Showing posts with label jam sessions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jam sessions. Show all posts

Jam Sessions: Use your fruit scraps to make vodka!

06 August 2015

As I am sure you all know, I love to make jams and pickles and preserve pretty much anything I can get my hands on.  There is something truly amazing about taking the sweet, perfect flavors of the season and capturing them for whole year.

The only downside about using lots and lots of fruit is that occasionally I find myself with lots and lots of waste.  Compost is an option for those food scraps, but I have found an even better option for all of my scraps - infusing vodka!

No need to use whole fruit when making infused vodka.  The peels, hulls, pits, and seeds are perfect for infusions!

Here are a few examples:

Strawberries:  When you are hulling strawberries, there is a ton of flavor left in the stem and bits of fruit, so just cut off the tops and fill up a mason jar with those tops.  Fill with vodka.  Let sit for about 5 days and strain.  Perfect berry vodka!

Pineapple skins & pineapple core:  My very favorite kind of vodka at the moment!  Pineapples in particular have a ton of waste, so this is the perfect way to use it.  Infuse for about 1-2 weeks for a nice strong pineapple pop.

Peach skin: The easiest way to peel peaches for jam is to cut an X in the bottom, dip into boiling water for about 2 minutes and then hit them with an ice bath, the skin will rub right off.  After you've done this, there is still a lot of flavor left in the skins even they don't look so pretty, so toss them in with vodka for about a week and you will have a beautiful start to summer cocktails.

Apple peels:  These are perfect to infuse into whisky or burbon with a cinnamon stick for a perfect holiday gift.  Infuse for about 5 days.

Your possibilities are pretty endless and the cocktails will be flowing!

Jam Sessions: Ginger Blueberry Butter

12 August 2013

Late July & early August is blueberry season in the Pacific NW.  Fresh picked blueberries in the peek of season are heaven to me.  The simple pleasure of making blueberry muffins or just sitting on my patio and apologetically eating an entire pint of blueberries are a special part the joys of summer for me.

This year, I decided to try something a little different with my blueberry haul - blueberry butter.  It's something I've been curious about for awhile and I'm glad I finally tried it.  By taking pureed berries and cooking them for hours with ginger and sugar, it transforms the traditional blueberry experience.  Blueberry butter is a deep, rich sauce-like condiment that is a perfect accompaniment to cheeses or ice cream and also lends itself beautifully to meat marinades.  It is also really easy to make.

Ginger Blueberry Butter!

You will need:
5 cups washed blueberries (about 2 or 3 pints)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 cups of sugar
3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger*

Puree your berries in a blender or with an immersion blender.  Combine all ingredients in a crockpot and mix.  Cook on high for 6-12 hours, stirring occasionally and leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape.  The longer you cook your butter, the thicker it will become, so the cooking time is entirely based on your preference.
Once you have reached your desired consistency, you can ladle into hot, sterilized jars and process in a hot waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

*The spices that go into blueberry butter are entirely up to you.  I chose ginger to brighten the blueberry flavor and give it a bit of zing, but make what you like to eat.  By adding 1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon of cloves will transform your butter to that traditional beloved fall flavor similar to traditional apple butters.  You could also experiment with curry, pepper, cardamom, or anise to make something completely your own.

Jam Sessions: Pickling Basics : Spicy Pickled Asparagus!

29 July 2013

Let's talk about pickles, shall we?  Pickling is the act of perserving food using a high acid vinegar solution.  Pickling is really easy.  If you have never canned before, pickling is a great first project because it not very temperamental & it's pretty close to fool proof.  You can pickle just about anything your heart desires - fruit, veggies, eggs, shrimp...ALL THE THINGS!  Let's focus more on the simple veggies and fruit pickling today though!

