Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pear Rhubarb Jam

from left to right ~ pear rhubarb jam, peach butter, spiced pear jam

This jam turned out so tasty & delicious, I decided to share it around.  I originally got the idea from a recipe on the Hitchhiker to Heaven blog, & had indeed intended to make the very recipe she posted.  However, that wild little creativity hair got loose again, & well, this is the end result.  Oddly enough, though the vanilla bean portion was the original inspiration & draw to even google a recipe with that ingredient, in the end, once again, I diverted.  ( Is this starting to sound like one of my crochet stories?....)
Wood Genius claims the issue is that I have a difficult time taking instruction / orders / direction from anyone.  Period.  I don't necessarily think that is so,  I just seem to have a ..... digression.. issue.  ;-D
But I digress.
If any of you would like the peach butter or the spiced pear jam, I will post those recipes as well. 
I have half a box of pears left, so I still do have a chance to make the vanilla pear jam......

Pear Rhubarb Jam

1/4" to 1/2" headspace
12 minutes waterbath  (10 minutes for most folks, I am at a higher altitude)
yeild : 7 pints

4 cups rhubarb ~ rinsed, cut into 1" pc's ( I had put mine in the freezer to keep it while the pears ripened, so mine was frozen)
16 - 20 ripe pears ~ peeled, cored & halved
1/3 cup water
1 c brown sugar
2 c white sugar
1 heaping full tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
optional ~ a bit of red food coloring

*Take your rhubarb & the 1/3 cup of water & cook down in a saucepan, till rhubarb is quite soft. Set aside, with lid on to keep warm.
*In the meantime, peel, core & halve the pears. Put into your large kettle & mash. ( I used one of those awesome 5-spined mashers from Pampered Chef that my mother in law got me ~ I think it's meant to break up hamburger, but it works perfectly to mash up fruit without pulverizing it, & makes it so that you don't have to chop finely. Thank you Delora!!)
*Heat the pears up till softened, then mix in the rhubarb.
*Let this mixture simmer, stirring frequently.
*While that is simmering, measure all of your sugars, spices & pectin into a bowl, & mix thoroughly.
*Once you have done that, bring your pear/rhubarb mixture up to a boil for a full 2 minutes.
*Add red food coloring here if you desire. About 10 drops makes a very pretty rhubarby color, especially once the brown sugar & o.j. get added in, but some folks don't go for fake colors, & it really isn't necessary ~ just looks pretty.
*Now that your mixture is up to a full boil for 2 minutes, you are ready to add in the sugars & spices.
*Fold those in quickly, making certain everything is dissolved & bring your jam back up to a boil.
*Add in the heaping tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate.
*Maintain the boil for another minute or so, then remove from heat.
*Fill jars, wipe rims, cap & water-bath process 12 minutes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Harvesting the Bounty (or Fall is the Color Orange)

I love Autumn!  And I love the color orange.  It seems the two go hand in hand so well.  Take this beautiful bowl of peachcots, for instance.  Beautiful (free!!) fruit makes canning a joy!  Yes, it takes all day, (sometimes all week) & I am usually swearing off ever canning again by the end of it all, but ohhh... how lovely all that beautiful fruit is!  It just begs to be put up & brought back out again in the depth of dreary winter ~ to remind you that indeed the sun will shine again, earth will give up her bounty, & you will once again know the flavors & scents of fresh produce, straight from either your own backyard or your neighbors.

In this instance, my neighbor has a lovely peachcot tree that she no longer can harvest, so myself & another neighbor went & picked all that we could, canned it, & then went & shared some of the results with that neighbor.  That's how we do it around here.  If you happen to come across a tree that is just dropping produce on the ground, you find the owner, ask if you could maybe pay to pick some of the fruit ( this is the polite thing to do), they of course will deny that & just give you the fruit for free ( that's also the polite thing to do), & then once you've made up some of the goods, you of course return & give the kind neighbor some of the tasty end results.  It works out well for all involved. 

Here are some of the peachcots all halved & ready to go in the top of my Nutri-steamer.  Once again, I must pronounce happiness upon the heads of the Nutri-steamer manufacture'ers (sp?).  This product is one of my awesomest & most beloved pieces of canning equipment EVER!  I'm putting it right up there with the pressure cooker.  Seriously, if you can ever put enough away to get one, DO IT! They are worth every penny & then some!  This one cost me $120 or so ( it's been a few years) & I bought it off of eBay.  The stainless steel pot on the bottom of the set-up alone is worth it.  It just makes canning so EASY!
You have minimal preparation, stick the fruit in the top of the juicer, ( fill the bottom pot with water & a few tbspn's of vinegar to retard hard water staining), let it go a few hours on simmer, & VIOLAA!, the middle section fills up with juice or nectar, ready to drain off ( has a handy dandy drain hose & pinch) at 220+ degrees F right into your hot jar, pop on the dome & lid, & it's done, baby!

