Two fails and one success

Discussion in 'Off Topic Chat' started by Margot Howe, Aug 31, 2017.

  1. Margot Howe

    Margot Howe Active Member

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    I've been spending the past few days in the kitchen, surrounded by canning jars, kettles, ingredients and just an awful mess. It has not been all good. Maybe I was rushed. Maybe I was careless. Maybe I just made bad decisions.

    My first try was with strawberries. I bought six pounds of berries. I had a learner with me, so it was important to do it right. We washed and hulled them and began the process of making them into jam. I use Certo for jam. I've always had better luck with that than with the other product – Sure Jel. We followed the directions in the Certo exactly. We made two batches of eleven jelly jars full of jam. But once it was cool, the jam was thick but not gelled. I tried it on a peanut butter and jam sandwich, and a lot of it just slipped out from between the slices of bread. This is not good. The only thing I can think of was the berries might have been not ripe enough. I was careful to choose the right ones and removed any that were less than bright red. So, now what? I was making them to put into the church bazaar. I guess I'll market it as Strawberry Ice Cream Topping.

    My learner no longer with me, I moved on to the watermelon rind pickle. I had conferred with another person in the Virginias. I had concerns about using the seedless variety of watermelon as the rind was not thick enough. That is all I can find up here in New England. They are awesome for the fruit, but they have the bare minimum for the rind. She assured me that she had been using the seedless variety this summer and they came out fine. Okay. Worth a try.

    The pieces were small. I brined them following the recipe in the Ball Blue Book of canning. I'd used that before and gotten great watermelon pickle. I made the solution cooking them with the bag of spices in it. I cooked the rind till tender then added it to the syrup. Now it said to cook it till clear and this is where the trouble came. It never got clear. I wonder if I took off enough of the green skin. I used a peeler and in the past, I used a knife. I got the rind clean of the peel. So, I cooked it, checking it often. By the last check, the syrup had turned brown. So, I'm guessing the sugar burned in the solution. I jarred it and put it through a water bath. It also tastes like topping for ice cream. What happened to the vinegar? It must have cooked out or something.

    So, yesterday I had a half bushel of pickling cucumbers on the counter and a lot of doubts about my abilities. Did I really want to go through another back breaking bout of canning? With little else that I could do with that many cucumbers, I bit the bullet and salted down as much as my two big stainless steel bowls could handle. I'm happy to report that the two bowls resulted in 17 pints of beautiful bread and butter pickles. One batch I added a couple diced red peppers to the final cooking and they are just beautiful as well as very tasty. It had always been an option, but I had never tried them. I will do that again for sure.

    They say that the third time is the charm, and that worked for me. Do I dare push the issue and go on with peach jam and canned fruit? In the meantime, the watermelon is going down the disposal and I see a lot of strawberry sundaes in my future.
     
    Margot Howe, Aug 31, 2017
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  2. Margot Howe

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    Wow, I'm impressed even if everything didn't come out as planned! That's some ambitious stuff!

    Wonder if you could recook the strawberry jam to thicken it up more? Or add more pectin/gelatin?

    I had a similar issue though in a much smaller batch - my orange curd didn't set up thick enough to use in my cake. I Googled and saw that people had just reheated the curd to 170, and/or added gelatin or cornstarch. So I did reheat and add some bloomed plain gelatin, the one-half packet I luckily happened to have on hand, and it set up perfectly.

    It seems you can re-do the jam... according to this. http://foodinjars.com/2011/08/canning-101-how-to-save-runny-jam/

    You could try reworking a smaller bit of it to see how it does first?
     
    Apocalypso, Sep 1, 2017
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  3. Margot Howe

    Margot Howe Active Member

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    What a great idea. I will certainly try to re-do the jam. I never gave that a thought. What do I have to lose? It does taste great on ice cream though, and I happened to have a banana and some whipped cream.... you see where I'm going with this.

    I'm really interested in your orange curd. My lemon curd is so thick that it mounds on a spoon when cool, but I never considered using a different citrus fruit. I use it to top lemon cheesecake, or in the traditional English lemon tarts around the holidays. It keeps for months in the fridge, so it's always handy for a quick dessert. Care to share more about your orange curd? How do you use it?
     
    Margot Howe, Sep 1, 2017
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  4. Margot Howe

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Just an aside, fruit with lower natural pectin and acid levels require more sugar and an acid to thickened properly. Fruits natural high in pectin and acid can be made without commercial pectin.

