Canning Pear-Cranberry Pie Filling

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When I was a kid I hated pears. The texture, the taste, even the look of a pear was something I absolutely hated.  Not until I was an adult did I finally discover the joy of pears and all the possibilities.

The turning point for me came one warm summer afternoon when Hubby and I were enjoying a barbecue at a friend’s house.  After the grill was through spouting smoke, our hostess brought out dessert.  The moment we saw it, Hubby exclaimed, “Oh good, apple pie my favorite!”  You see, Hubby loves pie and especially apple pie.

With a coy smile however, our hostess replied, “Not quite.”

We were intrigued.  It sure looked like apple pie.  The beautiful brown sugar topping with the perfect slices of apple peeking through — what else could it be.

Well, when I took my first bite, I immediately knew what it was — pear. Very smooth and mild with just a hint of spice.  A nice change from the traditional apple pie.

Although I love pear pie on its own, I really like it with a little zip in it and that’s where cranberries come in and thus this wonderful new pie filling for the pantry shelves.

Pear-Cranberry Pie Filling

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  • 11 lbs. Pears (mixed varieties)
  • 3-12 oz. Bags Cranberries
  • 4 Cups Sugar
  • 2 Cups Clear Jel
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 6 Cups Apple or Pear Juice
  • 12 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp. Nutmeg

Wash, peel, and core pears.  Slice pears 1/4 – 1/2 inch wide and soak in water containing lemon juice to prevent browning.

Boil water and blanch pears and cranberries for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil.  Drain but keep warm fruit in a covered bowl.

Combine Clear Jel in water and mix until smooth.  Add the Clear Jel slurry, sugar, spice, and apple or pear juice in a large stock pot.  Stir and cook on medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Fold in drained pears and cranberries and fill hot jars with mixture, leaving a 1-inch head space.  Remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims, adjust lids, and process immediately for 25 minutes at a full boil.

This recipe made 7 quarts of filling plus a pie to enjoy right away.

As with my apple pie filling, I use a variety of pears with varying textures and sweetness to really make this filling pop.  This pie filling is absolutely wonderful on its own, but to switch it up I might add a jar of apple pie filling on occasion.  This gives me even more dessert possibilities, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Triple Berry (Cranberry/Raspberry/Blackberry) Spread

My kitchen appliance/gadget wish list is long and full of tons of things that I need, want, and can only dream of ever having. On this list, at the very top, is an upright freezer to store all the canning jars I want to fill with pies, cheesecakes, meals, and quick-fix snacks.  Along with these, I would store all the fruits and vegetables I freeze every year for use during the long Michigan winters.

Right now I have a chest freezer and refrigerator with a freezer in the basement as well as the freezer in the refrigerator in the kitchen.  These freezers are constantly full and I am continually needing to reorganize everything inside of these in order to store anything new.  It is truly a source of stress that I don’t enjoy dealing with on a daily basis.

Much of the fruit that is stored in the basement freezers are there to be used in canning projects that I have not gotten to either because of lack of time or lack of ingredients.  With the stock of cranberries I picked up in October and November of 2014, I am now able to possibly make a dent in some of that fruit and clear out some space.  As much as I’d rather just go out and get that upright freezer that I’ve been wanting for so long, it’s still not in the cards.

Hubby and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum on whether or not this is a necessary expense or not.  I suppose I can survive without another freezer, and it is a “want”, but no matter if I were to use up all the fruit that is waiting to be canned, the fight for freezer space would continue.  It’s one of those unwritten laws I think.  No matter how much space I have, it is never enough.  So why do I think another freezer would solve all my problems?  Well it wouldn’t, but boy it would sure be fun filling that new freezer.

Anyway, seeing as chicken thighs are on sale this week and I want to stock up a bit while the price is good, I pulled out several bags of cranberries, raspberries and blackberries, to try a combination recipe that I thought would be fun.

Triple-Berry Spread

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  • 3 Cups Cranberries (12 oz bag)
  • 3 Clementines
  • 3 Cups Red Raspberries
  • 3 Cups Blackberries
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed in 1/4 Cup Water

Peel and section the clementines.  Combine the clementines with cranberries in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped.

Put processed cranberry mixture in a large stock pot and add remaining berries and sugar.  Bring this to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree using a stick blender.  Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove cranberry skins and berry seeds.

Return strained puree to stock pot and add Clear Jel slurry.  Bring mixture to full rolling boil and time one minute. This thickens very quickly so be careful, it spatters terribly.

