Posts Tagged canning
This time last year I stumbled upon a challenge that really appealed to me. It was called the Urban Farm Challenge, a monthly blog challenge encouraging a simpler lifestyle relying more on local, organic (if possible) foods and making and growing your own food, even for city dwellers. It was to be a year of learning useful house-holding skills. I have always lived in cities but love the idea of country life and over the years have dabbled in growing my own vegetables and canning my own jams and chutneys, often from that home-grown produce! This challenge was just a step further, there was cheese making, foraging, making herbal teas and tinctures. I just loved the idea and got the book for my birthday, I love this book! Its co written by Anette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols, two of the most inspiring people! Both have families and are trying to live without supermarkets and the book is full of tips for gardening, composting, growing, preserving, city farming. There is advice on sourcing your own food suppliers, grinding your own grains. I loved this challenge and took part in most of the challenges although I must admit I was a bit of a fair weather partaker and did less of the winter challenges. Here is my round-up of my Urban Farm Challenge over the last year.
February: The challenge was soil improvement. I was late to the challenge but quickly ordered a composting bin with hope of making my own compost. Unfortunately the bin that arrived was huge, to big for my city garden so I donated it to a friend with an allotment and looked to the next challenge!
March: The challenge was home dairy, this was the challenge that I was most looking forward to! The idea of making my own cheese was completely new to me but I dove in and made lemon cheese, ricotta and mozzarella. I have made my own cheese several more times throughout the year and am inspired to try more, I’ve found this to be an area that I really want to explore!
April: The challenge was gardening and sowing your own seeds. Easy for me as I grow some type of vegetable each year. My Mother in law has an allotment and takes care of the plants for me, it’s an unbelievably lucky outcome for me and I’m so grateful to her for this! Among the regular vegetables I grow I also tried some different things as part of one of the challenges. I managed to seek out collard greens, not successful at all in the cool, wet summer we had,the snails got to the only tiny plant that survived! I also planted endive (chicory) another fail! The black futsu and Naples long pumpkins were much more successful as were the yellow courgettes (zucchini).
May: The challenge for May was foraging, not as easy as I thought! I’m too scared to try to find mushrooms on my own but I did make a dandelion salad foraged from my garden, I will admit that dandelion leaves are not the best thing I ever tasted but I am glad I tried!
June: This month the challenge was botanicals and all about making your own tinctures, balms and herbal infusions. I made chive blossom vinegar which I look forward to making again. I really wanted to try to make my own lotions but am a little ashamed to admit that I still have not tried this, maybe that will be one of this years “to try’s”.
July: Seed saving and looking forward to winter was the challenge this month, I did not take part as nothing was in flower yet. Due to the awful weather we had last summer everything was behind.
August: It was preserving this month, something I do each summer anyway. Small batch canning, cold storage, fermentation were all available to try using summers bounty. I always make jams, jellies and chutneys and last year was no different. Here is a selection of what I made pickled courgettes, peach pie preserves (so good!) and I tried fermentation with cucumber kimchi.
September: It was all about bartering this month, and swapping ones goods for those of another. One of the possible challenges was to hold a food swap, I love the idea of this and maybe one day I will try to arrange one, I just need to find enough fellow canners and growers! I don’t mean to go on about the awful summer we had last year but due to this I found I didn’t have an abundance of anything! I did manage one swap with a friend that had a bucket of plums for which I swapped some very large squash.
October: Protein was the theme this month, and we were free to choose our own challenges from hunting to growing your own beans. Time escaped me this month and I didn’t get around to taking part.
November: The challenge this month was about grains, using whole grains and even brewing with grain mash! This was a crazy month and despite my best intentions once again I missed this one, although using whole grains is something I try to do anyway.
December: This month handcrafted holidays was our task. With the recession this is something I have been seeing more and more of and I love the idea of this. I made my own vanilla and lemon salt to give as gifts. One of the gifts I had most fun with was to make up a basket and fill it with jam, chutney, lemon salt and vanilla I had made. This was a very successful, my friend loved her gift!
