Showing posts with label Canning and Preserving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canning and Preserving. Show all posts

Aug 15, 2017

Blackberry Recipes (Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Drying, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now!)

Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now. Including Low Carb, Keto Recipes
We are having a bumper crop of blackberries this year! I've never seen either the thornless, domestic blackberries or the wild, invasive blackberries produce with such abundance. And while I already have enough berries in the freezer for one year, you can bet I'm taking advantage of this crazy good crop to preserve berries for years when the crop is meager. So...what can we do with all these blackberries? Oh, have I got ideas for you!

Freezing Blackberries

Freezing is the easiest preservation method to preserve blackberries for future use. The "right" way to do it is to lay the berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, pop them in the freezer, and when they are good and hard, pour them into freezer safe containers. The way I actually do it, however, is to pour berries into freezer safe containers of the size that contain the amount of berries I want for particular jobs, like making a cobbler or pie. Yes, the berries stick together. But no, it doesn't matter because of the way I am using them.

Canning Blackberries

* Whole Blackberries in Syrup
* Blackberry Lemonade Concentrate
* Backberry Jelly (without added pectin)
* Blackberry Jam (with added pectin)
* Blackberry Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
* Blackberry Jam (with Pomona's Pectin)
* Razzleberry (blackberry and raspberry) Jam
* Lower Sugar Blackberry Jam 
* Blackberry Apple Jam
* Blackberry Rhubarb Lime Jam
* Bumbleberry (blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry) Jam
* Blackberry Pie or Cobbler Filling  (another version here)
* Blackberry Syrup
* Blackberry Applesauce






Fermenting Blackberries

* Blackberry Fermented Soda
* Fermented Whole Blackberries
* Blackberry wine 


Baking with Blackberries

* Blackberry Crumble Muffins
* Blackberry Apple pie
* Iron Skillet Blackberry Pie
* Blackberry Custard Pie 
* Blackberry Trifle
* Blackberry Turnovers
* Blackberry Cobbler
* Blackberry Cheesecake Squares
* Blackberry Oatmeal Cookies 
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Frosting 
* Blackberry Crumb Bars 
* Blackberry Bread 
* Blackberry Pound Cake 
* Blackberry Coffee Cake
* Blackberry Banana Bread
* Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies
* Blackberry Crisp
* Blackberry Oat Bars

Other Blackberry Recipes


* Blackberry Iced Tea
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Spread 
* Blackberry, Basil, and Ricotta Pizza 
* Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn) 
* Blackberry Sorbet
* Blackberry Frozen Yogurt
* Cream Cheese Blackberry Crepes 
* Blackberry Tarragon Salad Dressing 
* Balsamic Blackberry Vinaigrette
* Thai Blackberry Basil Chicken
* Blackberry Glazed Salmon
* Blackberry and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
* Blackberry BBQ Sauce (another version here)






Low Carb/Keto/Diabetic Blackberry Recipes

* Low Carb Blackberry Cobbler
* Low Carb Blackberry Gelato 
* Low Carb Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn)
* Low Carb Blueberry Cream Cheese Crumble (substitute blackberries) 
* Low Carb Blackberry Coffee Cake 
* Keto Mixed Berry Cake Bars 
* Keto Blackberry Fat Bombs 
* No Sugar Added Blackberry Jam 
* Low Carb Berry Sauce 
* Low Carb/Keto Blackberry Cheesecakes 
* Low Carb Blackberry Custard Pie 

What About Dehydrating Blackberries?

I don't recommend it, because I believe it makes the seeds more pronounced. But if you'd like to try it, here are some directions.

You can also make blackberry leather (fruit roll ups).


A Word About Washing and Bugs

If the Internet is believable, a lot of people wash their berries before preserving or eating them. The trouble with this, though, is the flavor of the berries is greatly diminished after washing. If you're worried about surface bugs, just leave the berries in a container outside for an hour or so. Spiders and such will flee during that time. Hand pick any leaves or other debris off the berries. I don't get very picky about this. A few tiny pieces of leaves aren't going to hurt anyone!


Aug 1, 2017

How Long Do Home Canned Foods Last?

Recently, I've had a slew of questions about how long home canned foods last. Typically, the reader says something like: "I just found these peaches at the back of my pantry. I canned them in 1999. Are they still safe to eat? Or should I throw them away?"

