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Archive for the ‘Whole Fruit’ Category

I preserved pears with their peels still on last summer:

This was a first for me and the time savings were delightful.  It was so quick to peel, quarter and core and meant that fruit could be preserved while I made dinner.  I also knew there was a potential downside.  All of the reading told me that the skins would get chewy and be tough.  I promised myself I’d get back to you once we opened some jars and saw what the final result was.

We’re just starting to get to some of our fruit (peaches and pear hit our table for the first time in the last two weeks and it’s been thrilling).  The verdict?  I actually think I like them better with the skin on!  That’s right – it’s less work and I like the results better!  Te skins add texture that is fantastic when eaten whole and would be easy to separate if I wanted to make a salad dressing or glaze.  The same can be said for our peaches.

If preserving fruit with its peel on, I highly advise going organic (generally a best practice in general but even more so if preserving with it).

I expect to preserve a lot more skin-on fruit in the future; the results rock.

What do you think of preserving with the peels in tact?

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That was how these went:

Sometimes preserving just won’t do what you want it to.  And, for me, that generally happens with peaches.

Yep, peaches.

They seem innocent enough.  They practically taunt you with their cuteness and call to you with their sweet demeanor.  And some of them are just that sweet – but others are demons in disguise.  And that’s the problem with peaches – you can’t tell the nice ones from the troublemakers.

And of course, there is the matter of my own daftness (that’s also a word today).  After all, I peeled my first 85 pints with a knife.  I had no idea that you could ‘simply’ boil them for a few seconds and then they’d shed their coats like a butterfly sheds it’s cocoon and instantly becomes an object of beauty.

Now I know there are some people reading this and yelling, ‘LIAR!’  And they’re right.  Sometimes a peach just won’t peel.  That was my humbling lesson this year.  Albeit, I did make some mistakes when I tried to peel them:

  • The water wasn’t quite hot enough
  • I put too many in at once (lowering the water temperature further)
  • The peaches were tight and thin-skinned
  • The peaches weren’t super-ripe.
  • I didn’t buy freestones

So I basically cooked the first quarter-inch, was left with most of the skin and swore a little.  And not the really bad words, but enough that the peaches knew I meant business.  I quickly came to terms with the importance of preserving being fun and committed to finding the silver lining (after all, this was nowhere near the crime scene that was nearly created when we peeled 6.5 pounds of garlic).

Two weeks later I read the following tweet from one of my Favourite Chef’s, Kyle Demming (of the soon-to-open Sausage Partners):

Preserves are about making your winter tolerable not your summer miserable, so no, I don’t peel my peaches…
Our friend Laura of Cubit’s Organics experienced similar pain when she attacked an entire bushel of these things.  Luckily she made a lovely peach lemonade alternative to ease the pain.
But the question remains – what to do when a batch just isn’t working?  Generically my advice is simple – stay calm, adapt your plan and carry on.  I wanted to make lovely perfect peach halves with a dimple where the pit was once delicately nestled.  Instead I ended up with rustic peach chunks complimented with a rough divot that looked like something a golf club would leave behind on freshly laid sod.  The pit was roughly cut out with entire pieces of peach flesh clinging to them (we used that for a recipe that will follow tomorrow) and canned the chunks with most of the skin on.  I tell myself this will add texture or easily be eaten around when it comes time to pop the jars of ‘Smashed Peaches”:
Ingredients
  1. 6 pounds of peaches – this will make 4-5 pints.
  2. We can them in a light syrup (20% sugar mixture by weight).  If using volume, dissolve 3 cups of water with 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Optional: 1 tablespoon of brandy per jar.
Directions
  1. Obliterate your peaches using any means necessary.  Tear them, rip them, chunk them, cut them – bite in to them if you have to (errr…maybe not the last one).  Have some fun and forget about being perfect like Martha – pretend, instead, that you’re the Rambo of the kitchen.  Don’t take any lip from them peaches.
  2. If you’re not fast, they will brown.  Add some lemon juice and toss as you go to help control the browning.
  3. Bring simple syrup to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Gently boil fruit slices for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add peaches into hot, sterile cans.
  6. Optional: pour a tablespoon of brandy into the jar.
  7. Pour hot syrup into jar (use care).  Gently jiggle to remove air bubbles and repeat until there is a half inch of headspace remaining.
  8. Gently jiggle the jar (wearing oven mitts) to free any bubbles to the surface – leave a half inch of headspace.
  9. Process for 20 minutes in a hot water bath.

