Year-round Strawberry Jam, Simple Fig Preserves and Old-fashioned Muscadine Jelly
For all the gardeners out there 2021 has been a good year. There was a lot more rain than last year; the summer was not as hot and there are a lot of folks who now have a lot of extra food on their hands. After giving all your family, friends and neighbors plenty of fruits and vegetables, why not put some back for the winter. That’s right, drag out the old water bath canner, and the pressure canner to preserve the harvest for leaner times. It’s easy to do, it just takes a little planning and having the right items on hand, like canning jars, lids and bands, pectin for jams and preserves, distilled water, pickling salt, plenty of sugar and other spices. There are two different methods to canning, water bath and pressure. High acid items such as tomatoes and pickles, and even jellies, don’t have to have as much heat as non-acidic items like potatoes, corn or other vegetables. The acid in the fruit or in the pickling process will counteract the bacteria that can cause food spoilage. So, when all the food is packed into the jars, the hot lids are placed on the jars and the bands in place, the jars are placed in a rack and are then lowered into a large pot of boiling water. The water should cover the tops of the jars. Return the water to a rolling boil and generally boil for about 10 minutes, but always follow canning directions concerning processing time. Non-acidic food needs a little help during the processing — that’s where the pressure canner comes into play. Foods that fall into this category must be processed at a higher temperature in order to eliminate any bacteria present in the food. Most people should know water boils at 212 degrees at sea level. A canner adds pressure through a special weight or gauge which allows the water and steam’s temperature to reach beyond 212 degrees to 240 degrees, which kills harmful bacteria, such as the one that causes botulism. Always follow food directions for processing times as those times will vary by type of food.
Here are a few hints to make the process a little more enjoyable.
• Always try and can the best and freshest produce free from any spots and blemishes.
• Use distilled water in the canning process. Minerals, chlorine and other products in regular tap water will leave residues on jars and can also leave strange smells in the house.
• Only use pickling salt. Iodized salt contains anti-caking agents which will not dissolve in the water and will settle at the bottom of the canning jars and have a tendency to make the product cloudy.
• Use a thermometer when making jams. People with a lot of experience may not need one, but for the novice a candy thermometer is a must-have item.
• Do not add substantially more spice ingredients than a tested recipe calls for, as extra spices can harbor bacteria and alter canning time.
• Check the seal. When a jar cools after process the lid will pop and no longer bounce up and down. If a jar does not do this it is not sealed properly. Either reprocess the product in a clean jar with a new lid, or place in the refrigerator and eat within 14 days.
Follow these directions and make canning a tradition in your home.
Year-Round Strawberry Jam
Strawberries can be purchased any time of year, so use this simple recipe to make a strawberry jam that can be enjoyed at any time.
2 quarts strawberries
1 box powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
7 cups sugar
Wash strawberries. Remove stems. Crush strawberries one layer at a time. Combine strawberries, pectin and lemon juice in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
Granny’s Fig Preserves
4 pounds figs
4 cups sugar
juice of 1 lemon (optional)
1 box Sure Jell
Water to barely cover figs
Wash and stem figs. Put figs in water and boil for about 5 minutes, then add sure jell and boil until figs become transparent.
After figs become transparent add sugar and boil until it thickens to a syrup stage.
Put in jars and process in boiling water canner.
Tip: If you use a potato masher to mash figs before boiling it will speed up the entire process.
3/4 pound jalapeno peppers
2 cups cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
2 pouches liquid pectin
Wash peppers, drain. Remove stems and seeds. Puree peppers and one cup of vinegar in a food processor or blender. Combine puree, 1-cup vinegar and sugar in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil; boil 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Stir in a few drops of green food coloring if desired. Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.
Tomatoes Packed in Juice
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds tomatoes per quart
Bottled lemon juice
Prepare tomatoes by placing fresh, washed tomatoes in a wire basket and blanching in pot of boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, remove from boiling water and dip immediately into cold water. Slip off skins and trim away any stems. Leave smaller tomatoes whole and cut larger tomatoes into halves and quarters.
Add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each quart jar. Pack tomatoes into hot jars, pressing gently on tomatoes until the natural juice fills the spaces between tomatoes, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon pickling salt to each jar. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process one hour and 25 minutes in a boiling water canner.
