It’s cherry season!

Due to rain and highway washouts we were forced to take a rather unexpected (and LONG) detour on our last trip to visit my parents. One of the few perks to our detour is that it took us right down into cherry country and we were able to get a nice big box of local cherries for a great price.

We ate lots of them but lets face it, one family can only eat so many cherries.  I already had put up 5lbs of cherries in light syrup and while we like them they aren’t really ‘wow’ing us so I didn’t want to do any more. Sitting down with my favourite canning books I didn’t come up with anything that I thought we would eat. So there I was with 10lbs of cherries and no idea what to do with them. This is what happens when you buy a whole bunch of fruit without a plan of what to do with it.

A quick google search presented two reasonable options: Freezing and dehydrating. Armed with my handy dandy cherry pitter (seriously, BEST invention ever!) and a movie on my laptop I sat down to pit my cherries.

It was messy and time consuming business but the end result was yummy! I wasn’t sure how my kids would feel about the dried cherries so I only did a couple trays.

Big mistake, those cherries were gone before I even got them off the tray! My kids sat and ate them and then asked for more! Happy to have found a way to use them up I did the rest of the cherries the next night. I added some strawberries and blueberries to one of the trays as well, since I had them in the fridge.  I would add a picture of the finished product but those never made it off the tray either.

Dehydrating isn’t quite as satisfying as canning, I did tons of cherries but didn’t even get enough to fill a ziploc bag. You can get a huge bag of dried cherries at Costco for less than $10, I’m thinking that in the future we’ll just do that.

It’s a fun easy snack though, I keep a little bowl of them out for the kids to grab a few whenever they want so I’m sure they won’t last long.

Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to do with all these apricots…

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Pickled Asparagus

Aren’t they pretty? I am so in love with Mary Anne Dragan’s book Well Preserved. I made these last year for my dad but didn’t include the hot pepper that her pickled asparagus recipe recommends, this year I threw in an entire red thai chili pepper so we’ll see how it tastes!

Her asparabits recipe calls for red pepper flakes but I didn’t have any. I did however have an extra couple of chilies so I threw them both in one of the jars, hopefully they aren’t burn your face off hot!

I was *thrilled* to see a fruit truck parked outside our local Peavey Mart this morning. I stopped and grabbed 5lbs of cherries and I’m trying to decide what to make with them. I’ve never canned cherries before but a good friend lent me a cherry pitter so I think I might try some in light syrup. One can really only make so much jam…

Canning 2011!

Alright. It was really handy to have a list of what I did last year to go back to so I’m going to keep it here again.

Rhubarb:
Tigress in a Jam’s Rhubeena
– 4.5 lbs rhubarb = 4.5 pints rhubeena
 Yummy. Good in ginger ale so far!

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam (CFNG)
-2 batches (12 cups rhubarb, 6 strawberries. Needed 3 clam shells of strawberries)
-Each batch yielded 4 half pints
SO yummy!! I love rhubarb strawberry jam.

Rhubarb Orange Jam (CFNG)
-1 batch (9 cups rhubarb, 2 oranges)
-7 half pints
Yummy. Make in small jars, kind of strong.


Asparagus:
Pickled Asparagus &; Asparabits (Well Preserved)
-did approx 8lbs into 7 pints of pickled asparagus & 3 pints of asparabits
– used red thai chili peppers for spice
– could not find yellow mustard seed so used brown
-dad, brother, and husband say not spicy enough, add more than one pepper.



Cherries:
Cherries in light syrup

-5lbs of cherries into 5 pints and 2 half pints
-they are alright, they taste good but they are too much work to bother with again.

Apricots
Honey-Ginger Apricots (Canning for a New Generation)
-5lbs apricots into 6 pints
-left out the ginger


Beets
Pickled Beets & onions (Bernardin)
-bought 4 bags of baby beets from farmer’s market but, only got 4.5 pints though.
-note for next year: buy more beets than you think you need. May have to do more.


Tomatoes
Red Hot Sauce (Bernardin)
-used 2 habaneros,  2 serranos, 2 thai chilli peppers, and the rest jalapenos. Hubby says even more peppers next time.
-5 half pints and 2 quarter pints


Steak Sauce (Putting Up More)


Balsamic & Tomato Salsa (Putting Up More)
-2 pints and 9 half pints





Peaches
Butterscotch Peach Jam (Wellpreserved.ca)
-7 half pints
-this is SO yummy. It’s not really jam consistency but it’s perfect for pancakes and ice cream!!


-40lbs into 21 quarts in light syrup


Pluots
-1 batch pluot jam
-this is delicious. I love pluots though.. One batch made 2 pints, 2 half pints, and 8 125ml jars.

Everything you wanted to know about canning applesauce…. and then some.

Ahh… apples. I’m pretty sure if I never see an apple again it will be WAY too soon. As I mentioned in my last post I have put up well over 100 pounds of apples this year, here are my beautiful organic galas and eckharts… all 120 lbs of them.

I think applesauce is probably one of the easiest things ever to can.