If you struggle with having fruit and vegetables float when canning, check out our article on “seat belting” which can be used with peaches to keep them buckled in!

We`ve shared a lot about eaches in the past, here`s a few other and ideas:

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Preserving slices of pears are an easy way to learn the basics of preserving larger pieces of fruit.  They don’t require peeling (although many will argue that this will make them more tender), are easy to core and the process is simple.

Like most fruit, pears can be preserved in water or other fruit juice.  I prefer to preserve them in a light syrup which slightly extends their shelf life, keeps them sweet and meets my personal preference.  The addition of whisky (and how lucky were we to find one from Toronto?) is purely optional although the pears really do like to indulge in a little tipple.

ingredients

  • Pears – cleaned and quartered, core removed.  If you’re worried about them browning, toss the cut pieces in a bit of lemon juice (I tend to work fast and skip the lemon).  6 pounds will make about 5 pints.
  • Light Syrup (dissolve 3/4 cups of sugar in 6.5 cups of water – or 10% by weight).  This will make enough for approximately 9 pints of pears; I tend to make a bit extra in case I’ve measured my pears wrong.
  • 1 tablespoon of whisky per jar (this will be added at the end so none will be wasted)

Instructions

  1. Bring simple syrup to a boil.
  2. Carefully place pear slices in the boiling solution.  Wait 5 minutes.
  3. While still hot, add pears to clean, sterile pint jars.  Top with syrup and gently move jar to release any air bubbles (I use oven mitts).
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of Whisky per jar.
  5. Add liquid to leave a 1/2 inch headspace.
  6. Process pints for 20 minutes in a hot-water bath.

Next year I’m going to try this same recipe with a few cloves tossed in and see how that goes.

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Allow me to start by giving credit to Canning for a New Generation (Liana Krissoff) for inspiring this recipe.  It’s a wonderful read and does deliver on its promise – it’s a lovely guide and great accompaniment to the modern pantry.  I have taken her initial recipe and turned it my own direction and changed the cooking technique considerably.

I should also discuss the source of my figs.  Figs are a relatively new crop to Ontario (check out this amazing article on growing figs in Ontario in Edible Toronto from 2009) and can be difficult to come by.  More than 90% of our preserving is done from Ontario crops; this one was an exception.  Because of the use of lemons as a key component, there was an obvious departure from local so I opted for a foreign fruit.

Lastly, let me warn you about cooking times.  There’s a lot going on in the slow-roasting process – lemon, sugar, fruit, natural sugars in the fruit and heat can build up.  The first attempt I had at this recipe ended up in a lump of burnt fig-like caramel that I stubbornly jammed in a jar and let cool.  It took the entire weekend to remove the block of coal-like fig remnants.  I figure I missed the turning point by 10-15 minutes so keep an eye on these as they cook.

The main use for these lovelies is for cheese plates.  I can’t wait to nosh them back with some cheese-to-be-named-later.  I may just pair them with some honey and some of these (one of my favorite discoveries last winter).  The figs are cut in large halves and gently slow-roasted to bring out their sweetness.  A small bit of sugar is added to cinnamon and lemons before a last-minute addition of Grand Marnier to bring it all together.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons, sliced thinly and seeds removed
  • 3 pounds of figs (we used green ones).  Gently clean them and remove any stem with a pairing knife.
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 4 sticks of cinnamon (more or less as you like)
  • 0.5 cup Grand Marnier (Orange liqueur – oranges and Figs are a natural combination).

