Thursday, June 21, 2012

Now that MSHA has come and gone

The Coal Canary Cannery has been offline for quite some time but it hasn't been abandoned completely. Lets pretend together that the coal mine filled up with mud and water and other nastiness and had to be pumped out to be useful again. That's more or less what happened.

I am several states away from where I was when I started this. United States, mental states, physical states, emotional states, spiritual states. But we are good to go now. The mine has been cleaned out, MSHA has cleared everything for work to begin and the canary is back in the cannery.

Right now the hope is that once a month over the summer will bring a canning bee in which I teach some friends how to do some cool stuff in the kitchen. This month (this Saturday) the plan is to strawberry pick in the morning and jam all afternoon. I also have notes from things that never made it on here from before and the few things I managed to sneak in while I was wandering around the world and if those make it in to text you will see them also.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homemade Jelly as Wedding Favors

A dear friend of mine is getting married and she chose to make jelly for her guests as favors. (Which means she totally stole my idea.) The jars will be way more personal than a baggie of mints and it turns out the prices aren’t all that different. However this approach does take a hell of a lot more time than pouring custom printed M&Ms from a bag to a cute little box. That is where I come in.

“Canary can you help me?” - Friend

“Of course I would love to. Lets figure out when we both have time and we can do it up.” – Me

It turns out that the first time when we could both get together was… um… never ago. We went back and forth over weekends and 2 hour chunks of days until the wedding was…uh…like tomorrow. Well not literally tomorrow…more like tomorrow in wedding years. So I packed up every canning utensil, apparatus, instrument, and ideology I own and drove to another state to help my friend make this thing happen.

We started with a 25 lb bag of sugar (omg groooooooooss), and a couple of jugs each of 100% apple and grape juices (Welch’s I think on both counts?) and a dozen times 13 jars (156 I have been told was our number). Oh yeah and enough pectin to make time stand still.
Stacks of jars lids and bands competing for real-estate.
A brides maid was around for the first 45 minutes to help plan and get the first batch of madness underway and the fiance popped in and out at critical times to stir and move and stack and wash and generally do what we had run out of hands to handle. From committing the first recipe sketches to paper to setting the final jar on a table to cool it took us almost exactly 8 hours. (Which is not bad considering I was planning to stay for 3 days if I had to.)

We used and slightly abused the recipes given in the boxes of pectin and we didn’t get too fancy because we did NOT want any do-overs. We did toss in some spices because I cannot be content to let well enough alone. I had eyes rolled at me but I won and it was worth it.
Always write out your recipe even if it only makes sense to you. And when you are dumping in more than 4 of anything make sure you tally...just in case.
We started with the Apple Jelly because it is first in the alphabet. Honest. We didn’t have everything washed or warmed before our jelly was boiling the first time so it was a little bit chaotic and oh hellish. Oops. So after that we regrouped and planned out the rest of our adventure with our fingers crossed that we would fill all the jars. We never really came up with a fail proof system because we had very little counter/table space and nothing was beside anything else in a way that made sense for a real assembly line. Instead, we did a lot of shuffling jars back and forth on baking trays, passing each other in a skinny kitchen, one person with full jars needing lids and another with empties needing to be filled. It was not ideal BUT IT WORKED!
We ended up making 6 batches of apple in 2 rounds and 4 batches of grape in 2 rounds before we were through. (See recipes below) We added a little extra headspace to each jar to stretch our jelly a little farther but even with that as a consideration we ended up with way more jelly than predicted from the original recipes. We filled 74 jars with apple jelly and 82 with grape. When we were done filling jars we had just enough jelly to spread on toast (or a finger) to try out our handiwork.

The apple plus spices combo comes out exactly like apple pie in jelly form and the grape is well…grape.
If you look closely you can actually see the flecks of spice in the jelly.
We also used a 2 quart Crockpot set to warm for the lids. I dumped about a cup of vinegar in the bottom of the pot before I put the lids in and covered them with water and that seems to have kept the lids from staining the pot. I also vinegared up the water in the water bath canner and there weren’t water spots on the jars after they cooled and then racks didn’t stain the canner. New idea? I think so.

