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Monday, August 22, 2011

Meatless Monday Preservation: Ground Cherry Jam and Canned Potatoes

Greetings!

Today I'm going to show you a quick recipe for jam that uses ground cherries and then I'm going to show off my new pressure canner and show explain how I used it to can some potatoes.

To begin, you might want to reference some of my previous posts about preservation.

Three kinds of pickles

Apple butter (it's almost that time!)

Canning tomatoes (a great place to start if you've never canned before. no special equipment required)

The basic rule of canning is this: anything that is acidic, like tomatoes, can be canned in a water bath.  (Likewise with jams and jellies) But anything that is NOT acidic or preserved by other methods must be canned in a pressure canner.

If you've never tried any canning before and don't want to buy a pressure canner, jams are a great place to begin.  Find a good supply of high quality fruit and dig up a recipe.  I have become obsessed with ground cherries this year.  If you've never tried them, their taste is almost tropical.  They are sweet, tart, and savory in their depth of flavor.

I followed the directions on my pectin box for basic jam and used equal parts fruit and sugar.  Note: this is an excellent walkthrough of the jamming process and a great reference website.

Ground Cherry Jam

yields three to four small jelly jars of jam

2 pints ground cherries (once peeled, these came to approximately three cups)

Equal volume sugar (3 cups)

1/2 c. water

juice of one lemon

Ground cherries come in papery husks like tomatillos.  They are ripe when they fall off the plant.

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Peel off the husks and rinse them very well.

DSC03205As always with jam, discard any fruits that are soft, bruised, or rotten.

DSC03208Put the cherries in a sauce pan with the water, lemon juice, and box of pectin.  Bring to a boil and crush the cherries, but leave chunks of fruit so the jam has texture.  Follow your pectin's directions for boiling and water canning.  I processed these in boiling water for 10 minutes.

The jam is delicious and makes impressive gifts, though we're hoarding most of it for ourselves.

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If you can get your hands on some ground cherries, I highly recommend making some jam so you can enjoy them all year long.  I've been contemplating a pie, too, so keep your eyes peeled.

This year I finally bit the bullet and bought a pressure canner.   For years I've gone to my mother's house each summer and canned everything I could squeeze into one hot afternoon.  I decided it was finally time to make the investment and bought this canner, deciding on the larger model so I can eventually stack jars.

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In the photo above, you can see the three important parts on the lid.  On the far right is the vent pipe which lets out steam.  The small thing in the front center is the air vent that automatically closes when the canner is full of steam and has expelled all the extra air. The dial in the center is the pressure gauge.  This measures how many pounds of pressure have built up inside the canner.  On the left in the photo below you see the pressure regular which eventually goes on top of the vent pipe.

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The canner also includes base tank that has a removable rack.  This rack assures proper circulation of steam and keeps the jars off the hot bottom of the canner.

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The lid of this canner is designed so that it can only be put on one way.  It's essential to get your lid on properly so the canner can build up steam.

Here you can see that the handles must line up for a proper seal.

DSC03291Every pressure cooker is different, so I'm not going to go through the specifics of the process, but I will explain the basics how I canned some potatoes.  You can check here for good info about pressure canning, recommendations for canners, and links to good books and recipes.

Canned Potatoes

I began by soaking my potatoes to loosen the dirt.  I eat my potatoes with the skin on so I didn't peel them.  You're free to peel and chop them, but if you do don't bother scrubbing them.  I just picked whole small potatoes.

DSC03275Once they're well scrubbed, get some water boiling.

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Boil the potatoes in well-salted water for 10 minutes.

DSC03282Drain.

We're going to use the hot pack method where you add hot liquid to hot vegetables. (Read about the difference between hot pack and raw pack here)

After you've drained your potatoes, start more water boiling (or do this at the same time, depending on how many large pots you have.)  Put your jars, lids, and rings into the hot water and let them get warm.  You may also do this in a sink of the hottest water your faucet will put out.  You are not sterilizing them, but simply getting them warm so they're the same temperature as the warm food and boiling water you're going to cover the potatoes with.

Stuff the potatoes into the hot jars.  You are free to add salt here, but I didn't because I wasn't sure how much to use and will season the potatoes when I use them later.

DSC03292Cover the potatoes with boiling water leaving an inch of head space.  I didn't use the water I'd boiled them in because some recipes said not to, but I'm inclined to believe it'd be no problem.

DSC03298Wipe the rim and put on your lids and rings but don't tighten them too much.  The air must be able to escape the jar, and it can't if you close them too tightly.

DSC03302Put them in your pressure canner and process per instructions.

DSC03304See you in December, little guys.  (My liquid level got low here for a variety of reasons, but I understand that the potatoes that aren't in liquid will possibly be tough but won't go bad.  Your water should come all the way up over the potatoes if you don't mess up like I did.)

DSC03328Remember to always store your canned goods with the rings OFF.

So tell me, what are you putting up these days?  Have you used a pressure canner before?  I promise it's not nearly as scary as it seems.  Until next time, share with me what you're eating these days, and consider giving canning a try.

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