Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Canning, canning and then more canning!

Pears are ready - we have three trees all of which are ripening at the same time. Pear overload! It's a mad dash to get them all preserved in one form or another before they go bad!

When Saturday dawned grey and chilly, I was secretly delighted. Perfect weather for spending the weekend in the kitchen without feeling like I was missing out on something better. ;-) Our first order of business (after the chores) was to pick up our share of grass-fed beef and pork from the local CSA. We met the couple who owns the ranch and their six (SIX!) sons! They couldn't have been much older than us but they had six sons ranging in age from about 17 to about 2. AND they run a ranch? Yeah, remind me of that the next time I'm complaining about not having enough time on my hands! They were a cool couple and we are glad to be supporting them. We offered to bring them fallen apples and pears for their pigs - so we hope to do that this coming weekend. Anyway, after we stopped at the local discount store to pick up some more wide-mouth canning jars, we headed home.

While my H was keeping himself busy fixing a plethora of items around the homestead, this weekend was all about food preservation for me. First off, I started with making cajeta. This is a mexican caramel candy made from milk. It basically makes a creamy caramel sauce that can be used over ice cream, with apple slices, eaten by itself to squash a sweet craving...etc. I liked that it used up 3 quarts of milk! The directions sounded deceptively simple and we've long ago learned that when it sounds too good to be true - it is. Anyway, I started with a big pot of milk, sugar and cornstarch.

I boiled it until it started forming a caramel-type mixture.

What the directions failed to point out was that this process would take HOURS. Ugh. Anyway, once it was the right consistancy, I pour it into pint jars and processed it in my waterbath canner. I now have two jars in the pantry and one in the fridge for immediate consumption. I've only tried tasting it (creamy, milky, caramel flavor) and have yet to use it on sliced apples (maybe tonight?). It's good!

Then I went out and picked the last of the blackberries. While I was out there, I met up with our neighbors (and their dogs) and we got to chatting a bit. They gave us a few of their apples (delicious variety that we don't have) and we offered up all the pears they could eat! They also mentioned that if we needed their help, they'd be happy to watch our animals for us some time. That was good news! That and the fact that they are going to get chickens, too. :-) Anyway, I used up the blackberries by making the jam, freezing two more quarts, and then baking my mom's awesome blueberry muffins but with blackberries.

Our freezer packed with milk (the ivory colored bags - it's white when it's defrosted), grass fed pork and beef (the white paper packages) and frozen berries (blackberries and blueberries).

Blackberry jam - seedless variety. We have now 12 pints of this which should last us through the year, no problem!

Blackberry muffins! Jordan Marsh style!

They turned out tasty, but fell apart when I tried to get them out of the pan. I didn't grease it well enough. Ooops.

Then I moved on to pear sauce. First I picked out enough pears to fill the same pot that made me 7 quarts of applesauce.

Washed pears - awaiting the knife...

Then I sliced them leaving the skins on since my food mill will separate them for me.

Then I boiled them, sauced them, and put it back into the pot to season it. It just didn't go as well as the apple sauce did. The sauce came out kind of watery. I tried to boil off some of the juice, but it's still pretty wet. Eh. I canned it anyway (7 quarts).

I need to make labels - the pearsauce looks deceptively like applesauce!

On Sunday I canned the pear slices, made more applesauce (which turned out way better than the first batch because I used 3 varieties), and started making applebutter in the crock pot. I'll be canning the applebutter this evening after work.

Pears - canned and ready for the pantry!

All in all - it was a weekend of successful pantry stuffing!


bonnyboo said...

You are unbelievable! How did the blackberry(Blueberry) muffins taste? I haven't made those muffins for ages....Dad can't eat blueberries! Oh well. How are the chickens doing? Egg laying yet? Are the roosters getting along? Thanks to H for fixing my computer. Lover you, Mom

Anonymous said...

Oh Catherine! Your photos are making me hungry!!!! You're doing such a super job with the canning! And I'm very happy for you that you have good neighbors - ours take care of our feral cats when we go away. Nothing takes the place of great neighbors, that's for sure.