Remove from heat and immediately ladle into hot, sterilized 8 oz. jars.  Top with hot lids and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

This recipe will yield 7-8 oz. jars.

Making a dent in the overflowing freezers in the basement is great, but having this new spread to add to my ever-growing list of tasty spreads is even better.  One more cranberry project under my belt, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Cranberry-Targerine Spread

This weeks canning adventures have been far less productive than last, but alas, life happens.  I was able to fit in my first of what will no doubt be many cranberry canning projects and learned a few things along the way.

I found this recipe in a book that I received for Christmas.  After making a few tweaks, I think the results were excellent, and Hubby agrees.

Cranberry-Tangerine Spread

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  • 12-oz. Package of Cranberries
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Cup Tangerine or Orange Juice
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 2 inches Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 Cup Additional Tangerine or Orange Juice
  • 3 Tbsp. Clear Jel

In a heavy saucepan, combine cranberries, water and 1/2 cup of juice.  Bring this to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 5 minutes until cranberries pop.

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Using a stick blender, puree the cranberry mixture in the pan.  Add the sugar and cinnamon stick and return to boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until slightly thickened.

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Remove from heat and strain out cranberry seeds and pulp.  Return strained spread to pan.  Combine the remaining 1/4 cup juice with Clear Jel and stir till smooth.  Add Clear Jel slurry to pan and bring mixture to boil.  Boil hard for one minute, remove from heat.

Ladle hot spread into hot, sterilized 8-ounce jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space.  Apply lids and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.  This recipe made 4 – 8-ounce jars.

I let this spread set overnight and opened one of the jars the next morning for breakfast.  The spread was smooth and mild.  There was a slight hint of cinnamon but no hint of citrus.  That’s when I realized that the purpose of the tangerine/orange juice was not to add flavor to this spread, but rather to smooth out the taste.  Cranberries can be rather tangy, to put it mildly.  They have a bite that can almost burn when used by themselves.

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I used the spread on a bagel, one side with cream cheese, the other without.  Both were delicious, but I preferred the one without the cream cheese because I could taste more of the spread on that side. It was equally delicious on water crackers with cream cheese later in the day for a snack.

Besides enjoying the fruits (no pun intended) of my labor and eating all the canned goods I make, learning something new when I’m going through the process is always an added bonus.  I have several recipes using cranberries to try in the next few days and should I find that the flavor has too much of a bite to it, I now know how to tame it down, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Pomegranate Syrup

In the past, when I spent time juicing a pomegranate, I wanted to make that juice went as far as it possibly could.  Adding a ton of sugar, water, or other ingredients to increase the yield, was not out of the question.

Finding a new “EASY” method to juice them, however (see my recent post Absolute Easiest Way To Juice A Pomegranate), has changed my view on this.  Now I want the juice, only the juice, and nothing but the juice.  And just a bit of sugar because sugar does make everything a little better.

Seeing as the pantry still had some pomegranate jelly on the shelf, I opted for a syrup this year.  Even though I knew that this recipe would take a good chunk of the juice I’d just extracted, I didn’t hesitate now that juicing a pomegranate is no big deal.

As usual, I used Clear Jel as my thickening agent, so I could put in as little sugar as I wanted.  Hubby likes his syrups a bit on the tart side, so this recipe was definitely to his liking.  Surprisingly there is a lot more sugar than I have used in any syrups I’ve made since starting to use Clear Jel, but that was because the juice was so tart to begin with.

Pomegranate Syrup

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  • 7 Cups Pomegranate Juice
  • 5 Cups Sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved  in 1/2 Cup Water

Combine all ingredient in large stock pot.  Bring almost to boil, until thickened.  Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars.  Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

Adding this syrup to the pantry this year was definitely a hit with the family.  The tart, woody taste of pomegranate is a nice change from the typical sweet syrups I made over the summer.

I love finding new uses for fruits that may not be the typical ones used in canning recipes, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Concord Grapes — Not Just For Jam

Have you ever had Concord grape pie?  Better yet, how about Concord grape muffins?  Well until you have, you just have not lived.

I’d never thought about using concord grapes for anything other than jam, jelly and syrup, until I started researching other options on the internet a few weeks ago.  Am I glad I did.  I came across several ideas, including the pie and muffins, that I could hardly wait to give a try.  The pie filling was an immediate hit with hubby.  I first canned the tarter of the two batches of Concords I had and he absolutely loved it.  As always, there was extra that didn’t fill a jar, so he used it on crepes.  Using what I considered to be very little sugar, the tartness of the grapes came through and made for a very interesting filling.

