Friday, November 22, 2013

Making Jams & Jellies

We are making jams and jellies! Some of them are for us to eat, some to use for gifts this Christmas.

I find the most time consuming and tedius part of the job is prepping the jars. They have to be sterile. I have become very knowledgeable about aseptic techniques from years of making my own organic wine from everything I could get my hands on. "Organic" means without any added chemicals so sterilization is very important! With a dishwasher it's not an issue. The jars come out ready to use, hot and sterile if washed with regular commercial dishwashing detergent, since it all contains a great deal of chlorine. 

I brought some wild alpine blueberry juice with me from Stone Mountain Provincial Park where we camped this past summer. I processed the berries into juice up there and put it in the freezer at that time.
I freeze all the fruit first. Freezing breaks down the cell walls to release the juice. It makes a big difference. I learned that making wine. Actually, much of what I do to make jams and jellies, I learned from wine making. I had just enough blueberry juice to make one batch of jelly which made four pint jars. (top picture).

I was given a few bags of chopped, cleaned and frozen peaches from the owner this summer when we moved in, perfect for making jam! I got those out of the freezer and processed those into jam too. I made three jars of chunky jam from the bag of white peaches. (We have three white peach trees.)
I made the rest from the regular peaches. You can tell the difference in the colour of the jam (unlabelled at right). Some of the peach jam is smooth, run through the blender and some is normal, with little peach pieces in it. Personally, I prefer it smooth but most people like fruit chunks in it. I think they all turned out well!

The three jars at the left did not seal. I can reseal them but that cooks them another 10 mins, so I would rather not.  We will eat those. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it...  :-)
I still have apple jelly and apple sauce to make. The apple sauce is just for us to eat. I don't intend to process it through a water bath. I processed a boxfull of our large Red Delicious apples last week, into the freezer for jelly making. We still have several boxes of apples in cold storage being used now for pies. Those will have to be processed for the freezer before it warms up in the spring.
I also have six large freezer bags of grapes in the freezer, for processing into juice and then into jelly. The grapes will be a full day's work...or two. Ditto for the apple jelly and apple sauce but it's all fun and rewarding work!
Next year I want to make some rose jelly with the petals and hips. We have so many roses here! (See my previous post on "Making Flower Jellies")
It helps that this is the view out of the very large window in my kitchen, over the sink. The temperature may be cool, but it's still sunny and green! I don't know if the grass ever dies back in the winter here in BC. We'll find out.
Here are a few things that I have learned about making jams and jellies.
1. Make sure everthing is sterile if you want it to keep a long time.
2. Process the full 10 mins in a water bath if you want it to keep a long time.
3. Freezer jam is far superior to cooked jam but for gifts and selling we have to stick to cooked jam.
4. Boil the fruit/sugar/lemon juice mix until it reaches 220 degrees farenheit then put in the certo and boil hard another full minute.
5. Use the "low sugar" pectin powder, even if you plan to add the regular amounts of sugar. It just works better, especially with grapes. It's difficult to get a hard gel with grapes.
6. Add about 20% (1/5) more pectin than is in the box. So I open a box and divide it into 5 equal parts and put them into little plastic zip baggies. I buy 80 of these little bags for $1.00 at the dollar store. I always have these on hand for seeds and jewelry anyway.
7. Don't enlarge the recipe. Just make a one-box-of-pectin sized batch at a time. If you double it, it may not gel. One box makes about 4 pint jars and that's about all that will fit into my water bath pot at one time anyway.
8. You can make jam/jelly out of anything if you use powdered pectin and lemon juice in all recipes. I usually use equal amounts of processed fruit/juice and sugar to start. Add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and sweeten to taste from there. I always use the lemon juice, whether the recipe says to or not. Why chance a batch not turning out just because you don't want to put 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice in it? It can't hurt and the extra acid and flavour makes a difference. Just add a bit more sugar to sweeten. I sweeten to taste after adding the lemon juice anyway.
9. It takes A LOT of sugar to make jelly from the small, very tart, wild things like wild blueberries, crabapples or choke cherries, but the flavour is hard to beat. I end up using half again as much sugar for those things as I would normally use for something domestic. (See previous post on "Crabapple Wine" for info on using the wild things.)
With all this fruit at my fingertips here, why not make jams and jellies with the wine? It's long as the batches turn out well and gel, that is. It's not "fun" if they don't.


Clayton said...

So nice to reconnect with your Blog. I have just about abandoned my blogs since I started posting pictures to my Facebook. I seem to have run out of words and ambition although you would not know that by the numbers of lilies etc. I still grow! We were in the OK this fall as I have 2 sisters who live in Vernon now and I try to get out to visit them at least once a year. I will come back here to catch up. All the best.

Clayton said...
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Providence Acres Farm said...

It's good to hear from you Clayton! I know what it's like to be busy. I doubt that I will be posting much in spring/summer when the days are longer. I have time now because I'm up so much earlier than the sun.