How Full is Full Enough?

vegetables series: cucumbers pickles

I received a very practical canning question from Bonnie the other day and thought I’d try to share a little practical experience to help clear things up.

Bonnie’s question is about pickles. Specifically, packing a jar with cukes before adding the pickling liquid. She wrote:

Can  you  please  explain   or show how to  tightly fill a canning jar with cucumbers when  making  pickles.

I will try to explain because I have no way to video this.

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Stirring Things Up After Letting Things Sit

Jam-and-Jelly-Preserving-Pectins-101A long-time canner and blog reader, Ramona, wrote in the other day with a good question about why jams tend to separate – meaning the fruit goes to the top of the jam rather than being evenly distributed through the jell.

Here’s her question:

I noticed on the mixed berry and rhubarb jam recipe you suggested letting the jam set before putting into jars and the water bath canner. You said this will help keep the fruit mixed. Does this help with other jam recipes?  I have done canning for years, I am 76 years old and started canning with my Grandmother when I was a child. I have had several different jams to separate after the canning process. Would it help to let it set a few minutes before putting into jars? Pepper jelly especially separates.

Here’s something to consider … Continue reading

In Search of Perfect Pepper Jelly

Green Pepper JellyJust the other day, I received a question from Alisha about pepper jelly:

I’m looking for a pepper jelly recipe, that utilizes a large variety of hot peppers (jalapeno, habanero, serrano, etc), with the minced pepper fruit suspended in the jelly. Have you come across any? We had a dear friend that used to make it… but she passed, and never shared her recipe. I remember she said it contained 6 different peppers… they were a variety of colors. And it was remarkable.

This raises a few interesting questions:

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Shirley’s Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam

Rhubarb-Strawberry-Jam-ShirleyWe featured this recipe in a recent edition of the “Preserving the Harvest” newsletter from Mrs. Wages. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds fresh rhubarb, finely chopped
½ cup water
2 pints of red, ripe strawberries
1 package Mrs. Wages® Fruit Pectin Home Jell
6 cups granulated sugar

Directions
1.  Prepare 6 8-ounce jelly jars by sterilizing in boiling water or running them through the rinse cycle in the dishwasher; keep hot.  Fill a boiling water bath canner half full of hot water and bring to a simmer; cover and keep hot.

2.  Place water and rhubarb in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover.  Cook over low heat until rhubarb is tender.  Remove from heat.

3.  Wash and stem strawberries.  Crush well with a potato masher or food processor.  Measure out 2 ¼ cups of prepared strawberries and place in a non-reactive pan.  Measure 1 ¾ cups prepared rhubarb and add to the strawberries and mix well.

4.  Stir the pectin into the strawberry mixture and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  Stir in sugar and return mixture to a full rolling boil and boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat and skim off any foam that has formed on the top of the jam.

5.  Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars leaving ¼-inch of head space.  Clean the rims of the jars and add lids prepared according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Place screw bands on finger tight.  Place the jars of jelly in the rack in the boiling water bath canner, making sure that the water is at least 1-inch over the tops of the jars.  Cover the canner and bring to a boil, process for 10 minutes.  Remove the canner from the burner and remove the lid; keep the jars in the canner for an additional 5 minutes then remove them to a cooling rack or towel.  Allow the jars to cool completely and check for seals.  Label and store.  (If a jar fails to seal, refrigerate and use within one month.)

General jelly-making tips

Red JellyTo make jellies and jams that are of good quality, use the right amounts of four basic ingredients:  sugar, pectin, acid, and fruit.

You may choose to make either fresh or frozen fruit or juice.  If you are using frozen fruit, it should be frozen without sugar.  Sometimes commercially frozen or canned juices are lower in natural pectin content and the resulting jellied products may be a little softer in texture.  If you pick your own fruit or make your own fruit juice, you will have a better product if ¼ of the fruit is slightly under-ripe and ¾ of the fruit is fully ripe. Continue reading