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. 

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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.

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.

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.

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.