Sheri Ann Richerson's exotic gardening, elegant cooking, crafty creations, food preservation and animal husbandry... all on two and a half acres in Marion, Indiana!

Canning

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cajeta

For those of us who have goats – and an abundance of goat milk – making and canning Cajeta is a great way to use some of that excess goat milk. When I made my first batch of Cajeta I wondered if canning it would cause it to obtain that nasty goaty taste you get from store bought goat milk products. The recipe made way too much to eat before it went bad so I decided what did I have to lose? If the Cajeta took on that nasty goaty taste I would feed it to the chickens – if not, I  would have a wonderful caramel dip to eat with fresh apples. I love caramel but find it difficult to buy organic caramel locally.

So, I made my first batch and canned the excess. It took over a year before I ate up all the Cajeta that I canned – and guess what? No goaty taste! When I opened my last jar several months ago I was sad. The goats were not in milk yet and so I knew that was the last of the Cajeta for a while. Once they came into milk it seemed there was always something taking up my time and I was not able – until today – to spend the afternoon making a new batch of Cajeta. I made it a little lighter in color this time around and slightly softer than before but it still tastes good and it will be easier to get out of the canning jars.

Here is how I made – and canned – my batch of Cajeta. Set aside an entire afternoon when you make this. The lower the heat, the less likely the Cajeta is to burn.

Cajeta Ingredients

  • 3 quarts goat milk and cream
  • 3 cups pure cane sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

You can see the cream floating on top of the milk. This will dissolve and help to thicken the Cajeta.

Measure the three quarts of goat milk and pour all but one cup into a stainless steel pan. Add the three cups of sugar to the pan and stir.

Add the cornstarch and baking soda to the cup of milk you set aside. Mix until the cornstarch and baking soda are dissolved. Pour this mixture into the pan with the milk and sugar.

Add the vanilla extract.

Cajeta boiling.

Bring the mixture to a boil – stirring constantly. This mixture will stick to the bottom of the pan and start to burn fairly quickly so paying close attention and constantly stirring it is important.

Cook the mixture until it is thick and creamy. It should look like caramel but still be pourable.

When the Cajeta is finished cooking to your liking, pour it into sterilized canning jars making sure to leave 1/2 inch headspace at the top of the jars.

Place the sterilized lids and bands on the jars, tighting the bands until they are finger tip tight.

Place the sealed jars into a hot water bath canner filled with boiling water.

Put the lid on the canner and listen for the sound of it to start boiling again.

Set your timer for twenty minutes. Remove the jars at the end of this time and allow them to cool. Check the seal after 24 hours. Label and store in a cool, dark, dry place.

 

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I love looking in the canning, dehydrating, food saver section of the stores – especially during the canning season. With the recent increase in canning these past few years, numerous companies have introduced new products. Some are useful and others, well – they don’t live up to my expectations. For example, the jar tightener I bought last year that is used to tighten canning lids before you seal them. I found it was really hard to know just how tight the lid actually was and found I preferred tightening the lids by hand. I have not used it to loosen lids, but it might be useful for that.

Last night, while shopping at Meijer, I found two products I had not seen before – and they are certainly both winners. The first one was a four pack of dry herb jars. Now I know you might be thinking, why spend the money? They were $5.99. Frankly I know I could buy a dozen of these jars and the white plastic lids for cheaper, but these were cute – and they had shaker tops.

The holes are rather large, but if I really want to coat something with herbs, this is ideal and the lid stays open until you close it. The lids unscrew easily and the larger opening is wonderful for scooping out dried herbs with measuring spoons. The other thing I really like is – unlike spice jars – if the herbs start to draw moisture and stick, it is going to be very easy to scoop them out, re-dry them (as long as they haven’t started to mold) and put them back into the jar.

The other product I found that I am thrilled about was a  bubble popper/measurer. Those of you that are experienced canners might think what a waste, but let me tell you why I think this is such a useful product, especially for beginners. For one, finding a knife or other utensil large enough to put into the bottom of a canning jar often takes a bit of time and then you don’t want to use something that has crevices because bacteria might be lurking there. This is stainless steel and one side of it is slightly bent inward. That is going to make pulling the food in the jars to one side super easy. The bubbles will escape and you won’t have canned jars that don’t contain enough liquid.