January: This was the wrap up month, but it was extended to February which is why I’m doing it now.
I had a great time with this challenge, I loved reading the book and trying new things. One day I hope to have a house with a little land where I can fulfill my Little House on The Prairie lifestyle dream! For now I will carry on enjoying some of the skills this challenge has taught me and hopefully pick up some more. Many thanks to Annette for organizing this and all the hard work she put into it, I had a blast!
Blood oranges are quite spectacular, sometimes the orange has a blush of red on the skin hinting at the colour of the fruit inside. Other times the blood orange looks just like a regular orange and that will be the one that is crimson inside. It seems no two blood oranges are the same! The picture above is of my bag of blood oranges, all beautifully different! They have a wonderful flavour that is both sweet and tart, this makes them wonderful in marmalade. I’ve made more marmalade than ever this year, although I must say I think my citrus fest is about over!
I made this blood orange marmalade last year and loved it. I always start with a small batch which in this case was a mistake as I enjoyed it so much. I would have made more but the blood orange season had sadly ended. This is quite a sweet marmalade, which I really like. Marmalade made with blood oranges has a reputation for being difficult to set, when I made it last year I hadn’t heard that and made it without thinking, it turned out well although it was a much chunkier marmalade than I usually make and the peel turned out with an almost candied effect, not unpleasant but maybe not to everyone’s taste.
This year I used the new method I discovered when making my bergamot marmalade by cutting the fruit in half, boiling it then chopping and boiling with sugar I did however take more care with the peel and tried to chop the pulp really well to get a clearer marmalade. I used slightly less sugar than the weight of my boiled fruit as I felt blood oranges are so sweet already. I think next time I will try with even less sugar, of course if using less sugar when preserving this makes the end result less shelf stable and is probably not suitable for canning. I also tied up the pips and pith from the lemon I juiced into a piece of muslin and added it during the final stage to add some pectin and aid setting. This is a great tip I thought I would give a try after seeing it on the wonderful Food in Jars blog, in this great post offering marmalade tips Marissa said she sometimes adds lemon seeds to lower pectin citrus like blood oranges to help setting.
Blood Orange Marmalade (makes about 2 and a half jars)
- 5 blood oranges
- juice of 1 lemon reserve pips and pith (tie these into a small piece of muslin)
- approximately 600 grams granulated sugar, (the weight will vary according to the amount of pulp your oranges produce)
- 150 mls of the water your oranges were boiled in.
- Cut each orange in half and place in a large pan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours, keep checking and add more water if necessary to avoid boiling dry.
- Remove the oranges from the water and when cool enough to handle remove all the pips. Reserve 150 mls of the boiling liquid for later.
- Chop the softened peel to the thickness you prefer. Put all of the peel, juice and fruit into a measuring jug. For each 1 pint of fruit you have measure 1 pound of sugar. I had 600 grams of fruit pulp and used 550 grams of sugar, just a little less as the oranges are sweet.
- Put the sugar into an oven tray and warm in the oven for 10 minutes at 170 C, 325 F, gas 3. (You can add your clean jars to the oven at the same time to sterilise.)
- Tip the fruit, warmed sugar and 100 ml/ 3 oz reserved boiling liquid into your jam pan, add the muslin tied bundle of lemon pips and pith, stir well and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes test for setting. See here for setting tips if unsure. My marmalade took about 20 minutes to set.
- If set pour the marmalade into your prepared sterilised jars and seal.
- I processed my jars in a water bath for 10 minutes.
To be truthful I don’t really “get” figs. As a child Fig Newton cookies revolted me, as an adult I just don’t find figs have much taste. I know many people love them but I think my taste buds are wired for stronger tastes, the subtle taste of a fig is lost on me. However when lots of sugar is added and figs are turned to jam? Well this sweet toothed gal loves that! I love the sweetness accompanied by the tiny crunch of the miniature seeds. I first tried fig jam after my friend acquired a fig tree when she bought a house in Italy, looking for ideas to use up her fig glut she made both jam and chutney, I loved both!
