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Scuppernong Jelly 2016

Scuppernong grapes

Scuppernong grapes

 

Well, this year hasn’t been too productive in my usual spots for wild foraging my Muscadines; so, I wound up purchasing some Scuppernongs at the local farmer’s market. Scuppernongs are the green/gold variety of Muscadines. I think the flavor is a little lighter, and maybe has a little honey note to it. (I’ve thought about making a Scuppernong mead, but haven’t done it yet.) I bought a “one gallon” bag of grapes for $10.00 and weighed them when I got home. It was literally one big grape over four pounds. Of course, I ate about 4 or 5, so it was about 3 pounds and 14-1/2 ounces when I started the jelly making process.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

The recipe that I’m using is from the USDA Guidelines…pretty much have to do that if I want to be able to enter my final product in the N.C. State Fair Food Preservation competition. (I’ve entered a number of things over the last four years and won two first place blue ribbons and several second place ribbons.) Here’s a link to the recipe: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/grape_jelly_powder.html   But keep in mind, things don’t always work out perfectly regarding volume.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

This time, the grapes I had yielded only 3-1/2 cups of juice…even though the recipe only calls for 3-1/2 pounds of grapes and a cup of water. The recipe is based on Concord grapes, though…maybe they provide a better yield than Scuppernongs. Anyway, to get to the 5 cups of juice that is called for, I strained my grapes through a cheesecloth bag that I created and hung from a cabinet and allowed to drip into a bowl.

Extracting the grape juice.

Extracting the grape juice.

After squeezing the pulp, I put another 1-1/2 cups of water in a pot on the stove and boiled the cheesecloth bag in it, like a teabag for ten minutes. I poured the now-flavored water into the bowl and re-hung the bag to drip. I’m trying to keep the flavor from getting watered down.

The juice is now refrigerated until I’m ready  to continue the process tomorrow. This allows any sediment to settle and reduces the chance of tartrate crystals forming in the final product. The juice will be filtered through cheesecloth again before continuing.

Next Day: I ran the juice through cheesecloth and held back a tiny amout of sediment. I needed to add about a 1/2 c. of water to make 5 cups total.

Almost ready to can.

Almost ready to can.

Followed the rest of the recipe instructions and ended with nine 1/2-pint jelly jars and processed them in the water bath canner for 5 minutes. Now they sit for 24 hours. (I love hearing those lids popping as the vacuum seals them to the jars!)

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

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Starting Garden 2016

Watering the garden to start blending the soil additions and the few existing plants.

Watering the garden to start blending the soil additions and the few existing plants.

As a branch to my food endeavors, I’m including some coverage here on my gardening efforts. Since the end results are ultimately to be used in my home cooking and/or canning projects, it’s appropriate. I’m continuing to use the raised bed set-up that I started a couple of years ago. (Disregard the bulky wooden thing next to the garden. I’m rethinking trying to use it somehow and will break it down soon.) Unfortunately, some boards are bowing and some wood is rotting. I’m trying to shore them up with some stakes, but I may be looking at a rebuild next year.

Shoring up some problems.

Shoring up some problems.

Also, my rotary tiller is kaput, so I bought a small electric model for $150. Less maintenance and no fuel to mix.

Small electric rotary tiller...works just fine.

Finally, the garden was pretty much a failure last year. I figure that the fertilizer and lime that I tried to add to the soil did not do the trick in revitalizing the soil. This year, I have decided to add four big bags of MiracleGro 6 month feeding potting soil and some Jobe’s Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer.

The first thing I did was break up the ground with a shovel. Next step was to till the existing dirt with some of the fertilizer. Then I added the potting soil and tilled it again. I used a thatching rake to level everything out and remove fibrous roots, acorns, sweetgum balls, and leaves.

I still have left, surviving in the garden from last year (amazingly), some parsley, a couple of grape vines (that I hope to transfer to a separate set-up someday), some Cascade hops rhizomes, and some ginger root with green plants above. I’ve never done ginger before, so I’m not sure where that project will go. The hops bines (why they aren’t called “vines”? I don’t know….) should be spouting up any time now.

