It seems that we speak to people making fruit spreads all summer long. It starts when rhubarb and strawberries are ripe and continues into the fall. The terminology of fruit spreads can be confusing so here is a simple explanation of the variety of products that can be made from fruit.
Jelly—possibly the most popular product for home food preservation. Jelly is made from fruit juice, sugar, and pectin. Jelly is somewhat clear and translucent with a bright color. The sugar in jelly is what preserves it, thus it is an important ingredient. Jelly should form a thick enough jel to “jiggle” when shaken, yet tender enough jel to spread on bread or toast.
Jam –probably the second most popular product for our callers. Jam is a thick, sweet spread made with the whole fruit. Often the fruit is chopped or crushed. Jam will be spreadable but somewhat thicker than jelly.
Preserves—these are made from whole fruit or chopped pieces of fruit. The fruit is plump and tender surrounded by somewhat thickened, clear syrup.
Conserves—have a consistency more like a jam and often include nuts and dried fruits along with the fresh fruit.
Marmalades—are soft jellies that contain bits or pieces of fruit and fruit peels. Often they are made of citrus fruits.
It’s time to think about harvesting vegetables as the gardening season winds down. After you have spent hours choosing seed, planting, weeding, and watering your garden it only makes sense to store the vegetables carefully. You have many options for storing vegetables. Canning, freezing and drying are not your only choices. Many vegetables benefit from moist storage in a cool, dark area. If you are fortunate enough to have basement storage that can be heated without being overheated, you can build shelves and bins for vegetables. A small room that can be insulated from the rest of the basement with shelves and separate ventilation works even better. Plans for such a room are available.
Roasted vegetables are one of my favorite foods. This time of year it is really easy to roast vegetables on the grill. Any vegetable fresh from the garden is enhanced by this slow cooking method that caramelizes the natural sugars present. Vegetables can be roasted in the oven any time the grill is not a convenient option. Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website has a great recipe for oven roasted vegetables.
Vegetables can be roasted individually–think fresh roasted asparagus stalks, or in a combination–think potatoes, onions, carrots and mushrooms. Remember to cut the vegetables in uniform sized pieces so that all the vegetables will cook evenly.
Roasting vegetables can be done on the grill or in the oven. They are a special treat especially this time of year when the vegetables are coming fresh out of your garden! The best roasted vegetables are soft and tender, browned and caramelized and full of flavor. It is easy to roast the vegetables, but there are some tricks to making them come out delicious. These tips are adapted from How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson.
Preheat the oven. Set the oven anywhere between 350°F to 450°F. The lower temperature will take longer to roast the vegetables.
Cut the vegetables into even sized pieces. If you have smaller vegetables they can be roasted whole as long as they are similar in size to the other vegetables.
Toss with oil. Oil will help the vegetables brown so toss them with 1-2 Tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil. It will also help to hold the spices or seasonings that you add.
Don’t crowd the vegetables. The less the vegetables touch each other the more surface area on them will brown.
Add a small amount of salt before you roast. Many restaurants add salt at the beginning of the roasting process and also at the end.
Use the top third of your oven. This will help them to brown the best.
Shake or turn the vegetables. In order for the vegetables to brown evenly move them around by using a spatula or shaking the pan, after they start turning brown.
Roast them thoroughly. Your goal is to have the vegetables both brown and tender. If they start to get too dark, cover with foil until they are tender and take the foil off for the final 5 minutes. If they are tender but not as brown as you want move the pan to the upper part of the oven.
Finish the vegetables. Add a final drizzle of olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt to finish off the vegetables. You could also add fresh pepper, lemon juice, minced herbs (parsley, thyme).
Serve the vegetables warm. Any vegetables left should be cooled in a single layer so they don’t get soggy.
With these tips you will be offering your family and friends delicious roasted vegetables from home!
There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to pick, prepare, and can something and open the canner to find broken jars and wasted food. Here are the top 12 reasons your jar might break inside the canner.
Using old jars. Antique canning jars are attractive but perhaps not the best choice for a product that is very labor intensive to prepare.
Nicks or small cracks in the jar. Always check for small nicks or hairline cracks before filling jars.
Not releasing trapped air bubbles inside the jar.
Using metal utensils to release trapped air—this can cause scratches or weak spots inside the jar.
Fluctuating pressure inside a pressure canner. Watch the gauge or listen to the “jiggle” of the weight to maintain a constant pressure.
Reducing pressure too quickly. Resist the impulse to run cold water over the pressure canner after the processing time is up. That is a quick and easy way to destroy all your hard work.
Placing hot jars into a canner of cold water.
Forgetting to add water to the pressure canner.
Forgetting to put the rack into the bottom of the canner. Jars bouncing around during processing are at a high risk of breaking.
Setting your hot, already processed jars into a draft to cool.
