Summer Canning II

The past month has been a whirlwind of gardening, harvesting, fruit picking, canning, but most of all adjustment. Upon returning from our cruise just about a month ago, our lives were thrown into upheaval when Hubby’s work schedule went from working 24-hour shifts Tuesdays and Thursdays and 8-hour shifts Friday through Monday to working 8 o’clock Monday morning until Friday afternoon 4 p.m. straight, as well as Saturday and Sundays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. I don’t even want to figure out how many hours that is.

This new schedule is hard on the family, but mostly hard on Hubby. Because of issues with his aging parents, the relief his father used to offer him Monday thru Friday is no longer in the cards and unless Hubby sells the business or business improves so he can hire a new employee, this is what our life is going to be like until further notice.

Hubby being gone so much you’d think I’d have time to do so much more than usual, but this is just not the case. Because he is gone so much I want to have everything around the house done so when he eventually does come home, he doesn’t have anything to worry about. This means all the chores and responsibilities that were once Hubby’s are now mine. Some things can be delegated to the kids, but Grace has her summer job and Zeb has school.

Still, the garden and other summer chores/activities will not wait so we push forward making the best of it. What else can we do?

Last week the garden harvest was very good and continuous. Each day I was able to harvest either beans, peas, cucumbers, and even our first few cherry tomatoes. All this picking has meant more canning projects added to my to do list, but before I could start these, I had to clear off the counter from canning projects earlier in the week.

Here is what my counter looked like after canning raspberries, blackberries, and another batch of pickled beets.

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From left to right — recipes to follow:

Mixed Fruit Juice Concentrate

Blackberry Seedless Spread

Blackberry Syrup

Raspberry Seedless Spread

Layered Blackberry/Raspberry Seedless Spread

Cran-Raspberry Jam

Cran-Raspberry Syrup

Raspberry-Blueberry Preserves

Raspberry-Jalapeno Spread

Pickled Beets

With raspberries and blackberries off my Summer Canning To Do List, I was set to begin on my Garden Canning To Do List, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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A Weeks Worth Of Summer Canning I

Every summer my weeks seem to be consumed with gardening and canning, on top of all the regular demands of being a housewife. Each morning I wake and begin planning my day, scheduling all the tasks that need to get done into the hours I have to get them accomplished. When canning is on my agenda, I will typically do this first, leaving the remainder of the day to clean up and finish all the other work that has to get done. Sundays are the only exception to this rule.

Sundays I like to sit back and reflect on all the canning projects I accomplished during the week. I’m not one of those people who cans in the morning and stocks the pantry with those cans in the afternoon. Not by a long-shot. I like to see my accomplishments.  I am a visual type person. My jars sit on the counter, collecting, growing, waiting until not one more project can fit. So, come Sunday morning I step back and look at all the canning jars lined up on the counter and smile.

Last week my counter looked like this on Sunday:

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From left to right:

Cran-Cherry Preserves

Tart Cherry Preserves

Very Cherry Syrup

Raspberry-Cherry Preserves

Cranberry-Cherry Pie Filling

Tart Cherry Pie Filling

Sweet & Sour Sauce

Pickled Beets

Very Cherry Pie Filling

84 jars for the pantry and summer is just beginning. I can’t wait to see what I get done this week come Sunday, and for this I am — Simply Grateful. 

2015 Michigan Cherry Recipes #5 – Raspberry-Cherry Preserves

Although raspberries are not my favorite summer fruit, I do like to can with them when I can combine them with other fruits. Combining them with some sweet cherries seemed like a good idea. The sweetness of the cherries I hoped would tone down the tart, distinct flavor of the raspberries.

Raspberry-Cherry Preserves

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2 Cups Seedless Raspberry Pulp

4 Cups Sweet Cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped in food processor

3 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

4 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 4 Tbsp. Water

  • Combine raspberry pulp and coarsely chopped sweet cherries in large stock pot. Add sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and add Clear Jel slurry. Bring to boil and boil for one minute.
  • Remove from heat, ladle into hot jars, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

This preserve proved to be a good combination of sweet and tart. Some raspberries can be very sweet, but I have always found them to have a tartness to them regardless. Using twice the amount of cherries as raspberry pulp helped tone down the dominating flavor of the raspberries and allowed the two fruits to meld into a mouth-watering preserve.