For new plantings, I’ve checked what gardening zone I am in and picked some things accordingly. I have added some oregano and a yellow bell pepper plant, from seedlings.

My son, helping to add the oregano and bell pepper plants.

My son, helping to add the oregano and bell pepper plants.

The rest of my choices, to start with, are seed packets. Most, I plan to plant directly in the garden, but I did buy some little biodegradable seed starters. The seeds I bought for a mid-March start are: beets, mixed color carrots, radishes, mixed color Swiss chard, and basil. Pretty sure I’m going to plant everything directly, except the basil.

Seeds.

Seeds.

IMG_20160316_151829651

Two pots in front have some strawberry plants from two years ago. Lets see how they like the new soil and fertilizer mix.

So, since I have invested in the tiller and another $150 in tools, soil, and fertilizer, I’m really hoping to have a better harvest this year, to reap some benefits from the investment!

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Finally Made Wrangler Jelly!

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

It’s been about three years ago, that I pinned an interesting sounding recipe on Pinterest to my “MMMFoodies Canning Stuff. https://www.pinterest.com/mattmmille/mmm-foodies-canned-stuff/ Even though the recipe called for canned crushed pineapple, I had a fresh one and I was going to try it. Well, I wound up using that pineapple for something else and that recipe sat there, unused…except that it was one of the two most re-pinned recipes from my collection!  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/516928863450185549/

Well, it’s getting down to freezing temperatures overnight, in my area, and I just picked a few small poblanos and a couple of small, green tomatoes ahead of the freeze. Looking at them, the Wrangler Jelly recipe came to mind. I had the canned pineapple and pectin on hand, so I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe as linked above with the substitution of the poblanos for the jalapenos and the addition of the little green tomatoes. I chopped all of them fairly fine.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

The recipe says to add all the ingredients, except the pectin, and bring to a boil. Then add the pectin and boil for one minute. In my jelly and jam making experience, I always held back the sugar until the boil was reached,

Bringing the ingredients together.

Bringing the ingredients together. (Including seeds from ONE of the peppers.)

…added the sugar, returned to the boil, added the pectin and brought back to the boil for one minute. I don’t know if it makes a big difference, but that’s what I did.

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure... glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure… glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Bringing back to a boil with the sugar added.

Bringing to a boil just before the sugar is added.

After canning, I actually got 4 half pint jars and two 4oz jars. I always prepare more jars/lids/rings than what is called for in the recipe, for just such a situation. (The recipe said it would make the 4 half pints.) I tasted a tiny bit that was left in the pot, and the cayenne pepper plus the poblanos made it plenty spicy! I think the green tomato will add a small citrusy component and a touch of added texture…and probably accounts for some of the excess volume.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

My plans for this batch include a cream cheese and Wrangler Jelly appetizer with crackers at Thanksgiving, maybe some glazed pork chops, and possibly a Wrangler Baked Brie. This may not be the best jelly for your morning toast, but I don’t think I will have any problem finding uses for this versatile little jelly! And I may gift a jar or two. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to make it…it was so easy! If you decide to save this recipe, don’t put it off…make it! And enjoy!

Update: I may have to try this again and add the sugar at the same time as the other ingredients…or something. The jelly didn’t really set and I have more like a candied relish product; sort of like that pineapple topping used on ice cream sundaes. It will still work for some of my intended recipes, but I would still like to figure it out!

Hmmm...still tasty, but didn't gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

Hmmm…still tasty, but didn’t gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

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2015 Muscadine-Grenache Jelly

Grenache-Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Grenache-Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

I foraged some grapes again this year. Initially, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to get enough to do anything with, when I found that my usual “big producing spot” was practically bare this year. Luckily, a couple of other spots were very productive. I wound up making a 5 gallon batch of muscadine-blueberry wine ( I had eleven pounds of fresh blueberries in the freezer.) The rest of my grapes sat in the fridge for weeks. I knew I would run out of time to enter anything into competition at the state fair this year, so I just didn’t rush.