Canning books and websites generally say that canned foods should be consumed within a year. But it's important to remember this is a "best by" date, not an expiration date. That is to say, after a year's time, the food will very gradually begin to lose nutrients and flavor, but it's still quite safe to eat. In fact, I've eaten home canned food that was more than a decade old and it didn't taste any different than food canned the day before I ate it. (A fun bit of trivia: The oldest known canned food that was opened and eaten was a 118 year old can of veal. No one died or go sick. Here's another fun story about very old canned food that was still safe to eat.)

Tips for Making Home Canned Food Last a Long Time

Of course, your canning methods make a huge difference in how safe your home canned food is, and how long it lasts on the shelf. Older methods (for example, putting hot jam into a jar, putting the lid on, then flipping it upside down in order to get the jar to seal) often lead to food that not only isn't as safe to eat, but also doesn't last nearly as long on the shelf. There are plenty of people who will deny this. ("But Grandma always did it this way...") Yet over and over again these same people complain they find spoiled jelly in their cupboard or that they have a "stomach bug" after eating their home canned food. (For the most up-to-date and safe canning methods, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.)

How you store your home canned food also goes a long way toward making it last virtually forever. Keep jars in a relatively cool, dark location. Storing jars where they get hot (for example, near a furnace or in the attic), where they will be exposed to sunlight, or where they will get damp (like a basement), all contribute to a shorter shelf life.





Looking for Signs of Spoilage in Canned Food

Whether your canned food is decades old or just a day old, always inspect jars for signs of spoilage:

* Inspect the lid before opening. If it's bulging up at all, the food has spoiled and should be carefully disposed of. (Canning jar lids should always be concave, if properly sealed.) Another sign that the food has gone bad is if food is leaking from the lid.

* Pay attention as you open the lid. If it comes off with no effort, don't eat the food, because it did not have a strong seal and could be spoiled. Likewise, if the food explodes out of the jar when you open it, it's gone bad.

* Toss out any food that is bubbly, scummy or moldy, or has an unnatural or bad smell.


If canned food displays these signs of spoilage, do not taste the food! Throw it out. Because deadly botulism could be present, experts recommend putting the unopened jar in a plastic bag, sealing it off, and disposing of it in the garbage. If the jar is leaking, do the same, but be sure to clean any surfaces that have touched the jar (like a shelf or countertop) by wearing rubber gloves (botulism can get into your body through the skin) and sanitizing the area with 1 part unscented chlorine bleach to 5 parts water. Let the mixture stand on the surface for 30 minutes before rinsing. Dispose of the gloves and towels or sponge you used by putting them in a plastic bag, taping it closed, and putting it in the trash. Apply the bleach mixture again, let sit 30 minutes, and rinse. Again dispose of all cleaning materials, like gloves.



Related Posts:
http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2016/03/what-you-need-to-know-about-home.html#.WXouW1GQwdg

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2016/12/pressure-canners-vs-pressure-cookers.html#.WXou_lGQwdg



http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/07/10-common-canning-myths-debunked.html#.WXovFVGQwdg


Jun 22, 2017

Can I Use My Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for Canning?

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!


 Q: Can I use my Instant Pot or other pressure cooker for canning?

A: I see this question so often! The answer is absolutely, positively no. Oh yes, I do know there are pressure cooker manufacturers who claim otherwise, but they are putting your life at risk.

First, let's talk about the Instant Pot, which is a popular electric pressure cooker (I love mine! You can learn more about it here.). The manufacture has this to say about canning in the Instant Pot, emphasis mine:
"Instant Pot can be used for boiling-water canning. However, Instant Pot has not been tested for food safety in pressure canning by USDA. Due to the fact that programs in Instant Pot IP-CSG, IP-LUX and IP-DUO series are regulated by a pressure sensor instead of a thermometer, the elevation of your location may affect the actual cooking temperature. For now, we wouldn’t recommend using Instant Pot for pressure canning purpose. Please note this correction to our early inaccurate information."
They kind of talk around themselves, don't they? But basically they are saying you should not use the Instant Pot for canning because the temperature may not be high enough to kill dangerous bacteria in the food. I would add that with water bath canning the jars must be well under water and cannot touch the bottom of the pan. That means there simply isn't enough space in the Instant Pot for safely canning anything.





What about other types of pressure cookers? Quite simply, they are not designed for canning, and they cannot safely can food and make it shelf stable. The National Center for Home Food Preservation makes it clear that pressure cookers cannot hold enough water to safely bring the contents of canning jars to a temperature that kills harmful and deadly bacteria.

