Tuesday, August 30, 2011

sweet black plum jam

Another of our favorite vendors at our primary farmers market is a man named Paul Zibritosky from Paul's Orchards. He usually has fruit and honey, and always lets us get a taste. I tasted my first golden plum from him this year!

We saw he had a good stash of sweet black plums and scooped them up to make jam. Yes, jam. I couldn't have cared less about jam until we started making our own, and now I want it pretty much all the time. I'm glad we have a substantial stash going now!

I always expect plums to be purple on the inside too, and I'm always surprised that they are yellow, even though I've been eating them since I was little.

When raw, the plums are purple and yellow. When you cook them down? Red!

Skim the foam, and into hot jars it goes.

The plum jam was the last item to fit on our first shelf. I had to do some serious rearranging and jam mingling to get the jars to fit, but it worked.

Notice the empty spot next to the shelves? I cleaned out the storage area in the basement to accomodate the arrival of a new old canning cabinet. It came in handy after the attack of the killer tomatoes that following week...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

peach vanilla bean jam

We've mostly been sticking to the traditional jam recipes in the Blue Book this year, since we are novices. But we decided to try to add a little something to our peach jam to give it another flavor dimension -- vanilla bean.

We were able to peel the peaches with a peeler since they were firm enough to not bruise with the applied pressure.

You can add the pod as well as the seeds when you cook the jam down.

And of course the sugar that makes a jam a jam.

I have to say our dutch oven has been invaluable in making jam this year. I've always wanted a beautiful Le Crueset, but ever accurate and trustworthy Cooks Illustrated rated a $49.99 dutch oven by Tramontina at the exact same level as the Le Crueset that costs six times more. One of our top 5 kitchen purchases, hands down.

Sadly some of the vanilla beans get trapped in the foam that lays on the sides of the pan as it cooks down. Another important part of the jam that I should mention is the lemon juice. Sometimes canning recipes call specifically for bottled lemon juice and not fresh. This is because the citric acid in bottled lemon juice is more consistent than fresh lemons, which can vary. When your recipe's seal and safety depends on a specific amount of citric acid, it calls for bottled juice.

Next to the whole peaches we now have peach vanilla jam. One more type of jam to smush on these shelves...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

first time for whole fruit

After getting a fantastic deal on free stone peaches at the farmers' market and making some jam (of course), we had some peaches left and decided to can them whole in medium syrup. Did you know that early peaches aren't optimal for canning because the stones are too connected to the fruit and you lose most of it? Yet another reason to take advantage of farmers markets - you get to talk to the person that grows the food and knows what's best to help you enjoy the fruits of their labor. (Thank you Dawson's Orchards for the awesome peaches and the advice!)

You can blanch peaches like you would tomatoes to remove the skins. They sure are shiny with skins removed! (I'm one of those strange people that likes peach skin though, so it's a little sad to see it get peeled off!)

Once you start to cut the peaches, they will brown. To keep this from happening while you prepare the rest of the fruit, soak them in water and lemon juice.

We decided to pack them in medium syrup since we were using a boiling water canner and didn't want to do the extra prep to can them in water. Depending on the thickness of the syrup you use, you add sugar to water to make a simple syrup and ladel it in the jar, leaving the appropriate amount of headspace.

A half hour later, you have sealed peaches. Well, except for one jar. But the best thing about our first sealing failure? We got to each the peaches right away. Always look on the bright side of life!

Shelf capacity approaching critical levels!

Next time on Canning: The Next Generation, more jam is made. Because clearly we are insane.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

gratuitous shots of the vegetable invasion

Just some photos of the abundance of veggies obtained on the day of the great bean picking. We froze hot peppers, grated zucchini, and cubed yellow squash. The vacuum sealer is amazing; it ends up being cheaper than buying ziploc freezer bags and everything stays free of freezer burn!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

an abundance of corn

On the day of the great bean picking, my grandparents also gifted me with a bushel of corn from a local farm. After giving some ears to willing takers, we got down to business with the many ears of corn that were left.

We also have a vacuum sealer, so we blanched the rest of the corn and froze it in packets. I can't wait to eat sweet corn in the middle of winter!

Good thing a transport ship from Erie County arrives next weekend with more shelving. Cargo Bay 1 is almost entirely full.