Posts Tagged ‘preserves’

Pimp that Preserve Entry – Hard Cider for Cold Nights

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Oh dear, the toddler has broken my lap top and I having trouble typing so post this will be short on words.  Especially words with certain letters that will remain a secret as I canot type them.  Cocvxzbined (see what I mean?) with learning wordpress this is a bit of a mess.

In what is becoming an annal tradition, Well Preserved is currently holding their Pimp that Preserve competition.

So I pulled out the rick rack, black paper, white pencil crayons, felted wool and got down to work.

All year I felt like I was not getting any canning done but clearly that was not the case.  This year we made a few batches of jam, then fought with a bushel of peaches, moved on to tomatoes, so many tomatoes, tried two types of cranberry sauce and ended off with Catherine’s favourite beets.

I had the idea of dinner gift packs of pasta sauce and fun pasta from the Italian grocers on the Danforth. Wrapped in bags made of old wool scarves with a fringe.

They’re cute but really what we needed to do was to bottle the cider.

So here is Cubits official Pimp that Preserve Entry.

I call it Hard Cider for Cold Nights.

The cider was primed with local honey and bottled before donning little wool and rick rack sweaters.

Little sweaters and little cinnamon sticks for the smaller bottles.

Come and check out the other entries and vote by liking your favourites here in the Well Preserved facebook community.  How do you dress up your preserves for the holidays?  I would love to see them.

Make Your Own Organic Cranberry Sauce {Enough for both Canadian Thanksgiving and Christmas}

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

I had a lovely evening out last week with my friend Shana.  We went out on the town to a canning class put on by Bernardin in a local church kitchen. Although we’re both becoming rather seasoned canners it’s nice: 

1. To have a nice community event to go to.
2. We kind of like hanging out in church basements.
3. We need to start having real answers when we get asked questions about canning instead of having to admit to some of our bad practices and mishaps (see here, and here for details).

One of the recipes shared by Chef Emerie was for Spiced Cranberry Preserves.  The process is the same as this recipe for cranberry sauce off the rather useful home canning website.  The only difference is that this method uses 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon so no need for cheese cloth. I actually used a 1/4 teaspoon of each. There’s also a good recipe for straight up cranberry sauce which is basically just a larger amount without the spices.  

This is so simple.  Thanksgiving and Christmas Cranberries are essentially just jam so you really can’t go wrong. 

The high pectin content of cranberries really makes this simple though; 10 minutes and you’re set.  Get it? Set?  That’s a jam joke. Really though, I had completely finished this project in one toddler nap and even had time to call my dad and a clean kitchen when she woke up.

I made this recipe twice; once with the spices and one without.  I think they are equally delicious but we’ll be putting them to a taste test on Sunday at Thanksgiving dinner.

So the recipe is: 

4 cups of fresh cranberries {but frozen would work fine too}
1 1/2 cups of water
2 cups of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon {optional}
1/4 teaspoon of cloves {optional}

makes 4x 250ml jars

Our version is entirely organic. The Big Carrot and Better Bulk {both on the Danforth in Toronto} have  awesome organic spice sections and it is getting easier and easier to find organic ingredients at the grocery store.

I wish I could have found Ontario Cranberries today as they certainly grow pretty close to home, but it seems there are only three commercial cranberry producers in Ontario. The store had frozen and organic from BC, Some from Maine, and then the f
resh organic Quebec ones I ended up choosing. I’m going to keep my eye out at the farmer’s market this weekend as I have a few more cranberry recipes I need to make and the foodies & farmers of twitter tell me there are smaller scale cranberry growers to look for.

Let’s can some cranberries while there’s still enough time to do this for Thanksgiving dinner this weekend:

Prepare your jars and lids by washing and bringing your jars to a boil and in a separate pot bringing your lids to a simmer.

In your best non-reactive pot, combine all your ingredients over medium heat.

Cook for 10 minutes or so.  You’ll see / hear the cranberries burst / split / explode. Here’s a photo of them splitting. They really pop.

I then squished a few up with the back of my spoon just to mix things up a little.

Quickly jar up the preserves with a 1/4inch head room, wipe the rims, put on your warm lids, screw finger tight and then heat process for 10 minutes.  That’s it! You’re done and the star of Thanksgiving dinner with some extra to bring again at Christmas; Ensuring that you remain your parent’s favourite daughter.

All kidding aside, I’m really pleased with how these turned out and would recommend making some both to the seasoned canner and the tenderfoot who is looking for an easy to make preserve that will certainly be well received.

If you would like detailed step by step canning instructions just check out www.homecanning.com.  I really couldn’t lay it out any better and there are even instructional videos.

Canning Tomatoes for the First Time: Some Lessons Learned

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Although we’ve now been canning, mostly successfully, for a few years, this year we’ve been taking on bigger projects.  First those pesky peaches and now 3 bushels of blasted tomatoes.


We shot this great time lapse video of our twelve hour day that certainly demonstrates the busy-ness but there’s much it is not showing.  