In addition to holding too little water, pressure cookers have less metal, which means the time it takes them to come to pressure is shorter than that of a pressure canner. The time it takes them to cool down is also shorter. That might seem like a good thing, but it actually means the food in the jars is heated for less time - and that means bacteria won't be fully killed during processing. "The food," The NCHFP says, "may end up underprocessed. Underprocessed..foods are unsafe and can result in foodborne illness, including botulism poisoning, if consumed."

My personal recommendations:

I love my Instant Pot (here's the model I have) for making dinner when I need my hands and focus free for other things. I also use it to hard boil eggs, cook dried beans, and so much more.

But I use my Presto pressure canner (here's the model I use and recommend) for pressure canning; I also use it as a water bath canner by simply not locking down the lid. (Learn more about that here.) I have also used it as a pressure cooker, but I don't anymore, for two main reasons: 1. It's really big, and therefore difficult to clean in the sink. This isn't an issue when it comes to canning, because the canner stays clean. But when I cook in it, I usually have to scrub it out. 2. Unlike an electric pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, I have to monitor the Presto as it cooks food. That means it simply uses up more of my time.

For more information, see:

* What You Need to Know About Home Canning and Botulism
* Pressure Canning vs. Pressure Cookers
* Canning 101: Using a Boiling Water Bath Canner
* Canning 101: Using a Pressure Canner



Jun 12, 2017

Gearing Up for the Canning & Preserving Season

Gearing Up for the Canning and Preserving Season
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

 I think I'm almost set for the bustle of canning and preserving season. I can't wait to preserve the food growing on our homestead; the still-green blueberries taunt me, and the tiny baby apples are calling my name! And this year, I purchased a few inexpensive tools to help make preserving easier.
Use it for plums, not apples!

Apple Corer...For Plum Pits

A time saving addition to my canning and preserving tools is this apple corer. I won't be using it for apples; I tried that with a similar model last year, and it broke. Instead, I'll use this tool to quickly pit plums and prunes. Last year, my dad-in-law introduced me to this idea and loaned me a corer from his kitchen. It made pitting those plums so much faster! This winter, I carefully researched the sturdiest model I could find, and came up with this. (By the way, for actually coring and cutting apples, as well as peeling them if desired, I use something similar to this.)

A good cherry pitter is a must.
Sturdy Cherry Pitter

Another good addition to my arsenal is this cherry pitter. I have a plastic one in my utensil drawer, but this stainless steel version will hold up much better to the large amounts of cherries I hope to have on our trees this year.

A decent mandoline makes things much easier.
Mandoline Slicer

Last year, I also purchased a new mandoline. I had a plastic one for years and rarely used it; eventually, I gave it away. But now that I'm a dehydrating fiend, this baby comes in very handy. I like this model because it's affordable, but not flimsy, like so many mode sold today. But I'm prone to cutting myself if I'm using any sharp tool, so an important accessory are these cut resistant gloves.

One Time Use Canning Supplies

Naturally, I'm also gathering one time use canning supplies. I like to do this now, before I'm in the middle of canning, for a couple of reasons. One, canning lids and similar items often go on sale in the spring. Two, having everything I need on hand reduces stress and the need to go into town at the last minute because I have pounds of produce that need immediate canning. I've bought some lids, and also a few seasoning packets. I don't typically use those - homemade seasonings are better. But I do like to have a few on hand for making pickles.




The Heavy Hitters
I've loved my Nesco dehydrator for years.

And of course, I couldn't do any preserving without my heavy hitters on hand - my Nesco American Harvest dehydrators (I now have two, with added trays) and my Presto pressure canner, which I also use as a water bath canner. I still need to pick up an extra sealing ring for the canner; having a new one on hand is a must, because if I'm in the middle of canning and the ring stops working, the last thing I want to do is abandon everything and run to the store. Incidentally, years ago, I bought a rocker gauge for this canner so I wouldn't have to go to the Extension office every year and have the pressure regulator checked. (More on that here.)

My Presto pressure canner is high capacity.
And...The Preserving Kitchen

My other - rather large, ahem! - preserving investment comes in the form of beginning work on my preserving kitchen. Why would I want a separate kitchen just for preserving? Well, for one thing, my kitchen stove runs on a propane tank. I can't imagine how many times I'd have to refill that tank if I canned on it. For another, it's hard to boil water on my stove; I don't know if I could get a canner up to temperature. And finally, in the summer, canning inside makes the house so hot. Since our house has a lot of thermal windows in the combined kitchen and living area, and since the house is well insulated, this is a much bigger problem here than it was when we lived in a leaky 1950s house in the suburbs.

