Canning Season update

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As fall is finally here and winter is bearing down on us (where, oh, where did fall go??! It was so quick I missed it), I’m wrapping up the canning season. Although, really, you can can all year long, and I plan on doing that this year. I still have cranberry season to go! Anyway, here’s an update on how the cucumbers and the rest of the tomatoes turned out.

Do you remember me saying that I bought roughly 30 pounds of cucumbers for $5 back in August? No? Well, I bought roughly 30 pounds of cucumbers from a local farm for $5 back at the beginning of August. The Mister loves Bread and Butter Pickles. In fact, they are the only kind of pickles he’ll eat. Me? I love all kinds of pickles, but I’ll eat B&B pickles. So the recipe I used is from The Ball Blue Book of Preserving and calls for 8 pounds of cucumbers, but I had 30 pounds! I made 4 batches of B&B’s and then one batch of Cucumber Relish (recipe is from the same book). I ended up with 39 pints of pickles and 6 pints of the relish. I also had a 5 gallon jar of dill pickles that I wanted to make into dill relish since we weren’t going to eat the pickles (you know, trying to waste not, want not), but I messed them up. I thought that I could use my immersion blender to help chop them up so I wouldn’t have to chop another round of cucumber/pickles. But I was wrong. I got a big mess. So I fed that to the chickens. They loved it. I guess it still wasn’t technically wasting them!

So what do you do with 39 pints of B&B pickles? You give them away! There is no way we could possibly eat all 39 pints in one year. I know I could probably keep the pickles for longer than a year, but in theory we are preserving what we’ll eat until the next harvest season. But we always try to preserve a little more so we can give things away. I also started using the small batch preserving recipes for two reasons. First, I wanted to try some fancier recipes. And also to cut down on large batches of things. Sometimes I really only want a jar or two of something that I don’t think I’ll eat a lot of. For example, I am preserving pears this weekend and one thing I’m making is pear caramel sauce. I know that sounds heavenly and who wouldn’t want jars and jars of it? But I don’t make a lot of desserts, nor do we eat a lot of desserts. So having jars and jars would be wasteful. I will make a few extras for gift giving though. Anyway, back to cukes and tomatoes.

So tomatoes. I know, I know. 100 pounds of tomatoes wasn’t enough. I was flipping through my trusty Food in Jars and found a recipe for tomato jam and another one for tomato chutney. Who wouldn’t want to try tomato jam and chutney?!?! The one thing I love about the jam is that you don’t need to peel the tomatoes! In fact, the jam won’t be the same if you do peel the tomatoes! Score! I’m all about the lazy way of canning. And let me tell you, tomato jam? One of THE best things I’ve ever had! I can eat it by the spoonful. I did a double batch of both the jam and the chutney. If you do decide to double the recipe, just make sure you have HOURS to stand next to the pot cooking it down. For some reason, even though I don’t double all the liquids, it took about 5 or 6 hours to cook the jam and chutney down. The recipe says about 2 hours for a single batch. But it is so worth it. I definitely like the jam better than the chutney, but honestly the two are so similar in taste that I couldn’t tell much of a difference. Except I liked the jam. The sweetness coupled with some spice. I would also decrease the amount of red pepper I put in the jam the next time. I doubled that exactly and the pepper definitely released it’s full flavor over the 6 hours of cooking. So note to self: don’t double the red pepper next time. Oh, and as usual I didn’t use the full amount of sugar either.

And here’s the recipe for Tomato Jam as written by Marisa McClellan in Food in Jars:

5 lbs tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
3.5 cups granulated sugar
0.5 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large, nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to low. Simmer the jam, stirring regularly, until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. This will take between 1.5 and 2 hours.

When the jam is nearly done, prepare a boiling water bath and 4 regular-mouth 1-pint jars according to the process on page 10 (you can also find info here). Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer over very low heat.

When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove the pot from the heat and ladle the jam into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

You’ll thank me later! I really do like the recipes in both Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint, but you do need to double check her recipes. Remember the Spicy Peach Jam incident? I find that there is something off about most of the recipes I’ve tried so far, but mostly they aren’t nearly as disastrous as the peach jam.

Anyway, I threw in a pic of Anna Lee watching over things while I took photos of the preserves. She’s such a good watch dog. I hope you’ve had a very fruitful canning season. I can’t wait to start the pear preserving! I’m off to do that now!

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