This summer on holiday in France fig was one of the jam choices in one of the hotels we stayed in, with that jam fresh in my memory I knew that’s what I would make when I saw that figs were this months ingredient for the One ingredient blog challenge run by Laura and Nazima
My recipe is based on this recipe from Waitrose, well I followed their instructions but actually kind of experimented with this and it turned out really well, the cinnamon and vanilla are just enough to enhance the figs but not over-power them. This is a small batch of jam, just 2 jars which was perfect for me as I have a cupboard groaning with the weight of jams and pickles already and I haven’t even made my chutney yet!
- 450 gram (1 lb) Fresh figs, washed.
- 300 gram (10 oz) sugar, I used unrefined
- 1/2 a cinnamon stick
- 1/2 a vanilla pod, split with a sharp knife
- A squeeze of lemon juice from half a lemon
- Cut the stems from the figs and chop up into inch size pieces.
- Put into large pan, (this is such a small amount of jam I didn’t even use my jam pan just a large saucepan).
- Add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix well and turn the heat on low until the sugar has dissolved
- Using a potato masher mash the figs up a little then turn the heat to high to bring to a boil.
- Allow to boil for 6 to 10 minutes, the texture will begin to thicken.
- For me at this stage (around 7 minutes) the jam had thickened so it was obvious it had reached setting point but do use the saucer method if unsure.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod and pour into sterilised jars and use your preferred canning method. I boiled the jars for 10 minutes.
A glut of blackcurrrants is not an easy thing to get rid of! I stopped picking blackcurrants at my Mother in laws allotment when we just about filled the tub we were using and I started to get worried that there was only so much blackcurrant jam one could eat, especially when my husband announced that he didn’t like blackcurrant jam! Picking blackcurrants is a bit of a pain, so many tiny berries attached to little stalks, after a while I perfected the art of pulling the berries downwards off their little stalks, thus saving much picking over later when I got home. I needn’t have bothered as I later decided that it would be much easier to make jelly which actually needs the stems for added pectin! Luckily I still had a lot of stems attached in the tub!
Making this blackcurrant jelly is really easy but does require some time, perfect for a rainy Sunday or make it one evening and leave to strain while you sleep. I really enjoyed the bright flavour of this jelly without all the seeds and bits blackcurrant jam has.
- Blackcurrants, rinsed well (I had 4 lbs)
- 3 pints water (for 4 lbs of berries, adjust according to your berry weight)
- 1 lb of granulated sugar for each pint of blackcurrant juice
- Having rinsed and drained the blackcurrants put them in the preserving pan of your choice, a really big stock pot is good if you don’t have a special jam pan.
- Add the water and simmer until the blackcurrants are soft, this takes about 20 minutes.
- Squish the blackcurrants up, a potato masher does the job well, then strain the pulpy liquid through a jelly strainer. This takes about 3 hours or leave overnight. This is a really messy part, blackcurrant juice splashes stain badly so take care! Keep away from anything pale, such as walls! I placed my strainer in a box to catch the splashes. ,
- When the jelly bag is no longer dripping measure the juice.
- Add 1 lb of sugar for each pint of juice obtained. I got 2.5 pints of juice from my blackcurrants so needed 2.5 lbs of sugar.
- Put the juice and sugar into your jam pan and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for the setting point, mine was a little stubborn and took about 9 minutes of hard boiling, I tested after 5 minutes then at 7 minutes then at 9 minutes when finally the jelly wrinkled up on my cold plate.
- Test for setting, I use the cold saucer method which means putting 2-3 saucers in the freezer while you are boiling the juice and sugar. When testing for a set take a saucer from the freezer remove the pan from the heat and take a spoon of the boiling juice onto the cold saucer. Wait a couple of minutes and push the jelly with your finger if it wrinkles up its set, if no wrinkling happen then return the pan to the heat, boil for another 5 minutes and re-test for a set using another cold saucer.
- Pour the jelly into your sterilized jars, seal and follow your usual canning procedure. I simmered mine for 10 minutes in a water bath ( I use my large stockpot filled with boiling water).
- I got 7 mixed sized jars.