Monday, May 7, 2012

Canning 1, Pineapple 0

This week I decided to try out a new recipe.  I got a wild idea and wanted to have some Pineapple Jam because there were still a few cans leftover from Hurricane Season last year, and we're only a few weeks away from the next one. 

Why not make my own?

Never having made Jams and Jellies other than the Lemon Curd, I thought I'd have a try and see what the end results would be.  The recipe I found was one that promised to make 9 pints of the stuff, so I figured I'd have plenty to give away.  That means I'd have to can the stuff into Jelly Jars just like your favorite supermarket - or little old lady.

We've canned here before.  We've made Pepper Relish, Spaghetti Sauce and a few other things that were sitting in the pantry.  The nice thing about this is that while there's a LOT of effort in "Putting up Jars" of food, you'll have a better quality than you would if you had just went out and bought the food at the store.

I've had some pretty horrendous Spaghetti Sauce since Mom and my Sister stopped making the stuff back in the 90s.

There's a recipe on here that requires slicing Roma Tomatoes and roasting them, then pureeing and making the sauce.  It's a Tomato Pie recipe from a restaurant in PA and it makes some of the best vegetarian sauce I have ever had.  Put it on bread and you have tomato pie, add cheese and it's a better pizza than most although I have better sauce for pizza... gees, that Pizza thing again, don't get me started!

The Lemon Curd and Lime Curd is a predictably excellent recipe, but you really aren't supposed to can the stuff and store at room temp because it has egg in the recipe.

So of course, the hunt for Pineapple Jam began.  Unfortunately with recipes connected with blogs, you have bits of information that get left out, others that are phrased poorly, and there's always "user error" that happens when the reader mentally drops a line out of the recipe and forgets to circle the coffee table counterclockwise with the proper runes cast in a spell.

A lot of things can go wrong.

In the case of making Jams and Jellies, there is that item that most people have seen but didn't know what it was.  Pectin.  Pectin is a processed dietary fiber that is used to make fruit syrups thicken up to the right consistency.  It looks like a box of Jello, pours like sand and you're told to add it into the boiling fruit and sugar mixture.

Just stir until it melts in.

Wait, just re-read that last sentence.  That's the problem.  First off many web recipes are inexact.  Mine here are overprecise because I am a touch typist and am wordy.  I also take the time to make sure I have the thing perfect before I write it down.  The recipe I had was a derived recipe from a someone else's recipe and wasn't terribly complete. That is also why I am not yet sharing a Pineapple Jam recipe.  That recipe was just painful and nowhere near explained the process.

Eh, just toss the stuff in and let it cook down.

That didn't work.  You see if there is too much liquid in the pot, it won't thicken.  Think of Jelly and Jam as making a big Jello mold that isn't commercially prepared.  Now have someone go fast and loose with the recipe.

Then when you're all done, pour it into the jars and can them.

Oh, while I was making all of this, I had to reach past the Canning Pot and stir. 

Canning pot is a big thing.  The size of a Lobster Pot, it has ridges in it to catch a metal grate onto which you set your jars.   The whole thing is brought to a boil and then you leave the jars in there until you sterilize them.  The lids and the rings are set in their own pot and boiled to sterilize. 

Yes, glassware that is 212F and 100C.  Better handle with care!  But just wait!  There's More!  In this case, the More are the weird tools that were designed and perfected back in the 1900s or earlier to handle all that glassware.  Pincers and Levers that are coated in a vinyl or rubber to give grip while you pick up your boiling glass jar out of the water and then pour the boiling water into the boiling pot thus avoiding a burn from everything except the steam that blew out when you get a gust out of the Air Conditioning.  They look like something that Great Grandma borrowed from Great Grandpa out of the Barn so she didn't get burned making preserves for the cold Nebraska winter.

When you finish with the jars, and then fill them with the hot mix of food to be canned, then you have to reach into the other boiling pot for a lid using a magnetic wand, carry it across the kitchen dripping slowly cooling water on your shoe or your dog, and then set it onto the top of the jar.   Wipe off the excess water and food, then put a ring onto it gently to semi seal the jar. 

Then boil again for 5 to 10 minutes to create a vacuum seal.  Remove from boiling water and allow to cool.

That whole process is why you can never get a pickle jar open without smacking it on the heel of your hand.

It works though, plenty of folks are still doing this because what you get when you open that jar six months later is some food that will be just as good as it was the day you "put up" the jars.  It's just a lot of work. 

After all of that, the Pineapple didn't gel quite right.   I have around 5 pints of very loose jelly.  I think it's going to end up as pineapple sorbet since the resulting witches' brew was very tasty but very runny or I may just pour it all back into the pot and boil it down until I get the right consistency and try again.

The Lemon Curd turned out excellent as usual, and yes, I did jar the stuff.  Recently the USDA had said that it CAN be safe to can foods cooked with egg as long as the temperature is held at or above 180 for more than 10 minutes.   After all, that is how you buy Lemon Curd in Whole Foods for $7 a jar.

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