Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Daring Cooks -- Food Preservation

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
I have to say Thanks for a challenge that really is close to my heart. I day dream about living the country life - Self sufficient but still just a day dream. It is early spring here in Australia and we are just seeing the first of the new season apples. There's some citrus around but not a lot of other local fruit. I did do some of the tomatoes, the only ones available are hot house and still really expensive. Husband and I ate all the batch I made before we could put preserve them.

I made the apple butter. It didn’t need any sugar I used local granny smiths and royal galas and it was lovely. I haven’t made apple butter before.

In Australia we call fruit butters fruit paste e.g Quince paste, we also have pastes/butter made from lots of fruits including wine grapes. Our government in its wisdom some years ago paid farmers to pull up fruit trees and plant red wine grapes so now a lot of them have huge amounts of red wine grapes they can’t give away and fruit from trees is dearer.
I have made quince butter/paste but not for a while. I used to sell jams, chutneys and pickles at our local fruit and veggie shop which closed when a big supermarket opened up near us, I still make them for my family. the recipe below lists artificial sweetners as an option. I didn't put any sugar/sweetner in at all but if I was going to I would use either sugar or xylitol. If you want to use xylitol add it after the cooking process is finished but very quickly after turning off the heat then stir it in until it dissolves.
Apple Butter
Preparing Apples: 10 Minutes (if you leave the skin on)
20 Minutes if you peel and core apples
Cooking: 20-30 Minutes to soften apples for mashing + 2 hours to make Apple Butter.
Boiling Water Canner: 40 Minutes
Recipes: Reduced Sugar Apple Butter Recipe
My preference is to use sweet apples (Golden Delicious) so the need for sugar is reduced. However, tart apples (Granny Smith) can be used. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Recipe: Reduced Sugar Apple Butter
Ingredient U.S. Metric Count Special Instructions
Apples 4lbs* 1.8 kg 12 Apples Cut into eights, peeled, stem and blossome end removed
Apple Cider 1 Cup 240 ml
Optional: Water or Juice
Sucralose/Splenda 1/2 Cup 120 ml
Optional: Honey, Agave or Sugar - to taste
Cinnamon, Ground 1 Tbl 15 ml

Allspice, Ground 1/2 tsp 3 ml

Cloves, Ground 1/4 tsp 2 ml

Golden Delicious and Gala
Gala and Golden Delicious Apples

1. Wash apples well and remove stems. Cut apples into quarters or eighths and remove cores.

Note: I ended up peeling the apple at this step.
Cornig Apple

2. Combine unpeeled apples and cider in 8-quart (about 7 ½ litre) saucepan. Cook slowly and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until apples are very soft (falling apart).
Peeled and Cored

3. Position a food mill or strainer securely over a large bowl. Press cooked apples with cider through the food mill or strainer to make a pulp. Be sure to collect all the pulp that comes through the food mill or strainer; for example, scrape any pulp clinging under the food mill into the bowl.

Note: Since the apples were peeled, I just mashed in the pot.

4. Combine pulp with Sucralose and spices in an 8-quart (about 7 ½ litre) saucepan. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently.

Note: A stick blender was used to mix the spices and creates a smoother apple butter. Also, when cooking down the apples, you want to leave the lid ajar or use a splatter screen. This will allow for evaporation. Another trick is to support the lid by laying two wooden spoons across the top of the pot.
Stick Blend
Splatter Screen
5. To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon.