We did not decorate the jars in that 8 hour time frame. We aren’t magical sleeping beauty fairies and the bride to be hadn’t actually settled on a design yet. I will try to get some pictures of the for real finished product after the wedding.
Our yield visualized 2 ways. Each box represents a dozen jars...or you can just count the jar army instead.
Special Equipment: Water Bath Canner, Jars, bands, lids, jar racks, canning funnel, bubble tool, patience, teamwork

Apple Pie Jelly
(Based on the Ball Liquid Pectin insert recipe for Apple Jelly from Bottled Juice)

2 C unsweetend 100% apple juice (Which is still plenty sweet)
3-1/2 C sugar
1 bag liquid pectin (we used 4 of Ball then 2 of Sure-Jell Certo)
Pumpkin Pie Spice

1. Add juice and sugar to saucepan (or stock pot in our case) on high heat. Shake in enough spice that you can see the spice when it is stirred into the liquid.
2. While stirring constantly, bring to a galloping boil that cannot be stirred down
3. Add pectin quickly, squeezing out entire contents of package
4. Return to boil and boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly
5. Remove from heat and fill jars (see Processing Instructions below)

a. The Ball Liquid Pectin insert was the only one that had a recipe for jelly from prepared juice. We compared other recipes between the Ball and Certo inserts and found them to be the same or very similar so we used the Ball recipe with the Certo pectin. Yes different types of pectin are not universally interchangeable but sometimes they are. Just pay attention.
b. We quadrupled this recipe the first time with Ball pectin and doubled it the second time with Certo pectin (based on the brands and envelopes we had on hand) and we got good results each time. Yes multiplying recipes can change results and if you cook pectin too long it may not gel. You can also make so much product that it starts to gel before you get it in jars. 4 at a time was the reasonable limit of what we could cook properly on our stove and jar before gelling.
Cookie sheets were indispensable for moving jars around and keeping the counter from getting excessively sticky. Also that top picture represents the full extent of our counter space.
Grape Jelly (with apple juice)
(Based on the Sure Jell Reduced Sugar Pectin insert recipe for Cooked Grape Jelly from Whole Grapes and Cooked Apple Jelly from Whole Apples)

4 C unsweetened 100% Grape Juice
1 7/8 C Unsweetened 100% apple Juice
3 7/8 C Sugar, divided
1 Box low sugar pectin (we used Sure Jell in the pink box)

1. Measure sugar in a separate bowl
2. Add juices to saucepan or stockpot and whisk in each box of pectin plus ¼ c of sugar per box of pectin used
3. Bring to a galloping boil over high heat while stirring constantly
4. Dump in remaining sugar all at once and stir in
5. Return to boil and boil for 1 minute
6. Remove from heat and fill jars (see Processing Instructions below)

a. Again the only recipe we found for jelly from prepared juice came from the Ball Liquid Pectin box so we were winging it a little bit.
b. We were pretty sure we needed 4 batches to fill all the jars but we only had enough grape juice for 3 boxes. We added a single batch of the recipe for apple jelly to get an extra batch. We designed the recipe for 4 batches at once and cut it in half for our use. Then I cut it in half again for the above recipe which is why the volume is a little odd. These recipes are very similar in ingredient volume so feel free to sub grape in for apple if you have it and you should have fine results.
c. We added 2 T of whole cloves to a spice bag and put it in with the juice at the beginning and removed it when we added the sugar. You couldn’t taste it at all. Next time I would try adding 1/8 t ground cloves per batch.
Grape Jelly: Jarred, Lidded, and Banded. Kapow!

Processing Instructions

0. Before you start making the jelly you should have the water bath canner on the stove heating up because it takes forever
1. Quickly ladle hot jelly into jars leaving 1/8 in headspace
2. Wipe rims and threads of jars with damp paper towel
3. Center lid on jar and screw band down to finger tip tight (jar will be hot- reminds you that you are alive. Suck it up wuss…or use a pot holder.)
4. Place jars in canner
5. Return water in canner to boil and process jars for 10 minutes
6. Remove jars from canner and place somewhere out of the way to cool
7. Check seals in 24 hours and reprocess or store as necessary.

a. We had more like ½ in to ¼ in headspace in our jars because we were trying to stretch our jelly as far as we could. Don’t leave more than ½ in. If you have enough for most of a jar, make yourself toast and try it out.
b. You get a lot of foam with jelly. We did not remove and discard the foam because it is just gelled jelly with lots of air stuck in it. We put the foam in the jars, added a little extra jelly to make up for the air in the bubbles and processed the jar. The high temp of boiling will re-melt the jelly and when the mixture cools after processing the jelly will be clear.
c. Apparently according to the Sure-Jell instructions we could have processed our grape jelly for 5 minutes instead of 10 but we didn’t read the directions and over processed. Everything turned out fine anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What went wrong (and the few things that went right) with marmalade

I have already mentioned numerous times that I got very impatient with my marmalade. This led me to try out a bunch of different short cuts hoping for a ready remedy. I also tried a few other new-to-me techniques which other people use with some degree of success.

