Tis the season to CAN!

6 09 2008

About this time every year, an overwhelming urge takes hold of me and drags me to the roadside produce stands where I purchase large quantities of fruits and veggies.  This year, our score was tomatoes, roma tomatoes, peaches and pluots.  We spend a few days in the kitchen, canning up a storm, and when that yen for summer fruit comes along, we’re covered!  I’ve made all of our salsa and tomato (chopped, diced and whole) for several years now, and I’m trying to get ahead of our pickle consumption too.  One of these days…maybe!

Canning isn’t difficult.  It requires a little hardware…the water-bath canner is necessary for fruits high in acid and pickles, otherwise you’ll need a pressure canner.  Jam and jelly can be sealed with a water bath, or not.  Other things you must have are jars, lids and rings.  Started jar sets are sold either by the cute package, or the dozen.  Beware of the cutie stuff…it has it’s place, such as for gift giving.  Day to day canning goes in plain ol’ jars that you spruce up with creative labels and such.  You’ll also need salt or sugar depending on what you’re canning, perhaps lemon juice and/or a fruit color stabilizer (ascorbic acid).  Some pickle recipes call for pickling spices or alum.

Canning is pretty much just following a set routine of peeling, packing, processing, put away.  Here we have a case of lovely, fresh California peaches, just in from the farm.  Those fuzzy skins are not welcome in our jars.  Sometimes fur is good, and sometimes it’s not so good!  To peel peaches you drop them into boiling water for 10 seconds to a minute (un-ripe fruit won’t peel easily), then move them to an ice water bath to stop the cooking.  The skins slip right off.  You do the same thing for tomatoes (which usually peel even easier than peaches).  I cut mine in quarters as I go.  I can in pint jars (there’s just the two of us), so I cut quarters rather than halves to fit the jars better.  I adjust the cooking time by 5 minutes for hot pack, and 10 minutes for raw pack.  Sprinkle each layer with Fruit Fresh to keep them from turning brown.

Below are our peaches after they were packed into hot, sterile jars with a light syrup.  I was showing my husband how all this works, so we did raw pack this time.  I forgot how much I dislike having space wasted when I can…  It’s a toss-up.  More time in prep, or more time in the canner…  Pre-cooking the fruit a little will make it a little more cooked in the jar, but you also get a full jar.  The raw pack floats more because of the displaced air in the fruit.  When the fruit cooks, the air is displaced by fruit juice.  Raw pack will have a layer of liquid at the bottom of the jar and the fruit will float to the top more.  With hot pack, the air spaces have already been displaced so the fruit stays down in the syrup better.

We picked up some lovely Roma tomatoes that we set to drying while we were working on the case of tomatoes we bought.  We don’t need salsa this year…well…maybe we do, but we aren’t ready to make any yet!  We need put up tomato quarters and chopped tomatoes first.

The Roma tomatoes took several days in the dehydrator.  We might have done better drying them in the oven at the lowest setting, but…we were working over the stove, so we opted to use the dehydrator.  They came out great.  We packed the softest of the halves in olive oil.  The rest we packed air tight and put them in the freezer.  Our tomatoes worked well.  After seeing the problem with raw pack, I went to hot pack on the tomatoes.  They came out really well.  We did great…until I laid the side of my thumb open peeling tomatoes.  I was not happy.  It took me out of commission for a few days, but I’m healing.  And so it goes…

Below are Pluots.  They’re a cross between plum and apricot.  Our favorite variety is called Dappled Dandy.  It’s dappled green and red outside with lovely deep pink flesh.  The seeds are more like plums than apricots, and the flesh is firm and sweet like an apricot, but more juicy like a plum.  They’re really good as jam and better fresh eating than either plums or apricots.  This year we did pluot halves…we’re still waiting to see how they taste, but they look gorgeous in the jars!

And that’s about it for us for today.  We still have peaches and pickles to work on tomorrow.  Then I’ll show you what the shelves are looking like!  That’s the fun part!!  Oh…and eating!  We had the best little peach tart the other night…mmm..mmmm…mmmm!  Until next time…when I’ll either be posting about my buerre blanc or my trip to Los Compadres…Have a great day!!

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2 responses

19 09 2008
Kayte

This brought tears to my eyes remembering all the times with my mother and grandmother and great grandmother canning…I miss those days and times of being together. Your jars are so beautiful…jewels just absolute jewels of color. Gorgeous photos.

7 09 2008
Natashya

Wow, you are very productive.
I am canning for the first time this year. Using Small Batch Preserving.
So far so good. I don’t know anything about raw fruit canning or pressure canning yet.
Maybe next year!

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