Grenache, front. Muscadines, rear.

Grenache, front. Muscadines, rear.

In the meantime, my wife bought some Grenache grapes for some function and never used them, after I told her they were not seedless.

Grenache grapes.

Grenache grapes.

So, I wound up with about 3 lbs of muscadine grapes and about 2 lbs of the Grenache. The grenache have a kind of mild Concord flavor, so I thought they would just add a little intensity to the grape juice.

I followed my recipe from 2013 ( https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/wild-muscadine-grape-jelly/ ) and wound up with 8 1/2 pint jars and a single 4 oz jar.

The results!

The results!

Should be enough to give a few away and get through the Winter.

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Pressure Canning Corn

Pressure canned corn.

Pressure canned corn.

I thought for sure that I had documented canning corn before. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos during the preparation process and filling the jars. The process is pretty simple, though. You cut the kernels of corn from fresh corn cobbs and fill clean jars with the corn, leaving a 1″ head space. add 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint jar or 1 teaspoon salt per quart jar. (I use Kosher salt). From about 12-14 large pieces of corn, I got enough kernels to fill 8-pint jars. Next, fill the jars to the 1″ head space mark with boiling water. Pouring from a tea kettle makes it easy. Poke around and down the middle of the jars with a chopstick, skewer, or similar to remove air bubbles. Add more water, if needed. Wipe rims to make sure they are clean and top with prepared canning lids. Screw on rings until finger-tight.

Add the jars to the pressure canner, following manufacturer’s directions. I use a Presto brand 23 quart model.

Presto pressure canner.

Presto pressure canner.

For mine, after I secure the lid, I bring the water to a boil and a little piece pops up to let me know it’s ready. I set a timer for 10 minutes to purge the air out. At that point, I add the little weight that comes with the canner and allow the pressure to build to 11 pounds. The hardest part is regulating the temperature to maintain the pressure. If the pressure goes below 11 pounds, you have to raise the pressure back up and restart the time. I can relieve pressure if it goes to high, by pushing down on a little rubber button on the lid. For corn, the process time is 55 minutes for pints and 1 hour 25 minutes for quarts.

When the processing time is up, turn the heat off and remove the canner from the burner. (I do, because my burners are electric and do not quickly cool…you might not need to, if you use gas.) Allow the pressure to drop to zero, without forcing it. Carefully move jars to a kitchen towel, using a canning jar gripper tool.

Jar gripper and a chopstick (for removing air bubbles).

Jar gripper and a chopstick (for removing air bubbles).

When possible, tighten the screw rings well. (You might want to use a kitchen towel or two to avoid burns!) Allow the jars to set for 24 hours. Check seals to verify a good seal on each jar. If any did not seal, refrigerate and use within a couple of days. Sealed jars are stored in my pantry cabinet without the screw rings…I try to save them for Winter. We’ll see. Take advantage of those Summer vegetables while you “can”! Enjoy!IMG_20150726_184337436

I used this website for reference: http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipes/whole-kernel-corn to make sure I was following safe procedures.

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Further Adventures with Jackfruit…Canning in Syrup

Fresh Jackfruit. ripe.

Fresh Jackfruit. ripe.

When I got this jackfruit, I went through quite a learning experience to get the fruit separated from the husk. For that adventure, see my previous post. With some of the fruit, I decided to make a Jackfruit Cider. For that adventure, you can follow his link to my brewing and fermenting blog:

https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/jackfruit-cider-well-see/

With 2lbs of fruit left, plus the seeds, I needed to finish up before things started going bad. First, the seeds. I boiled the seeds for 15 minutes and then roasted them for another 15 minutes at 400F. The skin covering the outside is a little bit of a pain to remove. The seed itself is like a very dry, firm potato. Not bad, though. A nice snack.

