We're going to go ahead and ignore the fact that I haven't posted in over a year. I have no good excuses, but here are some bad ones. Maybe it was laziness, maybe it was lack of inspiration, maybe it was that I had too many other things going on in my life. Work has been busy, as usual. I signed up, more like my sister and father convinced me to sign up for, the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October. Marathons as it turns out, take a lot more training and time commitment than half marathons do. I've also been redecorating my apartment, slowly. Now that it's a bit cooler, and darker a LOT earlier, I have a feeling I'll be at home cooking more. I'm back at it!
I took a mini staycation this summer, to get away from work and my routine. The first half of the week belonged to me and what I wanted to do. The second half of the week belonged to Puerto Rico- a tropical recharge if you will. I've read countless books about eating locally, eating off the land, only eating what is in season, and canning. While I shop at my local farmer's market as much as I can, and just signed up for winter CSA box from Smucker's Farms, I've never tried to can/jar seasonal items for winter eating and cooking. My mini staycation was the perfect opportunity to get hot and steamy in the kitchen with some fruits and vegetables.
I may have been a little ambitious but this was my plan: peach jam, cherry jam, dilly beans, picked jalapeno slices, and crushed tomatoes. Ready?
Go can it!
Figure out what exactly I just got myself into.
Work out the kinks (overflowing boiling water onto the stove sent me into a panic)
Dive into it... peach jam, crushed tomatoes and jalapeno slices.
Every book on canning and jarring has a chapter on the proper sanitization of your canning jars, and rightfully so. No one wants to experience what the books say will happen to you should you get a bad batch due to bacteria growing in your jars. It's kind of like driver's ed and the crash videos, or sex ed and the STD class. "Can at your own risk". I probably over boiled every jar I used but better safe than sorry! Wear your seatbelt! While I gathered inspiration from several books, I mainly used Canning for a new Generation. My aunt gave it to me and it had by far the best selection of recipes and tips. I also used Put 'Em Up! for inspiration.
When planning for this, I thought I wanted to try different combination of flavors for the jams. It being my first try, simple ended up being the way to go. Once I master the technique I can play around with the flavors.
Classic Peach Jam
12 ounces of Granny Smith apples (about 2 large)
4 pounds of peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
2 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
Prep your kitchen counter:
(1) clean cloth to place the sterilized jars on when they come out of the water bath
(1) clean cloth to put the finished and VERY hot jam jars on to sit for a while
Line up your canning utensils:
Jar lifter (to handle hot jars)
lid lifter (with a magnet)
Prepare the water-bath for canning:
While you will have to do this step each and every time you start a new recipe, I like that the book reminded you to start the process at the beginning. Repetition repetition, repetition. It's good for beginners.
Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot, put a small plate in the freezer and put the flat lids in a heat proof bowl.
*Cut the apples into quarters and core them. The recipe calls for putting the seeds and cores into a cheesecloth bag. I didn't have one so I used little teabags that my sister gave me from a tea store at Pike's Place market. ( I also used these little bags to infuse simple syrup for my Early Grey Pound Cake). You're supposed to put loose tea in them but they can play double duty in this case.
SO FAR: Apples are cut up, seeds and cores are in cheesecloth, jars are boiling away and bacteria is dying.
* Put the peaches and sugar into a 6-8 quart preserving pan (I wasn't about to go out and buy a lot of equipment to do this, other than the necessary stuff, so I used a big cast iron pot as my preserving pot). Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices cover the peaches.
Pour the cooked peaches into a colander, collecting the peach juice in a bowl. Stir the peaches gently to release all the juices. Pour collected juices back in the preserving pot and add the apples and apple core cheesecloth- bring to a boil over high heat. (From what I gathered, the apples bring the pectin that will "jellify" (yes that's a technical term) the jam in the end. You can omit the apples and use 'pectin in a pouch' but I thought going all natural was the best way.) Boil, stirring occasionally, until the juice thickens and reduces. About 15 minutes.
Return the peaches and any accumulated juices back into the preserving pot, add the lemon juice, and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently until the peaches are very tender and falling apart. The recipe says is it done when you put a small dab of the jam on the plate that was in the freezer and it becomes firm after a minute of being put back in the freezer. I forgot to do this. Rookie mistake. It ended up fine.
Remove from the heat and stir for a few minutes to distribute the fruit in the liquid. Remove the cheesecloth and the apples. While I was able to find and remove the apple skins, there were no apples to be found. They had all disintegrated into the jam. I think it's fine but I wonder why the recipe thought I would still be able to find them.
SO FAR: Jam is basically finished, your jars have been sterilized and are happily bubbling away in your steaming stockpot full of water. Your lids are still not sterile.
*Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a clean folded towel. Drain the water off the lids. Make sure the lids aren't stacked on top of each other or the boiling water won't be able to sterilize the entire area of each lid. ALSO, don't dunk the lids in the boiling water pot because it's not good for the rubber on them. Just pour a little bit (I poured the hot water from one of my half pints on top of them) of boiling water on them and let it sit for a bit.
Your jars are clean and drying on the clean cloth. Carefully ladle the hot jam, through a funnel, into the jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Using a damp paper towel, clean off any jam that might have gotten onto the rim of the jar. Take your lid lifter (the one with the magnet) and put the lid on, then tighten the ring on. I burnt my fingers here a few times. Return the jars to the water and boil for 5 minutes to process.
Remove from the water.
Those jars will be h-o-t! With a jar lifter, move the jars from the cloth they are on to another clean cloth where the jars can stay, for 12 hours, undisturbed.
Soon you should hear the jars "pop!". This means there is a seal and your jars can be kept unrefrigerated. After an hour, push down on the top of all your jars to make sure there is a seal. If it there isn't and you can push down on them, put the jar in the refrigerator.
Success! You have peach jam. I haven't tried the finish product only because I haven't stopped admiring them. I'm going to wait a while I think.
To be continued.....
Next up: Canned tomatoes.