Sunday, January 11, 2009

In the Kitchen - Canning: Recipe, Tips and Guidelines

I bought a bag of California Clementine tangerines at Costco this week and decided to can with them. My first thought was to make tangerine marmalade but didn't have enough Clementines. Next tangerine curd but found I was out of superfine sugar. So I decided to make tangerine jelly out of them instead. It's very good. It would also be good for use in cooking; such as glazing poultry, or with steamed green beans with sauteed shallots and perhaps a splash of white wine.

Here's the recipe:

Tangerine Jelly, makes 7 to 8 half-pint jars

3 2/3 cups filtered fresh tangerine juice
1/3 cup filtered fresh lemon juice (I used Meyer lemon juice)
7 cups sugar
2 (3-ounce) pouches liquid pectin

In an 8-quart stainless steel pan, over medium heat, heat the tangerine juice and lemon juice until warm. Add the sugar and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the entire contents of both pectin pouches. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Quickly skim off any foam (citrus make a lot, so be sure to do this well), and immediately ladle the to jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings. Process half-pint jars in a water bath for 10 minutes, pint jars for 15 minutes.

Canning Tips:

Be sure to measure the ingredients to the "T." Careful measurement of the ingredients are important to the successful and safe preservation of home-canned foods. I find I have best results when not doubling or tripling recipes. The most important thing is to make sure the balance of liquid, acid and pectin is correct or your product will not set properly.

Follow the cooking steps as written, especially the cooking temperatures is just as important to the success and preservation of your home-canned goods. Slowly melting the sugar completely and cooking long enough but not overcooking is very important. By not cooking enough, the sugar will not melt fully and you will end up with sugar crystals in your product. This can also happen when you overcook. Using too much sugar to liquid/juice will cause the same problem, but if you follow the given amounts in a recipe this should not happen. Sometimes the sugar crystals that develop on the side of the pan can get into the jars as well. Be sure to stay away from them, or remove with a damp towel. Always ladle your product into jars. Pouring can also pick up the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan and put them into your jars.

When a recipe says to skim the top of the product before putting into hot jars, be sure to do it, or it will gather at the top of your product in the jar and harden. It can look like butter in some instances. All the stirring that goes into the cooking adds air and that is what will cause the foam in the top of the food in the pot. Citrus for one makes a lot of foam.

Some soft spread recipes call for adding a very small amount of unsalted butter. This is not for flavor. It actually helps reduce the amount of air that becomes trapped in the juice when it is heated or boiled. The butter helps to release the air bubbles and minimize the amount of foam produced as the fruit cooks. Do not use salted butter, reduced-fat butter, margarine, shortening, lard or any other butter substitute. They can impart an unpleasant flavor to the soft spread, or any preserved food. Butter should never be added when making a jelly because they are prized for their crystal clarity. The fat in the butter will make the jelly cloudy.

The amount of headspace given in each recipe is very important. Always leave the exact amount of headspace called for in a recipe. The headspace allows for the expansion of the preserved food and the air in the jar during the water bath processing. During processing the contents of the jar expand and air is forced out the lid. As the air remaining inside the jar cools, it creates a vacuum, pulling the lid tight against the rim of the jar. Too much headspace, the lid may not seal properly. Too little headspace, and food may be forced out under the lid with the air, impairing the seal. Jars with poor headspace also run am increased risk of spoilage and contamination.

A Few Safety Tips I have Learned:

Never invert jars of preserved foods to seal the lids, even after water bath precessing. Turning the jars upside down in this old-fashioned way permits microscopic amounts of food or liquid to squeeze between the jar rim and the lid, allowing air and bacteria to enter the jar and causing the seal to fail.

Sealing jars with paraffin is no longer an acceptable canning method. Paraffin does not seal the jars airtight and allows dangerous spoilage agents to enter the jars and grow in the preserved food. Never use paraffin to seal a jar.

When preparing pickles, use a commercial vinegar with a minimum 5 percent acidity level. Do not use homemade vinegars for pickling, as the acidity level is unknown and may be too low to ensure safe pickling.

I know that for some people, when they have fruit that is getting over ripe they think lets can it. However, fruits or vegetables that are bruised or show signs of spoilage should not be used for canning. They may contain harmful bacteria that could contaminate your preserved foods.

While spoilage is a rare occurrence in properly prepared, sealed and stored jars of home-canned foods, it can happen. Never serve or taste the food of any jar until you have carefully inspected both the jar and its contents. When inspecting and opening jars, watch out for these dangerous signs of contamination:

* Broken seals or bulging lids
* Cloudy liquid in fruit, vegetables or pickles
* Fermentation (gas bubbles rising in liquid)
* Liquid or food leaking out from under the lid
* Contents spurting from under the seal when the jar is opened
*Mold visible on top of the food or on the underside of the lid
*Slimy or mushy food
*Unpleasant or unusual odor
* Unusual or badly discolored product

Safety Guidelines:

* To prevent accidents and avoid contamination be diligent about keeping your work area clean and clear.
* Canning jars should be kept hot until ready to use. Never ladle boiling hot preserved foods into room temperature jars, as the sudden temperature change may cause jars to break.
* The best thing to use to load and unload jars from a hot water bath a a specially designed and insulated jar lifter.
* While either filling jars with hot food or cooling the hot jars after removing from water bath, set the jars on a dish towel, wire rack or wooden board. Hot jars set on a cold counter can break from the sudden change in temperature. When a jar breaks, it shatters, sending tiny pieces of glass everywhere.
* Keep small children and pets out of the kitchen when canning. With all the pans of hot preserves and boiling water, accidents can easily happen.


Jen said...

The tangerine jelly looks wonderful! I bet it would be great on ebilskeivers!! Or should I say IN. Mmm!

Deirdre said...

I found your blog while looking for a recipe for lemon jelly. Today I made 21 jars of Meyer Lemon Jelly using your recipe - it turned out great. Thank you.