The other thing I love about this gadget is the measuring end. No longer must you make an educated guess on the proper amount of headspace to leave. You can actually measure it! This is going to make canning super easy! This gadget that I know I am going to get a ton of use out of was just $3.99. I highly suggest anyone who intends to do a lot of canning invest in one.

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Select highly fragrant, organically grown roses for eating.

  • 3 cups fresh picked, clean fragrant rose petals
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 packet powdered pectin

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the rose petals and cover the pan with a lid. Set this aside and allow it to steep for five minutes.

Line a colander with cheesecloth while the rose petals are steeping. When the rose petals are done steeping, pour the liquid through the colander making sure the rose petals are caught in the cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth so all the remaining liquid is removed from the rose petals. Compost the used rose petals.

Measure the amount of liquid to make sure there is still three cups of rose water. If any of the water has evaporated, add more water to make sure you have a full three cups.

Return the pan to a medium high heat; add in the pectin making sure to stir continually until the pectin is dissolved. Bring to a hard boil and stir in the sugar and lemon juice making sure once again that the sugar completely dissolves. Be sure to keep stirring the contents of the pan so the jelly does not burn.

Bring to a hard boil and cook for two minutes. Remove the foam scum that forms on top of the jelly, and then pour the jelly into sterilized canning jars. The smaller 4 ounce or half pint jars work well.

Wipe jar rims, put lids and bands on making sure they are fingertip tight. Process for ten minutes in a cold pack canner, remove and tighten lids.

Set the hot jars on a secure surface. I lay an old towel on top of my table and set the canning jars on it. Remember these jars are hot so use hot pads and jar lifters.

Tighten the bands as tight as possible.

Allow the jars to cool overnight. When the jars are completely cool, remove the bands and check the lids to make sure they are sealed.

To check the lids, simply try to lift them up with your fingers. If they come off, set the food in the refrigerator and eat it within a week. If they do not come off, the cans are sealed. Replace the band and store in a cool, dark place.

Be sure to label the jars with the name of the food in them and the date.

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Five spice cherries in a canning jar.

Cherry season is here and after making two cherry pies, I really needed a different way to use up my pie cherries. I didn’t feel I was getting enough of a harvest to can since I was getting between a pint and a half and two pints of pitted cherries every three days. This was the first “big” harvest from my tree – and I hope next year I will get enough cherries to preserve some for winter use, but for this year, those fresh tart cherries sure did go a long way and taste good!

Here is my recipe for five spice cherries. I used mine - this year – to make ice cream.

  • 2 pints tart pie cherries, pitted
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (each one was approximately 3 inches long)
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 tablspoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon licorice root powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon mixed peppercorns (pink, green, black and white)

I put the water, lime juice. powdered licorice root and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan and brought it to a boil. I boiled it – stirring continually – until the sugar was dissolved.

At this point, I removed the saucepan from the heat and set it aside.

I placed the cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves and peppercorns into the bottom of a half-gallon canning jar. I poured the pitted cherries – along with their juice – on top of the spices. I then added the hot sugar water to the jar. I placed a plastic screw-on lid made for canning jars on the jar and set it aside to cool.

Once the contents of the jar was cool to the touch, I refrigerated it.

These cherries are tart – so pair them with whipped cream or a sweet dessert such as homemade ice cream.

If you wish to make a larger batch and preserve them, process the filled jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

 

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Heat the topping up to release the aroma of rich chocolate and fresh raspberries. To use the hot topping on ice cream, allow it to cool slightly – and don’t forget to add dessert candies for an elegant look.

The holidays are here – and while this is something you might can when raspberries are on the vine, there is no reason why you couldn’t use frozen raspberries or even store-bought raspberries to make this recipe.

Simply preserve the extra by canning it and you will have a delightful dessert topper you can pull from your pantry whenever guests arrive.  Keep in mind that this particular recipe is more than just a sundae topper – it is an ideal topping for fruit, cheesecake and other desserts. Use your imagination and you will find numerous uses for this delicious recipe.

Jeffrey Rhoades found the raspberry-chocolate sundae topper very much to his liking. So much so – in fact – that he asked for seconds.

 

When making this recipe, keep in mind that canning anything that contains chocolate is tricky because you need to make sure the pH is right or the food will spoil. Chocolate is naturally low in acidity, so by combining a high-acid fruit with the chocolate, you alter the pH and thus make it safe to can. Here is the recipe – and the canning instructions.

