August 29, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Why preserve? Because you can

Anyone can do it, experts say, though they do encourage novices to start with something simple.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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“One of the easiest and most popular recipes for first-time canners are jams,” says Jessica Piper, a home canning expert with Jarden Home Brands.

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Ball’s Home Canning Discovery Kit costs less than $10 and can be found at Shaw’s and Hannaford.

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RECIPES

MAPLE-VANILLA-PEACH JAM

(Excerpted from "Preserving with Pomona's Pectin" by Allison Carroll Duffy)

If I were to eat any jam by the spoonful (which I admit to doing, on occasion), this would be the one. I also love a big dollop of it on top of vanilla ice cream. It's great in baked goods, too -- as a filling for cookie bars, or even turnovers. The deep intensity of maple and vanilla, combined with the lusciousness of fresh peaches, is just heavenly.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN:

Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine 1/2 teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with 1/2 cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water may be stored in the refrigerator for future use.

Yield: 4 to 5 half-pint (8-ounce) jars

31/4 pounds fully ripe peaches (See tip below.)

1 vanilla bean

1/4 cup lemon juice

4 teaspoons calcium water

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

3 teaspoons Pomona's pectin powder

1. Wash your jars, lids and bands. Place jars in canner, fill canner 2/3 full with water, bring canner to a rolling boil and boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize. (Add 1 extra minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.) Reduce heat and allow jars to remain in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small sauce pan, heat to a low simmer, and hold until ready to use.

2. Peel and remove pits from peaches, and then mash the peaches in a large bowl. (See tip below.)

3. Measure 4 cups of the mashed peaches (saving any extra for another use), and pour the measured amount into a saucepan. Using a paring knife, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla seeds and the bean pod itself to the fruit, along with the lemon juice and calcium water. Mix well.

4. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup and pectin powder. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

5. Bring fruit to a full boil over high heat. Slowly add pectin--maple syrup mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve pectin while the jam comes back up to a boil. Once the jam returns to a full boil, remove it from the heat. Using tongs, carefully remove the vanilla bean pod from the jam and discard.

6. Can your jam: Remove jars from canner and ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, put on lids and screw bands and tighten to fingertip tight. Lower filled jars into canner, ensuring jars are not touching each other and are covered with at least 1 to 2 inches of water. Place lid on canner, return to a rolling boil, and process for 10 minutes. (Add 1 extra minute of processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.) Turn off heat and allow canner to sit untouched for 5 minutes, then remove jars and allow to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Confirm that jars have sealed, then store properly.

TIPS FOR PERFECT PEACHES:

• This recipe requires mashed peaches, so be sure that your peaches are fully ripe and soft enough to mash. If they're not, however, simply place peeled, pitted, chopped peaches in a saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 5 minutes to soften them, and then mash. (There is no need to drain the water after cooking -- simply mash the peach mixture as is.)

• How to skin a peach: If you are dealing with a small quantity of fruit, slice off peach (or nectarine) skins with a paring knife (pitting and quartering the fruit first). However, if you're doubling the recipe and are working with a lot of fruit, you may want to blanch them to remove the skins instead. Simply drop peaches or nectarines one at a time into boiling water for about 30 to 60 seconds, then remove and immediately dunk in cold water. You should then be able to slip the skins right off.

BLUBARB JAM

(Excerpted from "Preserving with Pomona's Pectin" by Allison Carroll Duffy)

The combination of blueberries and rhubarb is less common than the typical strawberry-rhubarb pairing, but it really shouldn't be -- this lovely, deep blue jam is a delicious, tangy treat. This recipe was adapted from one by jam-maker Kirsten Jennings, who first tried it at a local restaurant and liked it so much that she figured out how to make it at home herself.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN:

Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine 1/2 teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with 1/2 cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water may be stored in the refrigerator for future use.

Yield: 4 to 5 half-pint jars

1 pound blueberries

1 pound trimmed rhubarb stalks

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons calcium water

11/4 cups sugar

21/2 teaspoons Pomona's pectin powder

1. Wash your jars, lids, and bands. Place jars in canner, fill canner 2/3 full with water, bring canner to a rolling boil and boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them. (Add 1 extra minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.) Reduce heat and allow jars to remain in hot canner water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small sauce pan, heat to a low simmer and hold until ready to use.

2. Rinse blueberries, remove stems and mash in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Rinse rhubarb, slice stalks lengthwise into thin strips and then dice. Combine diced rhubarb in a saucepan with the 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and then simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, or until rhubarb is soft, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and mash rhubarb.

