“How-To” Canning – Fresh Cranberry Jam

cran jellyOne of the best things about this time of year is cranberries!! Fresh cranberries are readily available from now through the holidays and you can make so many delicious things with them from jams to muffins to sweet dips! I really enjoy a good freshly made cranberry jam and this recipe really delivers. It also happens to be one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever made as it does not require any pectin AND if you’re not up for canning, you can just put it into the fridge and use it right away. It makes an excellent topping for toast and cornbread and it’s absolutely delicious spread on a fresh turkey sandwich. I always like to have some on hand in the pantry so I usually double the recipe for canning but if you want just a few jars to use right away, follow the recipe as written.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

Instructions

Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.

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Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the berries pop and the sauce thickens, about 20-25 minutes.

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Cool. After cooking, purée, and strain.

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To can the cranberry jam: (Makes 7 half pint jars)

  • PREPARE boiling water canner and all canning tools. Heat half pint size jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water then place them in hot, not boiling, water until ready to use. Set bands aside.
  • FILL each jar with jelly leaving 1/4″ of headspace. Wipe any excess jam from the rim with a clean cloth.
  • PROCESS the jars for 10 minutes in boiling water. Begin timing AFTER the water comes back to a boil.
  • REMOVE the jars from the water and allow them to cool on the counter.
  • CHECK the lids for a tight seal after 12-24 hours. If properly sealed, the lids will not give at all when pressed. Gently tighten the bands and store in the pantry.

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“How-To” Canning – Chunky Cinnamon Apple Pie Jam

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Since the kids were cooperating today and playing very nicely together I decided I would do a little canning since it’s something I have not done in quite a few months. I was planning on a Mango Pineapple Jam however, I was a little short in the mango department so I decided to switch gears and use up all of the Granny Smith apples that I had in the fridge. I know it’s only July but I thought a nice batch of apple jam would be a great thing to “can” now so in a couple of months when the weather changes back to the cool, crisp days of autumn, I’d have this warm and cozy treat on hand and ready to go.

I came across this recipe on the Taste of Home website, it was listed as a “Caramel Apple Jam” . I changed the recipe slightly because when I read that it called for FIVE CUPS of sugar my jaw almost hit the floor. I adjusted the sugar from three cups of granulated sugar to only one cup and from two cups of brown sugar to only one. Granted, two cups of sugar is still a good amount but it is certainly better than five cups! After tasting the jam, I absolutely made the right call in adjusting the sugar. Had I added five cups I think this batch of jam would’ve been sickeningly sweet and ended up in the trash. I also added a 1/4 tsp of apple pie spice in addition to the spices that were called for and I increased the water from 1/2 cup to one cup. I did cut back on the amount of pectin as well, I felt the jam would be way too gelatinous if I used that much.

Because this is such a chunky jam it really is more like an apple pie filling than a traditional jam. If you prefer a smoother jam, you can always run the cooked apples through a food mill to smooth it out before adding the sugar and going forward with the canning. I actually prefer it chunky because I think it lends itself to many other uses. It’s delicious spread on toast or a muffin but it would also be perfect as a topping for vanilla ice cream, pancakes, as a side to pork dishes, and even as a filling in individual hand pies or the Cinnamon Swirl Doughnut Bread that I posted a few weeks ago. I stirred some right into my vanilla yogurt and it was incredible! It’s an extremely versatile jam so the possible uses are virtually limitless. Feel free to experiment using it on other foods both sweet and savory.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups peeled and finely diced Granny Smith apples (about 5-6 apples)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp apple pie spice
  • 2 tsp fruit pectin and 2 tsp calcium water (I use Pomona Low Sugar Pectin, 1 oz. Box)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar

Instructions

Prepare and sterilize five 1/2 pint canning jars. Leave the lids in hot (not boiling) water and the jars in the simmering canning pot. The rims can be left to the side. Click Here For Sterilization Instructions

In a large pot combine the apples, water, butter, and spices. Stir over medium low heat until the apples are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the calcium water and then stir in the pectin. Mix well.

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stir in the sugar, and bring to a boil again. Cook for about a minute. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam.

One jar at a time, ladle the hot mixture in leaving a 1/4″ of headspace. Remove any air bubbles, adjust the headspace if needed. Wipe the rim of the jar, center a lid on top, and screw on a band just until it’s fingertip tight. Do NOT over tighten.

Once all of the jars are filled, place them in the canning pot ensuring they are fully submerged and covered in water. Bring the water back to a full boil and process the cans for 10 minutes. Do NOT start timing the processing until the water is at a full and rolling boil. After 10 minutes, remove the jars and allow them to cool completely, undisturbed, for at least 8-10 hours.

