Monday, September 1, 2008

Canning Blitz

Here are the results of a few days of canning condensed into one post (prepare yourself).

First the rest of the peaches became “spreadable spicy peaches” (from the Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving) when we mixed them with apples, apple juice concentrate and lemon juice. It cooked down to a nearly jam like consistency and was ladled into hot jars and processed. (But first we taste tested it and decided that although it was supposedly sweetened with the unsweetened apple juice concentrate it really wasn’t sweet enough so we added another cup of sugar which was just enough to bring out the peach flavor over the sourness of the apples.)

We still had some peaches leftover and faced with a potential mutiny if Dad wasn't allowed to make a peach pie (or maybe crumble, which I prefer) we took the rest of the peaches which had already been peeled, pitted and halved and mixed them with sugar and froze them in freezer bags to become instant peach pie (or crumble).

Ever vigilant for frugal opportunities, as Mom and I went to dump out the lemon juice and water mixture that the peaches had floated in (while waiting to be cut up, to avoid browning) we noticed that it had alot of peach pulp in it. We tasted it and realized it was actually quite good so with the addition of some sugar we had a nice light peachy lemony drink. Mixed 50/50 with homemade sun tea with it was very yummy. It was a nice accidental byproduct of the canning process.

(And the truth comes out, now you know how messy our table usually is. Once we start experiencing landslides of circulars we know its time to clean.)

Next we did pickled zucchini slices. This would be a great way to put away those extra zucchinis that are piling up faster then you can eat them…if this is something you have to deal with. In which case I don’t really feel that sorry for you. I guess I’m a little bitter since all our zucchini plants basically bit the dust without ever doing much at all. My bitterness only grew at having to actually go to the grocery store and BUY zucchini, something no gardener should have to do.

Like the bread and butter pickles, this project involved a lot of quarter inch slicing (although I refused to make these slices diagonal, that just seemed unnecessarily difficult). I could probably make perfect quarter inch slices in my sleep (although lets hope no one finds out if that’s true).

Flash forward a few days and we are now back to watermelon. Although I had already done a batch of watermelon rind pickles I realized that I had already promised to give away as many jars as I had made which would have left none for me. So we went out and bought two more watermelons, although these were from the grocery store instead of organic.

I went through the tedious task of cutting the watermelons into one inch think slices, cutting the flesh away from the rind, peeling the rinds and cutting them into two inch long sections. These sat in salt water overnight and when we checked them the next day we found that they weren’t nearly as tender as the last batch had been after brining so these actually ended up getting simmered in the cooking liquid until they were tender. I also went the more traditional route for flavoring and opted for cinnamon instead of ginger (which my previous batch was, and I really liked).

(Look at me go!)

Since we had all that leftover watermelon (two small watermelon’s worth) I perused the Ball book for ideas and was inspired by “Zesty Watermelon Jelly” which the cookbook boasted had a “beautiful pink” color and “unique” lemongrass flavor. (Conveniently I had some lemon grass stems in the freezer.) I’m sorry to say this recipe was a lot more trouble then it was worth.

First of all it called for a jelly bag in order to make watermelon juice. We went to look for suitable fabric and we found some but it said it had a permanent press chemical applied to it and after some research we were reluctant to use it for food. So we resorted to cheesecloth but the mesh in it is so big that we ended up having to double it up to avoid getting pulp in our juice.

Finally we had our watermelon juice (which didn’t actually taste that great, kind of like pumpkin, probably the fault of bad grocery store watermelons) but we forged ahead thinking it might be improved with some sugar.

The next step in the saga was obtaining liquid pectin. I accidentally bought powdered pectin so we had to go back and get the liquid kind. And after all that what do you think happened? Our jelly didn’t gel right. We swear we followed the instructions correctly and here’s the strange thing. We had a small bit that didn’t fit in jars so that went into the fridge and that portion jelled perfectly! But our processed jars appear to be completely liquid. I tried sticking one in the fridge for a day and that helped a little but it’s not really jelled. So in despair we put them in the basement. We may try it in a few weeks to see if it has improved but if not we’ll probably just trash it.

(And I'm sorry, but those are NOT a beautiful pink color!)

But wait, there’s more!

Finally we did green tomato and apple chutney. I actually got the recipe from a great blog: The Slow Cook. We decided to go ahead and pick some of our tomatoes green because the plants are doing so badly some of them are dying with green tomatoes on the vine. At least this way we got something out of the plants. The recipe involves simmering green apples with green tomatoes, brown and white sugar, vinegar, onions, garlic, raisins, salt and lots of yummy spices. I look forward to eating it with lots of Indian food this winter (especially since I bought a huge one pound jar of curry powder).

If you’re tired from reading this post imagine how tired we are from doing all that canning? I hope with that in mind you can forgive me for going for a while without a post.

1 comment:

  1. The chutney looks excellent, but then so does everything else! Where do you get your energy??? When it gets close to my birthday, I'm going to go through your blogs and pick out my birthday present!