Michigan cherries are by far my favorite fruit to can. 2015 has thus far been a good year for canning and definitely a good year for cherries, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Michigan Cherry Recipes #4 – Cran-Cherry Pie Filling

Back  about 10 years ago, before I started canning pie filling, I was shopping for cherry pie filling for a holiday pie. My brand of choice at the time was Comstock and that year they happened to come out with a Cranberry-Cherry Pie Filling. Intrigued, I had to try it. It was wonderful.

Unfortunately, by the time I went back to buy the cranberry-cherry pie filling again, which could have easily been months, they had discontinued it. Bummer!  To remedy not having a pie filling that included cranberries I opted to add a can of whole berry cranberry sauce to the cherry pie filling and the results were good, but not exactly the same.

This year after making my regular batch of Tart Cherry Pie Filling I decided to try my own version of Cranberry-Cherry Pie Filling. The results were awesome.

Cranberry-Cherry Pie Filling

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8 Pounds Pitted/Stemmed Tart Cherries

3 – 12 oz. Bags Fresh or Frozen Cranberries

5 Cups Sugar

1 1/4 Cup Clear Jel dissolved in 1 Cup Water

7 Cups Cherry Water/Juice

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

  • Rinse and pit cherries. Blanch cherries and cranberries in boiling water for one minute. Drain, reserving water/juice, and keep heated in covered stock pot.
  • Combine Clear Jel slurry, lemon juice and sugar in stock pot with 7 cups of reserved cherry/cranberry water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat until it thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat. Fold in fruit.
  • Fill jars with filling, leaving a one-inch head space. Adjust lids and process in water bath for 25 minutes.

I cannot believe how much this tastes like how I remember the Comstock version did. What a thrill. I cannot wait to make a pie or perhaps some strudel with my version.

I absolutely love canning, but when canning brings back something I loved but could no longer find, I love it even more, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Michigan Cherry Recipes #3 – Very Cherry Syrup

Is there a rule out there that says a syrup can’t be chunky? If a syrup is by definition a liquid, then chunks of fruit in it must make it a sauce, right?

A sauce can be a “semi-solid food” which chunks of pureed fruit could qualify for, but perhaps with so much fruit in it, a spread would be a better description.

Spreads are just as they imply, food that is literally spread, usually with a knife. But this “syrup” can actually be poured right out of the bottle.

I have no idea what you would really call this, so unless you are a real stickler about what makes a syrup, a sauce, a spread — and let’s not even open up the whole can of worms about the possibility this is a preserve or jam — I’m calling this on a syrup. Mainly because that is exactly what I made it to be used as. It can on pancakes, crepes, French toast, waffles, ice cream and any other place you would use a syrup.

Of course, it’s great on toast too — but let’s not start that again.

Very Cherry Syrup

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2 1/2 Pounds Unpitted Sweet Cherries

3 Pounds Unpitted Tart Cherries

4 Cups Sugar

3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

4 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 4 Tbsp. Water

  • Stem and pit cherries. Place cherries in small batches in food processor and process until fruit is in very small pieces. The 5 1/2 pounds of combined cherries yielded 9 cups of pureed pulp.
  • Put cherry pulp in large stock pot. Add sugar and lemon juice and heat over medium heat until near boil. Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  • Ladle syrup into hot jars, seal, and process in water bath canner for 15 minutes.

What I really like about this recipe is that if I really wanted a true syrup and/or spread, all I would have to do is strain out the pulp after pureeing the fruit in the food processor. Then I could make a traditional syrup with the liquid and a true spread with the pulp. This year however I decided to be a rebel and make a chunky syrup that can be used pretty much as any/all of the above.

I love the versatility of canning and coming up with new and fun recipes. Using both sweet and tart cherries was only the beginning when it came to this endeavor, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Michigan Cherry Recipes #2 – Tart Cherry Preserves

The difference between a preserve and a jam is basically how big the pieces of fruit are. The larger piece recipes would be classified as preserves while finer, more processed pieces of fruit would be considered jam.

To make a tart cherry preserve for use in cookies, pastries, yogurt, crepes, donuts, and cakes, I first stem and pit the cherries. Then I coarsely chop them in the food processor. Some of the pieces are fine, but the majority are still chunky and there is even an occasional full cherry to be found.