    Strawberries are in the lowest pectin and acid group, so they always require the addition of commercial pectin AND an acid. I've never used Certo, so I don't know how it activates. I use Pomona's. Their pectin is derived from lemons. It uses calcium to activate, rather than sugar. Since it doesn't need sugar to activate you can use less sugar in your jams and jellies.

    They include a separate packet of calcium. The calcium is mixed with water. You add 1 tsp calcium water and 1 tsp lemon or lime juice per cup of fruit. They recommend making a 1 cup test batch so you know how how much pectin, calcium water, and acid to use..

    I haven't canned in a dog's age. But I always have Pomona's pectin in my pantry. I actually use it in various gluten-free flour mixes as a binder. I like it for that purpose since it doesn't have any other additives, it's just pure pectin.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Sep 1, 2017
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  5. Margot Howe

    Margot Howe Active Member

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    I've not heard of Pomona before and wonder if it is a West Coast thing. We have Certo and Sure Jel. I questioned the lemon that is usually added to jams, and it was not in the recipe that accompanies the Certo. I do use it in peach jam though. I thought it was used to keep the peaches from turning brown, although I do use Fruit Fresh in their bath before canning water.
    I have looked over the site that was proposed by Apocolypso in the previous comment. I do not think that their recommendations will work for me as they use a different pectin. My usual Certo will break down with added heat. I think I am stuck with strawberry syrup for the moment. Maybe it's time for an ice cream sundae party to help use it up. Thank you for your comments and insight into what goes wrong. Every day is a new learning experience.
     
    Margot Howe, Sep 1, 2017
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  6. Margot Howe

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    The addition of acid serves two purposes, thickening and keeping harmful bacteria from developing in the jam. Because sugar is very hygroscopic, the water in the fruit will go straight into the sugar. The pectin molecules will sit there on the sidelines. The acid changes things on the molecular level to make the water and pectin molecules bond. If that bond between the water and pectin molecules dosent happen, then the jam is thin.

    Nothing wrong with strawberry ice cream topping.

    Yes, most pectins do not like to be heated twice. A second heating will break it down:(

    The link below is to a site that has a explanation of how pectin works. There is a chart to show which fruits absolutely require an acid.

    My grandmother's cellar was always full of strawberry jam. I didn't realize until I started canning myself just how much skill is involved. She and her best friend May always made it look simple and easy. It's NOT easy.:eek:


    http://www.pickyourown.org/pectin.htm
     
    Norcalbaker59, Sep 1, 2017
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  7. Margot Howe

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    Margot, on the orange curd... I had never made it or lemon curd before, but I had an idea simmering in the back of my mind for a while. I wanted to make an orange cake bursting with orange flavor. I tried a couple of recipes, and while they tasted good and had nice texture, they weren't the real pop of orange I wanted. So I stumbled upon orange curd. Just now, I couldn't even remember which recipe I decided on, but I did remember it was a 6-egg-yolk recipe, and I'd looked at Martha Stewart's but I'm pretty sure I lighted on this Allrecipes.uk one as I recall using the digital scale. http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/34561/orange-curd.aspx I saw plenty of recipes that used whole eggs, and I imagine the white would have made it set up better, but this is a very rich, very orange recipe. Instead of grating the orange, where I always tend to miss a little skin, I peeled with a sharp peeler, then chopped up a bit, and used the "magic bullet" blender to grind the orange peel in with about half the granulated sugar, which itself smelled amazing. I also added a little lemon zest, and to intensify the flavor, a few tablespoons of orange juice concentrate, the stuff that comes frozen, in with the fresh juice. And quite a good shot of lemon juice to cut the sweetness. However, the first set didn't quite thicken to where I wanted it. I guessed, after reading suggestions, that I didn't quite cook it hot enough. I was being very timid with the heat and though it did seem to coat the back of a spoon, it probably didn't get to 170. So I simply reheated the whole batch, plus added some gelatin. I was concerned about the curd seeping into the cake layers, and this definitely didn't. It's very spreadable.

    I have enough left over that I have to use - had a little on dry toast, and some with peanut butter in a sandwich. But I am going to make a Swiss roll cake, whether yellow or chocolate I haven't decided, then spread the orange curd and then some stabilized whipped cream and hope it rolls up relatively tidy. Leaning toward chocolate, as I love chocolate and orange together. Fortunately the cake was a 6" round one, so not too big, and I sent generous pieces home with my sweetie. But having baked goods around is dangerous! :)
     
    Apocalypso, Sep 1, 2017
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