Thursday, July 28, 2011


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This recipe is from The White House Cookbook, The Whole Comprising a Comprehensive Cyclopedia of Information for the Home. Published in 1887, the authors are Mrs. F.L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann, Steward of the White House. I wonder if this was one of Grover Cleveland’s favorites?


For blueberry pickles, old jars which have lost their covers, or whose edges have been broken so that the covers will not fit tightly, serve an excellent purpose as these pickles must not be kept air-tight.

Pick over your berries, using only sound ones; fill your jars or wide-mouthed bottles to within an inch of the top, then pour in molasses enough to settle down into all the spaces; this cannot be done in a moment, as molasses does not run very freely. Only lazy people will feel obliged to stand by and watch its progress. As it settles, pour in more until the berries are covered. Then tie over the top a piece of cotton cloth to keep the flies and other insects out and set away in the preserve closet. Cheap molasses is good enough, and your pickles will soon be "sharp." Wild grapes may be pickled in the same manner.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


You may have heard the terms "Hot Water Bath" or “Boiling Water Bath” and "Pressure Canning” when you are looking into preserving foods at home, but do you know the difference? If you plan to can fruits, vegetables, or meats you will be using both methods. The following is a quick overview on both types of canners.

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Whether you are preserving high acid or low acid foods, it is important to read through the instructions and recipe, assembling all needed ingredients and cookware before beginning any canning or preserving process.

High acid foods can be preserved using a Boiling Water Bath. Acid foods include: Jellies, Jams, Marmalades, Fruits, Tomatoes (with added acid), Pickles, Relishes and Chutneys. Because Clostridium botulinum spores do not grow in the presence of acid it is safe to can high acid foods using the Boiling Water Bath method. The canner should be deep enough to allow at least 1 to 2 inches of water to boil over the jar tops. It must have a tight-fitting lid and a rack to keep jars off its bottom.The temperature of boiling water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit this can temperature is achievable using the Boiling Water Bath method of canning. 

When preserving vegetables, meats, seafood – low acid foods you will require a Pressure Canner. Low acid foods include: Vegetables, Meats, Poultry, Seafood, and combination Recipes (those that include low acid and high acid ingredients.) These foods MUST be heat processed at 240 degrees Fahrenheit for a specific, established time. The only way to achieve this temperature is by using a Pressure Canner. 

The Pressure Canner itself is a large kettle with a jar rack, a lid that locks in place, a safety valve, a vent, and gauge. Gauges indicate inside pressure and are either dial gauges, or metal weighted gauges. Individual cannes will come with instructions.  Read them throughly before using your canner.

The National Center for Home Preservation has extensive information on Pressure Canners as well as canning, drying, freezing, curing, smoking, pickling, fermenting and making jams and jellies. Ball Canning also offers a complete guide on canning, including some very helpful canning tutorials in the form of videos.

Whichever type of preserving  you are doing it is important to use ingredients at the peak of freshness. Follow the basic guidelines offered on either of the above websites, keep everything sterile, and your pantry will soon be filled with jars of delicious homemade preserves.

Friday, July 22, 2011


It is July and the blueberries are ripe and plentiful, which made for a very busy weekend for me. A friend dropped off a cardboard box full of plump, juicy, fresh from the bush  blueberries and I was anxious to preserve every last delicious one. 

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Blueberries have been riding high on the antioxidant campaign wagon for several years now, in part because the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) places blueberries near the top of their list when it comes to antioxidant activity, but blueberries also offer 14 mg of Vitamin C per serving – almost 25 percent of your daily requirement. Vitamin C aids in the formation of collagen, promotes iron absorption (great benefit for us women), and helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries.

In the United States, early New England settlers preserved fruits and berries with honey, molasses, or maple sugar, with pectin extracted from apple parings used to thicken jellies. This recipe, like many of my others, replaces the sugar used in modern day jam and jelly making, with honey. I also used homemade pectin, so my jam is a little 'runny', but still delicious.  If you don't have homemade pectin, never fear, purchase your pectin at the nearest grocery store,  just make sure to get the "No Sugar" box. Of course, if you prefer sugar to honey (the finished product does have a different flavor) purchase the regular pectin and follow the instructions inside the box.

Jam should only be made in small batches –  no more than 6 to 7 cups (cooked fruit) at a time - like the directions on the pectin counsel, DO NOT increase the recipes or the jam won't "set" properly. Please read directions through completely before beginning your jam.



1 1/2 to 2 qts. fresh Blueberries

2 tbsp. Lemon Juice

2 tsp. ground Ginger

1 tsp. fresh grated Ginger

4 cups Homemade Pectin or 1 pkg.  No Sugar Pectin

1 1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup water

3 or 4 half pint pint Canning Jars


Wash and sort blueberries, remove stems, discard bad berries. Crush fully ripe blueberries completely, one layer at a time. You can do this by hand with a potato masher or by blending them coarsely in a food processor. Measure 4 cups of crushed fruit. Hold aside remaining uncrushed berries. (I usually add to make 1 full cup)

Place water a large kettle and stir in the lemon juice, and honey - cook over low heat until honey is dissolved . Place crushed berries into mixture and turn up heat to medium high. Stir constantly  until the mixture comes to a full boil. Add pectin and boil for another minute. Add uncrushed blueberries and return to a full  boil; boil hard 1 minute, reduce heat stirring constantly but gently for another 2 - 3 minutes (for store bought pectin).