I could definitely just create an outdoor canning set up with propane burners, but...we have the original homestead building sitting near the house and it's already wired and plumbed. Right now, we use it for the washer and dryer - and we use the old tub inside it for washing the dog. But there's also an old farm sink with a drainboard in there...so all we really need is an electric stovetop. We plan to buy one used.
The original, old building on our homestead...and my future canning kitchen.



You can't see it here, but the old metal roof currently leaks like crazy.



A lovely vintage farm sink. It just needs a little cleaning!

And then there's just the tiny task of filling in all the holes and cracks in the un-insulated, wood plank walls. And putting a new roof on. And adjusting the foundation. But, the contractor who's putting on a new metal roof is supposed to come today, so maybe I'll be using the canning kitchen sometime this year. How exciting would that be?!


Jun 8, 2017

How to Make Celery Salt (Plus: How to Dehydrate Celery)

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

We have but one celery plant in our garden, yet it's enough to supply all our celery needs. That's because celery is a "cut and come again" plant, meaning you can cut off the stalks and new ones will grow in their place. Given that our plant is prolific, and given that it's getting huge now that it's spring, I recently cut all the larger stems off and decided to preserve them as celery salt (SO delish on meat and eggs!). I also made some plain dried celery.

Dehydrating the celery was easy: I cut up the stalks, laid them on dehydrator trays (covered with fruit roll sheets that prevent small pieces from falling through the trays' holes), set the dehydrator to 135 degrees F., and waited for the pieces to dry. It only took about 5 hours. These chopped, dried, stalk pieces are perfect for adding to soups and stews, come cool weather.

But I also had a ton of celery leaves I wanted to do something with. When I cook with fresh celery, I normally chop up the leaves and add them to whatever I'm cooking. They add celery flavor, but not crunch. So I dehydrated the leaves, too - and could have left them as is, to also add to soups and stews. But instead, I made really yummy celery salt.





How to Make Celery Salt

You can make celery salt with dried celery leaves, dried celery stalks, or even with celery seeds (but not seeds designed for planting in the ground; they may be treated with chemicals). For salt, I  recommend sea salt, since table salt or iodized salt will impart a less pure flavor. You may use either coarse or fine salt.

1. Powder dried leaves, stalks, or seeds. I used a food processor, but you could use a blender. If you're using leaves, a mortar and pestle, or even your fingers, will also do the trick.

2. Combine the salt and celery powder. The ratio you use is a matter of personal preference. I used half and half (equal parts), but some people prefer a 1:2 ratio, using more of whichever flavor, salt or celery, they want to emphasize.

3. Pour the celery salt into an air tight container, like a glass jar with a lid.

Watch this video to see just how easy it is!



May 23, 2017

Does Dehydrated Food Lose Its Nutritional Value?

dehydrated fruit, dehydrated vegetables, dried fruit
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Years ago, when my children were toddlers and I first dipped my toe into the world of home dehydrating, I remember a friend saying, "But why? Food loses all it's nutritional value once you dehydrate it!" In years since, I've heard similar thoughts from friends and readers - but the question is, are they right?

First, let me be clear that today I'm only addressing home dehydrated food. Store bought dehydrated food usually has sugar and preservatives added - which is definitely not something I want for my family. Home dehydrated food, however, has no preservatives and no added sugar (unless you chose to add it). In addition, I'm discussing food that's dried either by the sun or by a conventional electric food dehydrator, not food that's preserved in a home freeze drier, which is something else entirely.

Does Dehydrating Remove Fiber Content? What About Sugar?

A common belief is that dehydrated fruit and vegetables do not contain fiber. This is untrue. The fiber does not dry up and float away - in fact, compared to fresh fruit, there's more fiber in proportion to weight. This is why dried fruit is often used as a remedy for constipation; there's simply more fiber per bite than fresh food can offer.

I also think it's important to note that the carbohydrates or sugar in food do not diminish when that food is dehydrated. Just like fiber, sugar stays put - which means dehydrated food has a higher sugar content than the same food in fresh form.

Plums prepared for dehydrating.
Does Dehydrating Remove Minerals?