A sealed jar of the raspberry-chocolate sundae topper fresh from the pantry.

Raspberry-Chocolate Sundae Topper

  • 4 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 package powdered fruit pectin
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used a dark chocolate cocoa powder)
  • 4 1/2 cups crushed raspberries
  • 6 3/4 cups granulated cane sugar

1. Put the cocoa powder and pectin in a small bowl. Stir them until they are well-blended, then set the bowl aside.

2. Put the crushed raspberries and lemon juice into a stainless steel saucepan.

3. Whisk the fruit pectin mixture into the raspberry mixture.

4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while continually stirring.

5. Add the sugar while continuing to stir.

6. Bring the contents of the pan to a hard boil and keep it there for one minute while continually stirring.

7. Remove the pan from the heat and skim off the foam.

8. Ladle the hot sundae topper in hot, sterilized pint-size canning jars.

9. Wipe the rim of each jar, put the lid on the jar and tighten the band until it is fingertip-tight.

10. Place the jars in a cold pack canner filled with boiling water. Process for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for an additional five minutes, then remove the jars.

11. Tighten the bands if necessary so they are fingertip-tight again. Allow the jars to sit overnight to cool, then check the lid by gently prying on it to make sure it is sealed. If it is sealed, label and store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Jars that are not sealed need to be checked to make sure there are no cracks or chips across the top of the jar. Do not reuse the lids if they do not seal – instead put a big black X on them and use them for sealing jars filled with herbs or other dried goods. You can use a new lid and try to reseal the jar or put it into the fridge and use it up.

Make sure the water is about 1/4 of the way up the jar. I sat the jar in the pan of water, then turned the heat on to avoid taking the chance of the jar cracking or bursting.

If you like, you can gently heat this sundae topper up before serving it by either sitting the open canning jar into a pan filled with a bit of boiling water or by scooping the sundae topper out of the canning jar and putting it into a double boiler until it begins to melt just slightly.

Keep in mind that raspberries contain seeds – and those seeds – if they are not removed before you crush the raspberries – will end up in the topping. The seeds are edible, but some people do not like seeds in their topping.

 

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Jars of Orange-Cranberry Vinegar make a delightful holiday display – and are ideal for last minute gift giving.

Two of the main fruits one thinks of around the holidays are oranges and cranberries. These flavors – alone or combined – seem to compliment other foods that are generally on the holiday menu. Combined – the taste of oranges and cranberries – is a perfect marinade for turkey and chicken.

This vinegar is easy to make ahead of time – and I suggest you do – so the various ingredients that make up the vinegar have plenty of time to combine and mellow. Not only does this orange-cranberry vinegar offer the perfect way to spice up your holiday meats, but it makes an excellent gift that is pretty and practical. Keeping a variety of flavored vinegars on hand – along with squares of colorful fabric and ribbons – is an ideal way to make sure you have a gift for that unexpected guest that is sure to arrive over the holiday season.

Here is the recipe for the Orange-Cranberry Vinegar.  Canning instructions are included. The marinade recipe follows this one.

Orange-Cranberry Vinegar

  • 4 cups cranberries (fresh are best, but you can use dehydrated cranberries)
  • 3 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 orange slices cut in quarters
  • 2 4-inch cinnamon sticks broke into pieces
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 5 pint-size canning jars, bands and lids (washed and sterilized)

 

1. Use a square of cheesecloth to create a spice bag and fill it with the cinnamon sticks and cloves. Tie it well.

2. Place 3 1/2 cups of cranberries and 1/2 cup of water into a stainless steel pan. Bring to a boil while continually stirring.

3. Lightly crush cranberries with a potato masher.

4. Pour the cranberry liquid through a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth and let drain. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth.

5. Once all the liquid has drained out of the cheesecloth, discard (or compost) the cranberry residue. The cheesecloth can be washed out and reused.

6.  Pour cranberry juice back into a stainless steel pan, add the sugar and the spice bag. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring continually until the sugar is dissolved.

7. Add the remaining cranberries and the white wine vinegar.

8. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the pan to make sure the cranberries do not start to burst.

9. Remove the spice bag and discard (or compost).

10. Divide the orange slices equally between the jars.

11. Ladle the hot vinegar into the hot, sterilized jars.

12. Wipe the rim, put the lid on the jar and tighten the band until it is fingertip-tight.

13. Place the jars in a cold pack canner filled with boiling water. Process for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for an additional five minutes, then remove the jars.

