Monday, August 18, 2014

Putting fruit in jars

The difference in doing science and goofing off is taking notes.

Here's the baby gopher I saw on Friday
before I made peach jam.
I'm almost out of jam. I gave away a lot of jam at Christmas and got down to my last 2 jars of calamondin marmalade before the summer fruit started coming in. I could consult my inventory spreadsheet and calculate how much to make to match what I eat in a year, but it's too much like work. Easier to just make as much as I feel like and then fret about not eating it up fast enough later. I learned about Pomona's Pectin recently. It lets you safely can acid foods without a 1:1 sugar ratio like most recipes on a Sure-Jell box. I've been developing my own recipes using a unique one-hot-plate-on-the-porch method. I spend time looking up tips and recipes then I write up my own plan on my iPad before I start. I make notes about how it turns out and try to do better next time. I did 25 pounds of peaches in 2012 but skipped it last year. I still had some jam left!

Last Thursday I got 18 of the new crop of Georgia peaches at the fruit stand near me. They were hard, but so bruised I had to peel some of them and cut them up right away. I made 3 jars of jam on Friday. I did them in these cute new half pint jars I got that are shorter than a regular jelly jar. It let me process them with a lot less water in the pot. The jars were on sale at Target.
Faster processing with less water for a small batch
if you just use these short jars.

By Sunday I could put it off no longer and had to use the rest of the peaches before the rotting bruises got too bad. I chopped them up into a fine dice with Fruit Fresh to keep them from discoloring. That's ascorbic acid, aka vitamin C. Here's the recipe I did Sunday.

Peach Jam

9 peaches
2 tsp Fruit Fresh in 3 T water
5 pieces crystallized ginger, chopped
1/4 cup sugar to macerate 

2 tsp citric acid
4 tsp calcium water
1 1/3 cups sugar with 3 tsp Pomona's pectin mixed in

Lids ready in a bowl, jar lifter, rings, funnel, wooden spoon, everything else you need at the ready.

Mix the Fruit Fresh and water in a large bowl. Make yourself comfortable with a sharp paring knife, cutting board, a trash bowl and the large bowl. Put on an audio book. Peel the peaches, cut out the seed like you would a mango, and cut into fine dice. Keep stirring into the Fruit Fresh into the bowl so all the tiny pieces are coated.

When the peaches are finished chop up the crystallized ginger into fine dice as well and add it to the bowl.

Measure the chopped peaches. I had 4 1/2 cups. Add 1/4 c sugar and let macerate while you rest up from all the chopping.

Wash and sterilize the jars you're going to use. I did 6 jars for 4 1/2 cups peaches just in case. Move the pot of jars in hot water aside when they are boiling.
Chopped up peaches about to be cooked

Transfer the peaches to a nice heavy pot and put them on the heat, medium or high. Add 1/2 c water if they are very hard and need to cook a while to soften. Simmer until they soften to your satisfaction. It took about 5 or 10 delicious-smelling minutes.

Add 2 tsp citric acid and 4 tsp calcium water and bring back to a boil. Add 1 1/3 cups sugar with 3 tsp pectin mixed in. Cook about 2 min, stirring vigorously to dissolve the pectin. Bring to a rolling boil, immediately turn off the heat. Take jars out of the hot water. Put some hot water from the pot over the lids in bowl. Scoop the jam out of the pot with a measuring cup or ladel and pour in prepared jelly jars using the funnel. (I prepared too many, only used 5, 1 left empty. Better than the other way around.)

Wipe the rims of the jars. Place the lids and tighten the rings. Hold the jar with something heat proof and turn the ring with your fingers until it's snug.

Bring the pot of hot water back to a boil. (I've started doing this instead of putting the jars in first because Pomona's pectin can break down with too much heat.) Put the jars in the boiling water with the jar lifter. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the pot with the jar lifters.

Let cool 10 minutes. Tighten the rings finger tight again. Turn the jars over so the peach bits float up to the bottom. Repeat every 10 minutes until the peaches stay evenly distributed in the jelly. This ends up looking sort of like a marmalade.

Here's the baby gopher I saw on Monday when I went to get
my soepketel out of its plastic bin in the shed.
This peach jam is quite good. Strong flavor and nice scent.

**** I saved this as a draft here and was going to write more about how I made blueberry jelly using my steam juicer. But out of the blue I was stricken with emergency-room-grade undiagnosable vertigo and dizziness and for over a month I was unable to look at my 27" monitor without needing to close my eyes and put my head between my knees. After a couple of weeks I was able to use a knife and make jam again. I wanted to try the steam juicer for peaches, but I couldn't drive to get more peaches. One of my aunts brought me some really good cling peaches with no bruises. Another aunt brought me some cherries. I made this really good jam.****

Peach Jam with Cherries

1 lemon cut up and run through food mill. Yield less than 1/4 cup
4 peaches 400 grams peeled pitted
2 cups 318 g whole cherries 287 g pitted
3 cups total

2 1/4 t pectin
3 t calcium water
1/2 c sugar plus extra to taste

Run peaches through food mill into the lemon and stir. Cut cherries into quarters to pit. Add to peaches and measure final amount. (Adjust pectin and calcium water amount based on the package instructions to match the total quantity of fruit you have.) Pour fruit in a pot and add calcium water. Combine sugar and pectin in a bowl. Bring pot to a boil. Add sugar. Stir two minutes to full boil. Jar it up in jars waiting in hot water. I got 3 jelly jars plus a half size one.

It's good. Peach scent comes through. Cherries are toothsome. Not too sweet. Soft set. Would be good on ice cream as well as toast. 

