Canning Plum Jelly

Well, actually restarted. My mother had a large garden for a number of years in the great state of Ohio. (Best tomatoes are grown in Ohio – IMO). We also had several fruits growing in the yard – strawberries, raspberries and black berries. She made jellies and jams with the fruit and canned the veggies. I recall one bad experiment — she tried to make ketchup. She reduced and reduced – and burned it. Smelled very bad; that batch was thrown away. I’d helped her with the canning process – mostly washing the jars and watching the timer – and keeping my brothers out of the kitchen. Good memories.

I’d been wanting to do some canning and when I saw those plums, I decided to go for it. So I fired up Amazon and ordered jars and tongs. I also ordered the smaller All American Pressure Canner. This one can handle pint and quart jars. You can also use it as a pressure cooker.

Canner

Canner

I’ve always wanted to experiment with the pressure cooker but have been a little afraid of it. This model has a couple of safety features that I liked. As I wrote in my last post, you don’t need the pressure component for jellies and jams – which is good because I’m still working up to using the pressure part.

Using the recipe in the Ball book, here are the steps I used to make 8 pints of Plum Jelly:

canning_book

Ball Book

 

Step 1: Gather the equipment and ingredients. This included purchasing the jars, canner, jar labels, plums, lemons, sugar and pectin. You’ll need a small pan in which to warm the lids and rings and a large pot in which to make the jelly. You should also have tongs, jar holders, oven mitts, paper towels or washcloth, towel (or silicon mat), wire rack, a ladle and funnel.

cannings_equip

Canning Equipment

 

Step 2: Make the juice. Following the juicing steps in my last post. You can do this ahead of time and store the juice in the refrigerator until ready to use – the sooner the fresher tasting.

Step 3: Prepare the jars and lids. First wash them; you can run the jars through a dish washer cycle if you wish. Fill the small pan with about 2 inches of water and add the lids and bands. Set on low heat on back burner – this is just to keep them warm – don’t boil them. Next, put the rack in the canner and fill the canner about half full of water and set on a big burner on high heat. Fill the jars with warm water and set them in the canner – do not let the jars touch. The water should cover the jars.

Prepare jars

Prepare jars

Step 4: Prepare the work area. Not that the other steps aren’t important but this is very important for speed and also safety. I am lucky in that I have a large straight path from from stove burners to the sink to the rest of the counter. So I am able to line up everything. I set  a towel on my counter (you could probably use a silicon mat as well) to hold the filled jars while I put the lids and bands on them. Have ready a paper towel or cloth to wipe the rims after filling and before putting on the lids and bands.

Step 5: Make the Jelly. Add the juice to the large pot and bring to a roiling boil. Add the pectin to the juice – stir to completely dissolve. All the sugar all at once and bring back to a rolling boil. Let boil for about a minute – the jelly should be thickened. Remove from heat.

Step 6: Fill and cap the jars. This is the tricky part for me; I do the jars two at a time. Using jar lifter, pull one jar out of the canner and dump the water out of the jar and back into the canner. Place the jar on the towel for filling. Using a ladle and funnel, fill the jar to within 1/4 inch of the jar rim. I fill a second jar in the same way. Wipe the rims to ensure there is no residue on the rims; if you don’t do this, it’s possible your jar won’t seal and your jelly cannot be stored. Using tongs, lift a lid out of the warming pan and lay on a jar top. Do this for the second jar. Using a oven mitt, hold a jar and put a band on the jar to ‘finger-tight’. This means it is barely tight; this allows excess air to escape during the canning process. Do the same for the second jar. Continue this pattern until you have all 8 jars capped.

Step 7: Process the jars. This is where you will boil the heck out of the jars – by heck I mean any remaining bacteria that could cause your jelly to spoil during storage. Read this for more information on bacteria spoilage. Place each jar back in the canner, again not allowing them to touch. You may have to adjust the amount of water in the canner – just make sure there is about an inch of water covering the top of the jars. Close the canner according to the non-pressurized instructions and bring the heat up to high. After steam begins to come out of the steam vent, start your processing timer. Allow to boil for the amount of time directed by the recipe. This was 15 minutes I believe. Turn off the heat. Again, following the directions in the receipt, remove the canner cover and let the jars sit for 5 minutes.

jars_in_canner

Processing Jars

 

Step 8: Remove the jars from the canner. Using the jar lifters, pull out the jars and set on the wire rack to cool. They should remain untouched for 12 hours.

plum_jelly_jars

Cooling Jars

 

Step 9: Clean up. Let the canner cool completely before emptying — it’s very heavy and hot — this could take a couple of hours. Clean the rest of the equipment and kitchen.