14. Tighten the bands if necessary so they are fingertip-tight again. Allow the jars to sit overnight to cool, then check the lid by gently prying on it to make sure it is sealed. If it is sealed, label and store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Jars that are not sealed need to be checked to make sure there are no cracks or chips across the top of the jar. Do not reuse the lids if they do not seal – instead put a big black X on them and use them for sealing jars filled with herbs or other dried goods. You can use a new lid and try to reseal the jar or put it into the fridge and use it up.

 

Orange-Cranberry Marinade

 

3/4 cup Orange-Cranberry Vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

3 Tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper (to taste)

 

Combine the ingredients and marinate a bone-in chicken or turkey in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours before cooking.

 

 

 

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Blueberries are easy to can because all you do is wash them and put them in the jar. There is no need to cover them with a syrup.

Late spring and early summer brings an abundance of fresh berries and cool weather produce such as broccoli. Knowing how to use the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables while they are in season is one way to take advantage of them, another way – perhaps one that works better for some people – is to learn how to preserve the bounty so the fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year. This is a great way to save money on groceries – and while you will spend a good amount of time washing and preserving, all that work will pay off in the end especially when you are eating or baking with your own home canned blueberries in the middle of winter.

Blueberries – in my opinion – are one of the easiest fruits to can. You simply wash them and put them into sterilized canning jars, put the lid and band on and cold pack process them for 15 minutes. You can opt to use a sugar syrup to cover them, but there is no need to. The blueberries will make their own juice during the canning process. I have canned blueberries in a light syrup in the past, but why add all that extra sugar when there is no need to do so?

I found the recipe for canning broccoli in an old Ball book I found at a local thrift shop.

Finding a recipe to can broccoli proved a bit more challenging. I prefer using the Ball books for my canning recipes – although sometimes I use other canning books. The Ball books I had said it was best to freeze broccoli, so in the past, that was the method I used to preserve it. I don’t like freezing produce for a number of reasons including the fact that if the electricity was to go out for a long enough period of time the items could spoil. When I think about all the work involved in growing, picking and preserving produce, it just makes better sense to me to use a method – such as canning – that I feel is a little less dependent on someone else providing a service – such as electricity – to keep it preserved.

So, here is how I canned my broccoli this year. The Ball book did say the broccoli would discolor, but hey, as long as it tastes ok, who cares.

First I washed the broccoli, then cut the broccoli heads into two inch long pieces and put the remainder of the stem into the compost bucket. You could can the stem pieces as well, but we only did the tops of the broccoli with some short stems attached.

Once all the broccoli was cut up, we boiled it for 3 minutes. We then packed the hot broccoli into hot, sterilized jars. We covered the broccoli with the hot water it was boiled in filling each jar so there was just an inch head space at the top. Then we added one teaspoon canning salt to each jar and put the sterilized bands and lids on.

We processed the broccoli in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure. Pints require 30 minutes processing time and quarts require 35 minutes processing time.

Canning during the summer is a hot and sweaty job, so if possible, can outdoors or have an air conditioner going in your kitchen. It is also a good idea to eat before you start processing food because the wonderful smell of food being canned makes you want to open the jars and eat as soon as they are done being processed.

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Always put hot food in hot, sterilized jars for safety's sake!

There’s a lot of talk today about the safety of canning food at home – something I am sure our ancestors did not fret over. Why? Because the art of canning was handed down from generation to generation making it possible for one to understand the art of canning on a much higher level than what many do today.

Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before canning them, even if they were organically grown.

Cleanliness is one of the most important aspects when it comes to food safety. Anyone who has ever taken a home economics class can tell you that. In addition to clean pans, clean lids, clean caps and clean jars, the food must be cleaned too. Pesticides and other chemicals cling to the skins of fruits and vegetables. These must be washed off for safety’s sake. In addition to making sure all of your utensils are clean, the caps, lids and jars need to be sterilized. Do not skip over this step, even if you wash everything in a dishwasher. It only takes a second to dip the caps, lids and jars into the boiling water to sterilize them – and best of all, it means you do not need to heat the jars up because the sterilization process gives you “hot jars” to put “hot food” into.