Pickling requires 3 basic things:
1. Vegetable or fruit to pickle - cucumber, asparagus, cherries, etc
2. Pickling liquid - generally a mix of vinegar with water, perhaps also sugar
3. Seasoning - additives that pack the flavor, mostly herbs or garlic

There are a ton of variations on each one of these components, but you will generally find all of these parts in each pickle recipe.  There are two methods of pickling and each recipe varies on which one to use.  The first is the hot-pack method which involves heating food and putting it in the jar while hot - this menthod expels the air from the food and allows a tighter pack in the jar.  The other is the raw-pack method or cold-pack method which, as you may have guessed, involves not heating the food prior to packing it in the pickling liquid.

The process is pretty basic and the same no matter what you are picking:
1. Sterilize jars & prep your vegetables or fruits (clean & cut them to fit the jars and heat them if hot packing)
2. Put your seasonings in each jar
3. Add vegetables/fruit
4. Fill with hot pickling liquid
5. Process in hot waterbath

Once you have these steps down, you can pretty much pickle anything.  You could also even skip the last step and make refrigerator pickles.

Oh, one more note about pickling!  All vinegars are not created equally.  Each time of vinegar has a different acidity level (white vinegar is much more acidic than champagne vinegar for example), so always use the type called for in your recipe.

Got it?  Great! On with the recipe!

I love asparagus!  Spring and early summer are the perfect times to find these little spheres of deliciousness at your local farmers market or in the grocery store.  When you get tired of roasting or grilling them (but really, how could you get tired of that?), try making them into easy pickles!  I like a spicy pickle, but feel free to omit the pepper flakes if that is not your think.  The herbs added to a pickle can be customized safely.

Spicy Pickled Asparagus

Liquid ratio: 2 cups white vinegar to 1 cup water.
Depending on how many jars you are filling you will need more or less of this liquid mixture.

Per Jar:
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 sprig fresh dill (or 1/2 dill seeds)
1/4 tsp salt

1) Wash, snap and trim your asparagus to fit into the size of you jars (I'm using half-pints). Peal the garlic cloves and have them ready to go.

2) Sterilize your jars by dipping them in boiling water for about 5 minutes or use your dishwasher's

3) This recipe calls for raw packing, so snatch up your hot jars and put in all the spices, peppers and garlic at the bottom.  Next, pack them with the asparagus, pack as tightly as you can.

4) Once that is done add the liquid heated to just pre-boil, or boil in a large pot on stove (careful - that gas is not something you want to breath in!). Pour vinegar and water mixture over the asparagus leaving just about 1/2 inch head-space (meaning don't fill all the way up leave 1/2 inch).

5)Heat the right amount of lids in boiling water on the stove, when they are ready place them on the jars and screw on the rings. Process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

6) Remove from canner and place on a counter to let them cool.  Wait at least 2 weeks for the pickling juices to take effect and enjoy!

Jam Sessions : The Basics: Testing for Gel

29 June 2013

I hope you guys are not sick of this canning series yet because I am still really excited to be able to share it all with you and I have so many recipes and tips to share!  Earlier this week, I went through the process for making jam.   There is one thing I left out of that post because I thought it needed it's own post - it's called "testing for gel".  It's much easier than it sounds. Testing for gel is simply making sure your jam pectin has done it's job and made that "jammy texture".

Do you have to test for gel?
Nope, you can absolutely skip that step but you may end up kicking yourself if you do. The process is simple and it gives you a chance to make sure all your hard work is producing the kind of product you like and it also gives you a chance to fix it if it is not quite right. Once you scoop that jam into jars and give them a bath - it's over & the jam is what it is. Taking a moment to test for gel will just give you confidence that you are making a great batch of jam.

 Here's how you do it:
When you are starting your whole process and doing prep, take a metal teaspoon out of the drawer and put it down in some ice water (or throw it in the freezer - but if you put it in the freezer be sure to use a hot pad or something when taking it out! Cold metal + skin = ouch) and let it get nice and cold while you are working on your jam. After you have brought your jam to the second boil (the first boil is with fruit & pectin, then adding the sugar will require an additional "bring to a boil" phase) and all your ingredients are in, it is time for the gel test. Take that spoon and dip it in to get a little spoonful. Set that spoonful down for a minute or two and let it cool completely. Once it cools, you can turn it to the side to see how it flows off the spoon to eyeball the gel - but I like to just touch it. It's easier for me to feel the texture than see it. It should feel thick, but not too solid.