Tart Cherry Preserves

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12 Cups Pitted/Stemmed Tart Cherries

4 Cups Sugar

1/2 Cup Lemon Juice

1/2 Cup Clear Jel mixed with 1/2 Cup Water

  • Pit and stem cherries. Place prepared cherries in small batches in food processor and pulse three or four times being sure not to turn into a puree. Doing this in small batches ensures that you won’t have to over-process the batch in order to chop all the fruit.
  • Place chopped cherries in a large stock pot with any juice produced. Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to near boil over medium heat.
  • Turn heat up to medium-high and add Clear Jel slurry. Bring to boil and boil for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and ladle into hot, sterilized jars. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

This recipe will make between 16 and 18 – 8 oz. jars. I actually got 22 jars because prior to canning the final batch I added some frozen cranberries and a bit more sugar. I brought this back up to a boil and then processed as above. This gave me yet another preserve for the pantry shelf – Cran-Cherry Preserves.

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Tart cherry preserves are something we never seem to have enough of. This is used more often than any other preserve in our home, especially during the holidays. With 22 jars safely tucked away in the pantry, we should be good until next year, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mixes In Jars #11 – Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are the go to cookie in our house whenever someone craves something sweet and wants cookies. Having this mix on the shelf in the pantry is a great time saver and makes just the right amount so we aren’t stuck with dozens of cookies to eat before they get stale. Although it’s unlikely they’d go to waste, moderation allows me to make a new treat sooner and far more often.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

1 3/4 Cups Flour

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1/2 – 3/4 Cup Chocolate Chips

1/2 Cup Softened Butter

1 Egg

1 tsp. Vanilla

Combine dry ingredients and chips.  Mix thoroughly.  Add softened butter, egg, and vanilla.  Mix until completely blended, I did this with my hands. Shape into walnut size balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for 10 – 12 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool on sheet 1 minute.

To assemble mix in jar, layer dry ingredients in a 1.5 pint jar in above order and attach tag:

Empty mix into large bowl.  Mix to combine.  Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg, and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Mix until completely blended. Shape into walnut size balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 10 – 12 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool on sheet 1 minute. Yields 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

When I made these tonight I made three jars of the mix for the pantry. I started filling quart jars with the ingredients, but these turned out to be too big. Switching to 1.5 pint jars was perfect. When I transferred the sugars to the smaller jars, the sides got a bit messy, but I doubt the jars will be in the pantry for long.

Cookies in the cookie jar and another mix-in-a-jar in the pantry, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Michigan Cherry Recipes #1 – Very Cherry Pie Filling

Making cherry pie filling is the one “absolute” every year when Michigan tart cherries come in. No matter how good or bad the picking is, it is a must to pick at least 10 pounds so we’ll have one pie to enjoy right away and a few jars of filling in the pantry for winter.

After making my standard Tart Cherry Pie Filling for the pantry, this year I decided to switch it up and try a few fruit combinations with tart cherries as the base.

The first combination I decided to try was a take off of one of the families favorite new jams from 2014 – Very Cherry Jam. This jam combined both sweet and tart cherries for a wonderfully sweet jam with just the right touch of tartness. I wasn’t sure how this would work in a pie filling, as I’d never had a pie made with sweet cherries. I have heard of cherry pies made exclusively with sweet cherries so I figured combining these with the tart could cushion the sweetness and make it a winner.

Very Cherry Pie Filling

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7 pounds Fresh Pitted/Stemmed Tart Cherries

7 pounds Fresh Pitted/Stemmed Sweet Cherries

5 Cups Sugar

1 1/4 Cup Clear Jel mixed with 1 Cup Water

8 Cups Cherry Water/Juice

1/2 Cup Lemon Juice

  • Rinse and pit cherries. Blanch cherries in boiling water for one minute. Drain, reserving water/juice, and keep heated in covered stock pot.
  • Combine Clear Jel slurry, lemon juice and sugar in stock pot with 8 cups of reserved cherry water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat until it thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat. Fold in drained cherries.
  • Fill jars with filling, leaving a one-inch head space. Adjust lids and process in water bath for 25 minutes.

I canned five quarts and five pints of this pie filling and used the remaining to make a pie. We didn’t even wait for it to cool before cutting into it.

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This pie was awesome! The combination of tart and sweet cherries and the different textures that both of them brought kept our mouths watering while we ate it. Definitely a keeper!

Tart cherries are probably my favorite fruit to can especially when combining them with other fruits. This recipe is only the beginning, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Don’t Beet Me Up With The Facts!