Some sources claim dehydrated food loses no minerals, while others claim food "generally retains its mineral content well during the drying process." However, if you blanch food before dehydrating - a practice sometimes used to help retain the food's color and vitamin content - it will lose more minerals than if you don't. Still, the mineral loss is scant.

Does Dehydrating Remove Vitamins?

The quick answer is: To a certain extent. The amount, and which vitamins, depends upon the methods used to dry the food.

According to Harvest Right, the makers of a home freeze drying (not dehydrating) machine, canned food retains 40% of its nutritional value, while dehydrated food retains 60% of its nutrients. (Home freeze dried food, they claim, retains 97% of its nutrients.)





This jibes with what I've read elsewhere; a nutritionist in The New York Times states that a cup of fresh, halved apricots "is 86 percent water, with 74 calories, and a cup of dried fruit is 76 percent water, with 212 calories. Fresh apricots have 3.1 grams of fiber versus 6.5 for dried; 0.6 milligrams of iron versus 2.35 milligrams; 15.5 milligrams of vitamin C versus 0.8 milligrams; and 149 retinol activity equivalents of vitamin A versus 160."

According to the University of Missouri Extension Office website, Vitamins A and C are most likely to see a reduction through dehydrating because they "are destroyed by heat and air." In fact, if you cut a piece of fruit, it will begin losing those nutrients right away, just from air exposure. In addition, heat - including heat used in cooking or dehydrating - reduces the amount of vitamin C in any given food.

What About Enzymes?
Dehydrated tomato paste (made from tomato skins).


Whenever you heat food, some enzymes are lost. However, the low temperatures used in home dehydration are less likely to kill enzymes than cooking that same food.

How to Prevent Vitamin Loss in Home Dehydrated Food

The single best way to preserve as much of the nutrients in home dehydrated food is simply to dry it at the right temperature. This is one area where an electric food dehydrator trumps using the oven or a solar dehydrator to dry food: Controlling temperature and keeping it low equals more nutrients in the finished food. This easy guideline ensures that almost all the food's original nutrients remain in place. So it pays to follow the standard heat recommendations for home dehydrating:

Herbs - 95 degrees F.
Nuts and seeds - 105 degrees F.
Fruit and vegetables - 135 degrees F.
Pasta - 135 degrees F.
Meat - 160 degrees F.

Dehydrating jerky.
Other things that can help retain nutrients in home dried food include:

* Pre-treating by dipping vegetables and fruit in lemon juice or citric acid. This not only helps prevent browning, but it helps preserve vitamin A and C in the food. Unfortunately, this treatment can also reduce thiamine in dried food.

* Blanching vegetables before dehydrating helps preserve their carotene...but it also lowers a food's vitamin C content and may cause a small amount of mineral loss. Steam blanching is less likely to reduce nutrients in food than blanching in boiling water.

* Not letting the food sit in direct sunlight. This is why dehydrated food should be stored in a dark location - and also why solar dehydrators should have a shading cover (like this one).

* Slicing food evenly, to ensure you don't over-heat and over-dry smaller pieces. Using a mandoline to slice makes this much easier. (This is mandoline I use.)

* Rotating dehydrator trays to prevent over-heating and over-drying of some portions.

* Planning ahead. If a food is likely to only take a couple of hours to dry, for example, don't put it in the dehydrator at bedtime, or by morning it will be over-dried.

Related Posts:

* Making Dried Apples in an Oven
* Drying Tomato Skins to Make Easy Tomato Paste
* Why I Love My Dehydrator
* How to Make Jerky in a Dehydrator

May 8, 2017

Bumbleberry (Mixed Berry) Jam - with no pectin, lower sugar options!

canned, freezer, no pectin, lower sugar
I originally posted this recipe in 2011, and it has remained a family favorite. (My sis says, "This is the BEST jam I've ever tasted!")

Recently, however, I wanted to make a batch for the freezer (instead of canning it and making it shelf stable) and realized that if I wasn't going to can it, it didn't need nearly as much sugar - and no pectin, either. 

So today I'm re-posting this delish jam, with notes on both canning it and making it as a lower sugar, no pectin freezer jam.

From 2011: This weekend I opened the freezer and was once again confronted with a bag of frozen strawberries and another of raspberries. When my son was tested for food allergies, we bought these bags and the nurse removed a single berry from each to use in the testing process. Since then the bags have sat, undisturbed, in our freezer. What to do with them? Especially since they'd been in there nearly a year.