How to test for gel when canning.  Diagnostics to help fix your batch before you end up with runny jam.
This is pretty ideal for me. The texture holds together like a solid, but still has movement.

Now on to the diagnostics that come up when testing. There are 3 common things that you may discover in your gel test:

Jam stays very liquid and runny even though it is completely cool. This is probably the most common problem and the good news is that it is an easy one to fix! It means you were short on pectin, sugar, or did not let it get to a hard boil. Just add another half packet of pectin to your jam and bring to a hard boil for one more minute. The hard boil is important. Don't get nervous or over excited and just simmer for a minute, that just won't activate the pectin in the way you need to with jam.

It's stiff and feels like hard jello. If you jam is stiffer than you'd like then this could be a result of several things: your pectin to fruit ratio is off (check the recipe just to be sure); it's been overcooked (letting the second hard boil happen for just one minute rather than 10 really is important after all).  If this happens, there is not much you can do to repair the batch, but you should still save it - It will melt down nicely to make a lovely syrup topping for ice cream or a marinate for your chicken. All is not lost, you just need to get creative!

The jam is crunchy. The good news is that this is probably a really basic error, it's another overcooking issue, so next time you will keep a better eye on it, right? The bad news is, you can't really fix it. You took your sugar and brought it to the "hard ball stage" of sugar crystallization as most confectioners call's trying to become a hard candy.  I suppose the best you could do it go ahead and cook it fully to make some yummy crystal candy!  I've never really had this happen to me after 100+ batches of jam, so don't worry much about this!

It takes time to figure this part out. If you've never made jam before, it may take a bit of time to get this gel test down perfectly, but give it a shot!  You won't learn until you try.  And if you have questions, get in touch, I would be happy to do my best to answer them!

Jam Sessions : Basics : Let's Make Some Jam!

27 June 2013

We've talked about the canning lingo and we've talked the tools that you need to get started, so let's make some jam and get to canning, shall we?  It seems pretty fitting to start with some good old fashioned strawberry jam!

There are few things to me that are more simplicity beautiful than homemade strawberry jam.  It's soft sweetness brings me back to beautiful childhood memories.  Once you make your own strawberry jam, you will never want to buy grocery store jam again.

This recipe is my tried and true secret strawberry jam recipe.  I've been perfecting this recipe for almost a decade & it even won me a red ribbon when I entered it in the Oregon State Fair a few years ago!  It's really a simple take on an old fashioned recipe with just a few dashes of updating.

There are two parts to this process - making the jam and then the canning process. Both parts are simple and just require a few basic steps.  The wonderful thing is that once you get that second part down, that is what you need to be able to make any kind of jam, jelly, relish, or pickle your heart desires.  This may seem like a lot, but don't be intimidated!

Makes about 7 half pint jars

1 box of low sugar pectin
5 cups of  chopped strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries
4 cups of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 teaspoon salt (optional)

The key to making jam successfully & stress-free is preparation.  Once you get started, you need to work pretty quickly & the steps require a lot of attention, so getting prepared will help you tremendously.  The first preparation is your fruit.

Old fashioned strawberry jam!  A simple step by step guide.
Hull your berries and roughly chop.  Mush with a potato masher - just enough to break it all down, but still leaving some nice whole chunks of fruit in the mix.*  Measure it out and also measure your sugar and set aside.

Next, you want all of your supplies ready. You want everything you you need right at your fingertips before you start. Click here for the hardware guide to see what tools you need.

Heat your waterbath (aka large pot of water with your canning rack inside) over high heat, it will take a bit of time to get to full boil. As soon as it reaches a full boil, you want to put your empty jars in. They need to be in the hot waterbath for about 10 minutes or so to sterilize them. You will remove them as soon as it is time to can. You can also use your dishwasher if there's a sterilization and heat hold setting.

Mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1 box of pectin. Stir together with a fork.  I add the sugar to help keep the pectin from clumping.

Combine your berries, lemon juice, and pectin in a large pot. Add the balsamic & salt - these are both my secret ingredients to help round out the flavors just a bit and boost the natural strawberry flavor, but they aren't traditionally added, so feel free to skip them. Cook on high heat, stirring often.  Bring to a rolling boil. (this is rolling boil #1).

Once you have a nice boil, add all the sugar and stir well.  Keep on stirring.  This is the part where you do not want to take your eyes of your jam because it will be quick to burn.  Bring back to a rolling boil. (that is rolling boil #2).  Boil, stirring constantly, for one minute.

After one minute, your jam will start to thicken, but it will be a little hard to tell just what the final cool consistency will be since it is so hot.  At this point you want to test for gel to make sure it set to that perfect jammy texture.

Your jam will have a top layer that is foamy and lighter colored.  This is totally normal, just skim of this layer with a spoon and put it into tupperware.  The foam is delicious and perfectly safe to eat, it can just make your jam look a little unsightly and discolored if you leave it in, so skim and keep it in the fridge to enjoy first.

*I like to do this step the day before.  It is a big project to take on, so I think it is nice to have that taken care of in advance.  If you prepare the fruit in advance,  1/2 cup of sugar to the chopped berries & store in the fridge to allow it to macerate and really absorb some sugar and create lovely maceration.  It's not necessary, but it's a nice touch.

Congratulations!  You made jam!  You could stop here and just put your batch in the fridge and devour it within a few weeks, but what is the fun in that?  This is a canning lesson, so let's can it!

This is where the magic happens that lets your jam last in your cupboard for up to a whole year.  It's actually way easier than the jam part...just a few quick steps!  Once you have this basic canning process down, you can pretty much can anything!  The very same steps are used to can pickles, jelly, chutney, sauces, ect.  The difference will just come in the processing time, so be sure to just follow your recipe.

A simple step by step guide to home canning.

You already started sterilizing your jars while you were making jam, so they should be ready to pull from the water.  Do this right before you are ready to can because you want the jars to be nice and hot and freshly sterilized.

Once those jars are out, go ahead and ladle your hot jam into hot, sterilized jars.  You can use the jar funnel to make this easier and less messy.  Leave 1/4" headspace.

Wipe the top of the jars with a wet paper towel to remove any excess jam.  A messy top could make it difficult for the jars to seal.

Get your lids in a small pot of hot (not boiling) water for a few minutes.  This sterilizes your lids also helps to soften the rubber around the edges that will create the seal.  Pull the lids out of the boiling water using your magnetic lid lifter.  Place them on top of the jars.  Screw your bands around the top so that they are nice and tight (careful, the jars are hot, so an ovenmit or kitchen towel comes in handy to protect you hands).

Use your jar grabber to put your jars into the boiling waterbath.  Be sure they are covered with at least 2" of water.

Generally, you process jam for 5-15 minutes depending on your altitude.  If you at an altitude of lower than 1,000 feet above sea level - 5 minutes, 1,000-6,000 ft - 10 minutes, 6,000+ ft above sea level - 15 minutes.  The processing time is important because it is what creates the seal, but you don't want to over process because it will overcook the jam.  When in doubt, the extra five minutes won't hurt.

Remove your jars and let them sit on the counter at room temperature for at least 24 hours.  They will make some popping noises during this time, but that is ok!  The next day, check your jars for a seal.  If they are fully sealed, there will be no give to the jar lid.  If they did not seal, it will make a popping noise when you press down and you will feel the lid flex.  If this happens and they did not seal, that is ok too!  Just put that one in the fridge an eat it first.  It will stay in the fridge for about a month.

Once cooled, they are ready to store in your pantry for up to one year or to be given as lovely gifts!

Old fashioned strawberry jam!  A simple step by step guide.