Jackfruit seeds. Boiled and then roasted.

Jackfruit seeds. Boiled and then roasted.

Now, for the fruit.

2lbs fresh jackfruit.

2lbs fresh jackfruit.

Canned Jackfruit in Syrup

2lbs fresh, ripe jackfruit

3 cups white sugar

3 cups water

Directions:

Combine the water and sugar in a large pot or saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar over high heat. Bring to a boil and add the jackfruit. Boil for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 2 pint jars, lids, and screw rings for canning. Prepare pressure canner.

Boiling jackfruit in syrup.

Boiling jackfruit in syrup.

Add fruit to jars and cover with syrup, leaving approx. ½” headspace. Clean rims with damp cloth. Place lids and screw down rings to finger tight.

Jackfruit ready for jars.

Jackfruit ready for jars.

Place jars carefully into prepared pressure canner and close lid. Purge according to manufacturer’s recommendations (10 minutes, in my case). Place weight and bring pressure to 11lbs.

11lbs for 15 minutes, after 10 minute purge.

11lbs for 15 minutes, after 10 minute purge.

Process for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in canner until pressure is zero. Remove jars to cloth-lined counter and allow to rest for 24 hours to seal. When cool enough to touch, snug down screw rings. After the rest period, check seal, remove screw rings, and store in cool, dark space.

Canned jackfruit in syrup, just out of the pressure canner.

Canned jackfruit in syrup, just out of the pressure canner.

Note: I had excess syrup…about 2/3 of a pint jar. I let it cool and refrigerated it. Not sure what I’ll do with it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pineapple Pickles

Pineapple pickles, left.  Grape leaf experiment, right.

Pineapple pickles, left. Grape leaf experiment, right.

I recently was playing around with trying to pickle some muscadine grape leaves. I think it was successful, but the muscadine leaves are so small, and they are difficult to handle after blanching. I wound up adding some yellow squash slices to fill the jar, plus some lime wedges and fresh dill. I doubt I’ll ever do it again, and I have no idea what I’ll do with the leaves. Maybe the squash slices will be good? Anyway, I had some leftover brine; so I decided to use it with some fresh pineapple that I had in the refrigerator.

The brine was a one to one ratio of apple cider vinegar and water, plus kosher salt. I used a cup each of the liquids and 1/8 c. salt. The pineapple was in large wedges, so I removed the core and cut into “spears”. I put the pineapple into a jar, added a few fresh basil leaves, and then covered with hot brine. I sealed the jar and processed in boiling water bath for 15 minutes. If these turn out to be good, I’ll probably experiment more and do some larger batches.

Update 5/22/15: Tasted the pickled pineapple and it was pretty good! Definitely has a sweet/sour thing going on. I’m not sure if I get the basil. I put the rest in the refrigerator  and will try it again chilled. I bought another pineapple and removed the peel and core to make tepache, a fermented Mexican pineapple drink. I only use the peel and core for the tepache, so I decided to pickle the fruit. I went with 1-1/2 cups each water and apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Added a stick of cinnamon and boiled. Removed from heat and tossed in a couple sprigs of rosemary. I packed the pineapple into 3 pint jars, divided the cinnamon stick and rosemary between the jars, added brine to a headspace of about 1/4″ and sealed. I processed the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. I went back and tasted the brine and it was EXTREMELY salty. It may be okay for pickling…but maybe not. We’ll see. Hey, it’s just a pineapple!

Update 5/24/15: I opened a jar of the pineapple pickles that I made with the rosemary and cinnamon. Definitely strong on the salt! Then it’s sour and the rosemary comes through. I think rinsing the brine off helps with the saltiness, but it IS a pickle! It’s not pineapple in juice or syrup. I think I would warn folks and not surprise them with this one! In the future, I think I would try to back off the salt and increase the sugar (being careful to make sure the brine is still appropriate for safe pickling). The rosemary and cinnamon are good.

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