Here we are first thing in the morning…

… and a tomato toast 12 hours later.

Here are our notes for next year:

1. Source your tomatoes early.  We bought one gorgeous organically grown bushel from Highmark Farms but should have ordered more.  By the time we figured out how much we actually needed, they were sold out and we were out of time. We ended up getting some lower quality ones from an Italian Grocer on the Danforth but they were a pain to work with and I probably should have headed straight for the food terminal.


2. Next year we’ll grow more paste tomatoes.  We grew some Amish Paste, Romas and San Marzanos but not nearly enough.



3. We teamed up with our friend Catherine and foolishly believed that the three of us could handle two toddlers while processing these tomatoes.  
We had a plan.  I made home made play dough.  We rented movies.  But troublesome toddlers don’t care for duplo towers with Ryan when they could be standing behind you when you are blanching tomatoes in boiling water.  Thanks goodness for Ergos.  Next year the toddlers will be banished to their grandparents. They added a significant amount of stress at random intervals.

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4. Packing tomatoes in water is a crock. We tried a few different methods as this was our first attempt with tomatoes but this simply did not work and we even read the instructions. We ended up hot packing half tomatoes and it worked out beautifully. See lesson #6.


5. We really needed more people. Two couples would have made this much easier.  With 3 couples (and zero mobile babies) we could easily double our yield.


6. Next year we will do things in the reverse order.  I can’t remember the reasoning but we packed half tomatoes and them made sauce.  If we had made sauce then packed tomatoes we would have let the sauce cook longer with less urgency and would have had tomato juice to top up the tomatoes. That said we have used all that delicious tomato juice to make bread, cook couscous and I think Andrew and Catherine are making ceasars right now.



7. We need those cool outdoor propane burners like Well Preserved have.  We have one burner on the BBQ that held the big canner and we kept the lids warm on the actual bbq.  The running back and forth to the kitchen was pretty intense.  We do have a sink and water outside and otherwise it was a pretty good set up, but we’d like to move more of it out side next year. The kitchen was trashed. We also need a bigger pot and like 6 more pairs of oven mitts.



That said, it really was a smashing success. We did a few things right, like preparing the day before, having multiple sets of tools and extra pots, and spending a beautiful September day out on the deck   We have a nice haul of tomatoes and sauce for both our families and we had a pretty great time and even got the babies bathed at the end of the day. Sigh.




Any other tips for us?   
How does your family make sauce and can tomatoes? 
Anything else we should know for next year?

Twelve Hours of Tomatoes in Two Minutes

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This video is meant to be part of a much larger post about our adventures in canning tomatoes but that will just have to come later in the week as Ryan and I are just too excited to share this.



Here is a time lapse that Ryan and I made yesterday.  We are canning three bushels of tomatoes with Catherine, her little girl Penelope and Rebecca.  Hazel and the kittens pop in and out too; Mainly to eat the tomato skins.  We turned the camera on at 9:00 in the morning and took the last shot 12 hours later when the kitchen was almost clean.

We’re really quite pleased with it and would love it if you took a look and let us know what little detail caught your eye.

Smashed BBQ Peach Jam

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
When life hands you smashed up peaches and all your burners are in use for canning, its time to make Peach – vanilla – honey jam on the BBQ.
As mentioned in last week’s post about our peach canning odyssey, I am never ever peeling another peach.
All pealing peaches does is take perfect lovely wonderful peaches like these…
 and waste your time blanching, plunging…
 peeling… 
only to end up having them go to total smashed up mush when you go to cut them.
It was so terribly sad that I’ll show you this lovely picture of pre-smashed peeled peaches as I did not take one of the carnage.
I do pretty much all of our cooking out on the deck in the warmer months.  Our kitchen is small and the deck has much better light.  It also has the Barbecue.
Which is nice when you have a bunch of rapidly browning peaches, a full freezer, and no free burner on the stove as you are in the middle of canning a @#&*^@#! bushel of peaches.
The main danger of bbqed jam is that the wasps go crazy. As you can see I left the peaches pretty chunky.
Peaches are pretty high in pectin and set into jam quite nicely without adding very much extra sugar. Almost all  fruit is also considered high acid so you don’t need to be all that careful with your recipe like some other things (like tomatoes, or green beans).  

I simply added a little lemon juice to prevent browning and keep that acid level high, a teaspoon of vanilla, a cup of honey and a cup of organic white sugar, which was really an accident as I forgot we still had some of this wonderful honey. The ratio was around 25% sugar/honey and 75% fruit.  

I had been taught that jam needed to be 40% sugar-60% fruit but recently found out from a canning class at the local Mennonite Church that wasn’t true.  As long as it’s high acid fruit and there’s enough naturally occurring pectin, the amount of sugar is purely dependant on taste.
Volia! A near disaster prevented! Delicious jam, slow cooked outside for the neighbours to smell. 
Some final notes: It took about an hour to set, then I jared it up and put in the already going waterbath for ten minutes.