Preserving Notes for Fall 2011

I would like to say that canning season is truly done for me as of today.  Instead, I can say with confidence that canning season is kind of winding down but who knows when it will truly end because I still have quince on my tree and a friend has said her concords are in.  I dearly want to make concord grape soda and/or grape syrup for Italian grape sodas.  Or even just juice.  It’s the only home canned thing my son enjoys that I make.  It’s the only thing he asks for.  Here are my notes from this year’s canning adventures so far.


My jams almost always taste fantastic.  It’s hard to go wrong with jam flavor so I can’t claim it’s because of my great mastery or kitchen brilliance.  Jam consistency is a whole different story.  Most years I have more trouble getting my jam to set than making them set too hard.  What I find frustrating and weird is that the only jam I used pectin in didn’t set well at all, but the other two jams which I made without pectin set more firmly than I wanted.  Again and again.  I made three batches of blackberry jam.  I adjusted the boiling time to shorter and shorter periods with each batch until the last one I did I was absolutely SURE it would end up being too soft.  It was not.  It was just as firm as all the other batches.

I made two batches of Damson jam.  (Incidentally, I did jell testes for every single jam batch, in case anyone cares to know).  Each batch is more stiff than I’d like it to be.  For me the perfect jam consistency is sticky and thick but soft enough to spoon onto a scone without having to violently shake it from the spoon.  I think I know the trick now at last.  The jell test instructions say to put a teaspoon of jam onto a little chilled plate then put in the freezer for one minute.  This is not enough time to really tell.  That’s my opinion.  I think next year I will bring my jams to a boil for just a few short minutes and then take it off the burner, do the jell test, and let it cool at room temperature for a half an hour or so.  The little plate I did my jell test on last night that indicated my damson jam was not yet ready sat on the counter over night and this morning it was the perfect consistency.  But I boiled it longer last night because it didn’t seem set enough.  So what I learned is that to do it properly, I must take my time with the test.  Why should I be in a hurry anyway?

Rose Hip Syrup:

Gross.  I hate the flavor I got.  I have had dried rose hips in tea many times in my life and very much enjoyed the flavor and the slight tartness of them.  I thought the flavor of rose hip syrup would be similar.  Not so.  It was sweet, kind of soft and floral, and though that may sound good to some people it was awful to me.  So that was a total waste of time.  I can’t give up on rose hips, though, because they are so nutritious and full of vitamin C.  My plan is to do the tedious and cut them, gut them, and dry them.

Asian* Plum Sauce:

I tried a recipe from the book “Preserved” by Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler. This is not at all what I want in a plum sauce.  I didn’t use the spices they used because I dislike cinnamon in most savory food (except some North African dishes) and I really dislike star anise.  They have you cook the sauce for two hours (to let the spices I didn’t use infuse the sauce) and I did cook it down for quite some time because after adding so much vinegar, water, and soy sauce it was much too thin.  The sauce I ended up with has a very muddled dark taste.  Maybe the soy sauce had something to do with that.  Maybe just cooking it for so long.  I’ll tell you what, though, the spices that were called for would not have improved it one bit.

What I wanted is  the kind of plum sauce you get when you order Mushu vegetables in a Chinese restaurant.  The authors of this book claim that that’s what this is supposed to be like.  It’s not.  It’s been a while since I’ve had plum sauce in a Chinese restaurant but I haven’t forgotten that taste.  What I loved about that sauce was its bright, tangy, and very plummy flavor.  I’ll do better to make up my own version next time.  The plum sauce I made last year using yellow plums, ginger, garlic, sugar, and jalapeno was fantastic for dipping spring rolls into.  That’s more like what I want, except with dark plums.   What a waste of Damsons that turned out to be.

Dill Pickles:

There weren’t many pickling cucumbers to be had and the ones we got were too big and had much too developed seeds inside which means they will be mushier than usual on the interior.  I gutted many of them that were seriously sub-par and I have no idea how those will turn out.  The idea is that I will chop those up for potato and egg salads.  The seeds were enormous and gelatinous because they were too mature.  We were a little desperate, so we made do.

There are several quarts of mixed vegetable pickles (with green beans from the garden included) and I think those will be very nice.  They look super pretty as well.

Peach Chutney:

Second year making it.  Last year I cooked it a little too long and it got very dark.  We liked it, it was good.  The adjustments we made this year were to lower the sugar (it was too sweet) and to lower the amount of raisins.  I may have not cooked it quite long enough this time.  The color is prettier (lighter orange) but it may be softer than intended.  I think over all it will be an improvement.

Jalapeno peppers:

They’re very good.  Really wish they were more evenly sized (my mom is untame-able in this way) but they taste great and I’m happy we have so many of them.

Lots of freezing:

Lots of pesto.  That always turns out great.  I did some in jars (my preference) but since the freezer is actually running out of space this year I had to revert back to using plastic vacuum seal bags.  Also have 6 quarts of corn chowder in there, 3 quarts of pinto bean chili, at least 10 quarts of plain blanched corn, 3 pints of sauteed onion with hot peppers and corn.  A couple bags of slow roasted tomatoes which I don’t think turned out well but I can’t say how something that’s so simple and which I’ve made well so many times before could be unsatisfactory- yet it’s so.  I have several jars of strawberry syrup and ginger syrup in there as well.