See?  It's not so hard!  I hope you will give it a try in your own home and please don't hesitate to leave a comment and ask any questions you might have!  And don't forget, there is still a few more days to enter to win all the supplies you need to make jam at home!

Jam Sessions : Basics : Tools of the Trade

20 June 2013

Building on the canning dictionary I shared with you earlier this week, there are a few specific tools that you will probably need if you want to start canning.  Let's go through them, shall we?

A Guide to Canning Tools!
Canning Pot or Canner
 This is the tool that really makes the magic happen - it is used to sterilize the jars and also seal them....and it's really nothing more than a large pot. You can buy commercially sold canning pots, or you can just use any large, heavy duty soup pot in your kitchen. They key is just the addition of the canning rack.

Canning Rack
A shallow (usually metal) rack that elevates the jars slightly off the bottom of the canning pot. The rack keeps the jars from being in direct contact with the heat of the stove and also allows the water to circulate and ensure that it is able to evenly come in contact with all facets of the jars. You can use a rack specifically designed for canning or you can also use a round cake cooling rack that fits in your pot - both do the job!

Pressure Canner
The pressure canner is a special pot that applies pressure during the cooking process & allow the water to reach higher temperatures as a result.  Pressure canners are only necessary if you are planning to can low acid foods. 

Lid Lifter
Lids must be submerged in hot boiling water before they can be used. This process sanitizes them and also helps to soften the rubber for a better seal. This tool is designed in order to remove the lids from the boil. It is not 100% necessary, but it is helpful. It is basically a magnet on the end of a stick.  I happen to have some neat geometric magnets on my fridge that keep my fingers safe and work just as well.

Jar Funnel
A funnel with a wide a opening perfect for the opening of a mason jar. This funnel will basically help you make less of a mess. It's not necessary to use a funnel, you can also just ladle directly into jars, but you'll find there is more clean up to do on the jars before they can be sealed.

Jar Lifter/Grabber
This specially designed tool is essentially a pair of tongs with a circular grasp to pick up mason jars. It's nessisary to safely be able to remove the jars from the boiling water.

And of course there are the beloved mason jars!  Perfect for sprucing up your decor, storing spices, turning into adorable lamps, but of course for canning food!  There are lots of options for jars, so let's talk about that.

There are 3 parts of a mason jar...

Anatomy of a mason jar

Jar: The glass part. Jars are reusable as long as they have no chips or cracks in them, so it's important to inspect them before using.

Lid: The metal circle that fits on the top. Lids have a rubber band that fuses to the glass of the jar and that is what creates your seal. You should not reuse lids and replacement packages are available just about everywhere canning products are sold.

Band: The metal ring that screws around the top of the jar and holds the lid in place. Bands are reusable, but should be cleaned well after use.

There are a multitude of size options to choose from...

Common mason jar sizes

Generally, the size you use is entirely up to you.  I tend to primarily use half-pints or quarter pints for almost all of my projects, but if you have a big family you may find yourself wanting to package your goods in a larger jar.  Half gallon jars are also available and I love to have one or two around for making lemonade  but they are pretty bulking to use for my personal canning projects.

There are two sizes for the lids: regular or wide-mouth.
Wide mouth jars vs regular mouth jars

Obviously wide-mouth jars just have a larger opening at the top.  There is no special science here as to wide-mouth vs regular - it's a matter of personal preference as to which you use, but just remember that if you pick wide-mouth jars, you need to pick wide-mouth lids to match.  I pretty much exclusively use regular mouth jars and it makes it easier for me to be sure that I always have the right lids and bands on hand.

The last thing I want to talk about is pectin
Everything you need to know about pectin for home canning!

It's not really hardware, but it is a really important part of canning if you plan to make jams or jellies and it is something that not everyone is familiar with.  Pectin is a natural gelling agent that is derived from fruits like apples or citrus fruits.  Pectin is the unsung hero of jam and jelly's the ingredient that really makes the magic happen.  You don't need pectin to make jam, but almost all modern jam recipes use pectin and for good reason.  Pectin allows jams to gel with less sugar being added and with significantly less cooking time.  It's a beautiful thing.

