Monday, June 18, 2012

Canning Season has arrived

Lately I've been traveling so much that it's been tough to get the garden in let alone think about canning but ripe berries wait for no one!  Though the strawberries in Michigan were pretty dismal (lack of rain), I do still have a few coming in my garden I may mix with Rhubarb later this week and make a Strawberry Rhubarb jam.  I don't think we'll have much pure strawberry. 

My kids pick for a farmer from our church and she wasn't able to get enough strawberries to sell this year.  There have been some in stores but prices are up and they didn't last long.

What we do have a decent crop of so far is wild Blackberries in our woods.  Last night I made two batches of jam.  Blackberry can be seedy but it doesn't bother us.  Many recipes call for staining about 1/2 of your berries after cooking to cut down on the seeds but we never do.  I made one batch with the sure-jell like usual, but I tried a new recipe for the other batch.

A few weeks back I had checked a canning cookbook out of the library (I'm always looking for new ideas.)  It had some really unusual recipes so I asked my husband to locate one for me next time he was on Amazon (he loves to shop online, me not as much.)  It's called Canning for a New Generation and that's where I found the new recipe for "Blackberry Jam with Lemon Zest" that I tried.

What appealed about this recipe is that it doesn't use Sure Jell or a lot of sugar.  The recipe I made with Sure Jell called for 7 cups of sugar this one has 2.  It used 8 cups of berries to the Sure Jell recipe of 9.  Now I will say that the high sugar version of jam yields much more to be fair but it's REALLY, REALLY sugary in comparison.  This new recipe turned out more like a fruit spread and though it was sweet, not sugary sweet. 

Of course (as almost always for me) I modified a bit.  I went ahead and chopped the apples before I added them and left them in.  The recipe gave the option of leaving them in but said to mush after, I thought that would be much messier.  I also only got my temperature up to 200, it was already plenty thick.  Maybe if there had been more juice but this year the berries are small so perhaps not as "juicy" to need the thickening?

Blackberry Jam with Lemon Zest
3 small Granny Smith apples (I used two large)
8 cups blackberries
2 cups sugar
3 T. fresh lemon juice
grated zest of 2 small lemons

Here's what I did (not exact to recipe book.)  I peeled the apples and cored them, placed peels and cores in cheesecloth tied closed.  Chopped the rest of the apple and squeezed the juice of the two lemons over the apples.  Then I zested the skins of the lemon peel.  I placed the berries and sugar in a pan and brought to a simmer.  You are supposed to simmer till the juice just covers the berries.  I didn't get a lot of juice but it covered most of the berries barely.  Next add the apples and the cheese cloth apples.  This is where you are supposed to get it to 220 on a candy thermometer but I only got to 200 and it was plenty think.  They also recommend place a Tablespoon of the jam on a frozen plate to see if it's think enough (it should "wrinkle"), mine was already thick (probably too thick) so I didn't do this.  That's it, then just process as you normally would.

I can't wait to try more of the recipes from this book.  It's not for the beginning canner to be sure.  All of the recipes (at least that I've read through so far) use "old" methods, not the easy (but expensive) sure jell.  For me, I want to get away from that so it's perfect but it does take a bit more skill to get jellys and jams to "set" without using commercial pectin.

There are also some really interesting ones I've not seen anywhere else.  For instance how about trying Radish Pickles, Spicy Carrot Pickles or Red Onion Marmalade.  I'm not sure what I'll try next but I'm sure I will be using this cookbook all summer!

Oh, and I tried the Tattler lids this time.   They are the kind you reuse, no more buying expensive metal lids each time!   They worked beautifully but more on that in a future blog....

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