The second batch of filling I used the sweeter grapes.  These were so sweet that even cutting the sugar in half wasn’t enough.  It turned out very sweet.  No worries though.  With this batch I can either mix it with the tarter version when making a pie or better still, mix it with a can of homemade tart cherry pie filling or even rhubarb pie filling.  Having both of these in the pantry is certainly going to come in handy.

Concord Grape Pie Filling

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  • 20 Cups Whole Concord Grapes
  • 2 Cups Sugar for tart grapes, 1 Cup Sugar for sweeter
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Cup Clear Jel mixed with Water

The hardest part of making the pie filling is preparing the grapes.  This is definitely not for the faint of heart.  It is truly a labor of love.  Can you think of any other cliché’s I can put in here?  Hopefully you get my point — it’s a whole lot of work!

After washing and stemming the grapes comes separating the pulp from the skins.  It’s not difficult popping the pulp from the skins, just terribly time-consuming.  It took me over an hour to pop the centers from the skins of enough grapes for one batch and this was with the help of Grace.

Once the pulp is separated from the skins, place the skins in a stock pot and bring to a boil.  At this point I like to use my stick blender to make sure the pulp separates as much as possible from the seeds.  Once all the pulp is mush and it’s been boiling for about 10 minutes, strain out the seeds.  This can be done with a food mill, but I just used a mesh strainer.  The stick blender really made quick work of the pulp and after only a few stirs, all the pulp came through the strainer leaving only seeds behind.

Next, return the seedless pulp to the stock pot, add in the skins, sugar, lemon juice and Clear Jel slurry, and bring back to a boil.  Be very careful when bringing this to a boil.  Typically I cannot let it come to a rolling boil because it is so thick it splatters terribly.  Being that it has to be stirred constantly so as not to burn, medium-high heat until it just comes to a boil seems to be the best advice. It will already be very thick and a rolling boil isn’t necessary.

Then it’s time to ladle into hot jars and process in a water bath for 35 minutes.  That’s it!  Okay, that is quite an understatement, but it is truly worth the effort.

To use, pour a jar into a pie crust, top with another crust or crumble if you prefer, and bake at 450 for 25 minutes covered with foil.  Remove foil, decrease oven temp to 350 and bake another 30 minutes.  Of course using a jar on crepes, pancakes, or Belgium waffles is a great option as well.  Just open, heat, and serve.  Hubby even likes it cold!

Concords are far more versatile than I ever gave them credit for.  Next year I am most definitely going to be grape picking more than I have in the past.  Now that I know there is far more to grapes than just jelly, I can’t wait to explore all the possibilities, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Concords — Another Taste of Fall

Pumpkins, apples, and pears are certainly the traditional fruits of fall, but let’s not forget concord grapes.

The past month has been extremely hectic so finding time to go grape picking was not in the cards.  Thankfully there are some wonderful people in my life and I was graced with two deliveries of grapes for me to can.  One batch was super sweet and the other was more on the tart side.  This worked out perfectly for making different tasting jellies, syrups, spreads, and juice.

The first thing I decided to make with the Concords was a batch of grape jelly.  For this I used the sweeter grapes so I could use as little sugar as I wanted with Clear Jel as the thickening agent.  The consistency is absolutely perfect.  It spreads like softened butter.

Concord Grape Jelly

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  • 3 Cups Concord Grape Juice
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 1/2 Cup Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

The hardest part of making grape jelly is separating the grapes from the stems.  Once that is done, just throw the grapes in a stock pot and with an immersion blender puree the grapes, seeds and all.  By pureeing the grapes this way, there is no need to add any water that would dilute the grape juice.

After the grapes have enough juice in the pan to prevent scorching, put the stock pot on the stove and turn it up to medium-high.  Stirring constantly, bring the grapes to a near boil.  As the grapes heat up, juice will begin to flow.  Take the stick blender once again and give the grapes a good run through, being sure to puree the grapes as much as possible.

Remove the grapes from the stove and spoon mixture into a strainer to separate the juice from the seeds and skins.  The result will be pure grape juice.

Measure 3 cups of grape juice, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and lemon juice back into the stock pot.  Combine the Clear Jel with water and stir the slurry into the grape juice mixture in the stock pot.  Turn the heat to medium-high and stir constantly until jelly thickens.  Do not let it boil too fast as it will be very thick and will splatter.  Once it reaches a full boil, remove from heat and ladle into hot jars.  Cap jars and process for 15 minutes in a water bath.