After 4 days of canning and testing, only one of my shortcuts worked and I personally wouldn’t recommend it. Both of the new techniques I tried worked but I have a few cautions before you try them out.

Citrus Specifics:
1. Each type of fruit and even varieties of the same fruit are easier to handle in different ways and for different recipes. For instance I found that I preferred to deal with room temperature oranges if I was peeling them by hand for preserves but cold oranges worked better with a peeler and sliced better with a knife.

2. A food processor/chopper might be a valid shortcut for slicing your fruit very thin. You sacrifice texture (if you like rind strips) and a small amount of volume but gain time. But you also might destroy your food processor and this I don’t really understand. After using my chopper on my blood orange marmalade I tried to clean it out and found that the inside was coated with waxy orange residue. I tried scraping this out with a spoon, a scrubby sponge, a scrub brush, and steel wool and made little headway. I also tried soaking the vessel in water, dish soap, and 409 again with limited results. It looks as if the plastic the food processor is made out of was actually scarred by the orange peel. Perhaps the peel is acidic enough to break down the plastic? I have no idea. I will keep working on figuring out what is going on.(It turns out that I was almost right about that. But it isn't the acid that's the problem. The main oil in an orange peel is limonene which can actually break down and disolve plastics in a high enough concentration. Yes, Virginia I really did melt my food chopper.)

3. Using a food mill to remove the membranes from citrus doesn’t work at all. I have a decent food mill that I have used successfully for many other operations but in this case it was just an inefficient and cumbersome juicer.

1. Using old bands to line the bottom of a pot instead of a canning rack works well. You can fasten the bands together but you really don’t have to. But there are some obligatory cautionary statements:
    a. You have to have a deep enough pot to allow for water to cover the jar (this is why I was using stumpy jars) and the bands have enough height that this can be tricky
    b. If the holes in the bands are bigger than the bottoms of the jars things might shift enough for jars to tip or fall into the hole and be touching the bottom of the pan.
c. I have hard water and so the chemical reaction between the metal of the bands and of my pot stained the pot. This has happened to my pressure cooker and vinegar will help get rid of the stain or if added to the boiling water will help prevent it from happening in the first place. But it is unnerving when a pot you cook food in directly is suddenly stained black.
2. I have seen keeping lids warm in water in a Crockpot listed as a valid method in several place. It works and it is nice to not have to waste a burner on lids when you have a lot going on. But:
    a. My crockpot on Low was hot enough that I burned myself more than once but the “keep warm” setting didn’t seem to be warm enough
    b. The bands rusted on the inside of the stoneware and on each other. This is probably due to my hard water more than anything else but I can’t get the coloring off of my crockpot liner. I have since used this technique again and a liberal dose of vinegar prevented it new staining so there is hope for this method.

3. Homemade spice bags are great but you might want to double or triple the thickness of the cheesecloth if it is thin or pieces will escape.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hot Blooded Marmalade

Apparently the only way I could get over my I-don’t-make-marmalade hang up was to allow myself to make the most exciting marmalade first. This also happened to be the most complicated marmalade to make and the recipe that I planned from the start to alter the most. But armed with a complete lack of knowledge and an obsession with blood oranges I embarked on a Bloody Temple Marmalade adventure. Then I tasted the rind of the temple oranges and wow were they bitter. So I seamlessly switched the temple oranges out for navel oranges and began a Bloody Navel Marmalade adventure. But that sounded …awful. So I decided to add some crushed red pepper and call my creation Hot Blooded Marmalade. Hurray!

If it sounds like I spent more time fretting over the name of this concoction than I did about the recipe, it did. I was loosely following an online recipe and the one from the ball canning book but mostly I was just flying by the seat of my pants. And I wasn’t exactly…um…thinking. At all.

I peeled the rinds from my oranges neatly, round and round the orange in circles like those hand crank apple peelers do it. Except that they peel strips were anything but neat. And I started cutting them into the thinnest strips I could manage but they weren’t at all thin and it was taking forever. Which is when lazy kicked in and knocked my stupidity up a notch. What I needed was a power tool. I pulled out my sorry excuse for a food processor and chopped the living daylights out of the rind strips. Instead of little slivers I had kibbles and bits, but I got them in a hurry and the taste was the same.
Then I peeled the pith from the oranges which was easy enough even with the tough rind off. And I diligently removed the membranes from each wedge of fruit. For all of about 3 wedges. Then I said to hell with it and chopped the rest into smaller than bite sized pieces. This is when I started wondering how or why people make marmalade.
I dumped the chunks into the rind kibble, added some water and started the stuff to boiling. I measured out my sweeteners for quick application once my premarmalade was up to a boil and in the process spilled both pretty much everywhere. But I did like the effect of burying the red pepper flakes and an amber coffin. And when I went to measure my volume of liquid to make sure bring it up to 6 cups I actually had extra liquid which to me seemed like bonus goodness.