Screwing the bands onto the jars too tightly. Remember, finger-tight only.
Following canning directions carefully will help you avoid jar breakage.
There is nothing better than a fresh, homemade pie. Fresh fruit is so abundant this time of year; it is nice to preserve that fresh flavor. It is easier than you think to freeze a pie and enjoy it later.
Directions for freezing a two crust pie:
Make your favorite pie recipe as usual but remember to add an extra tablespoon of flour or tapioca. If you use corn starch as a thickener, add an extra half tablespoon. This will prevent boil over while the pie is baking.
Do not cut vent holes in the top crust. You will do that at the time you bake the pie.
Freeze your completed pie in the pan. Package it for the freezer.
An unbaked pie will have more of a fresh-fruit flavor than a frozen, already baked pie. If you are using a very juicy fruit, you may want to cook, thicken and chill the filling before filling the pie crust.
Directions for baking your frozen pie:
Cut some vent holes in the top crust of the still frozen pie.
Place pie onto a cookie sheet.
Bake without thawing at 450° for 15-20 minutes.
Reduce temperature to 375° and bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until the top crust has browned.
I’m beginning to harvest some of the peppers growing in my garden. Now is a great time to make some pepper jelly. It is really important to follow the directions in a tested recipe as the ingredients in this recipe are lower in acid than other jellies made of fruit. My family really enjoys taking a jar of this jelly and pouring it over a brick of cream cheese. This makes a really easy appetizer when served with crackers. It also goes well with roast beef.
Pickled beets are another way to enjoy one of the lesser used vegetables. The process for making pickled beets is really pretty easy. Just remember that you want to leave one inch of stem and one inch of root on the whole beet when cooking them before beginning the pickling process. Leaving some stem and root intact prevents color loss in the beets; also called bleeding. After the beets have cooled, it will be an easy task to slip the skins off the beets.
Most pickled beets call for pickling spices. This is readily available at grocery stores, or you may choose to make your own. The Ball Blue Book contains an easy to follow recipe for pickling spice.
Do you struggle with what to make for dinner? Families today have very busy schedules and often we don’t think about what’s for dinner until it is time to eat. With a little planning you can have wonderful home cooked meals ready to take from the freezer, put in the oven and your family can be eating a in about an hour!
Here are a few helpful tips for preparing meals for the freezer.
Pre cook meats and place it in freezer bags for quick meals like tacos or maid rites.
If you are making casseroles freeze them before baking, especially when all of the ingredients are cooked.
Undercook starchy ingredients like potatoes, rice and pasta when using them in a meal for the freezer.
Freeze meals in portion sizes for the number of people in your family. If you have leftover freeze individual size meals in freezer bags for quick lunches.
Freeze meals in the containers you plan to cook them in. Glass containers work well.
Don’t freeze meals that include items that don’t freeze well such as boiled eggs, sour cream and mayonnaise.
Seasoning intensity can change during freezing so season lightly. Cloves, pepper, garlic and celery become stronger upon freezing. Remember you can always add more seasonings when reheating.
Make double batches and freeze one for later use.
Let your family help! Many hands will make meal preparation go more quickly. Assign tasks to family members according to their age. You will help develop life-long skills and talents.
If you are baking your casserole before freezing, cool it quickly. Also remember that shallow baking pans speed freezing and thawing of casseroles.
To thaw casseroles before reheating, allow the casserole to stand in the refrigerator overnight. Then cook as directed in the recipe. If it is not completely thawed you may need to add 15 to 30 minutes to the cooking time.
Fully cooked casseroles should not be thawed, but baked at 400°F for the time according to the recipe.
Use frozen casseroles within three months for best quality. Be sure and label all of your meals with the cooking directions and the date that you put it in the freezer.
Planning ahead helps you to take control of your family dinners making meal time enjoyable for everyone!
One of the questions we often hear when folks are canning is: What is the difference between Hot Pack and Raw Pack? Obviously, the main difference is that one style involves totally raw food while the other method uses partially cooked food. Both styles of pack have benefits; select the best pack for the situation.
Raw Pack is often used when canning vegetables in the pressure canner. This is an easy method; clean and slice the fruit or vegetable and pack tightly into the jar. Air is often trapped between pieces of raw food and this air can be difficult to eliminate. Trapped air can cause a loss of liquid during the canning process, floating fruit, or discoloration of the food after a few months of storage.
Hot Pack foods are heated to a boil followed by simmering for about 5 minutes. Precooking shrinks the foods, allowing you to fit more food inside the jar. Air is not trapped inside the food (so fruit will not float) or between the pieces of food, which can cause loss of liquid in the jars. Also, the best quality of some foods, like pears, is obtained by using a hot pack.
No matter which pack you choose for your food, remember to always use boiling water, broth, or juice to fill the jars.