Weird looking in the pot

Spooky looking in the jar

Beautiful on toast
This is probably the best thing I invented this summer so it preempted the already-uploaded pictures of putting up blueberries, below. I picked these myself. My Aunt June has blueberry bushes. She uses fertilizer. They produce way more than she can pick and use herself, so I go over there when she's not home and pick large containers full of them while I listen to Terry Pratchett audio books played on my car stereo with the doors open.

Blueberries in the soepketel. I find it works best with at least 16 cups of fruit.
I wanted to put the berries in jars after they were sterilized with steam but I went too long. 3 quarts of juice were extracted and they were spent. To put up whole berries I recommend extracting 1 quart of juice to make a simple syrup then jar them up while they're still plump. I saved the sad shriveled ones anyway, but it's an inferior product. I will eat it with oatmeal this winter, but I wouldn't give it to anybody else.

Basic soepketel set up
Blueberry juice runs out a little tube.
I clamp it and tie it to the handle with
a ribbon when I'm not actively draining it.
The first quart out is kind of watery.
I used that to make a simple syrup for whole blueberries in jars.
The second two quarts had lots of body and flavor though.
Jelly time!
Here I am bringing the juice up to a boil. I added 2 tsp citric acid
because the Pomona's Pectin recipe says to use 1/4 cup of lemon juice
I'm trying a honey sweetened recipe this time. You have to
mix the pectin in with the honey before you add it to the boiling
juice. I ended up using twice this much because it was too tart.
After boiling for a minute with the honey and pectin
I had lots of foam.
I skimmed off the foam.
I saved it and ate it on graham crackers.
I love how the surface seems to crack when you touch it.
I don't know what this is but I will keep my eyes open for an explanation.
Here's the end of the peach and blueberry experiments
before I was stricken
After I was well enough to drive again I bought 5 lbs of peaches and tried them in the soepketel. I used the extracted juice to make jelly and another attempt with cherries. It isn't as strong flavored as the stuff made from peaches soft enough to go through the food mill. I'm not going to post recipes because I don't recommend it, but I have pictures of what doesn't work and what will trick you into thinking it's going to work.
Peach juice from steam extraction. Left jar is the first stuff to come out.
Right jar is the cloudier stuff after I stirred up and mashed the peaches.
The peaches release almost pure water at the beginning about like blueberries. It had a beautiful aroma and color though, so I was determined to use it. I went by the peach jelly recipe in the pectin box.
It made a lovely jelly, but it just tastes like sweetened citric acid.
I decided to use the more full bodied peach juice with more cherries. They were on sale.
Cutting cherries into 1/8s in stages.
I miscalculated and used too much pectin and it made the resulting product have a really disconcerting mouthfeel. The cherries in it are very toothsome though. I shall eat it up no problem. But again, I wouldn't give it to anybody else.

Rounding out an experiment in failure
I had hoped I could use the pulp of the peaches to make something like jam. I ran it through the food mill and got a kind of brownish, bland mess. I saved it in quart jars in the refrigerator to use in smoothies.

My next attempt to put up fruit in jars was pears. My pear tree is really weighed down this year. I don't even use fertilizer.

Pineapple Pears
These are hard, crunchy pears. And like apples I cannot eat them raw. I must be missing some enzyme in my digestive system. But they are good cooked up in a pie and chutney, and I'm determined to find other things. I thought I'd try them like peaches in the steamer. I pick up the windfall ones and save them up in my crisper. When it was about full I tried a batch. I decided to cut out the seeds because I thought they'd get stuck in the food mill and make little wood chips. Also I sort of wondered if they might be a source of cyanide like apples. I looked it up and they are just like apples. The seeds contain amygdalin which metabolizes to hydrogen cyanide. The hard brown part of the pit usually protects the seed from being digested, but they are crushed and concentrated it can amount to a substantial amount of cyanide. I will keep on coring pears, not out of fear of cyanide, though, but they are just very hard and not good to eat. Even the squirrels and deer leave the cores on the ground around the tree.

Pears about to be juiced
Soepketel in collection mode
First I noticed the skin of the pears on top turned dark brown pretty quickly. I drained out some of the juice after about an hour of steaming. It was slightly sour and bitter water. I dumped it back in to see if it would boil away some of the water. I kept this up, checking if the pears were soft yet, draining, tasting. I let it go 4 hours, stirring and mashing the fruit every 30 minutes. I drained off 3 quarts of juice. Then I let it cool off and put some through the food mill and tasted it. Instead of delicious pear sauce I had bland yet bitter gritty unpleasantness in my mouth. I threw the lot out in the woods. The skin is harboring tannins that are clearly released by steaming. Tannins might be ok in wine, but not what you want in pear sauce.

But what about these three quarts of slightly bitter pear juice? Bitter isn't always bad. There's an Alton Brown pork chop marinade with molasses and coffee in it and it's bitter and delicious. So I decided to boil down all three quarts of juice. 4 hours later I had this.
Glacé de poire
I saved this in a 4 oz jar for the next time pork chops are on sale. That's right, I made about 6 pounds of pears into 4 oz of brown glop. It's like a very sophisticated hard candy that didn't quite come out right.

Now I know the steam juicer is not a way to speed up pear processing. That's not how to get around peeling, coring, and cutting. What IS the way to get around that is one of those gadgets where you turn a handle and it peels and cuts apples into a spiral. The comments on Amazon say it works for hard pears too so I ordered the one with the highest user rating. I think it should be here before the bulk of the pears on the tree are ripe. I will get a lot of use out of it I think. My Aunt Dorian told me to come pick pears off her three trees in a few weeks because she'll be out of town. I have lots of things I want to try!

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