For homemade pectin try this Refrigerator Test (good for testing jams, jellies, marmalades or other preserves.) Place a small amount of boiling jam on a cold metal plate; a large metal spoon will work also if a metal plate is unavailable. Put it into the freezer for a few minutes, then take it out. If the jam gels, its done. Remove your pan from the heat during this test to avoid overcooking the jam.

Remove jam from heat; skim off any foam with metal spoon; stir gently and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Ladle jam into hot, sterilized half pint glass jars, leaving 1/4" space at top.

Clean rims of jars and seal with lids. Process in Boiling Hot Water Bath for 5 minutes. 

Remove to racks.  Let cool overnight. 

This recipe should make about 7 cups or 3 to 4 half pints of jam.

Hot Water Bath or Pressure Canning ?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Although life can be quite busy, leaving many of us little to no time  in the kitchen, a bit of pre-emptive planning and working in small batches make it possible for just about anyone to do canning of some sort.

Making jams or jellies is relatively easy. With all kinds of fresh fruits becoming available, it is a tasty way to begin your canning career.

There are two main factors involved in the making of jams and jellies, the concentration of sugar versus the concentration of pectin. Too much sugar or pectin in your recipe will produce an unappealing solid lump, which can still be tasty spread on warm toast or bagels, baked into cakes or pies, or used as glazes on meat or poultry.

Conversely, too little of either of these ingredients can result in a runny jar of syrup,  which still may be used to season vinaigrettes, for making smoothies, drizzling over ice cream, even as a base for fruit salads. So truly, do not be afraid to make a mistake, the final product can almost always be used in in some form of delicious advantage!

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I often like to use honey in my jams and jellies, often adding little or no sugar, so I add pectin, but in general the chemistry of jelly making without pectin requires sugar.

There are many commercial pectins available, making jamming quick and easy. I have used them for years, as I learned from my mother, but  because homemade pectin is quite easy to make, and can actually add a dimension of flavor to your creations,  I opt for store bought pectin only when I run out of homemade.

Just remember, no matter what happens make the best of your batch and learn for the next round – like anything worthwhile it takes patience and practice to learn how to preserve your own jams and jellies, but I guarantee the results will be well worth your efforts.



Homemade pectin can be made in the early summer if you have direct access to apple trees as I do, or in autumn when apples are in season.

You will need small, green, immature apples: wild crab apples are great for pectin, but any immature apple will do. You may use damaged apples - just cut away all the imperfections first.

If you do not have access to apple trees, purchase 6- 8 tart, green Granny Smith apples. You will also need 2 lemons chopped up, peel and seeds included. Rinds and seeds are where all the pectin is in lemons, the juice is not really necessary, but can be helpful if you are working with low acid fruits or vegetable. You can store lemon and lime skins and seeds in the freezer after they have been juiced for other dishes until you are ready to make pectin. I will often save skins from other citrus fruits for the same purpose - it is quite fun and interesting to mingle the flavor of the citrus with the other ingredients.
Wash the apples, trim the bad parts off and slice them very thinly, seeds, skins and all. Place them in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom (non-reactive) pan with the chopped up citrus bits. You need a total of 2 pounds per batch. Add 4 cups water.

Over high heat, bring the contents to a boil stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender (should have the consistency of apple sauce). Continue to stir occasionally so the fruit does not stick to the pan.

Remove from the heat and cool. Line a bowl large enough to hold liquid with dampened cheesecloth. Pour the pulp and juice into the cheesecloth. Gather the corners and tie in a knot. Carefully lift over bowl. Suspend from a cabinet knob or handle and allow to drip into a bowl overnight. Do not stir the liquid and do not squeeze the bag.

The next day, measure the juice and pour into a large pot. Discard cheesecloth and its contents. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat stirring contantly, move to low heat, cook until reduced by half.

The pectin should be canned in pint jars and processed in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes with 1/2 inch headspace. You can also freeze for future use.

Using Homemade Pectin

When using homemade pectin, you can’t follow the recipes that are found on the backs of commercially available jelling agents. With homemade pectin you will use equal amounts of pectin to low pectin fruits: 4 cups strawberries to 4 cups homemade pectin. Fruits that are low in pectin include: blueberries, cherries, peaches, raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries, follow the one to one formula.

High pectin fruits like apples, cranberries, quinces, currants, Concord grapes, and plums, cut the homemade pectin in half . Overall you will have to experiment a little, but that is half the fun.

Happy Jamming!