In the photo is Apricot, orange and passionfruit butter, quince, plum and berry jam, quince apple and lemon jam, blood orange marmalade, tomato chutney (It was going to be sauce but I couldn’t be bothered with all the sieving etc so it stayed chutney) there are also bottled apricots and plums from our garden. I know it is not the recommended way to bottle fruit but what I do is cook the halved apricots, peaches or plums in water without any sugar added (although you can add it if you can’t live without) while it is cooking I heat washed jars in my oven at about 200° – 230° F for ten minutes or so. When the fruit is just cooked I put it into the hot jars (You have to be quick) making sure the liquid is level with the top of the jar and there are no large air bubbles. Then I quickly put on the lids and tighten them to firm. As they cool the fruit finishes cooking and the lids vacuum seal. Any that don’t we refrigerate or freeze and eat first. The lids pop in and you can see that they are sealed in the same way as when other types of canning are used. I have some plums that are three years old and they are still alright. I do put stickers on the bottles with the date so we eat the oldest first but a couple of jars ended up behind newer ones and I found them when I was fossicking around cleaning up a bottle of homemade wine we were given that blew its top in the heat last summer.
I have two favourite jam recipes. One is from
I couldn’t show you a photo. It is late winter here and we ate all that I made last year. I am really looking forward to November when the stone fruit starts. When I made this last year I peeled the citrus rind off with a veggie peeler and then shredded it into about ½ inch long by 1/16 inch strips and then chopped the rest in the food processor. I didn’t have peach liqueur so I used Grand Marnier.
Nectarine, Peach and Orange Blossom Jam
Serves 20
Cooking Time Prep time 20 mins, cook 50 mins (plus standing)

5 each firm, slightly under-ripe peaches and nectarines (about 1.5kg), scored
1 kg white sugar
2 oranges and 1 lemon, rind and flesh finely chopped in a food processor
1 tbsp orange blossom water, or to taste
50 ml peach or orange liqueur (optional)

1 Blanch peaches until skins split (30-40 seconds), refresh. Peel.
2 Combine sugar, oranges and lemon in a non-reactive bowl. Break peaches and nectarines into chunks over the bowl to catch juices, add to orange mixture. Stir, cover, refrigerate overnight.
3 Transfer peach mixture to a wide saucepan, bring to the boil over medium-high heat and stir frequently until mixtures forms a gel on the back of a wooden spoon and fruit breaks down (40-50 minutes). While jam is cooking, place a few saucers in the freezer.
4 To test setting point, remove jam from heat and spoon some onto a cold saucer. Return to freezer for 30 seconds, then push with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s ready. If not, cook another few minutes, test again. Add orange blossom water or liqueur if using and stir.
5 Ladle hot jam into warm sterilised jars and wipe clean with a hot, damp cloth. Remove any air bubbles by running a hot metal skewer down sides of jars. Place a round of waxed paper on top of jam, seal, and cool completely. Jam will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 months.

Note White and yellow peaches work equally well here I used yellow. You’ll need to begin this recipe one day ahead. This recipe makes about 1 litre.

The other is my own recipe done through a process of trial and error, it has never failed for me but I do make sure I use fruit that is not over-ripe, very fresh and citrus that is un-waxed.
Peta’s No Fail Marmalade
1 part citrus of choice (a mixture is nice) to 1 ½ Parts sugar e.g 1 pound or kilogram of fruit to 1 ½ pounds or 1.5 kilograms of sugar.
Put the cold sugar (No need to heat it) in a non-reactive container/pot/bowl. Slice dice or whatever the fruit – My preferred method is to peel off the rind with as little pith as possible with a vegetable peeler and then slice it finely so you get shreds of peel and then chop the rest in my food processor. Pour the fruit over the sugar with enough water so it is slushy and all the sugar is wet when you stir it. Cover and put into the refrigerator overnight. Stir it occasionally you want the sugar to dissolve.
Next day put into a heavy bottomed pan (You don’t want it to deep, it needs room to bubble up) bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to gently boil, stir regularly. Cook for one hour or until it is thick and looks cooked. When you drop a spoonful onto a cold saucer or plate you should have no excess watery looking liquid around the outside and when you run your finger or something through it the jam should stay separated.
Bottle in hot sterilized jars, I wash my jars and then heat them in a 230°F oven for ten to fifteen minutes. As they cool the tops should vacuum seal.
My best sellers were
1. Lemon and Ginger – I would add about ¼ cup of glace ginger and a tablespoon of crushed fresh ginger to 5 pounds of really fresh not too ripe lemons.
2. Brandied Mandarin or Orange – Bit fiddly as this is best if you remove the pith from the sections of mandarin not the peel. Brandy to taste. The flavour of the brandy does develop so go easy. I would add the brandy after the jam was cooked just before bottling.

Thanks for the challenge John, I am going to make more when the spring/summer vegies and fruit are in larger supply.

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