Comercial pectin is slightly sweet and doesn't have much of a flavor to it.  You can find pectin at your local grocery store usually in the baking isle with the other canning supplies.  

There are a few different types of pectin, but they all work pretty much the same way:

Powder: The most common state of pectin.  Sold in a small box or in a larger jar.
Liquid: Liquid pectin is basically powdered pectin that has already been disolved.  It is a bit messier and harder to work with in my opinion, but some people swear by it.
Lite or Low-Sugar: Pectin that cuts the typical jam recipe's sugar content down by about 40% vs regular pectin.  It makes the jam a bit better for you, but I also really appreciate the resulting flavor with the low sugar recipes -it's less in your face sweetness and allows the fruit flavor to shine through a bit more.
Freezer Jam Pectin: This is a product designed specifically for making freezer jam and no cooking is necessary to create a gel.  My understanding though is that this pectin can create runny jam more often than not. This product is not intended for traditional canning.  You can use regular pectin for freezer jam, but you can't use this freezer jam pectin for traditional hot water bath canning and it has a bad reputation for not working as, you want my advice? Skip it - use regular pectin and cook your jam even if you plan to freeze it.

That's all for today!  Stay tuned tomorrow for your chance to win some of these awesome tools!

Questions?  Something I didn't cover?  Please don't hesitate to leave me a comment below!

Jam Sessions : Basics : Termonology

18 June 2013

I have been canning for about 10 years.  When I started, it was just once a year - I would pick strawberries and make one big batch of jam and can it.  This was the recipe and the process that brought be back to childhood...back to the kitchen with my mother and grandmother hoisting me up over the stove to stir the thick pot of strawberry jam as the intoxicating sweet smell filled the room.   When I made jam, it made me feel so connected to that memory and to them.

After awhile. I started to realize that there were so many more things that I could do with that big beautiful canning pot.  I started to experiment with other recipes and I started to find all kinds of new inspiration at the local farmers market.  Canning started to become more than just a connection to a memory, but a connection to food and a connection to eating seasonally.   In recent years, as the popularity of canning has risen, it has also given me a community of wonderful and inspiring people that share my love.  I really want to add you to that community and that is why I am doing this series on my blog.

People tell me often that canning is just too intimidating to try. I know it does seem like a lot of information at first. Remember that it's just like any other new craft or multi-step recipe you've done before - there are just some new terms, techniques and steps that you need to learn, but once you get those down your possibilities become limitless! Over the next few weeks, I will share the basics of canning with you - the terms, the hardware, the process, and the troubleshooting...and of course the amazing recipes you can make!   I really hope that you will get inspired and give it a try!

Let's start with some bare bones basics, shall we?  There are quite a few words that will often come up in any canning recipe and the first step is being able to decode those words.  To help, I created a small dictionary of canning lingo that you might come across.  I also included a handy guide to help show you the common different types of canned goods.  The intent here is not to encourage you to memorize all these words, but rather to give you a point of reference when you need it.

A combination of vegetables and/or fruits, spices and vinegar cooked for a long period of time to develop favorable flavor and texture. Usually with a sweet-sour flavor.

A soft spread similar to jam, that is made with at least 2 kinds of fruit in addition to nuts or raisins.

A spread made by crushing or chopping whole fruits. Jams are thicker than jellies and tend to contain chunks of fruits.

A spread made with only fruit juice rather then the whole fruit to form a smooth gel consistency.

A spread that contains pieces of citrus fruit and peel evenly suspended in transparent jelly.

A perserved fruit or vegetable (usually a cucumber) in a vinegar or brine solution

A spread in which fruit is cooked with sugar to the point where large chunks of fruit or whole fruit (usually berries) are suspended in a syrup base. The texture of preserves is not as smooth as jelly or jam.