Step 10: Checking for proper seal. If you’ve done everything right, you should hear the seal ‘ping’ within a few minutes of removing the jars from the canner. After 12 hours, test the seal by 1) pressing down in the center of the lid – it shouldn’t move and 2) removing the ring and holding the jar up by the lid – it shouldn’t come off the jar. The sealed jars should be labeled with the contents and date of canning and can be stored in a non-refrigerated cabinet and used within a year. If a jar doesn’t seal, you can freeze the product or refrigerate and use within a week. OR you could reprocess the jelly. If you reprocess, you’ll need new lids. I just froze mine.

I also canned apple pie filling (my own recipe) and another recipe from the Ball cook called ‘Apple Pie in a Jar’. Yummy.

apple_pie_in_jar_jars

Apple Pie in A Jar

 

Apple Pie Filling

Apple Pie Filling

I was only able to achieve 50% seals on these first attempts but I am certain I will get better with more practice.

I plan to create an amazing spaghetti sauce and can it next. I’ll have to use the pressurized method with that one.

Happy canning!

 

 

Plum Soda Syrup

During a Saturday morning grocery run (early to beat the crowds of course), I was confronted by a display of fresh plums. I’d been wanting to make my own syrup to use in my SodaStream maker. The SodaStream is a system used to carbonate water to make your own sodas. You could just put the juice into the carbonated water to make the soda. That would be a healthy alternative. However, I wanted to emulate the soda syrup you can buy- they are thickened and sweetened. The diet soda syrup contains Splenda for sweetening but I don’t know how they make it thick. So I decided to try it by making a flavored simple syrup using the fruit juice and sugar.This seemed like the perfect fruit for it. I grabbed up 10 of the dark purple fruit along with some sugar.

Bowl of Plums

Bowl of Plums

 

You don’t need a pressure cooker/canner to make fruit syrups, jellies or jams; a large pot and strainer will do fine. For this attempt, I used 9 plums – this makes about 2 cups of juice.

Step 1: Cut the plums. First wash and cut the plums in half to expose the pit. The pit may or may not fall right out – it depends on how ripe the fruit has become. I like to use fully ripe fruit for juicing. If you run your knife all around the pit and the fruit doesn’t come apart, twist the halves with your fingers – the fruit will come apart. Either pull the pit out or cut it out with your knife and discard the pit. Cut the halves in half and put them into the large pot. Add a cup of water to the pot.

cut_plum

Cutting the plum

pitted_plum

Pitted Plum

Step 2: Cook the Fruit. Bring to a gentle boil stirring often. Let the fruit boil for 10 minutes stirring and crushing the fruit pieces occasionally. Remove from heat.

Step 3: Strain the juice. Put a strainer over a large deep bowl; a stainless steel or glass bowl is best. If you want very pure juice, line the strainer with two layers of cheesecloth. I’m OK with some fruit pulp in my juice so I didn’t use any cheesecloth. Pour the hot fruit into the strainer. Let it set for about 20 minutes to give the juice time to strain into the bowl. Because I’m impatient and don’t mind pulp, I mashed the fruit with a wooden spoon to hurry the juice collection time.

Step 4: Make the soda syrup. The sugar to liquid ratio used depends on how sweet you want your syrup. A 1:1 liquid to sugar ratio is too sweet and calorie heavy for me so I opted for a .5:1  sugar to liquid ratio. As I’d juiced 2 cups of plum juice, I used 1 cup of sugar. To make this, bring your juice to a full rolling boil and then dump in the sugar all at once. Bring it back to a full boil and boil hard while stirring for 1 minute. The juice should thicken. When you lift your stirring spoon, the syrup should drip very slowly from the spoon. Remove from heat.

plum_cook_2

Plum Boil

Pour the syrup into a measuring cup and let it cool for a several minutes. I finished the cooling in an ice bath. Be careful — do not put an extremely hot glass measuring cup into an ice bath – the glass may shatter. The best way is to fill the bowl with about two inches of tap water, set the measuring cup into the bowl and then add ice. Or just let the measuring cup sit for about a hour and then store it.

 

plum_syrup_cool

 

Step 5: Store. I put the cooled syrup into an empty, cleaned gatorade bottle and stored it the refrigerator. As it has no preservatives, you should use it within a couple of days. I also froze some – just to see how it thaws for use — I haven’t used those yet. I might just use it as a plum ice cube!

You can use this syrup as you would maple syrup – on pancakes, waffles and ice cream as well as in the SodaStream soda bottles. If you want to use it on pancakes and so forth, you might want to experiment with using the sweeter 1:1 juice and sugar ratio.

I used about a quarter cup of syrup for the half liter SodaStream bottle. It tasted great and all natural!