Another important step is proper inspection of the jars. A tiny chip on the jars rim – one that might not be obvious to the naked eye – is enough to keep the jar from properly sealing. The best way to take care of these kinds of problems is to carefully run your finger over the top of the clean jar before filling it with food. If you feel something that doesn’t feel right, do a further inspection to make sure it is not missed food particles or rubber from a previous jar lid that was not removed when the jar was washed. If it is indeed a crack or chip, dispose of the jar. There are many recycling centers that accept clean glass jars.

 

Periodically check sealed jars in your pantry to make sure they remain sealed.

 

Finally, do not reuse the lids. The lids are the flat parts that seal the jar and contain a rubber ring. The reason for this is that the lids were manufactured to be used once and once only. Although the jar may seem ok at first if you use these lids again, later on the seal can break and that will cause your food to spoil. It is ok to use the caps, which screw down over the top of the jar over and over until they become too rusty to continue to use.

By following these simple safety tips when canning at home, you are sure to have a good experience both during the canning process and for months afterwards as you eat up the bounty you preserved.

More resources and inspiration can be found at culinary arts degree.org.

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Canning jars being filled with lime juice in preparation for canning.

It is possible to make a variety of juice concentrates at home. This is ideal for people who have a bumper crop of fresh fruit and are looking for a new way to use it or for those who drink a lot of fruit juice throughout the year.

First you must remove the juice from the pulp. This is done either by squeezing the juice out by hand, using a juicer or a steamer.

Once you have separated the juice from the pulp, put the juice into a freezer-proof bottle with a narrow neck. Leave enough empty space in the top of the bottle for the liquid to expand as the juice turns to ice.

Once the bottle is filled, sit the bottle in a freezer bag just in case it bursts or the liquid overflows as it freezes and then place it in the freezer.

Once the liquid is completely frozen, turn the bottle upside down and place the neck of the jar with the frozen liquid inside a larger jar and let the liquid thaw.

You will notice that the frozen sugary, colored sugars will drip out first. When all you see is a white mass of ice, remove the bottle. The remaining ice can be set in a refrigerator while it finishes thawing and once it is in a liquid form again, drank.

Repeat the freeze, thaw, freeze process three times.

The liquid that is left after the third time should resemble store bought juice concentrates. Bring this liquid to a boil and ladle into pint size canning jars.

Another way to do this if you prefer not to freeze your juice is bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer it until it is reduced by two-thirds, then ladle it into canning jars.

Wipe jar rims, put lids and bands on making sure they are fingertip tight. Process for twenty minutes in a cold pack canner, remove and tighten lids.

Allow to cool, then check the lids to make sure they sealed.

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Red hot spiced apples and apples in syrup in sealed canning jars.

I prefer to can apples even though it is more work in the beginning. I have canned them with and without peels. Most people peel theirs before canning, but it is really up to you what you do. If you don’t mind the peels, don’t bother removing them.

There are many recipes for canning apples and I think I have tried them all, however, a friend said to me one day that canning apples in a plain syrup was the best way because they can be used for anything. I thought about this and decided she was right. Once you can apples for a specific purpose they may have an ingredient in them that makes them unsuitable for another use, so now I can all my apples using a light syrup. Here is my recipe.

  • 2 1/4 cups cane sugar
  • 5 cups of water

Combine sugar and water in a stainless steel pan.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Once the sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat to low so the syrup remains warm.

Fill clean, sterilized canning jars with apple quarters. Be sure to run your fingers around the tops of the jars before using them to check for tiny nicks. If you find any, those jars are no longer useful for canning.

Cover the apples with the water and sugar syrup you just made. Leave 1/2 inch air space at the top of the jar.

Wipe the top and edges of the jar with a clean, damp cloth.

Put a clean, sterilized, new lid on the jar, add the band and screw it down until it is fingertip tight.

Place the jars in a cold pack canner filled with boiling water.

Process both pints and quarts for 20 minutes.

Turn the heat off under the canning pot once the 20 minutes is up.

Remove the lid, but allow the jars to sit under the water for 5 minutes longer.

Carefully remove the jars. Set them aside and allow them to cool overnight.

Remove the bands and check the seals by gently prying them with your fingertips.

If the jars are sealed, replace the bands, label and store in a cool, dark, dry place.

If the jars are not sealed you can either select a new lid and attempt to seal the jars again or put the food into your refrigerator and use it up.

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