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

Peachy Keen

August 7, 2012

Peaches are WAY up there on the list of awesomest fruit. But I constantly struggle with feeling like they are only “in season” at the grocery store for about 45 minutes, and that by the time I am done unpacking the groceries to put everything away, they’re wrinkly-mush-balls.

Still, we’re making an effort, and at least 15% of our peaches are ripe when we process them. Most of the peaches we’ve handled so far we have sliced up, placed in a simple syrup and a chunk of vanilla bean, and canned (probably another post coming to a blog near you). We had a few chunks left over so we tossed them in the dehydrator because why not, and they are EFFING FANTASTIC. They hold their flavor so well they are just absolutely yummy.

So we dehydrated a bunch of peaches just for funsies because I definitely want more of those around.

We went with fairly thin slices (.25 inch) for the dried peaches, and slightly larger (.5 inch) for the canned peaches. Also, if you are doing both at the same time, I’d can the peaches that are the least ripe. They will be flavored some by the syrup as well as the other peaches, and the sugar will help pull juice and flavor out. For drying, what you put in is what you get out, so the ripest ones are the best.

Chopping up peaches…it’s the pits! (ha ha…oh fine. It wasn’t funny).

I will say that even slices will help you maximize your dehydrator space. The very even rows *really* appeal to my neurotic side.

Next to come will likely be the saga about all the insane amounts of canning and drying we are doing. It might even include a sneak peak of our upcoming adventure that will put our skills to the test. Stay tuned!