Of course, some of those peachcots & some of the apricots that another neighbor brought over got put into the dehydrator.  They will make great additions to trail mix when the family goes hiking next summer.  I also made up about 10 sheets of peachcot fruit leather.  ( For every 1 cup of fruit, add 1/2 cup of honey.)  One thing about fruit leather, however, don't forget to put a very thin sheen of olive oil or saffola oil onto the dehydrator sheet, or you will be cursing every little tug & tear of that leather! ;-D
Here's another awesome thing about that Nutri-steamer ~ if you love fruit leathers, you can simply use the left-over pulp in the top of the steamer for your fruit leather. (provided you pitted the produce, otherwise, you'll have to pick pits first.)   Easy sqweezy!

More peachcots ~ they were just so beautiful!

This is some of the peachcot nectar produced in the Nutri-steamer.  Have you ever bought apricot nectar from the store, in that big old can?  Have you ever looked on the back & been dissapointed to find out that it's only a stupid 20% juice?  The rest of it is high fructose corn syrup & crap?  Well, this home canned golden treasure in the bottles is 100% true nectar, & I would even say somewhat of a concentrate, as you can water it down some & STILL get a better flavor & healthfulness at HALF potency than that horrid store-bought excuse for fruit juice.

This is the pureed peachcots just before I added some other goodies to make a very unusual & yet highly delicious mixed fruit jam.
As it happens, I had some leftover strawberries in the freezer from last year ( I usually freeze berries, since we make a lot of smoothies) that I wanted to use up, so I decided to make up a jam after my daughter's favorite smoothie combination.  I used about 2 lbs of frozen strawberries, 1 can of orange juice concentrate, & probably 12 to 18 cups of peachcot puree, all blendered together, then sugar (5 or six cups) & 2 or 3 tablespoons vinegar.  Cook till thickened, & waterbath process for 10 minutes.
I called it strawberry peachcot surprise.  My kids said "what's the surprise?"  I said "It tastes divine!"   They said " good point".  ;-D

This is a whole counter full of peachcot goodness.  We put up 28 quarts total! 

Aren't they lovely?

Hehehe, had to insert a pic of the eggs in here.  We got a whole new flock of hens this year, & they finally ( finally!!!) began producing!  I was so thankful, I just had to take a pic to show you all.  Note the very large brown egg on the right, middle ~ yes, it looks larger because it's sitting next to a fart egg, but it really
IS larger as well ~ we have a buff orp consistently dropping doubles every other week. I love it!  Twinner eggs rock!

Here is a pic of some of the delicious peach butter my daughter & I canned today.  We put up 14 pints!  My daughters are doing canning as part of their home ec classes, & tomorrow my 14 yr old will be passing off her canning requirement by putting up another 14 pints entirely by herself!  I am really proud of her, because today she answered all of the questions correctly, she knew what to do, & tomorrow ( although I will be right there for just in case) she will be doing it herself!  I know, I know, I just repeated myself, but I am really quite proud of her.  I'm a bit of a stickler on asepsis, produce, & process, (you know, botulism,  flat-sour, & all that.. death.. nothing much..), so she actually has had quite a bit to learn, but I guess they HAVE all been canning with me ever since... well, since they were old enough to use a sharp knife.  ;-D

AHHH, & here we have the last ( so far!) little orange-ish gem.  It's actually more amber.  ;-D  This is honey that I cold processed into smaller, more use-able quantities.  What it WAS was a giant ( I am talking SIXTY [60!!] pounds!!) tin of pure raw honey from 1958 that we have been lugging around for Lo, These Many Years.  But in that form, it just wasn't very usable (obviously, still in the original square tin!).
I was a little nervous about it to begin with, but I did a TON of studying on the matter, & honey just doesn't go bad if it's pure. Also, I didn't want to heat it up, because I didn't want to ruin any of the beneficial enzymes & properties, so I wasn't quite sure how to proceed.  But here is where I had a stroke of genius ~ ok, ok, so it wasn't me, it was divine inspiration ~ I just bi-passed the whole idea of pouring it out or heating it up or anything, & got a can opener & rolled it around the top, & it came off beautifully!! 
Then I carefully inspected the honey ( it was quite granulated, as was to be expected), and I VERY carefully scooped away all the parts that had touched the top of the tin & seemed to be in any way tainted by rust.  (Although I later determined that it was just darker honey, not rust)
Then, I just used a flat, heavy-duty icecream scoop ( NOT the ball kind) & proceeded to scoop out the honey & put it into pint jars, put a dome & a ring on them, washed them all up with a cloth, & called it good.
I will also say, I was very careful to cover most of the honey while I packing it, with a piece of plastic wrap pressed right down on top of it, to keep off any yeasts or molds that might settle on it.  ( I guess yeasts & molds float around invisible in the air all the time... who knew?)
Cool thing about this honey ~ the flavor is SOO delicious!  Very intense, & the honey is a beautiful dark amber.  I have not ever heated it up enough to completely de-crystalize it, because I don't want to destroy any enzymes, but the grains are very tiny, so it's not a problem.  It has a look of dark creamed honey, or maybe a honey/butter, but it is just pure honey.
Another cool thing about this honey ~ Several times now, we have been getting sick with a cold, & have eaten this honey, & the cold has gone away.  Headache, sinus issues, cough... all gone.  Even the allergies!  How cool is THAT? ;-D