Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canning it up! City style: Part 2!

So in my last post I noted that since my daughter is such a picky eater I have a tendency to freeze the things that she is not a fan of. So that bag of cherries that was sitting in my freezer? It was just waiting for me to do something with them. and inspiration dawned. Jam! I had enough to make about 8, 4oz jars. 

One of the things that we have learned over time is to freeze all our fruits and veggies before we work with them, at least if we are using the Squeezo. Why do you ask? Well when you freeze liquid it expands. In the case of fruits or berries the freezing action causes the cell membranes in the berries to burst. What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? More juice!!

So once the cherries were thawed completely, I popped the pits out then ran the cherries through the squeezo. I also had a few Bartlett pears sitting around getting to the point of overripe, so I peeled chopped and seeded them then processed them through the squeezo with the cherries. Yummy! I compost the waste from the squeezo. I try to waste as little as I can. (this is the only planet we get!) Anyways, now that I have my fruit prepared I measure how much I have. Each recipe is different depending on the type of pectin you use. I like the ball pectin, but there are lots of different ones out there, and the directions that come with the pectin are easy to follow. I recently used the sure-jell brand and i was unimpressed. The two batches i used it in never set up and have been relegated to ice-cream topping (which isn't a bad thing.) The nice thing about the ball pectin is it comes in a tub and you use it by the tablespoon. I followed the other brands recipe to the letter and it never came together. I was disappointed, but at least its still usable.

From what I have figured out from trial and error is 1 tablespoon pectin to 1.33 cup of fruit. I have also ratioed out 1 cup of sugar per 1.33 cup of fruit as well. So once I got all my fruit squeezed I measured out how much I had then used the requisite amount of pectin and sugar for the amount of fruit I had, which wasn't allot. I had a few accidents in my first batch of jam, with cracking 2 jars and shattering 1.

Turned out my problem was in getting the water in my pot to a close to the same temperature as my jam. Well shoot, I didn't have the right kind of thermometer. I improvised and used my meat thermometer. Came in handy for more then just checking to see if my roast is done right. LOL. OK. maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Let me go back and I will do this as a step by step. It may sound like allot of work but its really not.

Step 1: wash jars.

Step 2: Get your waterbath pot going
Step 3: get a separate, smaller, pot of water going and put your lids and rings in it and bring it to a bubble. (these have to be sterilized or you risk contamination of your finished goods)

Step 4: Gently place cleaned jars on wire rack in waterbath caner, submerge and bring to a boil.
(at this point you want to follow the directions on the pectin package. Since I use the Ball brand pectin, I will outline those directions here.)

Step 5: Combine prepared fruit and lemon juice (if required (this info can be found on the ball pectin label)) in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in Pectin. Add butter (1/4 tsp to reduce foaming*) Bring mixture to a full rolling bubble that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly. (I recommend you use a wooden spoon. Some plastic spoons cant handle the heat, so a nice sturdy wooden spoon is good to have, I learned this the hard way.)

Step 6: Add entire measure of sugar stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary. * I use the 1/4 tsp butter and I have had no problem with foaming. (this is when I use the thermometer to check the temp of both the jam mixture and the waterbath, if they are within a close range of each other your all good!)

Step 7: Remove jars from water bath.

Step 8: Ladle hot jam into hot jars 1 at a time, leaving 1/4inch space between the top of the jam and the lip of the jar. Wipe the rims of the jars to remove any spillage. Center lids on jars. Apply bands and adjust to fingertip tightness. (Use a towel, the jars are going to be HOT!)

Step 9: Place jars in caner. The jars need to be covered by 1 to 2 inches of water. Place lid on caner and bring to a gentle boil. Boil 10 minutes. *according to the package directions it says to turn off water and let sit for 5 minutes before removing jars from the waterbath. Quite frankly I have never done this. I always have more jars then my caner can hold so I let them go beyond the 10 minutes, not more then 15, and just pull them out of the waterbath and place them in the box the jars came in. They stay hot together and cool down gradually together.  

While the jars are in the waterbath you may hear some popping noises. this is good! This means the jar has a good seal. Some will do this after they have been removed from the waterbath. This is a great sound to hear when you have put all this energy into making something your family will enjoy! If there is any flex in the lids after 24 hours, you need to pop that jar into the fridge and start using it. It means it didn't seal well. AND guess what? THAT'S IT! You have made jam with your own two hands! Woo hoo! See I told you anyone could do this, so don't think that its only the country folk who can. Just because you live in the city doesn't mean you can do some of the same things as country folk do. So i hope this encourages you to go out and try it!
(These are a few jars of pear nectarine jam I made. DELISH!)