There are lots of different way to make applesauce, this is how I’ve done it and my kids both ask for it constantly. I have the fruit and vegetable strainer attachment for my kitchenaid mixer and that is the only reason I have been able to make this much applesauce without going completely nuts. I can’t recommend it highly enough! I got it from ebay for super cheap. LOVE it.

Anyway here is what I do:

Remove the hard stem of the apple. Using an apple slicer/corer (I have this one and it’s great. Don’t get a cheap one, you will get blisters!) cut up all of your apples and throw them into the biggest pot you have. I usually fill the pot about 1/4 full and add some fruit fresh first to keep them from going brown.

Fill up your pot…

I add water as I go; just enough to barely cover the apples.

Cook your apples on medium high heat until they are just fork tender. I try not to cook mine too much, we don’t want to cook all the good stuff out!

This is where my wonderful, handy, strainer comes in. Trust me… after putting 60 lbs of tomatoes through my SIL’s food mill I can tell you first hand this strainer is a God send!

This is what my set up looks like:

Hmm. That’s really small. You’ll have to click on it if you can’t read the words. Also, I’m reasonably confident that the correct term for what comes out of the strainer isn’t apple poop but that’s what we call it.

Now you just turn on your mixer and start pushing apples through! Technically you could strain them (DON’T get rid of the water though!!!) and start a new pot cooking but I just let mine sit in the water and scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Here’s what it looks like from my point of view.

There really isn’t much more to in than that. You push the apples through and they come out the other end as sauce.

For the most part I don’t add anything to my applesauce. Some people add cinnamon but I always add it after, when I am going to use it. I have added non-pasteurized honey a couple times when I was using tart apples but that’s all.

Notes:
-leave LOTS of headspace. More than you think you need. For quart jars I generally fill up to the bottom of my canning funnel and then lid them. Applesauce expands a lot during processing and it gets messy if you don’t leave enough headspace.
-I often run the ‘apple poop’ through the strainer a second time. It seems to really cut down on the waste and it really helps to thicken up the sauce.
-cooking your apples until they are just soft enough to go through the strainer yields a much thicker sauce than cooking them until they are mushy. Running the poop through also thickens up the sauce considerably.
-I didn’t do a canning tutorial, there are lots of good ones out there but make sure you are using hot jars and lids and processing them for long enough.

And last but not least:
That water you cooked the apples in? Save it!!! My kids love this. We don’t drink juice in our house at all so they think this is the biggest treat ever. You might need to add a little extra water between batches but the more batches of apples you cook in it the stronger it gets.

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Has it really been a month since I blogged? Yikes!
So since I did so much canning this year most of it is stored in boxes in my office and coat closet in the front entrance. I’m not going to go count all the jars mainly because there is just too much! I’m pretty sure I kept fairly accurate records in my home management binder and I’m going to keep track of when we run out of things so I know how much to do next year.
Here is what I’ve done since my last canning post:
Fruit:
Peaches (100 more lbs)  most of these got preserved in ultra light syrup. My kids LOVE them. Luke calls them ‘bapples’ and could easily eat half a quart in one sitting if I would let him. 
Pears: 50lbs (organic from apple man)
-20 lbs into pear sauce for the kids to have in porridge
-10 lbs in light syrup
-30 lbs  into pear/applesauce
Apples: (150lbs organic gala, mac, and Eckhart) This was all turned into applesauce. So far I have at least 30 quarts and I still have one box of apples to sauce.
Grapes: 6 lbs into jelly. I didn’t use those yucky wine tasting concord grapes. I used normal red grapes. *ahem*
Pickled:
Beans: 8 lbs into Pickled green beans. Yum! We all love these. I made more but I still don’t think it’s going to be enough to last us the entire year.
Asparagus: 4 lbs pickled asparagus. I did this fairly recently so I don’t know how it will taste. It looks great though! I’m glad I froze my extra dill when I was doing pickles.
Carrots: 30 lbs dilled pickled carrots. We all love these too. I have more frozen dill and I think I’ll probably be making more of these sometime soon if we keep going through them at this rate! There is a stall at our farmers market with carrots all year which will make it easier.
Cucumbers: 40 lbs
-20 into bread & butter pickles: YUM! I am not sharing these with anyone, my husband is lucky if I share them with him when a jar is open. I’ll probably make only these next year.
-20 into dill pickles. These are all right. We aren’t big dill pickle eaters here for some reason… Everyone definitely prefers the bread & butter pickles.
Tomatoes:
I have no idea how many tomatoes I have done. I forgot to count while I was doing them so I’ll keep a tally as we take them out to use them.
Zucchini salsa:  yum! Nathaniel loves this and I love cooking with it. It makes great salsa chicken!
I thought my canning was winding down for the year but I just found out that Nathaniel’s aunt who lives a couple blocks from us has TWO pressure canners and would be happy to let me borrow them… so I guess I’m not winding down afterall. 🙂 Now that I have a pressure canner at my disposable I’m planning on doing some tomato/spaghetti type sauce and definitely some chicken and beef stock.
I have really focused this year on canning things that I know will help reduce our grocery budget. We aren’t big jam eaters, both my kids and husband prefer honey so I didn’t do much jam (well except the 80 something pints my mom and I did… I have raspberry jam coming out of my ears!). 
Wow this is a long boring post. I don’t have time to put pictures in though sorry! I do have an applesauce post coming up though… I have learned a lot about it this year!

