Friday, July 15, 2011

Canning 2011

I almost saved this for a Tightwad Tuesday post (always be ready to jump on a good deal), but couldn't wait that long to post about this year's cherry jam.

This is the third year we've done cherry jam, so we've found and perfected our basic recipes. A week ago Jim's mom had a line on cherries for a dollar a pound, but Jim said he wanted to wait and see if we could get a better deal. Then on Wednesday night we got a call from his dad. Apparently a friend of theirs had gone to a fruit stand and gotten several large boxes of cherries free (!!!) because the fruit was slightly damaged--and he wanted to know if we wanted a couple boxes. This was just what Jim had been waiting for, so he went and picked up the fruit.

Last night after dinner, Jim and I sat around the table with the kids and sorted through what turned out to be about 50 pounds of Bing cherries, with a few Rainiers mixed in for good measure. About a fifth of the cherries were too badly damaged to use, but most of them were in really beautiful condition, and absolutely delicious. The biggest--and best--surprise of the evening was how hard our kids worked. Audrey was the fastest of all of us at stemming the cherries; Jim and Jimmy could barely keep up with sorting good cherries into her bowl for her to pluck the stems off.

This morning Jimmy pitted four quarts of cherries for my first quadruple batch of sugar-free jam. We had so many cherries, I decided to do a second quadruple batch, for which I modified my basic recipe by combining it with Jim's Spiced Cherry Jam recipe:

Sugar-free Spiced Cherry Jam

3 pounds (about 3 cups) prepared cherries (pitted)
½ of a 1.75-oz. package no sugar needed fruit pectin
1 cup artificial sweetener (I used Splenda)
1-1/2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1. Prepare boiling water canner, jars, and lids.

2. Place prepared cherries in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan and use a hand blender to puree to desired consistency. (The recipe didn't call for it, but I actually simmered my cherries for 15 or 20 minutes while I was washing jars and getting the canning kettle boiling.) Gradually stir in spices, almond extract, pectin and lemon juice. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.

3. Add artificial sweetener. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim if necessary.

4. Fill and seal jars. Process in water bath for ten minutes.

(makes about four half-pints)

So. Delicious.

Tonight it's Jim's turn to crank out a few batches of fully-leaded (sugared) jam. He had the kids helping him pit cherries, and as I type, I can hear him mashing up the first batch with his KitchenAid hand blender.

It's going to be a long (but deliciously aromatic) night.

Did I mention we'll be up at 7 a.m. to pick raspberries in Yakima River Canyon? Yep, more jam.


aubrey said...

yum! that recipe sounds amazing and i love the picture! making family memories.

we did three different recipes of apricot jam to find the one we liked best. it was me, lydia and wendy canning today and it was so much fun! we liked the low sugar recipe the best. not sugar free, but the ratio was a little more to our liking and tasted soo good. we were pretty proud of our first canning adventure! haha!

chicklegirl said...

Canning is always more fun with friends. Wish I could have crashed your party; I miss you guys!

Interesting that you liked the low sugar recipe best. After several years of canning jam, Jim is coming to the same conclusion. For all three of the types of jam we did this year, Jim used a lot less sugar than the recipes called for and found that it brought out the taste of the fruit more.

I've never done apricots. I always want them to taste more like peaches, and then they never do... :( But more for you, right?

aubrey said...

aww katie. we would have LOVED for you to crash our canning party. i did mention your mad canning skillz while we were all together. we must have been channeling you a bit for all 58 jars to turn out perfect. ha!

chicklegirl said...

You are too kind. The only thing I can say is practice makes, well, closer to perfect and since I've been canning for about 15 years now I do make fewer mistakes than I used to--but I've still got a lot to learn. I just took my mom's old pressure canner (which hasn't seen any action since the early 80s) to a canning clinic to have it checked out. The repair guy told me all the parts were there and in great condition, so I'm hoping to try and can some veggies--but it will probably have to wait until next year when I have a bit more energy.

We'll have to plan a canning party for next summer--that would be so much fun! Peaches or pears, maybe? Or zucchini relish? Let me know what sounds good to you!

aubrey said...

mmmm, zucchini relish. i haven't had that for YEARS. my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

as for canning, we just did the upturn method of pouring in the jam and then putting the boiled lids on and the rings and then turning them upside down. we only had a steam canner so we didn't have any other choice.

so if we can for real with you next summer, that will be totally different. you will have to teach us everything! ha!

chicklegirl said...

I've never used the upturn method. Even before I got my own canning equipment, I borrowed my mom's. Then, after I had been canning for a couple years, I invested in a big, 33-quart water bath canner (totally worth it, I might add, because you finish a lot faster canning nine jars at a time!)

They run about $50 retail, but keep your eyes open at second-hand stores and garage sales, maybe even Craig's List, and you could probably pick one up for under $10. And of course, a smaller one (that would process 7 jars at a time) would be less expensive.