I need to do it all over again soon…

pasta sauce the sauce

*I still love my squeezo, still doing this product placement out of sheer love for the thing!

**This always leads to me wanting to walk into a store and ask for their two largest bottles of cheap merlot.

pasta sauce ingredients