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Slice figs in half.
  3. Place a layer of lemons at the bottom of a dutch oven (recommended but not critical).
  4. Place a half-fig on top of each slice of lemon (cut side down).  Don’t worry about being too perfect.
  5. Place cinnamon sticks in first layer – closer to the lemons, the better.
  6. Put multiple layers of lemon and figs as needed and until complete.
  7. Pout 1 cup of water gently into the pan (this will help prevent sticking and get the natural juices flowing.
  8. Disperse sugar through pot.
  9. Place uncovered pot in oven, making sure to place the lid on another rack or beside the pot. 
  10. After 30 minutes, add the lid on top of pot (use care, it will be hot) or cover with tin foil.
  11. Cook until everything has come together – there will be a lot more syrup formed and the lemons will become almost see-through.  This takes about 3 hours.  Prepare your canning supplies (jars, lids, waterbath) to coincide with completion.  If you don’t time it perfectly, things will stay very hot in your covered pot (but try to time it as close as possible).
  12. Add the Grand Marnier to the hot pot as stir.
  13. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars.  Watch for the cinnamon sticks and try to divide them equally between jars.
  14. Process 10 minutes in a hot-water bath.

This recipe should yield 4-5 half pint jars:

 Now that’s some urban jam!

What else do you make with figs – and what do you eat with it?

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My tastes seem to be changing as I get older.  I still love ultra-spicy things but my entire palate around preserving is becoming far more simple, especially with fruit.  I`m hedging more and more to the simple techniques used by generations long past with as little sugar as possible.

I was excited to see that peaches were our target for the Tigress Can Jam this month – they are one of my annual favourites.

Peaches are generally acidic enough to get away to can in a light simple syrup or even water (reference here).  This years were canned with water and a tablespoon of Maderia (a Spanish fortified wine).  We actually used the water we boiled to peel the peaches as it was already heavily flavoured with the sweetness of the summer harvest.

Here`s how to do it:

  1. Start by peeling peaches.  The quantity is up to you but know that it takes about 2.5 pounds to fill a quart jar.
  2. Cut them in to slices (freestone peaches are best for this as the pits are happy to release the flesh of the fruit).
  3. Pack them (cold) in hot, sterilized jars.
  4. Pour 1 tablespoon Maderia (you can use less or omit if you`d like).
  5. Top with boiling water, leaving half-inch headspace.
  6. Remove excess air, add more boiling water if needed.
  7. Place lids, tighten, and hot water bath. A quart needs 30 minutes, a pint needs 25.

This photo was inspired by the scary start of Autumn (peaches are about the least-scary thing in the world and I thought their branding could use a little toughening up):

Yay for peaches – scary or not!

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preserving cherries, how to preserve cherries, preserving summer

Nothing says love like cherries.  Nothing.

I lived in a kind-of commune (in so much as 2 friends rent a house and a bunch of other friends just keep moving in if you`re not looking kind of way) in Kelowna, B.C. many years ago.  I spent the winter there between three seasons of backpacking Canada (appropriate to mention this on Canada day I do suppose).  27,720+ kilometers on the Greyhound bus by myself.  It was a fantastic year.

I left Kelowna to get back on the road in mid-spring of the mid-nineties.  It was tough to leave a new home filled with new friends (and some old ones) and I remember it being especially difficult to leave the cherry tree behind.  The tree was a place of peace that I, as one of the working people of the house, got to relax in early mornings and I fondly remember picking cherries from the tree and eating them until my belly hurt before pulling on a wrinkled shirt and stained tie and heading to a shopping mall to sell art.  It`s far less romantic and far more square than it all may sound but I really do miss that cherry tree.

I really do adore cherries.  Their wonderful texture, sweet burst of flavour and summer goodness.  They are right up on top of my list of favourite whole foods which is a fairly special club (usually with access limited to cherries and tomatoes – and cherry tomatoes).

My original love for preserved cherries was indeed tainted as I grew up in the church of the holy maraschino (ironically ketchup, also a relatively bastardized tomato by-product is also an all-time fave).  I was the kid who dug through the can of fruit salad to find that glowing orb of `goodness.` My days of store-bought fruit salad are largely behind but I will openly admit I`d still dive through the can for the candy goodness of such a cherry.

When it comes to home preserving, we typically pit cherries, surround them in a liquid and put them in a boiling water bath.  As with most fruit, cherries are considered high acid which means they can be safely water bathed for preserving.