After the sweetness was added I waited, and waited, and waited some more. I was planning to use the thermometer mode of testing gel stage and I knew even though I live at 300 ft above sea level m thermometer registers boiling water at 205 degrees so I was going for 213. Everything stalled right around 200 degrees for what felt like an eternity of stirring. I think it was only about 10 minutes but whatever. Then there was a slow creep from 200 to 210 over the course of about 5 minutes and I was starting to get excited because this thing was really happening and things were thickening up. And then the unthinkable happened and just when the temperature started to approach 213 it crashed down to below 200.
I had no idea what happened but I figured I was close enough to my magic number to fudge it and I pulled my pot from the stove, dumped everything in to jars, and processed them. This girl had to get on with her life. I had 4 other citrus fantasies to indulge myself in and here I was getting bogged down on the very first one. I had 10 8-oz jars and 1 4-oz jar filled up which seemed like a lot and when I tasted the mix it also seemed pretty acrid but I was mentally done with this marmalade. Everything sealed and I was content.

But when I checked in 24 hours I was left with an overly spicy, very bitter, soupy sauce. A big flop. So I de-jarred everything and started it boiling again. I added 2 more cups of sugar to balance the bad flavors and I used the saucer test this time. I kept the thermometer in for good measure and that thing bounce up and down for no good reason the whole time the marmalade simmered.

My final yield ended up at just under 9 8-oz jars and the spice and bitterness were a little more mellow. There is still a pretty strong astringent aftertaste which I think could be done away with by boiling the rind for 10 minutes then draining it before adding the fruit. As is, it works well as a chutney or condiment for pretty much any meat I’ve paired it with including white fish but I wouldn’t slap it on a bagel with cream cheese.
It wasn’t a complete failure but I would say significant room for improvement for sure. And my marmalade making friend to whom I gifted all of the stumpy jars diagnosed my problem all along as not enough patience. Ah well.

Special Equipment: Water Bath Canner, Jars, Lids and Bands, Canning Funnel, Bubble Tool

Hot Blooded Marmalade
(Loosely based on That Bloody Marmalade Tastes So Good by Putting Up With the Turnbulls and Blood Orange Marmalade from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. None of my mistakes should reflect on their recipes.)
6 Blood Oranges
2 Navel Oranges
2 C Water + more
2 C Orange Juice
5 C sugar
½ C honey
2 tsp Red Pepper flakes

1. Wash oranges and lemons and remove peel with vegetable peeler
2. Cut peel into thin strips
3. Working over a bowl, separate fruit segments from membrane/pith and squeeze juice from membrane. Discard membrane and seeds.
4. Add 2 c water, orange juice and segments to saucepan with peel strips and bring to a boil for 30 minutes
5. Measure fruit mixture and stir in enough water to make 6 c total
6. Bring to boiling and gradually stir in sugar and honey and pepper flakes while maintaining boil
7. Continue boiling and stirring until mixture reaches the gel stage ~24 minutes
8. Ladle into jars leaving ¼ inch headspace
9. Remove bubbles and adjust headspace if required
10. Wipe rim, center lid, and screw band to fingertip tight
11. Place jars in water bath canner and adjust water level to cover the jars if necessary
12. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes
13. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars
14. Check seal in 24 hours. Reprocess or label and store

My Yield: 4.5 pints minus about 2 oz or almost 7 8-oz jars

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mixed Citrus Preserves/Salad

I like the recipe because it didn’t feel like making marmalade and I was tired of fretfully standing over a pot stirring and hoping for a gel. I just wanted to dump things in a pot and get on with my life.

I bought at least 30 temple oranges because they were $.10 a piece. I was thinking I was going to turn them into marmalade of some type but the little devils have very acrid skins. No one I talked to had heard of temple oranges so let me tell you what I found out. They have a thin skin (that’s bitter apparently) very little pith and LOTS of seeds but they are very juicy and very sweet. They would probably be perfect for fresh squeezed OJ if you had a tree. They were also nice for this salad.
I had some room temp citrus and some from the fridge and I discovered that while I preferred to slice cold citrus, it was easier to peel warmer citrus if I wasn’t using the peels for anything. The main reason for this was because my hands didn’t get freakishly cold and stop working but the peel also seemed to come free more easily when warmer.

