Sunday, October 25, 2009

Applesauce Recipe




















Although this isn't a jam recipe, it is apple time in this part of the country so an applesauce recipe seems fitting. Besides, it's so easy to make and so delicious it would be a shame to not include this in my blog.

So here goes...
  • Buy or pick ~24 apples-sweeter varieties for eating work best
  • Wash them
  • Remove the stems & slice (no need to remove the core)
  • Cook w/ 1/2 cup water until mushy
  • Leave the lid on the pot except to stir now & then
  • Run cooked apples through food mill to remove core, skin & seeds
While still hot (return to stove if necessary) add:
  • 1/2 Cup Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Turbinado Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp Cloves (optional)
  • Stir well until mixed
  • Taste & adjust sweetener & spices to your liking
  • Dispense into clean plastic containers w/lids
  • Let cool
  • Lay plastic wrap on top of applesauce to prevent freezer burn
  • Cover with lids
  • Freeze, refrigerate or eat
  • Yield ~8-9 Cups
Here are a few photos of the process.




Sliced apples ready to cook


Cook with 1/2 Cup water until mushy


Run cooked apples through food mill to remove core, skin & seeds

While still hot, (return to heat if necessary) add honey, sugar, cinnamon & cloves

Dispense into clean plastic containers w/lids
Let cool
Lay plastic wrap on top of applesauce to prevent freezer burn
Cover with lids & freeze, refrigerate or eat!

Thanks for reading,
Trish

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grape Jam Recipe ~ With Honey and Minimal Sugar

As promised here is the grape jam recipe, slightly revised to include the use of the newly discovered natural pectin!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs. Concord Grapes ~ 9 Cups
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1-1/2 Cups Mild Flavored Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Turbinado Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Lemon Juice (appx. 2 lemons)
  • 2 Tsp. Pomona's Universal Pectin Powder (well mixed into honey/sugar used per package directions)
  • 2 Tsp. Pomona's Universal Pectin Calcium Water
DIRECTIONS:
  • Wash and de-stem the grapes
  • Place in a large stainless steel or enamel pot with 1/2 cup water
  • With a potato masher or wooden spoon mash the grapes
  • Bring to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat to an active simmer
  • Simmer ~10 minutes or until the grape centers soften so they are easily crushed
  • Press the grapes through a food mill or a sieve with a wooden spoon to remove seeds and skins*
  • Discard skins and seeds and return remaining pulp to the saucepan
  • Add Lemon Juice
  • Add Calcium Water
  • Return to a boil and vigorously stir in the honey/pectin mixture and/or sugar/pectin mixture
  • Boil gently stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes to disolve pectin
  • Remove from heat
  • Remove a spoonful, cool and taste for desired sweetness.
  • If necessary add additional honey or sugar.
  • Fill jars, add lids and rings and process
 Photos with recipe notes shown below.








Find the grapes and pick them!
Wash, de-stem, measure, mash, add water and cook.


Press through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds.
A food mill is easier even though it may hang-up a little if the seeds are large. Just turn the handle the other way for a bit and it will free things up.
Discard skins and seeds and return remaining pulp to the saucepan
Add Lemon Juice
Add Calcium Water
Discard skins and seeds and return remaining pulp to the saucepan
Add Lemon Juice
Add Calcium Water
Return to a boil and vigorously stir in the honey/pectin mixture and/or sugar/pectin mixture
Boil gently stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes to disolve pectin














Fill the jars, add lids and rings and....















....give them a bath!

Feel free to post any questions you may have and I'll try to help.

Thanks for reading and following,
Trish

Friday, October 9, 2009

Discovery!

In keeping with my effort to make the best jam using the least amount of honey and/or sugar possible, I have made several batches without the use of commercial pectin. This is because standard commercial pectin, (i.e., "Sure Gel"), requires sugar to work. For example if you have 8 cups of fruit, you would need approximately 4-5 cups of sugar! That's a lot of sugar!