The pitting part is, well, the pits.  I highly recommend the $4 investment in a pitter though a dear friend does all of hers with a pairing knife.  I far prefer the pitted product for a variety of reasons including ease of eating, placing in beverages and the fact that more fit in a jar without the pits (they are squishier after all).

If you decide that pitting is too much work, you can preserve the cherries with pits in tact but need to check each cherry by piercing with a pin (through the entire fruit to allow your brine to penetrate).

We heat the liquid, sugar and cherries to boiling, add to jars and seal before placing in a hot water bath for 15 minutes (for a pint).

In regards to liquids, I recommend two paths.  The first is to create a simple syrup (30% sugar dissolved into 70% water).  Some people also use grape juice, apple juice or more sugar – the National Center for Home Food Preservation has some great tips.

Our second option is to use alcohol.  High octane works best – last year we used 195 proof grain alcohol which essentially killed anything in the jar and topped it off with a touch of simple syrup.  Most use anything about 80 proof (40% abv) and combine it with simple syrup.  There are plenty of tested recipes out there (I’d be stealing one to post it here so I’ll recommend you visit my good friend Dr. Google or a trusted cook book).

I can’t emphasize the following enough: when preserving whole fruit you can easily experiment with 2 or 3 different liquids in the same batch and really diversify your pantry in a hurry.

Our boozy sour cherries from last year are a very adult prize hidden at the bottom of a beverage.  Our sweet cherries in simple syrup make a lovely desert and the combination of the two is greater than the sum of its parts.

This is part of our Preserving Summer series (click the link for access to all of the articles to date)  that supports our recent article in Edible Toronto.  We welcome any and all questions, comments and your ideas!

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I grew up with the understanding that Mason jars were things you filled with jam, beets or mustard pickles.

My parents started making tomato sauce when I was in high school and expanded their canning over the last 10 years to include many different ingredients and approaches.

I was talking with my Father when he shared stories of his mother preserving whole fruit (or slices) in little more than sugar-water.  Peaches, apricots, plums, strawberries and more.  It instantly got my curiousity going and I had to learn more.  We`ve been preserving whole fruit and berries for a few years now and these are often our favourite jars of the year.  Leftover syrup can be used in beverages, ice cream, baking, iced tea while your fruit or berries can be eaten whole, served as desert, baked with, added to yogurt and lots of other options.

Fruit (and berries) are consider high-acid (most have a pH under 4) which means they will preserve without the need for additional acid.  This acidity and their natural occurring sugar makes them awesome to preserve with as little else in the jar as possible.  Jarring chunks of whole fruit or berries in a simple syrup like this are traditionally known as a `preserves`.

The basics of this technique are simple:

  1. Mix raw fruit with sugar and let it rest for up to 24 hours in your fridge.  This is known as steeping.
  2. Cook the fruit to the jell point – place in jars or return to the fridge overnight.  This is known as plumping and will help stop your fruit from floating in the jars (I also believe it makes for fuller jars but that`s simply my perception and is probably tied to the lack of floating created by this technique).
  3. Return the fruit to a boil before canning and processing in a hot water bath.  Don`t be afraid to really force your berries tightly into a jar – you`ll br amazed at how much space is created as they further soften in the hot water bath.

If you were to preserve strawberries like this, you would mix 2 pounds of strawberries with 3 cups of sugar and a quarter-cup lemon juice.  You could crush the berries if you wanted to – or leave them whole.

I`m a really big fan of making complementary jars which can be mixed and matched into something even better than it`s individual parts.  Open a jar of whole berries preserved like this, strain out the juices (save for other uses) and add the whole berries to a jar of jam (or preserved rhubarb) for the chunkier and most berry-liscious spread you can have.

As you lower your sugar in the jar you typically also lower shelf-life though I have found that our whole berries have at least a year of fabulous flavour.  To find more recipes for preserves, simply look for the name of a fruit followed by the word `preserves` (i.e. quince preserves, strawberry preserves, gooseberry preserves, etc).

We will discuss other options – including using apple juice, grape juice and alternate sweeteners later in the week.

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