There is nothing like the sweet smell of Concords in the kitchen as the grapes simmer on the stove.  How wonderful it is to have such generous people in my life, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Putting Clear Jel To The Test

Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to work with when it comes to canning.  Basically all you have to do is wash, sort, blanch, and can.  There is no peeling, cutting, coring, or pitting.  They are even easier to freeze because prior to freezing you should not even wash them.  Just bag ’em, label ’em, and freeze.  It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Homemade blueberry pie has always been a bit of a thorn in my side.  For some reason, no matter how much flour or corn starch I used, the pie was runny.  After the first piece of pie was removed from the pie plate, all the blueberries would fall into the open section and the amount of juice that was produced when baking would overflow the dish.  My pies looked nothing like those beautiful magazine advertisements for “Perfect Blueberry Pie.”  My pies were anything but perfect!

To remedy this faux pas with blueberry pie, I decided to give Clear Jel a real test.  Although I have been using it for several months with great success, all the fillings that I have made were ones that had never caused me the type of grief blueberry pie has.  This was the first real test to see if Clear Jel could live up to all its hype.

Blueberry Pie Filling

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  • 6 Pints Blueberries
  • 2 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Clear jel mixed in 1 Cup of water
  • 2 Cups Additional Water
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

Wash and drain blueberries.  Blanch fresh blueberries in boiling water for one minute.  Drain and set aside.  Combine sugar, Clear Jel slurry, and water.  Cook on medium-high heat until thick and bubbly.  Add lemon juice and boil one minute more.  Remove from heat and immediate add blueberries and stir to combine.  Ladle hot filling into hot jars leaving 1″ head space.  Wipe rims, set lids and bands, and process in water bath for 30 minutes at full boil.

Once I’d made a batch of this and let it set overnight, it was time to give it a try.  Seeing as if the pie filling were baked in a pie and then cooled it would no doubt be the same consistency as what was in the jars, I decided to use a jar of filling for blueberry shortcake.  The filling was thick and very tasty.  It was not runny in the least, and the flavor — well lets just say I’d have a hard time telling the difference between eating a handful of blueberries and eating a spoonful of filling.

A lot of times what sounds or looks good on paper doesn’t necessarily translate into something that will work in the real world, thankfully this was not the case today.  Clear Jel certainly lived up to my greatest expectations, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Michigan Peaches

The brutal winter of 2013/14 took a toll on most of the fruit crops here in Michigan and peaches were unfortunately not spared.  Thankfully I was able to find just enough Michigan peaches at a local orchard to make some pie filling and a few other peachy treats.

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Usually I freeze my pie filling, but this year, thanks to Clear Jel, I was able to can it and free up some much-needed freezer space.

Peach Pie Filling

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  • 6 Quarts Peeled, Pitted and Sliced Fresh Peaches
  • 6 Cups Sugar
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup + 3 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed in 1+ Cup of water to make a slurry
  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice

Peel, pit, and slice peaches and set aside.  Combine sugar, water, and Clear Jel slurry in large stock pot.  Cook over medium-high heat until thick and bubbly.  Add lemon juice.  Boil one minute.  Immediately stir in peaches.

Ladle hot peaches into hot, sterilized jars leaving a 1″ head space.  Wipe rims, cover, and process in water bath for 25 minutes.

Being able to have peach pie in the middle of winter is going to be a great treat, something the entire family looks forward to.  I am so happy that I was able to find even a few Michigan peaches to put up this summer, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Canning Plums – Not For The Faint Of Heart

This morning I began the arduous task of canning the plum harvest we recently made from our abundant orchard.

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Okay, orchard might be a stretch, but abundant doesn’t begin to do our harvest justice.

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Although I am ever so grateful for the bounty our tree has blessed us with for the second year in a row, plums are by far the worst fruit to can — hands down.  They are tedious and time-consuming, far more than peeling peaches, pitting cherries, or seeding strawberries.  So far today I have washed, stemmed, pitted and sliced 10 pounds of the 80 to 90 pounds I have in buckets and it took me nearly an hour and a half.  Being that they are not free-stone, pitting is almost impossible.  Thankfully I learned a neat trick several years ago and use a melonballer to assist, otherwise I’d probably still be working on them.

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Last year I made plum pie filling and froze it.  It was quick and easy, other than the pitting, but freezer space continues to be an issue, even more so now that I have peppers, tomatoes and zucchini taking up space.  Hubby really needs to give some serious consideration to my request for a second chest freezer.  I did my research and it would only cost about $55 a year to run.  Until then, I’m going to can all my pie filling and store it in the pantry.

