Jars Jars Jars

August 12, 2012

I’ll admit it. I’m a liar. I posted that I was going to do a series of posts about canning stuff. Turns out when you just plain power through a bunch of stuff, you kind of forget to take pictures along the way. So my “series” is going to end with this, the second post. The picture at the end will be worthwhile though.

To start I want to hit on the peaches I also promised to write about. In Denver, produce is pretty expensive most of the time because produce just doesn’t grow as well at the high altitude. Plus it’s dry. So getting produce at *any* kind of good price gets us pretty excited. One of the few produce items that actually does decently well is peaches, usually from Palisade. Starting mid-summer they start to come in and you can smell them as soon as you enter the produce section of the grocery store. By now, late summer, they’re starting to go on sale. We bought a TON yesterday at $0.99 per pound, and what better to do with them than dry them and can them.

Canning peaches is actually extremely easy. The first order of business is to get the skin off in some capacity. If your peaches are a little on the unripe side, you can probably get away with using a vegetable peeler if you use it gently. Your other option is to blanch and shock your peaches. That basically means you plunk your peaches in to boiling water and then take them right back out and in to an ic water bath. Doing so loosens the skin from the fruit and makes it easier to just peel or rub the skin off.

Next decide how you are going to pack your peaches. Typically people will have peach halves or peach slices. We went for slices since stuffing an entire half a peach in your mouth, while amusing, is slightly awkward. One note of advice I will mention is that when buying peaches for canning or drying, try and get peaches that don’t have “cling stone” pits – those are the ones that don’t cleanly pop out.

To pack, stuff your (sterilized) jars with peaches. You can pack a lot in there because the liquid will loosen them up a bit and make them float. Fill the jars with a simple syrup that is 1:1 sugar to water, brought just to a boil. To make it extra yummy, split a vanilla bean or two and throw a chunk in each jar. This will add a wonderful vanilla taste to your peaches.

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We’ve also made quite a bit of strawberry jam this summer. I personally love strawberries and since I don’t really like pie, jam seemed like the way to go.

A basic jam recipe includes four cups of berries, three tablespoons of pectin, 4 cups of sugar. Crush the fruit with something like a potato masher. Bring the fruit and the pectin to a boil and then add the sugar. Bring it back to a boil and take it off the heat. We chose to use our stick blender and puree the jam so that it is a smoother consistency, but feel free to leave the chunks in, if you want. Skim the bubbles off the top, jar, and can.

 

 

To demystify pectin a bit, pectin is a natural product of fruit that acts as a thickening gel agent. When you cook your fruit, the pectin will come out in the fruit, but many fruits need an additional boost to thicken as much as is required for jam. An interesting factoid: Granny smith apples have the highest amount of naturally occurring pectin of any fruit.

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Other items we’ve canned so far include cherry jam, more mulberry jam, corn salsa, peaches, strawberry jam, and interestingly, ketchup (we’ll save that for another post 🙂 ).

 

 

Back (left to right): Plain corn, yellow peaches, strawberry jam, mulberry jam, cherry jam

Front (left to right): Corn salsa, white peaches

Yes, We Can!

August 10, 2012

As we’ve posted many times before, Katie and I do a lot of canning, and this is the perfect time of year to do it. As much as I love fall, it marks the time when produce refers exclusively to potatoes and apples. Now don’t get me wrong, I love potatoes and apples, but it gets a little tedious after the ninth straight week. To fight this, we go crazy on produce over the spring and summer, processing and canning while everything is at the peak of its season.

Now I know I have promised a post on canning peaches, so I’m going to do a small series on the things we have canned this season (so far!). I might also include some of the other preservation we’ve done.

Today’s feature is corn salsa. This salsa is incredibly fresh-tasting all year around. The general recipe is along the lines of 12 cobs of corn (we used sweet white corn), 5 pounds of tomatoes (Romas are fine and generally inexpensive), 1 onion, 1 bell pepper (green), and as much hot pepper as you want. We used one serrano pepper.

Cut the corn from the cobs and dice all the vegetables. Mix them up and chop some cilantro, held to the side in a separate bowl.

 

Take the veggie mix and put it in a large stew pot with (3 cups?) white vinegar and bring it to a boil. Once it hits a boil, stir in the cilantro and turn the heat off, removing the pot from the heat.

Ladle the salsa in to previously sterilized jars. Tip: It’s important to sterilize your jars every time because otherwise nasty critters can get in there and make you really sick.

 

Add your lids and rings, then can them in a water bath or a pressure cooker like shown above. Be sure to read the instructions for your canner closely, to make sure that you boil your jars for long enough. Altitude also affects the boil time. For more information, check out the website for the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Their site contains a lot of good reading about the best way to preserve food.

Once the jars have boiled long enough, remove them (carefully!) with your jar tongs, set them aside overnight to allow them to cool slowly (reducing the likelihood of shattering), and for the seal to pop. When you are ready to store your canned jars, make sure all the seals have not popped up. If so, you can still use the contents, just make sure you put it in your fridge and use it soon 🙂