Soon after processing you should hear a “POP” indicating the jar has been properly sealed. Press the top of the lid, it should be tight and sucked into the jar with no give. If after a few hours you can still press up and down on the lid, you will need to process the jam all over again OR place it in the fridge and begin using it right away. Once the jars are completely cooled and properly sealed give the rim a little tightening and store in the pantry for 9-12 months.

**PLEASE NOTE** – The processing time is for elevations under 1,000 feet. For every 1,00 feet of altitude, adjust the processing time by adding an additional minute.

 

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Make It Homemade!

There is just nothing better than making something homemade! Aside from your dish being absolutely delicious you also have the added benefit of using the freshest ingredients and you know EXACTLY what is going into the food you eat.  If you ever take the time to read through the list of 457,000 ingredients that are used for a simple, basic store bought chocolate chip cookie you will appreciate REALLY quickly just how much better it is to make something from scratch.

Now I get it, cooking from scratch can be a big time commitment and it’s not always easy to get in the kitchen and whip up something homemade however, the more you do it the more you’ll realize that it’s not as overwhelming and complicated as you think.  I recommend starting with something super simple such as cookie dough.  There is nothing easier to pull together than a delicious, warm, home baked cookie.  Plus, cookie dough is a GREAT make-ahead recipe because it’s freezes (and keeps in the fridge) really well!  Here is where a vacuum sealer really comes in handy because it will help to extend the life of your cookie dough whether it’s in the fridge or freezer.  That being said, if you don’t have a vacuum sealer just roll up your cookie dough tightly in plastic wrap, put in a labeled Ziploc bag, and it should keep in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.  I like to write down the cooking instructions right on the Ziploc so that I am not scrambling around looking for the recipe down the road when I want to bake them off.  Spend an afternoon making a few different batches of cookie dough and you’ll always have a fresh, warm, homemade treat on hand.

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Cookie doughs are just the tip of the iceberg, you can make virtually anything from scratch and yield results that are as good, if not WAY better, than the processed store bought version.  Some of my favorite things to make are homemade vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, baking mixes, lemonade, ice cream, BBQ sauce, jams and jellies, dressings, and spice rubs.  Some of these things take just minutes to pull together using ingredients that you likely have on hand and they are better than anything you can buy in the store.

I’ve made my own vanilla extract countless times and it’s absolutely delicious.  Split a few vanilla beans, cover with either vodka or bourbon, seal and store in a dark place, and within 8-12 weeks you have homemade vanilla extract.  The longer you let it sit, the more concentrated the flavor will become.  You can see below the difference in color after just a few weeks and let me tell you, it’s absolutely incredible extract!

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Another fun thing to make from scratch, especially with the kids, is ice cream.  Making ice cream bases is so simple and once it’s chilled and ready you just pour it into the ice cream maker and let it do all of the work.  My kids and I made this delicious batch of vanilla chocolate chip ice cream and the flavor was so clean and natural.  Plus, I knew exactly what was in it so there were no weird chemicals or ingredients I couldn’t pronounce.  Just eggs, sugar, cream, vanilla, and chocolate chips!

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Love jams but you’re not quite sure how to can your own?  Try your hand at freezer jams, they are super simple and don’t require a ton of prep.  Or just make your favorite jam, pour it into a mason jar, and store it in the fridge.  There is no need to can it if you’re planning on using it right away.  I happen to LOVE cranberries and I usually end up overbuying bags of them at the holidays so instead of letting them go to waste I make a super easy cranberry jam.  Because I like to have plenty on hand, I’ll double the recipe so I can preserve and can a few batches for down the road.

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One of my most favorite things to make is lemonade, especially on a hot summer afternoon.  I promise you, once you have fresh squeezed lemonade you will absolutely NEVER want to drink the powdered or store bought version again.  This lemonade has such a light, fresh, perfectly balanced flavor that it’s easy to drink ALL day long!  This lemonade takes me no more than 15 or so minutes to pull together and it’s absolutely head and shoulders above any other lemonade I’ve ever had.  Just a few simple, fresh ingredients and you have yourself the perfect glass of cold, refreshing lemonade.

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As you can see, there really is no limit to what you can cook up in your own kitchen, it just takes a little planning and a dose of patience and before you know you can create a pantry, fridge, and freezer full of your own from scratch food!  Don’t be afraid to try your hand at different recipes, the worst thing that happens is that it doesn’t turn out great but then you learn from that, go back and tweak what you did, and try again.  Learning to cook and bake is a process but if you are willing to put in the time to learn you’ll be so pleased with the results.  There is simply nothing like homemade goodness!!!