|The Fruits of my Labor|
After waking up to the news about inflated gas and food prices two days in a row, and paying $3.21 a gallon for gas this week, and seeing the rising prices of produce, I started feeling some anxiety about being able to provide well for my family. The story of Noah came to mind. While he was building an ark, his neighbors scoffed at him, but when the rains came down, he and his family were safely inside. My church recommends that we keep a years worth of food storage on hand. In years past I've done a pretty good job of adding to that storage. The problem is that I have developed an allergy to wheat, which precludes processed foods from my diet. If I eat something canned in a public facility, I run the chances of having an attack of hives and asthma like symptoms. Frequent trips to the emergency room don't go well on the family budget. So I've decided to start enlarging my ark. This means a lot of hard work, but the peace of mind will be worth it. This week, I've started by canning peaches and tomatoes. Canning is an easy process that most people can do, but it does take a lot of time and is MESSY. I've chronicled my efforts to share the process. Maybe it will make you more confident. I start by buying the produce that's the cheapest. I know that peaches in February seem strange, but my farmer's market had them for $.68 a pound. Usually I like freestone peaches for canning, but this is what they had, and this is what I'll use.
I started by washing all of the produce.
|Beautiful newly washed peaches|
Usually when you can peaches, you remove the skins. I started doing this and decided, what the heck? These are for my family, not the state fair, they don't have to be pretty, just taste good! I have a picture here of blanching the peaches, but be advised, I didn't do this for long!
|Blanch peaches a few seconds for skin removal|
Then the peaches had to be cored and sliced, and placed into lemon juice. The lemon juice does two things. It prevents the peaches from turning brown while I'm waiting to can them, and the extra acid prevents bacteria growth in the canning process. There are 7 things that act as a preventative in food spoilage: heat, cold, sugar, oil, salt, acid, and lack of air. (In canning the peaches I've used four of them.)
|Peaches sliced and sitting in lemon juice|
Next I made a syrup of water and sugar and let that boil on the stove. You can fins a chart for different kinds of canning syrups here. I used the light syrup.
Washing the jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher and then putting them on a towel lined cookie sheet in the oven (set to 200 degrees F) and putting the lids into a pot of simmering water to soften the rubber rings, took up the time necessary to prepare the tomatoes for cooking down. Multitasking! I washed the tomatoes and then cut them into half and then quartered them and placed them into an electric cooker (mine is from Saladmaster) at 300 degrees F. I left them there to cook down into a sauce, only stirring occasionally. I wanted some of the burnt on crust in the tomatoes. It gives them a richer flavor.
|Cooking down tomatoes at 300 degrees|
When the jars were hot enough, and my water in the huge pot was boiling for the hot water bath, as well as the syrup, I began bottling.
|HOT jars be careful!|
Take a jar from the oven, place it onto a cookie sheet ( this aids in clean up, your spilled syrup won't go all over the counter) and using the canning funnel, add peaches to the jar.
|Adding peaches to jar|
Next ladle the syrup over the top, leaving a 1/4" heads space.
|Pouring boiling syrup in jars|
I know I look awful on this picture. It's not a beauty contest right? LOL!
|magnet tool helps remove lids from hot water|
Place the lid and the ring on the top, and use your jar grabber to place the jar into the hot water bath.
|Jar grabber for placing and removing hot jars in boiling water bath|
Process in bath for 15 minutes, remove and place on counter to cool. When cooled, (this will take about 4 hours) remove the ring, and pull up lightly on the lid to test the seal. If the lid pops off, it hasn't sealed properly. I can't tell you how heart broken I was when I had to throw out a bunch of jars of peaches this summer when they didn't seal properly, and spoiled in my pantry. I will never skip this step again!
|The renegade that didn't seal that had to be re-processed|
You can label your jars however you wish. I just used a sharpie and wrote the contents and the month and year on the lids. The jars and rings can be reused. The lids can not.
|Cooking down tomatoes for sauce|
When the tomatoes were cooked down to the consistency I wanted, I filled the jars with them, using the funnel, and added 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice to each jar, stirring it in before sealing and processing the jars in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
|Tomatoes cooking down|
Then cut up more tomatoes for another batch.
|The quick way to chop peaches for jam|
Back to the peaches. Some of the peaches were more ripe than others and so I used these for jelly. the recipe I used said to chop them into small pieces. I ignored this advice, and just threw the slices into my Bosch mixer with the batter attachment and set it on high for about 2 minutes, and then threw them into a big pot with the sugar, and water.
|A TON of sugar goes into making jelly|
This mixture has to cook for a looooong time. Lots of stirring, and monitoring the temperature is necessary for making jelly. If you're not careful the mixture could boil over (mine did) or burn on the bottom (mine did) or cook too long and get too hot, thereby making your jelly too thick or cook too little time, making your jelly too thin. Using a candy thermometer is essential!
|Make sure you stir jelly frequently so that it doesn't burn!|
|Almost there! Using a candy thermometer helps|
Once the jelly is to the right temperature (about 220 degrees F) bottle it and process them in the boiling water canner for 15 minutes, and let rest. You can find a recipe for the peach jam here.
|Ladling jelly into jars|
Some recipes will tell you to skim off the foam. I didn't have much foam and didn't think it was necessary to do so, but sometimes half your jar will end up being foam, and so, you may want to skim. The skimmed off foam makes a nice treat for your family who are smelling the delights coming from the kitchen and aren't allowed to have any!
|A full days work of canning 8 quarts peaches, 4 quarts tomato sauce & 3 1/2 quarts jelly|