A pickled product prepared using chopped fruits and/or vegetables cooked in a seasoned vinegar solution.

fruit butter
A soft spread made by slowly cooking fruit pulp and sugar to a consistency thick enough to mound on a spoon and spread easily. Spices may be added.

fruit curd
A creamy spread made with sugar, eggs and butter, generally flavored with citrus juice and zest. Curds are often not safe for waterbath canning because of their dairy content, so be sure to use a recipe specifically designed to be canned.

citric acid
A powder made from natural acid derived from citrus fruits. Citric acid is often used in recipes to increase the natural acid in the recipe in order to make it safe for canning. Lemon juice or lime juice may also be used for the same function, but each have their own PH level.

A reaction caused by intentional growth of yeast, bacteria, or mold in which natural sugars are turned into lactic acid. Examples of fermented canned foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, and some pickles. Fermentation can also

The degree to which screw bands are properly applied to fresh preserving jars. Use your fingers to screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight. Do not use a utensil or the full force of your hand to over-tighten bands.

full rolling boil
A rapid boil. A boil that can not be stirred down. This boil generally occurs at about 220°F (104°C). This stage is essential for attaining a gel when making jams & jellies

The unfilled space in the canning jar between the top of the food and the lid. Each recipe will specify the amount of headspace needed. This headspace is needed to allow for expansion when the jars are heated and also to form a strong seal once the jars are cool.

hermetic seal
An absolutely airtight container seal which prevents reentry of air or microorganisms into packaged foods.

high-acid food
A food with a pH level of 4.6 or lower. Most tomatoes & fruits (except figs, Asian pears, melons, bananas, dates, papaya, ripe pineapple, persimmons) are naturally high in acid. Citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar can sometimes be included in a recipe to help raise the acidity. Fermentation can also add acidity. Only high acid foods are safe for waterbath canning.

low-acid food
A food with a pH level higher than 4.6. Vegetables, meat, & seafood are all low acid foods. These are foods that are easier for bacterica to thrive in and need to be processed in a pressure canner to safely perserve them.

A natural gelling agent that is derived from fruits like apples or citrus fruits. Pectin can be purchased as a powder that is added to softer fruits like strawberries to create a thick jam or jelly. Pectin is available in several varieties including low-sugar or liqud (more on that in the next post!)

pressure canning
The use of a pressure canner to heat-process low acid foods. The pressurized steam inside the canner allows the food to reach higher temperatures and thus can kill the harmful bacteria that can be housed the the low-acid food. Pressure canned food also must be processed for the specified amount of time on the recipe.

processing time
The time in which the filled jars need to remain in the waterbath or pressure canner. The processing time is specified in most recipes and can have variances depending on your altitude. The amount of processing time depends on many factors including the acidity level, size of jar, and type of food. The process time allows every bit of the jar to be heated to the sufficient temperature.

Repeating the heat processing of filled, capped jars when a lid does not seal within 24 hours. The original lid must be removed and the food and/or liquid reheated as recommended by the recipe. The food and/or liquid must be packed into clean, hot jars and covered with a new, clean lid with the screw band adjusted. The filled jars must then be reprocessed using the preserving method and full length of processing time recommended by the recipe.

The evidence that a food product has not been completely rid of microorganisms. If microorganisms are present, the nutrients in the food product will allow them to grow and multiply. Spoilage occurs when food products have not been processed correctly. Signs of spoilage include broken seals, mold, gassiness, cloudiness, spurting liquid, seepage, yeast growth, fermentation, slime and disagreeable odors.

The process of killing bacteria. Achieved by heating empty jars to a high temperature prior to filling them & then heating them again once full.

waterbath method / boiling water method
The simplest method to preserve high-acid foods. Using a waterbath canner, water is heated to at least 212°F (100°C) to destroy molds, yeasts, and bacteria & also to seal the jar lids. The jars must be kept in the canner and covered by at least 2" of water for the specified processing time in the recipe. You should not use this method for low acid foods

This list is of course very incomplete, there are limitless possibilities when canning.  This is really just the beginning, so stay tuned for more canning basics, recipes, and even a giveaway!!
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