45 pounds tomatoes
6 cups chopped onions
12 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons oregano
6 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup salt
Bottled lemon juice
Wash tomatoes and drain. Remove core and blossom ends. Cut into quarters and set aside.
Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil in a large saucepot. Add tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, black pepper and sugar. Stir in salt. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves, and then puree tomatoes using a food processor or food mill. Strain puree to remove peels and seeds. Cook pulp in a large, uncovered saucepot over medium-high heat until sauce thickens, stirring to prevent sticking. Reduce volume by one-half. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice for each quart jar, or 1 tablespoon for each pint. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps.
Process quarts for 40 minutes and pints 35 minutes in a boiling water canner.
Brined Dill Pickles
10 pounds, 4 to 6-inch cucumbers
3/4 cup mixed pickling spices
2 to 3 bunches fresh or dried dill
1 1/2 cups canning salt
2 cups vinegar
2 gallons water
6 cloves garlic
Wash and drain cucumbers. Place half the pickling spices and one layer of dill in a clean pickling container (non reactive metal, crock or plastic container.) Add cucumbers to within 4 inches of top. Combine salt, vinegar and water and pour over cucumbers. Place a layer of dill and remaining pickling spices over the top. Add garlic and weight cucumbers under brine.
Store brining container in a cool place and let cucumbers ferment until well flavored with dill and clear throughout. Brining liquid should not be cloudy. Pickles should be ready to can in about four weeks.
Remove pickles from brine. Strain brine and bring to a boil in a large saucepot. Pack pickles into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over pickles, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps and process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.
For Kosher pickles, pack cucumbers into hot jars, add one bay leaf, one clove of garlic and one piece of hot red pepper and a 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed to each jar. Ladle hot liquid over cucumbers. Process 15 minutes in boiling water canner.
Fresh Pack Dill Pickles
8 pounds 4 to 6-inch cucumbers, cut lengthwise into spears
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canning salt
1 quart vinegar
1 quart water
3 tablespoons mixed pickling spices
Wash cucumbers and drain. Combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a large saucepot. Tie spices in a bag; add spice bag to vinegar mixture; simmer for 15 minutes. Pack cucumbers and one jalapeno pepper, pierced with a knife, and a clove of garlic into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps and process 15 minutes in boiling water canner.
Canned Peas and Beans
3 to 5 pounds of beans or peas per quart
Shell peas or beans and wash thoroughly. Pack beans loosely into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Do not press or shake down. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) to each pint, or 1 teaspoon per quart. Ladle boiling water over beans or peas, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 40 minutes, quarts 50 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure in pressure canner.
Combine vegetables in a large saucepot and add water to cover, using desired ratio of vegetables. Boil vegetables for five minutes. Pack hot vegetables and liquid into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints for 1 hour and 15 minutes and quarts for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure in a steam-pressure canner.
Alternative method: When brining cucumbers weigh cucumber and keep a record of starting weight. Wash cucumbers and remove 1/16 of a inch from blossom end. Put cucumbers in a clean pickling container. Make a 10 percent brine by dissolving 1 cup of canning salt to 2 quarts of water. Pour brine over cucumbers and weight cucumbers under brine. On the second day of the brining process add 1 cup canning salt for each five pounds of cucumbers. This will maintain the 10 percent brine required to make the cucumbers ferment. Add the salt by placing in on a plate or cloth positioned over the top of the cucumbers. Do not pour salt directly on the cucumbers. At the end of the first week add 1/4 cup canning salt for each five pounds of cucumbers. Repeat, adding 1/4-cup salt for each five pounds of cucumbers. Do this every week for four to five weeks. Fermentation will cause bubbles and scum to form. Remove this scum on a daily basis. To check if cucumbers are properly fermented, tap side of pickling container, if no bubbles rise, the fermentation process is complete. Once the fermentation process is complete, remove cucumbers from the brine solution. Measure volume of cucumbers. Submerge cucumbers in hot water, about 180 degrees, using three times as much water as cucumbers. Lift cucumbers out of water. Discard water and rinse container, repeat two times. After final soak, prick cucumbers and place in a solution of 1-part water to 3 parts vinegar and let stand for 12 hours. Taste cucumbers to determine if sufficient salt has been removed. When desalting is complete, pickles are ready to be packed and processed using a favorite pickle recipe.