Today I discovered a type of pectin that doesn't require the use of sugar. In fact, you can leave the honey, sugar, etc. out all together if you prefer. Last year at this time I had no luck finding this product. Maybe it's new or maybe I wasn't looking in the right places.

At any rate, the product is "Pomona's Universal Pectin" and it's not expensive. I found it at a local health food store for $4.29 a package which should be enough for 2-4 batches of jam.

So, I'm off to try my first batch of grape jam using this new discovery. I will keep track of any changes to the recipe and post it here.

Thanks for reading,
Trish

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Filling and Processing the Jars

Now the fun part!

When you've tested for gel point and your jam is ready, turn on the burner for your processing pot to get the water boiling. You will need a deep pot for processing the jars. The water needs to completely cover the top of the jars once submersed by 1-2" and they need to boil for 5-10 minutes. This is also referred to as a water bath.

Remove the warm jars from the dishwasher; I usually place them on a towel. Fill the jars leaving ~ 1/4" of space at the top. In other words, don't fill them right to the brim! I use a favorite measuring cup that pours easily for this. If you have a jar funnel you can use, great. If you have left over jam, and not enough jars, no problem. Just place the jam in a clean container, refrigerate and use it!
  • Wipe the edge/rim of the jars with a clean cloth to guarantee a good seal.
  • Lift the warm lids from the simmering pot using tongs and place them on the jars.
  • Screw on the rings but only fingertip tight. Do not over tighten.
  • Please note: You can place a rack in the bottom of the pot. Although I have done it without one, it is quite noisy and there is a risk of jar breakage. A few pieces of silverware will do the trick too. Here's one idea for a rack that might work for the bottom of your processing pot. It's called a steaming rack.

CHECK the BOTTOM DIAMETER of YOUR POT TO BE SURE IT WILL FIT.
  • Once the water in your processing pot is boiling, lower the jars into the boiling water using tongs.
  • Once you have them all in and the pot returns to a boil, cover the pot and boil for 5-10 minutes depending on what the recipe calls for.

COVER ME WITH WATER and GIVE ME A BATH!
  • Place a clean towel on the counter (close to an out of the way corner) to place the jars on. You don't want them to come in contact with a cold countertop and possibly break.
  • Carefully remove the jars using the tongs and place them on the towel. Slide the towel out of the way so as not to disturb the jars.
  • Don't tighten the lids or move the jars for 12-24 hours. This will allow the seals to set.
PLEASE DON'T DISTURB US!


As the jars adjust to the room temperature and seal, they will pop! It's a very nice sound. Some will pop right away, some will take a few minutes. I always like to count the pops just for fun.

After the 12-24 hours have passed you can now test the seals. You can gently press down on the lid with one finger. If the lid doesn't flex or pop, good seal! You can also remove the rings and gently try to lift the lid. If the lid doesn't move, good seal!

You're done!

Next I will post the grape jam recipe and several others.

Thanks for reading,
Trish

Please see earlier posts shown below for step-by-step instructions from the very beginning.



Monday, September 28, 2009

Testing for Gel Point When You Don't Use Pectin

After my first batch of grape jam wasn't in perfect gel form, but tasted fantastic, I decided to be more concerned about what was in the jam I eat rather than its consistency. In other words, if my jams and preserves aren't the same consistency as store bought, but they taste good and I know what they're made from I'm happy!

I also wanted to keep my recipes as basic and natural as possible. Everything I read called for pectin to cause the jam to gel. I wondered what was in commercial pectin that you buy at the store? What kind of fruit did it come from? Did it come from fruit or was it some concoction manufactured in a lab? How "natural" is it? I couldn't find answers to my satisfaction so I decided to forego using pectin in my recipes.

In my search for recipes, I also found tips on testing for gel point if you're not using pectin. I hope you find this information useful.

I can't take credit for this information about gel point. It is from the Ball Canning and Preserving web site. If you need detailed information, this is a wonderful site with downloadable PDF's and a great FAQ section. I highly recommend it.

I can also tell you that after you do a couple batches and get the feel of it, you will simply know when your jam or preserves have reached the gel point.

