Monday, July 27, 2009

A flurry of canning

'Tis the season, I guess. Blueberries go on sale and I buy nine pounds. For what? Dunno. Cherries are 97 cents a pound, so I buy five pounds. What for? I dunno.

But what I did know was that all this fruit had to be processed PDQ. Look through canning and preserving cookbooks for ideas. Cherry chutney? Maybe. Blueberry bonanza, where you get two products from 12 cups of blueberries? Absolutely. Oh, and there are recipes for blueberry pie filling and cherry pie filling. I think we have our winners, folks!

Both pie filling recipes call for a thickener called ClearJel. Both books I'm looking at (USDA Guide to Canning, Ball's Complete Guide to Home Preserving) say that it isn't widely available. So why are you including a dozen recipes that require it? Turns out that ClearJel is a modified cornstarch that can take high heat and not thin out, like most thickeners will. Only good choice for preserving pie fillings. I send DH out to find it, not at any of the local grocery stores. Then he is a "Cash & Carry," store mostly used by people who run bars and restaurants for all things in bulk and many frozen foods and very large primal and sub-primal cuts of meat in vacuum bags. Well, C&C has it. In 25-lb bags for $40. Well, it's a cornstarch so it won't spoil...I do need several cups for the pie fillings...DH has a work associate whose mother does a lot of canning, maybe she'll welcome just buy it. Worry about storage in our little condo later.

The magic ingredient acquired, on to the pie filling. You make a batch of this stuff by mixing with sugar, then with water and bringing it to a boil. What you aren't told is that this stuff turns into something thicker and denser than library paste. Stirring it gets to be an adventure in arm strength. DH is stirring one pot, over the induction burner, for the cherries and I am wrestling with the larger batch for the blueberries. Finally it is ready for fruit to be folded in and go into quart jars. A couple quarts of each with two pints of cherry-blueberry mixed to use all of the filling mix.

And, the "Blueberry Bonanza." End products are blueberry syrup and blueberry butter. No, not dairy butter, but something more like apple butter in seasonings and consistency. Put berries and water into blender, turn into puree. Pour puree into fine chinoise, collect juice for syrup. Puree gets blended again to smooth, cooked with sugar and seasonings. Canned in 4-oz jelly jars. Those jars are so cute! Syrup gets cooked with sugar, lemon juice. Oops, I read recipe wrong and think I am cooking this to sheet stage. Only to "thickened" stage. Oh, well, my syrup will probably be blueberry jelly, and there's nothing wrong with that. You want syrup? Warm it up before you pour it on your waffle. No harm, no foul.

Today I plan to put the new pressure cooker through its paces doing raw-pack canning of chicken thighs. Dave will like that for chicken salad. I will like it for throwing into a sauce for instant dinner. Also like it because I got them for 99 cents/lb and they aren't southern-grown.

So off to bone out thighs and put on a pan for stock, which I will then use in the cans of chicken. During breaks I shall sit down and do a little crochet.

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