Posts Tagged canning

Pickled blueberries: sweet but strange

blueberries2July/August is blueberry season in this part of the world, and this blog is full of reminders about the sheer speed of making blueberry jam, which has to be the easiest jam on the planet to get to set. You simmer the berries briefly with a little water, add sugar and lemon juice (or lime juice), boil the mix for a few short minutes and watch to be sure that the jam doesn’t set so firm that you can cut it with a knife.

So this year, as well as making two 5-jar batches of blueberry jam (one batch with lemon juice and one with limes), I tried my hand at a jar (and a bit) of pickled blueberries, halving the recipe from Food in Jars because I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. It was far easier than pie. Boil up a syrup of vinegar, sugar, water and ginger, add blueberries and boil some more, bottle, seal and waterbath. Nothing difficult about this one.

All I can say is half the recipe is enough. The Food in Jars picture shows pinkish blueberries suspended in a dark syrup, but I ended up with a rather liquid jam, as the berries popped into the sweet-sour syrup. I tasted my bit-of-a-jar with a nice sheep cheese, and yes, it looks quite pretty.

Blueberries1But I can’t taste the ginger at all, and the vinegar/sugar mix has drowned out the subtle flavour of the blueberries, a fruit that may not have enough oomph to handle pickling like this. I’m glad I tried it, but it’s not something I plan to make again.

blueberries3.jpgThe silver lining? There’s pickling syrup left over for when I get some nice ripe blue plums or golden peaches (fruits that do handle the pickling treatment well). Or I can mix that syrup with sparkling water for a refreshing summer drink called a shrub.

Silly me. I thought shrubs were the plants I had in the back yard, not the acidic syrup I put in a summer drink. Or even a blueberry bush/shrub.

 

 

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More red magic

 

My “where’s the jam” crisis is now officially over, thanks to a smallish batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam with the first of the glorious Ontario strawberries. It’s the first time I’ve made strawberry anything jam in what was still a Canadian May, and it quells the fear that I might run out of home made jam before this year’s canning season.

I can relax now.

Having said that, it was a slightly strange venture, with a jam that foamed madly at the start and settled down quickly to something that passed my set test after just five minutes of a rolling boil, separating nicely on a chilled plate and feeling very jam-like in the pan. Except that it didn’t, and it wasn’t. This turns out to be a runny jam that will work in yogurt or ice cream rather than on bread, probably because both strawberries and rhubarb are pretty low in pectin and I didn’t add any of the bought or home-made stuff. I don’t see that as a problem, because most of my jam ends up in yogurt anyway, and it’s definitely thicker than the gingery melon syrup I made a few years back. And it’s also a very, very tasty jam, sweet yet tart at the same time. But it is a little curious.

What I did:

Rhubarb-strawberry jam (makes 5 jars, almost)

350g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and chopped
600g strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 lemons, juiced
750g sugar

Mix all the ingredients and let the fruit/sugar mix sit for a couple of hours until the juices start to flow.

Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then at a full, rolling boil until it sets. It foamed like crazy at first, rising half way up the very large pan. But it settled down eventually, and there was only a little foam left to skim off at the end.


Test for a set by spooning a blob onto a chilled plate. If the blob stays apart when you run your finger through it, you have a set. It did, and I didn’t, even though I kept the boil going for another couple of minutes after the supposedly successful test. No clue why.

Skim off any remaining foam (which is amazingly good on bread), and bottle the jam in sterilized jars. Waterbath for 10 minutes, or just keep the jars of crimson magic in the fridge. The hot jars sealed quite nicely, even without waterbathing, and there’s a decent amount of sugar and lemon juice in this anyway.

(USDA recommends water baths, so I suppose I do too, theoretically at least.)

Enjoy.

 

 

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Rhubarb jam today


I nearly ran out of jam last month, an almost unprecedented disaster that forced canning buddy to come to the rescue with a top-up from her stash. But it’s another few weeks before the arrival of Ontario strawberries that traditionally launches my jamming season*, and that’s too long to wait. Rhubarb? We have not done that one for a while.

I based my rhubarb ginger jam on a recipe from Madelaine Bullwinkel’s “Gourmet Preserves” although I dismissed her idea of two slices of ginger in favour of a twonie sized blob of fresh ginger, sliced and julienned. And I failed to read the recipe properly, so added the sugar early rather than giving the fruit a preliminary cook before boiling it up.

The result? A pretty coral coloured jam with just a hint of ginger. The rhubarb has melted to a thick purée, with just a few tiny strips of ginger to add some texture and a little bite. Is this a rhubarb butter rather than a jam? Does it matter?

Rhubarb ginger jam (butter?)

1.5kg rhubarb, sliced into 1cm pieces
3-3/4 cups sugar (cut next time?)
1/2 cup water
juice and zest of one lemon
chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
100g crystallized ginger, roughly chopped

Mix all the ingredients except for the crystallized ginger and allow the fruit to macerate for an hour. Or longer.


