Pun intended! I have a couple pictures I wanted to show you of the canning I did with the fruits I picked from around my neighbourhood. My first batch was from all the apples I picked. I made apple sauce and apple syrup. The only reason I ended up with apple syrup is because I tried making apple jelly that didn't set. I wanted to use the natural pectin of the apples, but I guess the apples weren't fresh enough (they sat for a couple days before I could do anything with them) and lost their pectin. I boiled that applejuice for hours and it still wouldn't set, but made very nice apple syrup. The apple sauce is so good. Absolutely no sugar was needed for it. All I added was a little bit of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Here's a picture of the applesauce & the syrup:
I had a lot of apple peelings left still after trying the first batch of apple jelly, so I figured I would add powdered pectin since I didn't need a lot of apple syrup. The jelly came out beautiful. I stewed up all the apple peels and cores for about two hours - until they were just mush. Then I strained them through a jelly bag and let that drip over night. Most of the articles/blog posts I read about making jelly said not to squeeze the bag or you would get cloudy juice. It really didn't make a difference to me, so I put a pot full of water on top of the jelly bag to add weight to press more juice out of it. I don't know how much more juice it really squeezed out though. Once I did as many full batches of jelly as I could from the juice I had, I had 2 cups of juice left over. I didn't want it to go to waste, so I added pomegrante juice to make up 5 cups of juice and made another batch of jelly. This jelly is really good! It has a very nice flavour. And I love the colour it has in the jar. The apple jelly is so good too. I'm looking forward to using it (and the apple syrup) as a glaze for some ham or pork chops.
If you recall, I posted a little while ago about one of my neighbours growing grapes in their back yard. Well, I had picked about 2 pounds of grapes from them. I made juice out of the grapes (they were really small - about the size of large-ish blueberries) and from the 2 pounds I made 5 cups of juice - exactly enough for a batch of jelly. The jelly turned out great. I had about 1/2 a jar too much, so I just let that set up in the fridge over night in a small plastic container. Rob and I finished that off the next night with PB&J sandwiches for dinner.
So, once I finished with all the fruit I had picked in my neighbourhood, I was still hyped up about canning. I decided I would try my hand at making marmelade. I was on the hunt to find directions on how to make marmalade. As a kid, my parents used to eat marmalade all the time. I didn't like it - it was too bitter for my young palette. I have tried a few store bought ones and always found them bitter, except for one brand (which I don't remember the name of anymore). It was sweet and orangey and so delicious. I read the ingredients and too my surprise, it wasn't just orange peel in the marmalade, but also had lemon peel and lime peel. In my research, I found that what makes the marmalade bitter is the pith. With this information in mind, I bought a couple oranges, a lemon, and a little bag of key limes (I used 6 limes for my marmalade). The trick I found to not getting any pith on the rind when you're peeling it is to use a potato peeler on the thick rind fruit - the oranges and the lemons. The little key limes, however, were too small and the skin seemed to be very tough, almost leathery. Luckily, I have a good zester and used that to get as much rind off those little wee limes. I took all the peel and chopped it into as fine slivers as I could, then boiled that for about 20 minutes in 1 1/2 cups of water so that they would soften and extract the essential oils.
The second important thing about marmalade making is to not get any of the tough skin around the flesh segments into the mix. I peeled off all the pith from the oranges and the lemons, then cut the segments away. I managed to only get 3 or 4 pieces of skin in there, but was able to see them when I was cooking the fruit and fished them out. I had this big juicy mess left in my hands from the skin and what was left of the pulp I couldn't get out. I just used my hands and squeezed it over a strainer to get as much juice as I could from the fruit. The limes were another story though. They were so small and the pith was so tough that I wouldn't be able to cut it away with out sacrificing all the pulp, so I just cut them in half and squeezed as much juice as I could out of them over a strainer to catch the seeds. Oh yeah, another important point to remember when making marmalade is to not get any seeds in there or they will make your marmalade bitter too.
I added this to the pot and let the fruit boil for about 20 minutes. Once it was cooked I measured out enough of the fruit and peel and added enough water to make 5 cups and then added 2 tsp vanilla extract. This seems to be the magic number for 1 package of pectin - 5 cups juice/fruit, 5 cups sugar, 1 package pectin crystals. After it was all cooked with the sugar and pectin, I put it into jars. I couldn't wait until it was cooled and set so that we could try it. Finally, the next day it was ready to try. It was loosely set which was ok. I didn't want it really set hard like jello, but it was a little softer than I would have liked. Hopefully, the other jars will set up a little more as they age a bit. Now, the taste, however, unbelievable. It is soooooooo good. It tasted even better than what the one I liked from the store tasted (from what I can remember). I think what put it over the top is the vanilla. I've been having this on toast almost every morning. I will definitely make this again. Its a little more work than jelly, but so worth the effort. Here's a picture of the jellies I made:
You can't tell from the pictures, but they look so pretty in the sunlight. The colours are so deep and rich - almost jewel like.
Well, thats all I have for today about my canning escapades. If you haven't tried making jelly you should. Its really quite simple and all you need is some juice (but not juice from concentrate). You can pick up real fruit juice at the grocery store really cheap. After I slaved over the stove making my own apple juice, I found a litre of apple juice (not from concentrate) at Walmart for about 90 cents. Its not the same as making it from scratch, but it will work if you want apple jelly and no apples. :)
Ok, so talk to you later...