We don't eat much jam in our household, but I do occasionally give it to the kids. And jam always makes a great gift. So I wondered if I could find a jam recipe that included both strawberries and raspberries. My Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving had the solution: Bumbleberry Jam. All I had to do was add a few of the frozen blueberries I also had on hand.

Incidentally, some people hesitate to use frozen goods for canning, but in most instances, it's fine. These days, frozen foods are flash frozen at their peak, so they are often more fresh than the "fresh" produce you buy at the grocery store. For this recipe, since the berries must be crushed with a potato masher, (EDIT: This is optional when making freezer jam) I recommend removing the berries from the freezer long enough for them to partially thaw.

The jam came out terrific. In fact, my 2 year old just threw a temper tantrum because I wouldn't give him more than one serving.




For Shelf Stable, Water Bath Canned Bumble Berry Jam:


1 cup crushed blueberries
1 cup crushed raspberries
1 cup crushed strawberries
6 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons powdered pectin

1. Review the guidelines for using a boiling water canner, if necessary.

2. Prepare jars and lids.

3. In the large pot, combine the crushed blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and sugar. (EDIT: Please note that you cannot reduce the amount of sugar required in the canned version of this recipe, or it will not set.) Cook and stir over high heat until the mixture reaches a full boil that can't be stirred away. Add the pectin. Boil and stir constantly for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat. Skim off any foam.

4. One jar at a time, fill hot jars with jam, leaving 1/4 in. headspace. A funnel makes this job tidier. Use the handle of a plastic or wooden spoon to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar clean with a towel. Place a lid on top of the jar, followed by a screw band. Secure until the band is finger tip tight.

5. Using the jar lifter, place the filled jar in the canner. Repeat step 4 until the canner is full or all the jam is used up. Make sure the jars are completely covered by water.

6. Cover the canner and bring the water to a boil. Boil the jars for 10 minutes*, then turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes and remove the jars from the canner and place on a wire rack or a thick towel to completely cool.

* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.

For No Pectin, Lower Sugar Freezer Bumbleberry Jam:

1 cup crushed blueberries
1 cup crushed raspberries
1 cup crushed strawberries
1 cup+ granulated sugar (to taste)

1.  Place a small plate in the freezer.

2. Pour the berries into a heavy, medium-sized saucepan. Add 1 cup granulated sugar. If desired, use a potato masher to mash up the berries.

3. Place the pan over medium heat and stir the ingredients until the fruit juices begin flowing. Turn the heat up to medium high, stir often, and bring mixture to a boil.

4. Stir constantly while jam thickens. Add more sugar, to taste, if desired. Boil jam while stirring, until the mixture reaches 221 degrees F. (Click here for more tips on testing jam for doneness.)

5. Pour hot jam into hot canning jars. Put on lids and allow jars to come to room temperature. Transfer to the freezer.



Apr 12, 2017

How to Make Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar

Now is a great time to make homemade, DIY sauerkraut. It's healthier than store bought (because all those good probiotics are still in there, whereas most store bought sauerkraut is "dead" of probiotics), cheaper than store bought, and fun and easy, too. Here's my preferred method - which, incidentally, does not require any special tools. For written instructions, click here.





Oct 25, 2016

How to Dehydrate Figs

how to dry figs
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

I am a complete fig novice. Before we moved to our rural homestead, I'd never even tasted a fig (unless you count Fig Newtons.) And since I've been constantly behind since we moved here, it's little wonder I haven't found time to research taking care of the four fig trees that came with our property. So it was a bit of a surprise when we started getting a bumper crop in October!

Originally, I'd wanted to make some fig jam with a bumper crop, but since the fire destroyed this summer's worth of canning, I just haven't have the heart to can anything. Plus, now that the pole barn is gone, I have pretty much zero space for storing canned goods. I thought I might use up all the figs in various recipes, but discovered almost all recipes call for dried figs. (This makes sense, because ripe figs are highly perishable and most stores therefore only carry them in dehydrated form.)

But drying figs at home? It seemed a dubious endeavor. Truly ripe figs are super-moist. Wouldn't it take forever to get a ripe fig dry? Turns out, the answer is no! Figs dry surprisingly fast and well.

By the way, you can use either a food dehydrator or your oven for this project. However, because  ovens can't go to the low temperature that's best for drying fruit, the end result will be a little less flavorful and nutritious. (Thinking of buying a dehydrator? You do not need an expensive, fancy machine. I love my Nesco American Harvest, which is both affordable and long-lasting. You can buy additional trays for it, if desired.)