Heat gently until the rhubarb starts breaking up, and then at a rolling boil until it thickens. We tried a set test, but it’s hard to judge set with a purée, so we just concluded that things would be all right when it looked thick. Add the chopped, crystallized ginger and boil for a few more seconds..

Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath 10 minutes, or just store the jars in the fridge.

I blame the cult of Instant Pot for the deficit, because I’ve been spooning the jam by the jarful into that creamy, tangy yogurt that proved so life changing when I started Instant Potting it a couple of months ago.

The Instant Pot makes pretty awesome, super quick steel cut oatmeal too. I might blog about that one day.

*Strawberries arrived early this year. Strawberry-rhubarb jam followed just one day after this one, thanks to an unexpected farmers market find.

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Doing a little different

A long while ago, canning buddy and I made a slightly caramelized marmalade with some brown sugar for colour, and whisky thrown in at the last second, supposedly for taste. But we never tried it again, for reasons I can no longer remember.

Cue this week’s experiment, an after-work celebration of the fact that the Seville oranges have finally, finally, finally made it to Toronto. Two batches, one with mostly brown sugar, one only with white, and both are pretty damn awesome. I know this because a jar of each marmalade failed to seal properly after their moment in the water bath, forcing me to open and taste both jars before storing the leftovers in the fridge. These are almost the first no-seal jars. Did I take them out of the water bath too early? Fill them too full? Not finger tighten the rings hard enough before the water bath? Who knows. It just means more marmalade to eat right now.

I’m not going to go through the recipe in detail here, because it’s basically the same as the five (!) batches of marmalade I’ve already made this month (Meyer lemon, Cara-Meyer, a mini grown-in-Ontario batch of what was probably calamondin, a mixed orange-lemon marmalade in Florida and a delicate Meyer-blood orange mix that I didn’t blog about).

The method uses equal weights of fruit, sugar and water, with a pre-boil, a slicing of the peels and then a rolling boil until it sets. It’s a method from Marisa at Food in Jars and it usually works. One of the latest batch was regular Seville orange marmalade — with a kilo of white sugar and the same weight in Seville oranges (and one lemon). For the second I used the same amount of fruit, but 650g of brown sugar and 350 of white. It very, very dark — almost a chocolate rather than an orange with a taste that’s almost burnt.

And this time, the set was just about perfect, as opposed to the slightly too runny Cara-Meyer marmalade and the rather well set Meyer lemon mix that started this year’s marmalade season.

I like.

Next up: a Daily Telegraph recipe for marmalade with the addition of black treacle (Britain’s bittersweet and gooey answer to North American molasses), and a blog on using up marmalade. There’s a lot to use.

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Cara-Meyer marmalade

For those that find regular marmalade too bitter, let me offer you this latest experiment, with a few suggestions to make it work better for you than it did for me. You see there were Meyer lemons left over from my Meyer marmalade adventure earlier this week, and there were ripe, sweet Cara Cara oranges from the same Costco expedition. Combining them produces a really pretty orange/pink marmalade, which is almost lacking that mouth-puckering bitterness I love so much. It’s a little runnier than I would have liked, but not runny enough to boil up again to try to get a firmer set. And marmalade sometimes firms up over several days, so it might be thicker by this time next week anyway. A mostly successful experiment, but I would give it a good 15 minutes of rolling boil next time (rather than 12), and perhaps a little more sugar or a little less water.

Just like last time, I (vaguely) used the Food in Jars 1:1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar to water, although I cooked the fruit before cutting it up, and also cut the sugar a smidgeon because the oranges were already pretty sweet. Possibly a mistake. Other things were different too. I had a slightly bigger batch of fruit, I cut the peel finer, and the (seedless) oranges didn’t give me as many of the pectin-rich seeds and pith as I got from the lemons, so there was less help with the set. But I love the colour, and the taste is not half bad as well. Others may love it.

Here’s the methodology and the quantities, which yielded just over 7 jars of pretty orange/pink jam:

Cara-Meyer marmalade
(Somehow Cara-Meyer sounds better than Meyer-Cara)

I used 4 Meyer lemons and 3 Cara Cara oranges, which weighed in 1.1kg, and just under 1kg of sugar.

Weigh the fruit, and set aside a roughly equal quantity of suger. Cut fruit in quarters, cover with water and simmer until the peels are butter soft. That took about 30 minutes for the lemons and 45 minutes for the oranges. Fish the fruit out of the water and allow to cool enough to handle. With the lemons you remove the seeds and as much as the white pith as you can and tie them in cheesecloth, before slicing the peel as finely as you like. The oranges were seedless, so I just scraped flesh off the peel and chopped that up, and then sliced the peels. That breaks traditional marmalade rules which say the peel should be suspended in a jelly. But I like the extra texture that chopped-up fruit offers, so I always add the fruit. Who cares about rules?

