It started with the grapes. The beautiful, luscious Concord grapes that show up at local farmstands in late summer, early autumn. So tempting, so delicious, so hard to eat them all before they start to go bad!
One of my goals for this summer was to try canning, preserving the harvest, but my summer was so crazy busy with family visits and other fun stuff that I just never got around to it. Until the grapes appeared. That was my chance. According to my research on the subject of canning, making grape jelly or jam is very easy and usually the first thing new canners try. So I assessed my supplies, bought some jars and lids and got started.
And it was easy! Granted, there are lots of “rules” for canning. Squeaky clean jars and utensils. Specific boiling times for contents and containers. Careful filling of the jars. Checking to make sure they seal. All that kind of stuff. Directions are all over the web and in countless books for whatever produce you have on hand. I did limit myself to water bath canning, I’m still afraid of pressure cookers.
Here’s a list of the fruit jellies, jams and other concoctions I have canned. Click on any one and you will be taken to the site I used for recipes and directions.
Concord Grape Jam – 2 batches totalling eight 1/2 pint jars. We ate two jars already. This is the canning “gateway drug”!
Grape Catchup – I had red seedless grapes wasting away when I came upon this interesting recipe using red grapes and cider vinegar. This sauce will be so good on chicken or pork. And, you know the appetizer dish you make with meatballs, grape jelly, and chili sauce? I will be using this instead.
Champagne Grape Jelly – Bought these teeny, tiny sweet grapes from a new vendor at the Lakeland Outdoor Market. I thought we would just eat them up but time passed and I had to do something. Simmered them in their skins then ran them through my food mill. Back into the pan with a mix of sugar and Splenda, a little lemon juice and Ball’s No Sugar Needed pectin. Oh so pretty and a delicate sweet, tart flavor.
Fig Jam – I jumped for joy when I found that same vendor had flats of ripe figs! We ate some and I “jammed” the rest. Can’t wait to melt some on brie!
Cactus Pear Jelly – Same vendor had flats of cactus pears, or “tunas” as they are sometimes called. Don’t see those around here every day and I just had to try them. We fully intended to just eat these but they are filled with hard little seeds I could not get past. They have a lovely flavor similar to a kiwi, but not as acidic. I peeled them and simmered them until the flesh broke down, put it through the food mill and made jelly. Trial and error with this and I boiled it too long – it is very thick, but on hot bread or toast it melts nicely.
Apple Butter – Turned a peck of MacIntosh’s into 3-1/2 pints of yummy, spicy low-sugar apple butter. I froze my apple butter last year but I am running out of freezer space. Having learned a little somthing from last year’s experience, I cooked my apples down to sauce in the microwave, in 3 batches, then filled my crockpot to cook down to butter. Same delicious result and I had extra to eat as unsweetened applesauce.
Apple Peel Jelly – I hated to just throw out all those lovely peels and cores from the apple butter project. I found a web site that said just freeze them and make jelly when you have time. I simmered the peels/cores for an hour and left them to soak several hours, adding 2 cinnamon sticks. Strained the results through cheesecloth and got a lovely pink tinged juice that made some tasty low sugar jelly.
Whew! Maybe you notice there are no vegetables on this list? Don’t worry, the corn, peas, beans and pumpkins are taking up the space in the freezer!
Grape Jam, Fig Jam, Cactus Pear Jelly, Banana Jam, Champagne Grape Jelly, Apple Jelly, Apple Butter, Grape Catchup