COOKING GRAPES to REACH GEL POINT

Here's the gel point FAQ excerpt from the Ball web site:

Q. How do I check to ensure my soft spread made without the use of commercial pectin will form a gel?
There are three tests you can perform to ensure your soft spread made without the use of commercial pectin has reached the gel stage.

1. TEMPERATURE TEST
Cook the soft spread until it reaches a temperature of 220°F, or 8°F above the boiling point of water. Measure the temperature of soft spreads with a candy or jelly thermometer. Always insert the thermometer vertically into the soft spread and ensure that it does not contact the surface of the pot.

2. SHEET TEST
Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread. Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally with edge down so that the syrup runs off the edge. As the mixture cooks, the drops will become heavier and will drop off the spoon separately but two at a time. When the two drops join together and “sheet” off the spoon, the gel stage has been reached.
3. REFRIGERATOR TEST
Chill two or three small saucers in the freezer. Place a teaspoonful of soft spread on the chilled saucer and place in the freezer for 1 minute. Remove the saucer from the freezer and push the edge of the spread with your finger. A mixture that has reached the gel stage will be set, and the surface will wrinkle when the edge is pushed. Note: To prevent overcooking or scorching, remove the soft spread from the heat before performing this test.
If the test you performed shows that the gel stage has not been reached, return the mixture to the heat to cook for a few minutes longer, then retest the soft spread.
 
For comparison, below are the ingredient lists for store bought jam and homemade jam.

As always, thanks for reading,
Trish

INGREDIENT LIST FROM HOMEMADE GRAPE JAM

Concord Grapes
Honey
Sugar in the Raw (Turbinado sugar)
Lemon Juice

INGREDIENT LIST FROM TYPICAL STORE BOUGHT GRAPE JAM

Concord Grapes
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Corn Syrup
Fruit Pectin
Citric Acid

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Grapes....soon!

Just heard from the vineyard (through the grapevine) that concord grapes will be ready in about a week!

Need to buy more jars!

Thanks for reading,
Trish

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Preparing the Jars

If you have a dishwasher, great! Unpack your jars if they're new, separate the lids, jars and rings and put them in the dishwasher. If you have a basket that holds small items you can put the lids in it...this is the piece that looks like a disc. I put the rings on the top rack around one of the spokes and then place the jar partially on top of the ring to hold it down. If you're concerned about getting your jars super clean, hit the temperature boost button on your dishwasher.

When the dishwasher is finished, leave the door closed and the jars inside so they stay warm. When you pour the jam in it will be hot. It's better if the jars aren't cold to prevent breakage from the temperature change.

Once you are getting closer to the time to fill the jars, remove the lids (the part that looks like a disc) from the dishwasher using tongs to be sure they remain clean. Place the lids in a small pot with hot water, put it on the stove on simmer. You don't want to boil the lids as this may damage the rubber sealant around the edge. Just simmer them to keep them warm.

THESE ARE THE JARS I LIKE TO USE. 8 oz. & 4 oz. BALL CRYSTAL JELLY JARS

When you're ready to begin filling the jars, remove them from the dishwasher by only handling the outside of the jar. Take care to not grab the rim so they remain clean. The rings do not come in contact with the food so
extra care in handling them isn't really necessary in my opinion.

If you don't have a dishwasher, no problem. You can wash all the parts in warm soapy water and sterilize them on the stove. There are instructions and a tutorial that explain the preparation and processing of jars at the Ball web site. Just do a quick search for 'getting started' and you should see it.

The next post will be about testing for gel point.

Thanks for reading,
Trish

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting Started - Equipment You'll Need

I know I said I would post the grape jam recipe next. However after thinking about it, it makes more sense to begin by defining the equipment you'll need and the steps of the canning process, followed by the recipes. So today's post will be about the equipment you'll need.