Because the temple oranges had so little pith and were so juicy I didn’t bother taking off the membranes from the segments. I simply peeled the oranges, split them into segments then cut each segment in half with a sharp knife and popped out the seeds. This was messy enough that I set up my own assembly line with a cutting mat underneath to catch extra juice. I would slice the segment over a colander sitting on a bowl so I could keep the seeds and juice separated as well. It took me a while to find the perfect rhythm but once I did things moved smoothly.

I processed the grapefruit in much the same way as when I made grapefruit marmalade. I peeled the fruit and broke it into roughly quarters, sliced the middle/core from each quarter and popped out the seeds then the pulp with my thumbs.

My recipe came from the USDA online canning guide. The nice thing about that book is it includes all manner of modifications for fruit preserves from water only up to candy thick syrup and it even gives allowances for honey (or splenda…gross) so I could pretty much do whatever I wanted to and not really modify their recipe. I went with a very light syrup that was about half honey half sugar.

Hidden somewhere in the citrus preserves section is a statement to the effect of grapefruit preserves fine by itself but oranges taste better when canned with equal parts grapefruit. There were no reasons given or other qualifiers so I have no idea why or what makes this so or if this is true. I used about 8.75 lbs of temple oranges (25 total) and 5.25 lbs of ruby red grapefruit (7 total). I don’t know what my yield in lbs was exactly but I got roughly 2:1 oranges to grapefruit and I was content with that.
I had the option to raw pack and put my fruit in a water bath canner for the same length of processing time as a pressure canner (minus the obligatory venting steam and cooling canner times) but I chose to lug out my pressure canner anyway. Why? Because my canner is tall enough to stack pint jars and I could fit all my jars in at one time.

I fell in to the hot pack method although it isn’t my preference. I’ve been having lots of problems with floating fruit and cooking it is supposed to get out the air before it goes in the canner. I don’t think this altered the flavor of the fruit at all but the color did change. Right around boiling temperature ruby red grapefruit morph from bright pink to bright orange and oranges get lighter.
All of my jars sealed well but I had one that seeped pretty badly for whatever reason. It was of course on the top stack and got all over several of the jars so they got a bath once they cooled down.
There was about a cup of fruit left over when I filled the other jars. I reserved this and used it as a garnish for pork chops that night. It was an interesting switch from applesauce. I also ended up with 2.5 quarts of leftover juice which tastes pretty much like grapefruit juice sweetened with honey. We drank some of it straight up, I used some in my blood oranges in Orangecello and we mixed some in adult beverages. I didn’t process the juice in a canner, I just slapped a lid on and stuck it in the fridge. The jars sealed but wouldn’t have put them on a shelf in the pantry. We went through them too fast anyway.

Special Equipment: Water bath canner with rack OR Pressure Canner, Jars, Lids and Bands, Canning Funnel, bubble tool

Mixed Citrus Preserves/Salad
(Recipe built from the many options in the USDA home canning guidelines)

25 Temple Oranges (~8.75 lb)
7 Grapefruit (~5.25 lb)
7/8 C Honey
1 C Sugar
10 ½ C Water

1. Wash and peel citrus removing as much of the pith as possible.
2. Divide fruit into segments and cut into bite sized pieces. Discard membranes and seeds.
3. Add water, sugar, and honey to large saucepan and bring to boil
4. Add fruit and return to boil
5. Use a slotted spoon to pack fruit into hot jars leaving ½ inch headspace
6. Cover with syrup
7. Use non-metal tool to remove bubbles and recheck headspace
8. Wipe rims with moist paper towel, put lids on jars and screw bands to finger tip tight

9. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes
10. Turn off heat , remove lid and wait 5 minutes, then move jars to counter to cool. Check seals in 24 hours and reprocess if needed.
9. Place in pressure canner and seal
10. Vent steam for 10 minutes then bring pressure 5 lbs and process for 8 minutes
11. Allow canner to depressurize naturally, remove weight and wait 10 minutes
12. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool. Check seals in 24 hours and reprocess if needed

a. Times are for hot pack of quarts and pints. Can raw pack fruit in pressure canner with same time except quarts must pressure can for 10 minutes.
b. Can reduce sugar and/or honey to zero cups or replace honey with equal measure of sugar.
c. Estimate 13 lb citrus/ canner load of 9 pints according to book

My Yield: 13 pts + 1 C (which is surprisingly close to the estimated yield from the book), and 2.5 Quarts of leftover juice.