So this year I decided to try my hand at canning. For my first attempts, I decided to try easy stuff: canning fruit jams and some tomatoes. Not sure if I'll can plain tomatoes or can tomato stuff like salsa, sauce, etc. This year, I'll only do recipes that can be done in a water canner. I'll leave pressure cooker canning for another time.
Earlier this summer I jumped in with that classic, strawberry jam. The recipe came from The Art of Preserving.
It's a beautiful book. It's got a good number of recipes, but it's certainly not a treasure trove of recipes. There is also the occasional non-canning recipe sprinkled throughout the book; these recipes incorporate the end products of some of the preserve recipes.
I borrowed this book from the library. I might use it again, but for now I'm relying on the classic Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (just received my very own copy, courtesy of Kevin, in the mail today!). This book seems to be the basic bible for canners and it's certainly a good choice for beginners.
Anyway, back to my jam. The recipe called for strawberries, of course, but it also called for some cherries, all of which I got at the local farmers' market. Maybe the cherries are to add some tartness?
No pectin in this recipe, as was the case with many of the recipes in this cookbook. There's also instructions for making your own pectin, but it strikes me as too time consuming to be worth the effort.
Put the fruit/sugar/lemon juice mixture on to heat:
I ended up with fewer jars than the recipe states. I think that's mainly due to the fact that I cooked the stuff for way longer than the recipe called for. It said about 10 minutes or until it thickens. Well, it took a lot longer to thicken than 10 minutes. And it never did pass a gel test successfully, but I wasn't going to cook it forever so I called it quits at 45 minutes.
That's one of the reasons why I started with jams; they're pretty forgiving. I made a plum jam from that same book and it didn't set well. It's a lousy jam, but it's a nice plum syrup for ice cream and the like. I'm thinking of using it in a coffee cake or cheesecake.
Since these first jams (the strawberry and the less successful plum), I've used the Ball book and made:
- mixed berry jam - forget what berries were in this; used the small batch of pectin to make a couple of jars of jam; it was good
- orange plum jam - haven't tasted this yet; it uses orange zest and optional orange liqueur (for which I opted)
- mango blackberry jam - haven't tasted this yet either (I can only eat so much jam, people); the recipe called for blueberry, but blueberries were past so I went with what was available, blackberries
- peach jam - a couple of batches; made one batch with liquid pectin; not sure I like the liquid pectin; the recipe with the liquid pectin used the same amount of peaches, but ~2 cups more sugar; also, the only time I got floating fruit was with the liquid pectin, although the last couple of jars I filled floated less; maybe the thing to do is to let it sit a couple of minutes before filling jars; I like the end result of the powdered pectin peach jam much better than the one that uses the liquid pectin
- golden plum jam - haven't tasted this yet either
Tomatoes are coming in now so I'll have those to try soon. Maybe this weekend. Many of the tomato recipes call for a food mill or the like, which I did not have...until today! I got this one on ebay (that link will rot soon) and it arrived today.
I looked for an old one (in red, of course) bc I did not like the looks of new ones. See that handle? That kind of handle drives me nuts. I used a spatula with a handle like that to stir some jam while heating the other day and it annoyed me in a spatula. I can't imagine that it's comfortable to hold on to that while trying to push tomatoes through the mill. Plus, I expect the old one to last longer than the new one. Now that I have the mill, I no longer have any excuses to avoid canning tomato stuff.