Most kitchens have everything you need to process jams and preserves except the jars. You can purchase canning kits that include special tongs, a big pot, a rack for the pot, magnetic tongs for lifting the lids, etc. The kits can get fairly pricey. So far I haven't purchased a canning kit. However it looks like this might be getting serious, so a few specialty canning items might make my Christmas list this year!

I have found that I can improvise using what I already have. The point I'm trying to make is all you may need to purchase to get started is a box of jars and the ingredients!

Here's how I improvised while canning:
-Instead of a jar grabber, I use my tongs, the kind for turning hot dogs on the grill. They look like this






-Instead of a canning pot, I use my big chili pot, it's stainless steel. Note: You cannot use an aluminum pot for canning.
-Instead of a canning rack for the bottom of the pot when processing, I use a Farberware steaming rack with the handle bent up. I have processed the jars resting on the bottom of the pot. It's a little noisy and they could break so I don't recommend it.
-Instead of a magnetic tong grabber, I use my hot dog tongs.
You get the idea.

What about the jars?

I like the jars for my jams to be a little fancy. Why not? The jars I have used have a crystal look with a colorful lid. They come in a 4 ounce or an 8 ounce size and include labels that match the lids. The average price for a package of 12 jars with lids and rings is $8 to $10. Here's a photo of the two sizes with my recent batch of peach preserves inside.



















That pretty much covers the equipment.

Check back for information on preparing, filling and processing the jars and testing for gel point. At first this all seemed somewhat intimidating to me. When I read the instructions I found in various places there was too much information all at once. So for beginners, (like me), I will present these steps in three separate posts: Preparing the Jars, Testing for Gel Point, and Filling and Processing the Jars. I hope this simplifies things for you. Once you do this a few times you'll get the hang of it and look forward to the next time.

Thanks for reading,
Trish

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How It All Started

My preserving and canning adventure actually started while snooping around at flickr.com. I post my photos there and I stumbled upon a recipe with photos for grape jam. It surprised me that the recipe did not require sugar. Most jam and preserve recipes require a lot of sugar. By a lot, I mean several cups!

In addition, I learned that nearly all jam/preserve recipes also require pectin. Pectin can actually complicate the process due to temperature requirements. Further research determined that adding pectin isn't really necessary as most fruits contain their own natural pectin. Strawberries would be an exception having very little. However, it is possible to increase pectin naturally by adding citrus juice, i.e., fresh squeezed lemon juice as opposed to a pectin/dextrose canning product.

If I was going to try this, I wanted to keep things as simple and natural as possible. After all, I was learning something new that my mother had never done and therefore never taught me. And I was reading a lot about things I had never heard of like a "hot water bath" for processing the finished product! What is that?

Back to how this all started.....

After reading many recipes and conducting research online, I decided to give making my own grape jam a whirl. I am trying to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet so I decided to go with the original recipe I had found that used honey as a substitute. Besides, the recipe was so descriptive and it sounded so yummy, I had to give it a try! I wish I had bookmarked it so I could post it here to give credit :(

So, the inspiration that led me to create my first ever batch of grape jam was in place. For that matter, my first batch of anything ever canned!















The first challenge was finding the grapes. I wanted concord grapes. We vacation in Leelanau County Michigan which is also Michigan wine country. With all those grapes you'd think someone would at least grow a few concords. Not a single concord was to be found anywhere on the Leelanau Peninsula. This led me to search again online and write to several growers on nearby Old Mission Peninsula. Sure enough I received a reply from Cindy at the
Grey Hare Inn Vineyard B & B saying she had seeded and seedless concords. Great news! On our next trip north my husband and I headed out to pick grapes.

The recipe called for about three pounds. You can only do jam and preserves in relatively small batches. Rick and I did our best guessing the weight as there was no scale to be found and headed home. Oh, I forgot to mention that my husband is always willing to pick fruit and help with the canning process. It's nice to have his help :) Thanks Rick!

That first batch of delicious grape jam led to much more than I could have imagined! Little did I know I had caught the canning bug!

Next I will post the grape jam recipe with photos.

I hope you'll check back.

Thanks for reading,
Trish