Last week I harvested about half of my first crop of beets for the year. I planted three different types this year and although they might not have been as large as they could have been, I wanted to pick them while they were young, small and sweet.

The round beets were between 2 and 3″ in diameter. Perfect for the Beet Slicer and not a bit woody.

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The long beets ranged from 3 – 6″ long and for the most part were not woody.  I did notice that the longer they got, the more of a tendency they had to be woody, so picking them before they get too large is a good thing.

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The golden beets were few and small, but so beautiful.

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I absolutely loved how they looked in contrast to the red/purple beets after I cooked them for canning.

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Of course Grace had to burst my bubble when she came in and saw the golden beets sitting in the bowl of red beets by informing me, “You know, they are just going to turn purple if you can them all together.” She told me this after I’d told her I thought the yellow beets would look so cool in the jars of pickled beets in contrast to all the purple.

DON’T TELL ME THAT! THAT’S NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR!

Sometimes the truth hurts. She was right. Unfortunately there were so few golden beets, which the package warned me that they were much harder to grow than round or long beets, that there weren’t enough to can even a small jar of just golden beets. Oh well, maybe when I make the final harvest of the first round of beets next week I’ll have just enough for a jar or even half a jar of just golden beets. If not, I’ll always have the pictures of the freshly peeled beets all sitting together so nicely before I canned them.

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One batch of Pickled Beets packed away in the pantry, 7 pints, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Strawberry Canning #5 – Brandied Strawberry Jam

Although I love the old standard Strawberry Jam and always look forward to tasting that first hot spoonful every summer just as soon as it begins to gel in the pan, there is something to be said for spicing it up every now and then.

I am not much of a drinker in any sense of the word. Alcohol has never been something I find myself craving or even wanting. That isn’t to say I have never had a drink or tasted various liqueurs and wines, but I am one of those people affected by alcohol in a negative way. Wine and champagne give me an instant migraine, I do not like the taste of beer, hard liquor is only something I would consider using in cooking where appropriate, and liqueurs — well I do have to say I do enjoy using these in many desserts, but by the time I am done either cooking it or flambe with it, most of the alcohol is gone.

When I came across a recipe for strawberry jam with a touch of brandy in it however, it piqued my interest. The one liquor I do use throughout the year  is brandy. There are many opportunities to use it especially during the holidays when preparing mincemeat and plum pudding. I don’t like the taste of the brandy by itself, but the combination of brandy with dried fruits and spices makes my mouth water. So, hoping that combining a bit of brandy with a suculent strawberry preserve would produce something a bit more decadent than the standard strawberry jam, I gave it a whirl.

Brandied Strawberry Preserves

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4 Cups Quartered Strawberries

1 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Brandy, divided

4 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 4 Tbsp Cold Water

1 tsp. Vanilla

  • Combine strawberries, sugar and 3 Tbsp. brandy in heavy stock pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
  • Increase heat to medium high and stir in Clear Jel slurry. Bring to boil while stirring constantly and boil for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat; stir in remaining brandy and vanilla. Ladle into jars and cool to room temperature.
  • Cover and keep in refrigerator or freeze.
  • This recipe made 4 – 8 oz. jars.

The first jar was eaten the same day on bagels with cream cheese. I swear everyone in the family came out of the woodwork for this one.

The second jar was confiscated by my father when he just happened to stop by after I’d finished jarring it.

The third jar went to my neighbors whose absolute favorite jam is strawberry and I just had to get their opinion on it. I got the empty jar back within two days – that spoke volumes.

The fourth jar…well, don’t tell anyone but it is hidden deep in the back of the refrigerator, behind an expired container of sour cream that I know no one is going to throw out because there is an unwritten rule in my house that no one but me can throw anything away in the refrigerator because you just never know what might happen (I’d love to find out, but apparently this is something far to complicated for Hubby and the kids). I’m saving this one for when a certain girl friend and I get together (hopefully soon!) so I can get her opinion.

The only thing I don’t like about this particular recipe is that it is a refrigerator/freezer jam and cannot be water bath canned. I understand why, because cooking/heating it after the last of the brandy is added might eliminate the hint of brandy that laces every bite, but this means it is going to be far harder to store. Freezer and refrigerator space is always scarce around our house, so storing an abundance of this preserve is not going to happen.

Changing things up is a good thing, especially when it produces a decadent, mouth-watering, new take on Strawberry Jam, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.