Thursday, August 8, 2013

Canning projects!

Even after filling my largest mixing bowl, the tree was still overloaded with fruit!

In the middle of May, all of the loquats on our tree were ripe. What's a loquat? It's a tiny, yellow-orange fruit that's both sweet and tart, with a few large seeds in the center. There were about a billion of them on the tree, and I couldn't stand to watch them ripen and die like they did the year before, so I decided to be a hero and turn them into jam.

There are nearly no recipes online for anything loquat-related. Why? Because they're awful to prepare. I harvested 6 pounds or so and spent the next 3 hours blanching, peeling, seeding, and chopping only to yield a dozen 4oz jars and 2 half-pints. My fingers were stained from the seeds, and they ached from the repetitive motions of peeling, etc. (Sorry for the lack of in-progress photos. I did this all on my own and my hands were far too sticky to touch a camera!)

The work was worth it, but not something I think I'll ever repeat. I decided to add to the complexity of the flavor with some ginger. Fresh, candied, and powdered. The result was a bit stiffer than I'd hoped, since the loquats were naturally high in pectin. Oops. The flavor was fantastic, though, and so far, I've used the Triple Ginger Loquat Preserves as a glaze for oven-roasted salmon (yum) and as a topping for pound cake.

My first solo canning project- I was so relieved and excited when the lids ALL sealed! Success!

Recipe and more canning adventures after the jump...

Here's the recipe I used, in case anyone out there is as crazy as me:

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Loquat Triple Ginger Preserves
yields 8-ish half pints

2 quarts of loquat fruit (boil briefly to soften the skin, peel, remove seeds)
It takes a LOT of loquats to yield this much fruit. At least 4 pounds- I picked more than I used, or I'd have a better estimate. Sorry!
6 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 box of pectin
2-inch chunk of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
1 cup of crystallized ginger chips (I found mine at World Market)
1 teaspoon of ground ginger

Combine fruit, sugar, and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Cook at a rapid boil until mixture thickens- it needs to coat a spoon. This takes a long while- 25 minutes or so. Once it's thick, add all the ginger varieties and enjoy the spicy-sweet aroma for a bit. Pour into prepared jars and leave 1/4 inch head space. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from canner and wait for the excellent sound of popping lids to ensure you got a good seal! Cool completely.

* * * * * * 

 After the ridiculously complicated loquat project, I was looking forward to canning something (anything!) easier. A coworker handed me a big bag full of peaches one day, so that was the next task...

Same prep process as the loquats, but waaaaay easier, since the fruit to pit ratio was better. The peaches had ripened on the tree, so they were super juicy and fragrant. My kitchen smelled amazing- even more so when I added a bunch of vanilla bean guts. It's perfectly lovely over vanilla bean scones.

Nom nom... I almost didn't even finish the canning- I wanted to pour it over ice cream.

While my parents were out of town, all of the Santa Rosa plums on their tree ripened at once, which was great for me- the plums were even easier to prep- no boiling/peeling necessary. Thank goodness, because they were incredibly juicy. I left the skin on because I like the sweet-tart balance it provides.

I love love love the color that this jam turned out.
I haven't tasted this one yet, but the parents said it was good. Now that I'm writing about it, though, I feel like I need to bake loaf of bread and promptly toast it, butter it, and slather it with this garnet-colored goodness.

As far as recipes, I followed some from a 1990's era Ball Blue Book. For the loquat jam I used an apricot recipe combined with a loquat recipe found online, and I followed peach and plum respectively, based on the amount of fruit I had on hand. I took some liberties by adding the ginger and vanilla, but that didn't affect recipe amounts.

There are loads of wild blackberries growing all over the place in our new neighborhood. I have a few days off next week, and I'm hoping I can forage enough for a small batch of jam!

Here's a link to a some good basic canning instructions:

You can find a super inexpensive canning kit online, or in some grocery stores.

If you've never canned or preserved anything before, it's actually really fun and easy- easier if you have a second set of hands. I grew up canning with my mom and grandma every summer- tomatoes, Concord grapes, green beans... Grandmama's harvests were always substantial (in my childhood memory) and sometimes took all day to can, but when we were finished and all the glass jars were lined up on the counter, it was really satisfying. It's no less satisfying to do a small bath of jam on your own. Try it!
More canning adventures soon, for sure.


P.S.- I want to experiment with pressure canning, too. Over the holidays, my sister-in-law and I canned a bunch of pinto beans, and I really want to try that again- or homemade soup, or chopped up chicken, or anything really!

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