4. Measure out 2 cups of the mashed blueberries and 2 cups of the mashed rhubarb (saving any extra for another use) and combine the measured quantities in a saucepan. Add lemon juice and the calcium water and mix well.

5. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and pectin powder. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

6. Bring fruit mixture to a full boil over high heat. Slowly add pectin sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve pectin while the jam comes back up to a boil. Once the jam returns to a full boil, remove it from the heat.

7. Can your jam: Remove jars from canner and ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, put on lids and screw bands and tighten to fingertip tight. Lower filled jars into canner, ensuring jars are not touching each other and are covered with at least 1 to 2 inches of water. Place lid on canner, return to a rolling boil and process for 10 minutes. (Add 1 extra minute of processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.) Turn off heat and allow canner to sit untouched for 5 minutes, then remove jars and allow to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Confirm that jars have sealed, then store properly.

You can substitute frozen berries for the fresh, and if you don't have a lot of time, this is a good option. Simply defrost the berries and then mash them as the recipe calls for. After defrosting, the berries will be in a lot of juice, but don't drain them -- simply incorporate all of the juice into the mashed berries.

RESOURCES

• University of Maine Cooperative Extension publishes extensive materials on food preservation and offers lots classes throughout the year. For written materials, a link to how-to videos, recipes and an extensive list of upcoming food-preservation classes, go to extension.umaine.edu/food-health/food-preservation.

• FreshPreserving.com -- This is Ball's website, and it contains a searchable recipe bank.

• canningcraft.com -- This is Allison Caroll Duffy's website.

• "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving" by Judi Kingri and Lauren Devine-Hager (Robert Rose, $22.95).

• "Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving" (2009 revision) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (BN Publishing, $12.99). This book is re-issued every few years. Be sure to use a recent version so you have all of the latest recommendations for food safety.

– Compiled by Meredith Goad

Why is the rack so important?

"You need to have your jars elevated off the bottom of the pot because the water has to circulate fully around all the jars in order to process them properly," Duffy said. "And for the same reason, you can't have the jars touching each other, or touching the sides of the pot. They need to be covered with 1 to 2 inches of water at the top."

JAR LIFTER: This is just what it sounds like, a tong-like tool to lift the jars in and out of the boiling water.

CANNING FUNNEL: This is, essentially, a wide-mouth funnel that makes it easier to fill the canning jars.

HEADSPACE TOOL: The headspace is the distance between the top of the jam and the bottom of the lid on the canning jar.

"In processing, the air is getting forced out of the headspace," Duffy said. "Ideally all the air gets forced out of the headspace, and everything expands in the jar when that happens. So when the jar is cooled, things shrink again, but because the air's been forced out of the headspace, that's what creates the vacuum seal in the jar, which is essential to proper storage."

If you measure the headspace wrong, chances are the jar won't seal properly. If you don't have enough headspace, the food will seep out the sides of the jar. You can use a ruler instead of a headspace tool to measure, but the tool isn't expensive.

BUBBLE FREER: Just like it sounds, this tool will release any bubbles trapped in your jam. (Bubbles can crack the jar.) Sometimes the bubble freer is on the opposite end of the headspace tool.

MAGNETIC LID WAND: This is about the length of a chopstick, and on the end of the wand there is a little magnet. It's used to lift your jar lids out of simmering water.

MASON JARS: For jams, buy the half-pint size. A smaller, 4-ounce jar might be good for gifts, but for general use get the larger ones because most recipes are written for half-pint jars or smaller. Buy the Mason jar style with the dome lid and screw band.

"When you go to re-use those jars later, you'll need to buy new lids," Duffy said. "You can re-use your band, but you'll need new lids every time you can. That dome lid is important because that's where the vacuum seal is occurring. After you process your jars, that lid is going to be sucked down."

All of these tools can be found at your local hardware store or any store that carries canning supplies. You might also consider buying a beginner's kit, like the Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit. Some of these kits have more tools than you really need, but they are so inexpensive it doesn't really matter.

"You can buy the pieces separately, but this four-piece kit (from Ball) is less than $10, and you can find it at Hannaford and Shaw's," McCarty said. "That has the jar lifter and the funnel to help you fill the jars, and some other tools to make canning easier."

We like easy.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

 

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Allison Carroll Duffy, author of “Preserving with “Pomona’s Pectin.”

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