Friday, September 17, 2010

Daring Cooks: Canning!

Once again I am running late on posting this... life has been doing far too good a job of keeping me busy, especially in the middle of the week.

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation. The instructions they gave us can be found here.

Now, the first part of this challenge was gathering all of the supplies. I already had a wonderful large stock pot and the size of my kitchen dictates that one very large pot is enough. This meant that getting an actual canning pot was out of the question. The only problem with my pot is that it is about an inch less in diameter than the typical canning pot and thus the standard canning racks are not going to fit in it. On labor day (since I actually had time...) I set out for the local Ace Hardware to track down jars and figured there was a decent chance that a hardware store would have something I could repurpose as a canning rack. Apparently I was wrong on that second count. While I was looking around I was approached by an employee who asked what I was looking for. I explained and was informed that they did not have anything that would work as a canning rack and was further given a lecture on how dangerous canning is. I smiled, assured him I would be careful, bought my jars and set out for the walk home.

Walking to Ace took me somewhat farther east than my normal errands do. Whenever I find myself in a part of the city that I do not know as well I try to be observant and learn where things are. In this case I discovered that the Trader Joe's shopping center also has a Richard's Variety Store. Since I had a few fairly odd things I was looking for (something to act as a canning rack and jar tongs) I figured it would be worth stopping to check it out. Not only did it have the tongs and a cooling rack that would work as a canning rack, it has all sorts of other entertaining things. This includes a nice selection of cookie cutters (and some silly ones like gingerbread men missing a bite), unusual note cards, a lovely selection of jigsaw puzzles and stick candy. Overall it was a very good find :-)

Ok, now onto the food. I was very bad about taking pictures this month, so I only have a picture of the finished products:

As you can see, I made peach jam and apple butter. The peach jam was made from the last of my farmer's market peaches from this summer. They had gotten to the point of needing to be used, so jam seemed like a good bet. To make the jam, I blanched the peaches so that I could peal them, and chopped them up. At this point I had a little over 5 cups of peaches. I stirred in about 4 cups of sugar and a splash of lemon juice and let it hang out for a while so that the juice would come out of the peaches and mingle with the sugar. Once it was nice and mixed I transfered it to a large pot (you want one larger than you think you need, as it boils it fills a rather larger volume) and cooked it until it reached 220 F. At this point it went into the preheated jars and then into the stock pot of boiling water for processing. The texture isn't quite ideal, but it isn't bad either and is quite tasty, so I'm calling it a success.

For the apple butter my friend and I got three bags of apples from the grocery store (gala, granny smith and McIntosh) and more or less followed the challenge recipe in the above link. Our only major deviation is that we don't believe in Splenda, and so used a mix of honey and brown sugar to taste instead. The result was fantastic. We now have grand plans to make the Flying Biscuit's cranberry apple butter at some point later this fall when cranberries become available.

Overall this challenge was fantastic :-)

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