It's something I've been dying to get started with for quite awhile. As the strawberries came and went this spring, I mourned my lack of jam. As Will made refrigerated brandied cherries I lamented that they would not be the dark, wrinkly ones that cooking the cherries produces. But now we were headed into tomato and apple season dammit. I was not letting more produce slip by without cramming it into a boiling hot jar and sealing on a lid.
In this project I've had a number of supporters. First and foremost were two of the Jacobson ladies, my friend Megan and her mother. You might remember these culinarily inspirational women from previous blogs, Mrs. Jacobson was responsible for gifting me with my cherished Le Cruset pot when I got married, and Megan has been plying me with cookbooks and vanilla beans since I started this blog. No food blogger should be without a support team like this. On a visit to their house last July I expressed an interest in canning and they were more than happy to back me up. From the depths of the basement came Mrs. Jacobson's pot and a canning rack (apparently they had been retired some time ago) and Megan began my education with the Ball Blue Book, otherwise known as the canning bible. A short while later she shipped me a copy, and I sat in bed drooling over jams, jellys, and preserves.
|Picture from SweetDeliveranceNYC.com|
I wont give you a blow by blow of the whole class. For the most part it is what you would find in a canning book, but for a visual learner like me it was extremely helpful. I got some great tips too, like putting a saucer in the freezer and using it to cool down a sample of your jam quickly so you can see if it's holding together. She warned us not to add the full amount of sugar a recipe calls for immediately; you should add some and taste as some fruits can be sweeter then others. We learned a lot about food acidity needed for canning, very important if you are creating your own recipes. She also recommended Pomona's Universal Pectin as being particularly awesome, and though I didn't need pectin this particular time I bought a package anyway for the future. The insert comes with a Jamline you can call and ask questions about jam making (kinda like the Butterball Turkey Talk Line that runs in November and December to help home cooks). I love a company that will talk me down from cooking panic.
I am not going to give you step by step instructions on how to can, because I am not an expert and since this really could make someone sick, you shouldn't listen to me on how to do it. There are a number of great books, and if you don't want to buy a book, the USDA is so invested in making sure you don't kill someone they give their complete guide to canning safely away on their website, which even has recipes. I will say that if you are boiling your jars in a huge pot, start the water early. On my tiny stove it took nearly an hour to get a rolling boil.
Making and Canning Sweet Cider Apple Butter
Recipe from Ball Blue Book
Makes about 4 pints
- 6 pounds of apples (I used Gala, as they were $1 a pound at the farmers market)
- 2 cups sweet cider
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Prepare pulp: Core, peel, and quarter your apples. (An assembly line with a friend shortens this process considerably, thanks Anne!) Combine apples and cider in a large saucepot. Simmer until apples are soft, you should be able to cut them in half with a wooden spoon. Puree with food processor or immersion blender, being careful not to liquefy. (I had a few chunks of apple in the final product, but I kinda liked it that way.) Measure 3 quarts apple pulp.
So a few things things. One, I forgot to get the bubbles out around the side of the jar. They tell you how to do it in my book, but I forgot and there are some tiny bubble I can see on the side of my jars. Hopefully this does not make things grow in there. Fingers crossed. Second, this really resembles applesauce quite a bit. It is much less water, and does function perfectly as a spread, but heads up that you will look at this and your first thought will be "Mmm, applesauce." Third, I didn't so much do the "Measure 3 quarts apple pulp" part. I kinda eyeballed it. And while I should have gotten eight 8oz jars, I got 9. And then a little bit more in a tupperware. Not that I'm complaining.
I am quite proud of myself overall. I only burned myself once, and not very seriously, which for me is an accomplishment for any day of cooking. I am looking forward to next year, when pounds of fruit will be piled high on my counter ready to go into jars. I may not be able to wait that long. I'm already eyeing recipes for canned tomato sauce. God help all of my friends, I know what they are getting for Christmas....