We've made it through another summer, and we've got lots of tree fruits ripening all over town. It seems like folks have got more plums than they know what to do with, and figs, apples, and pears are right around the corner. What to do with all this bounty?
Jams, jellies, and preserves are a great way to savor fresh summer flavors into the winter months. I like to can my jams and jellies using a home canning setup. It's the best way to process large amounts of fruits and veggies into shelf stable packages. It works by creating a sealed sterile environment within the canning jar.
To get started, you will need canning jars, lids, and rings, a water bath canner or pressure canner, tongs, and hot mitts. Some people like to get fancy with canning tongs, special funnel, and magnetic lid lifter. You will want to sterilize the jars, lids and rings in the canner before filling the jars. Use the tongs to place them on a clean towel to dry. Fill the jars according to the instructions in the recipe you are following, being sure to leave the proper amount of headroom.
Jams are generally a simple concoction of mashed fruit, sweetener and pectin. Depending on the acidity of the fruit being used, they may also require the addition of acid (usually in the form of citrus juice) to aid in the jelling and preserving process. I like to use Pomona's Pectin in my jams and jellies; it has a special formula that requires less sugar, allowing more of the fresh fruit taste to shine through. Follow the guidelines that come with your box of pectin to determine the amount needed for various recipes. If you don't see your fruit listed, check online. IMPORTANT: Follow all instructions regarding processing time. This ensures that your fruit preserves will be safe and shelf stable.
Jelly is a preserve made using only liquid, which gives it that distinctive clear and shimmery appearance. It's just the thing for fruits with lots of juice and lots of seeds, like blackberries. Most recipes call for a jelly bag to strain out all the solid bits, but in a pinch, several layers of cheesecloth will also work. You don't need fruit juice to make jelly; in fact you can make it out of any liquid, like this great recipe for Black Tea Jelly. You can make jelly from an herbal infusion to save the flavors of your favorite summer herbs, like the mint jelly that is traditionally served with lamb. But it's when you combine the herbal infusions with fruit flavors that you can really make some magic.
Solid fleshy fruits like apples and pears make great fruit butter! Fruit butter doesn't need any pectin, just lots and lots of patience as the fruit boils down to a delicious concentrated spreadable consistency. It's a great way to process lots and lots of fruit - just remember to keep an eye on it!
Dehydrating is a great way to quickly process and preserve fruit. All you need is fruit and a food dehydrator! In fact, you don't even need the dehydrator, though it is the easiest way to do things. Although drying will change the flavor and consistency of fruit, it can be just as tasty as the fresh stuff. Plums, apricots, grapes and apples are all great candidates for dehydrating.
Tips for successful dehydrating:
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