Yummy Zucchini Salsa (alternately titled: YEEOUCH!!!!!!!)

So remember the picture of the giant zucchini from last week? Well originally I had just wanted to get a zucchini to grate to freeze for baking but when the lady at the farmer’s market handed me that monster I knew I couldn’t freeze it all! I was brainstorming and searching my canning books when hubby offered a brilliant observation. He said “you know, when I was going to school one of the guys in my class brought a really yummy zucchini salsa one day.”

Zucchini salsa? I had never heard of such a thing but I definitely thought it was worth looking into. I found a recipe and it sounded pretty good so we decided to go for it. Since I doubled the recipe I had a had to find a really big non metal bowl to let it sit in overnight.  As a relatively anti plastic family we don’t have any large plastic bowls or buckets. After wandering around the house a little I found this:

It is my laundry room garbage can and it always has a bag in it so I took it and washed it off really well and filled it with zucchini, onion, peppers, and some jalapenos. I then proceeded to stir it with my hand.

Stupidest.thing.I’ve.ever.done.EVER.

Did you know that jalapenos can cause severe chemical burns? Neither did I. Until last night. I have never felt such intense pain, my entire hand was burning and nothing helped. I tried sour cream, milk, baking soda, burn cream, and ice. Nothing worked. I sent hubby to the drugstore this morning for a burn numbing spray but it didn’t work either!

I didn’t sleep the entire night. Ouch. It’s 24 hours later and I am finally getting some relief. Fortunately the salsa is really good.

2010 (so far) Canning recap…

This is more for my records than anything but here is a look into what I have canned so far this year:

 Salsa: 15x500mL jars. Bernardin. This is good. A little watery and plain for my taste, used jalapeno and anahiem peppers. Definitely could have left all seeds in jalapenos, left half in for hot and it’s not very hot.

Red Hot Sauce: 8x125mL jars. Bernardin. Used jalapeno and serrano peppers, seeded. Very tasty sauce but not even a little bit hot. Make again using hotter peppers.

Old Fashioned Tomato Ketchup. 8x1L jars & 3x500mL jars. Well Preserved. My sil did the lion’s share of the work on this one (It was the second day of my period and I was c.r.a.n.k.y so she kicked me out), we used (50lbs?) of tomatoes for this. It cooked down for like 6.5 hours. It’s really yummy but way too much work to do regularly.

Preserved in light syrup:

20lbs of nectarines. 10x1L jars. YUM! Nathaniel says they are the best canned fruit he has ever tasted. Light syrup (6cups water 2 cups sugar) is perfect. I left the skins on but they slip off very easily for the kids. Seriously. Yum. Do these next year.

30lbs of peaches. 13x1L jars. Also very yummy. The kids ate an entire jar after dinner the other night.


10lbs of plums. 5x1L jars. These ones not so much. They are a little bitter and probably could have used a medium or even a heavy syrup. I’ll use them for plum cake.

Plum Jam. 6lbs of plums made 8x500mL jars. Well preserved. This needs pectin. It’s too runny to be jam but it’s really good! Super easy and very yummy. One recipe makes around 3 500mL jars.

Peach Rum Sauce. Bernardin. We must have doubled this (?check with sil?). 10x250mL(?). This is super yummy. My dad and Nathaniel both raved about how good this was on ice cream. Make again.

Peach Salsa. Bernardin. 3 batches. 12x500mL jars. This is better than the tomato salsa. Way better. I was super skeptical as to how good this would be but WOW. After trying my sil’s first batch I was in love. This is going to become a staple around here I think.

Raspberry Jam. I think we made around 87 (seriously) 500mL jars of this. My mom and I used to do it with my Grannie so it was a little bittersweet but my uncles, Grandad, and Poppa all can’t exist with out this jam so we make it every year.

Picked Beets and Onions. 5x500mL jars & 1 250mL. Bernardin. I just did these tonight so I don’t know how they are but they were easy to do. My dad picked me a bunch of beets from his garden so I’m sure they will be yummy.

Spicy Pickled Green Beans. 9x500mL jars. Well preserved. I bought these cute little red peppers for the hot peppers for this recipe. Not knowing what kind of peppers they were or how hot they were I asked my poor dh to take a bite. Well he almost exploded and he has a high tolerance for spicy food! After drinking almost 2 liters of milk he advised me not to put too much of them in my pickles. So we only made two jars of spicy, the rest are just garlic/dill. These were also done tonight with fresh farmer’s market beans so we will see how they taste in a few weeks!

WOW! Not counting the jam that’s 103 jars! That is a lot of canning. No wonder I’m having a hard time finding somewhere to store it.