Plum Pie Filling

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  • 6 Quarts Washed, Pitted and Slice Plums
  • 6 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Cup + 3 Tbsp. Clear Jel Dissolved in 1 Cup Water
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice

Pit and slice plums.

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Place slices in water containing Fruit Fresh to prevent browning.

DSCF3715Bring large stock pot of water to boil.  Place 6 cups of fresh fruit in boiling water and return to boil.  Boil 1 minute.  Drain and keep fruit in covered bowl.  Continue until plums are all blanched.

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Combine water, sugar, and Clear Jel slurry in large stock pot.  Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute.  Fold in plums.

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Fill hot jars, leaving 1-inch head space.  Adjust and process in water bath for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, let rest 5 minutes more in water before removing.

This recipe made 7 quarts plus 1 pint of plum pie filling.  One more batch and I should be set for the year.

Ten pounds down and 7+ quarts in the pantry for the winter, for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

 

Cherry-Berry Canning

This morning Zeb and I spent several hours in the kitchen whipping up a few new recipes using some of the tart cherries we picked this past weekend. It amazes me how much faster everything goes when you have a helper.

The first recipe I wanted to work on was one using cherries and blueberries. I have several packages of frozen blueberries from last years season left and with blueberry season approaching, I figured it was a good time to clear out the old to make room for the new.

Several times a year I make Belguim waffles for breakfast, serving them with a mixed berry topping. The preserves I made today is similar and I think I could even use it in a pinch if Zeb or Grace want a special treat on a frozen waffle. (Yes, I am guilty of occasionally buying them a package of those large-corporation, heavily processed frozen waffles. When I do though Grace is sure to tease me and say, “Mom, make me a waffle like only you can make.” No one can toast a frozen waffle like dear old Ma!)

Cherry-Berry Preserves

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3 Cups Pitted Tart Cherries
3 Cups Packed Blueberries
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Cups Sugar
4 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/4 C. Water

  • Combine cherries, blueberries, lemon juice, and sugar in large stock pot.

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  • Cook on medium-high until mixture begins to boil and blueberries begin to soften and burst.

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  • Using a potato masher, crush berries and cherries.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and boil for 1 minute.

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  • Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes and ladle into hot jars leaving a 1“ head space.
  • Process 15 minutes in water bath canner.

This preserve was very thick. When I make it again I will decrease the Clear Jel to 3 Tbsp.

The second recipe Zeb and I worked on was one using some of the strawberry juice I froze from our strawberry picking a few weeks ago. The recipe that inspired this jam called for crushed berries, but I thought the strawberries would be too dominant a flavor if left whole. Also, I decreased the sugar by more than half, leaving this jam more on the tart side , but still more than sweet enough.

Red-On-Red Jam (Grace named this one)

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1 Pound Tart Cherries, pitted
1 Cup Strawberry Juice, strained
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Cups Sugar
3 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 1/4 Cup Water

  • Place pitted cherries in large stock pot.

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  • Cook over medium heat, crushing with spoon as they heat.

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  • Add strawberry juice, lemon juice, sugar, and Clear Jel slurry.

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  • Bring to boil. Boil 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes, ladle into hot jars.
  • Process in water bath 10 minutes.

This jam was very tasty but next time I might try using 2 pounds of cherries, as the strawberry flavor was still dominant.

Zeb and I also worked on two other jams that need to sit overnight. When he tired of helping out in the kitchen, I set to work on cutting some rhubarb and made another batch of rhubarb pie filling. This will be wonderful to add to cherry, blueberry, or apple pies this winter.

Rhubarb Pie Filling

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10 Cups Chopped Rhubarb
3 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Water
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
3/4 Cup Clear Jel dissolved in 1 Cup Water

  • Blanch chopped rhubarb in boiling water 1 minute.
  • Drain, reserving 3 cups liquid to use in filling. Keep rhubarb warm in a covered bowl.
  • Combine sugar, 2 cups of reserved liquid, lemon juice, and Clear Jel slurry (using the remaining 1 cup of reserved liquid) in large stock pot.
  • Slowly bring to boil over medium heat. Boil 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and stir in rhubarb.
  • Ladle into hot jars, leaving a 1“ head space.
  • Process 30 minutes in water bath canner at full boil.

It gives me such a sense of completion and security knowing that the pantry is filling up with lots of different home-canned goods. I cannot wait to start harvesting vegetables and the pantry to overflow (not that it isn’t already). Tomorrow it’s back to tart and sweet cherries, more rhubarb, and new recipes, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.