Measure the liquid you used to simmer the fruit and add enough water to top things up to the weight of your fruit or sugar (so 1 litre in my case), and then mix the chopped up fruit, sugar and water (plus cheesecloth bag of seeds) and cook, slowly until the sugar dissolves and then at a rolling boil until it sets. We boiled our mix for about 12 minutes, and we thought we had a set. Maybe 15 minutes next time? But then each lemon and each orange is different. It’s hard to be precise with things like jam.

Bottle in sterilized jars and waterbath for 10 minutes.

Et voilla. Slightly sloppy Cara-Meyer marmalade. Tastes very good with cottage cheese, and would be awesome in a marmalade cake, if anyone can ever offer me a recipe for that that works.

Anyone?

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Mmm Meyers

The plan, for what it’s worth, was to make marmalade later this month, once the Seville oranges hit the stores. But how could I resist a giant bag of Meyer lemons at suspiciously low Costco prices?

Meyer lemons make magnificent marmalade, even though I admit to some frustration in the past with recipes that tell you to prep the fruit in three different ways, and some WTF moments with a Meyer marmalade that started off like a syrup, and then set, surprisingly, two days after the canning. So this time I kept things simple, following the formula from Marissa at Food in Jars : one pound fruit, one pound sugar, one pound water.

Well actually, I used two pounds each of fruit, sugar and water, so it wasn’t exactly the smallest of small batches, but it was incredibly easy and it set incredibly fast.

Meyer lemon marmalade

2 lbs Meyer lemons
2 lbs sugar
4 cups water

Wash the lemons (my babies were not organic, sadly), slice off the ends and cut them into quarters or sixths, lengthwise. Slice off the edge piece of the membrane and fish out the seeds, keeping both in a cheesecloth bag to help the marmalade set. Then slice the peel/flesh as evenly as you can, and put it in your pot with the water.

Bring your lemons to a simmer with the little cheesecloth bag (at the top of the picture) and cook until the peels are butter soft — it took about 3o minutes — and allow the mix to cool. Then squeeze out the cheesecloth bag to get as much as the gooey pectin-rich liquid as you can, discard the bag and add the sugar. Heat, gently until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil until it sets. Some people use a thermometer for this (222F is the magic number, I am told), but I just put a blob on a cold plate, and if it looks right and stays separated when I run my finger through it, it’s done. I did my first test after 5 minutes of rolling boil, and it was still a little liquid, so I went on for another 4 minutes, which was perhaps a minute or two too long. It’s a good, firm set.

Bottle in sterilized jars and waterbath for 10 minutes. The satisfying pop of the seal came seconds after I took my lovely little jars out of the water.

Five and a half beautiful little jars of sweet-tart marmalade.

I have 8 Meyers left, plus half a bag of luscious Cara Cara oranges. Has anyone ever made a Cara-Meyer marmalade? Would it be good?

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Tomatoes, take two

While Toronto canning buddy and I slaved over a hot stove earlier this year to peel, crush and can tomatoes, New Jersey friend is taking a far less intensive route, squishing bits of tomatoes into jars, and leaving any cooking for further down the road. A visit to her part of the world gave me a chance to see the method in action, although I was too busy slicing and squishing to take any meaningful pictures. We had two boxes of lush field tomatoes to get into a large number of jars. Pictures would only have slowed things up.

And having seen the processing in action, I will concede that this cold pack method is simplicity itself. Wash tomatoes, cut out the woody core (and any dubious bits) and cut them in quarters or eighths, depending on the size of the tomatoes. Put a generous slosh of lemon juice into your nice, clean jars (one tablespoon for one-pint jars, two tablespoons for the quart jars), and then force as many pieces of tomato into the jars as possible, adding a sprig of basil if you have basil to hand. Seal, and waterbath, for 30-45 minutes, and allow the jars to sit in the waterbath as the water cools down a little. And then you’re done. No peeling, no heating (the waterbath does that), no pre-bottling-processing at all.

I will admit it’s far, far easier than what we’ve been doing up to now, although you have to be careful not to put cold jars into boiling water (in case they crack), and to let the jars sit as the water cools down to avoid that evil siphoning away of liquid that ruined one of our jars. So that adds time to the processing. And you do seem to end up with slightly orange tomatoes floating at the top of the jar, and a thin, orange liquid at the bottom, so it’s less beautiful than the lush, red jars we got. Will I do this one at home? I’m not quite sure. I like the fact that I can open a jar of (home-canned) tomatoes that’s almost ready to use because some of the liquid has already bubbled away. And with 64 jars from our latest tomato canning adventure, it’s not anything I’m going to have to decide right now. But it’s always good to learn new tricks.

One note. Don’t forget the lemon juice, and use a bottled variety rather than anything you squeeze yourself. Tomatoes are (perhaps surprisingly) a low-acid fruit, so you need the extra acidity that lemon juice brings to be sure that your jars won’t start growing nasty bugs that will make you ill. And there’s a consistency to the acidity levels of bottled lemon juice that you won’t get from the stuff you squeeze at home.

Besides, who has the time and patience to squeeze that many lemons.

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