How to Dehydrate Figs

1. Cut off one fig's stem; discard. Cut the fig into quarters. (I've seen people dry fig halves, but because it takes longer for halves to dry, and since most recipes call for chopping up dried figs, anyway, I chose to quarter them.)


2. If desired, dip the fig quarters into a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and cold water. I didn't do this, but it does prevent the figs from browning while dehydrating.

3. Place fig quarters on the tray of a dehydrator. Make sure they aren't touching. Repeat steps until all the figs are on the dehydrator trays.



4. Dehydrate at 135 degrees F. until figs are completely dry, but not hard and brittle. Test a larger piece by biting into it or breaking it in half with your hands. If any liquid oozes from the fruit, it's not fully dehydrated.

5. Store dehydrated fruit in glass jars with air tight lids in a cool, dry, dark location. Dehydrated figs are best used within a year.


How to Dry Figs in the Oven

1. Follow steps 1 and 2, above.

2. Place a wire cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet and place the fig quarters on it.

3. Dry the figs using your oven's coolest setting. If you have an oven warming drawer, I recommend using that instead, since it will usually go to a lower setting than the oven itself. Test fruit doneness, using the method described in step 4, above.

4. Store dehydrated fruit in glass jars with air tight lids in a cool, dry, dark location. Dehydrated figs are best used within a year.

 

Aug 23, 2016

Understanding Pectin

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 Even among many life-long canners, pectin is a mysterious thing. How does it work? Why are there different types of pectin? What's it really made from? How can you use it and get consistent results? Recently, I chatted with representatives from some of the most popular commercial pectin-making companies, then coupled the information I gleaned from them with my own research. The result? Some definitive answers.

What is Pectin?

Speaking non-technically, pectin is a component (basically, a starch) found in the tissue of all fruits. Under-ripe fruit has more pectin than fully ripe fruit - and some fruits naturally have more pectin than others. Apples, quince, and citrus, for example, all contain higher amounts of pectin than other fruits.

For the purposes of canning, pectin is used to thicken and jell jams and jellies. Pectin will only jell, however, when it's cooked to the right temperature (210 and 220ºF, depending upon altitude). Cooking it cooler or hotter than this will produce jams and jellies with too much liquid. In addition, pectin typically requires sugar in order to form a jell.





Pectin "In the Old Days"


If you look at 19th century canning recipes, you'll never find one that calls for pectin. That's because canners relied on the natural pectin found in fruit, plus a long cook time, and perhaps even the addition of just enough under-ripe or tart apples, to create a jell. In fact, it wasn't until the early 1800s that scientists discovered that pectin is what makes jams and jellies jell, when mixed with the proper amount of sugar.

Here's a good explanation of how pectin works, from the British newspaper, The Guardian:
"Pectin was first isolated by French chemist Henri Braconnot in 1825 and was named from the Greek pektikos, which means congealed or curdled. It is a polysaccharide so, like cellulose and starch, it is made up of long chains of sugar molecules. In fruit, pectin is concentrated in the skins and cores where it acts as structural 'cement' in the plant cell walls. In jam, pectin forms a mesh that traps the sugary liquid and cradles suspended pieces of fruit.
"Branches that stick out from the long chains of pectin bond with each other to form the three dimensional network that jam makers crave. In a solution, these branches are reluctant to bond, first because they attract water molecules, which stops them bonding, and second because they have a slight negative electrical charge, which means they repel one another.
"To solve the first problem we add sugar, which binds to the water molecules and frees up the pectin chains to form their network. The negative charges are reduced by acid naturally found in the fruit or added to the mixture. The acid reduces the electrical charge on the pectin branches and so allows them to bond. To increase acidity lemon juice can be added. But be careful: if your mixture is too acidic, this will damage the pectin."

Citrus pith is an excellent source of pectin. (Photo courtesy of
Commercially Made Pectin

There are two types of commercially made pectin: Powdered and liquid. By and large, most canners in the United States use powdered pectin. It should always be used as directed on the package, and there may be slight but important differences in the instructions, depending upon the manufacturer.

Liquid pectin is added near the end of cooking. Many expert canners prefer liquid pectin, saying it produces a softer jell than powdered pectin, as well as more consistent results. Again, you should always carefully follow the manufacturer's directions for use.

Powdered and liquid pectin are not interchangeable. In fact, which type you use is determined by the recipe you're using. You cannot successfully use liquid pectin for a powdered pectin recipe, and vice versa.

There is some controversy online about what commercially made pectin is made from. Some say "mostly apples," some say "mostly citrus pith," while others say - believe it or not - mold. The answers came easily enough from producers of commercial pectin:

A Sure-Jell Certo (Kraft) representative responded to my inquiries, saying their pectin is made from lime peels.

Ball's representative said their pectin is made " from apple pomace, which is rendered as a byproduct of juice manufacturing. The Ball Canning liquid pectin is derived from citrus peels."

Connie Sumberg of Pomona Pectin said, "Our pectin is made from the dried peel of lemon, lime, and orange, after the fruit has been juiced and the oil has been pressed out of the peel. Pomona's Pectin contains only 100% pure citrus pectin, which is vegan, gluten free, and GMO free. There are no additives, preservatives, sugar, or dextrose. There are no corn or apple by-products." She also noted that other brands of pectin contain additives and sometimes preservatives; some, like

Interestingly, I have yet to find any commercial pectin that is organic - and both apples and citrus are some of our most heavily sprayed crops. 


No Sugar Pectin

Pomona's Pectin is a little different from the other available brands in other ways, too. Unlike most commercial pectin, which need the right amount of sugar to create a jell, Pomona's actually uses calcium to make a jell. This allows canners to use less - or even no - sugar in their jams and jellies, or to easily use alternative sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or stevia. Pomona's is more costly than other commercial pectin, but each box also makes up to four batches of jam or jelly, which is more than other brands.

Other pectin makers also have low- or no-sugar pectin available; these can be used with fruit juices, sugar substitutes, and honey.




Homemade Pectin
Homemade pectin.


Some canners enjoy making their own pectin from under-ripe apples or crab apples. It's not a difficult task, but it does take a lot of apples to make much pectin. (However, it's a great use for all the tiny, immature windfall apples you'll get if you don't thin your fruit.) Some expert jam makers dislike homemade pectin, however, because it can lead to inconsistent results (due to the fact that you have no way of knowing exactly how much pectin is in any given batch).

In addition, jellies made with homemade pectin may turn cloudy - not a big issue for most of us, but something to consider if you plan on entering your jelly into a competition - a local fair, for example. In addition, homemade pectin (and commercially made powdered pectin, too) will likely lead to any fruit in your jam rising to the top of the canning jar.


No Added Pectin Recipes

It's perfectly possible to make fruit jams and jellies without adding any pectin whatsoever. However, the fruit must be cooked down longer, which results in a different look to the finished jam or jelly - and a more cooked flavor. In addition, compared to making fruit with added pectin, it will take considerably more fruit to make the same amount of jam or jelly. The upside is that you can often use less sugar in no-added-pectin jams.

When making no-pectin-added jelly, you may wish to add some under-ripe fruit to help the jelling process; although I have never personally had a problem getting a jell even when using quite ripe fruit, results vary depending upon the natural pectin amounts found in various fruits.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Ivey Rock


Testing for the Perfect Jell

Unfortunately, pectin doesn't jell jams or jellies until the mixture cools down. That's why my favorite way to test for jell is to use a thermometer. Just stick the thermometer into the pot when the jam starts boiling, and once it hits 221 degrees F. (105 C.), remove the pan from the heat. It's okay if the jam looks too runny, because, again, it will thicken upon sitting.

Troubleshooting Pectin

Here are a few of the most common jam and jelly making problems canners encounter - and their solutions.

Lumpy: Too much pectin.

Stiff: Too much pectin; overcooked.

Runny: Too little pectin; jam not cooked long enough; jam overheated.

Too soft: Overcooked; undercooked; insufficient acid; recipe doubles or otherwise increased; jam or jelly not allowed to sit in the jar long enough to set properly.

Too Stiff: Overcooking; too much pectin; too little sugar. 

Weeping: Storage space is too warm or the temperature fluctuates; too much acid.

Moldy: Not processed in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after putting in the jar; poor seal on jar; jars stored in too warm or bright a location.

Related Posts:

* How to Make Apple Pectin
* Other Uses for Homemade Pectin
* Peach Jam With No Added Pectin
* Bumbleberry (Mixed Berry) Jam
* Apple Pie Jam
* Dandelion Jelly


* Title image courtesy of