My mom has been doing a lot of this work.  Several quarts of dried nettles and a quart of dried kale.  Varying amounts of: thyme, stevia, calendula, cayenne peppers (there are still quite a few ripening), and arnica.  I’m considering drying a giant zucchini to experiment with how it is reconstituted in winter soups.  Anyone else tried this and have an opinion?

Theoretically I’ll be done with fall preserving when I’ve gotten and processed the concords and picked and processed the quince (Philip has requested quince jelly).  So where are all of you in your food processing – are you done?  Almost done?  Or just getting started?

*The original recipe was called “Oriental Plum Sauce”.  When referring to people or things from the Asian continent it is considered (according to my Asian friends and my personal opinion combined) to be better form to use the word “Asian” instead of the word “Oriental”.

8 thoughts on “Preserving Notes for Fall 2011

  1. Aimee

    WOW, you have done such a great job! I’m impressed.

    It’s my understanding that when referring to people (and maybe animals), Asian is the preferred nomenclature, and Oriental applies to objects. I wonder where food would fall under that?

  2. NM

    Interesting. Glad to hear your notes on the plum sauce; it sounds a bit similar to a recipe from Small Batch Preserving that I had looked at. There’s a plum sauce recipe in the Ball blue book that I’m eyeing, but it sounds too sweet. Four pounds plums, 4 cups sugar. Yeesh. I might try it with about half that. It does call for green peppers; don’t recall any soy sauce, cinnamon or star anise.
    I would like to try your rose hip syrup, if I might; have thought about making it. I’d have expected it to be tart, too. So frustrating, when things don’t turn out well. I made two batches of catsup; one is so-so; one is fantastic. So what am I going to do with that so-so batch?
    Have been making quince preserves in a vanilla spice syrup last few years, and then turning the excess syrup into spiced quince jelly. It’s delicious (if I do say so myself); only trouble is, last year, it didn’t jell well. So it’s more syrup than jelly. Might do it again this year, if I get my hands on any quinces. And have any energy left by then …
    Am getting close to being done, and quite a relief it is, too. There are maybe a dozen or so items left on the list, but all the most important things are done, which removed a lot of stress. One of the items is a bright, fresh tomato basil sauce, to freeze, but the freezer is chock-full! Not much more is going to fit in there …
    Never did manage to get any properly-dried basil, either, which is a frustration. I don’t use a lot, but it’s nice to have some on hand. No dried thyme, either, which is a calamity that must be addressed in some fashion. And soup. Having a few jars of canned soup made me really happy last year. The canning process extracted a great deal of the flavor, but on those nights when I was coming down with something and too damn tired to cook anything, it was sure nice to have. Freezing it might be good too, but as mentioned, the freezer is stuffed to the very brim… besides, the soup gets lost in there.

  3. angelina Post author

    Aimee- I wasn’t aware of the distinction. I think I’m just too uncomfortable with the word “oriental” to use it at all. But it’s good to know it has accepted uses since other people do use it. I would say food counts as objects rather than people.

    Ann-not feeling wiz-ish after this weekend but I’m certainly a busy preserver!

    NM- I have extra thyme I can share! I can give you a standard spice jar size full of it. We’ve done very well this year and I know my kitchen will shut down if I don’t have home dried thyme because the store bought is such poor quality in comparison. I use it a lot. Bummer about the so-so ketcchup. Did Rick like it? Could it be used in a vegan “meatloaf” type dish? Or in your vegan sloppy joes? I’m thinking it might be good in a recipe as opposed to on one. You can taste my rose hip syrup and if you like it you can have it all, if not, I won’t blame you because I know I don’t and it will otherwise go to waste. I used cane sugar rather than honey for it and I followed instruction to use one cup of sugar per cup of rosehips. I should have known that would be too sweet- but even if there was less sugar I don’t think this concoction of mine had any tangy quality to it in the first place. Do you pressure can your soups or use a boiling-water-bath? I have tasted your quince jelly!! It was so good- would you send me instructions?

  4. NM

    Wahoo, thank you!!! That’s very exciting, about the thyme. Fascinating about the rose hip syrup; I am very curious! Wonder if it might have benefited from some lemon juice?
    Good idea about using the catsup; I’ll have to give that some thought. That way, I could adjust the seasoning … Rick said it was “not bad.” Sloppy joes, now that you mention it, sound like a fine idea! Good fall and winter food.
    I pressure can the soup, according to directions from the National Center for Home Food Preserving. Planning to make a different kind this year.
    Yes, be glad to send you my quince jelly notes; just have to locate the paper they’re scribbled on. (I do know which folder it is in.) They are not precise, unfortunately; they say something like, take leftover syrup and add more ginger and cinnamon … fortunately, you are the kind of cook who can work with that sort of thing. Someday, I’ve really got to create a proper recipe. I’ll send you the preserve notes, too, so you know what syrup it’s talking about.

  5. Mindy

    As far as I know I’m done. The garden is over, unless there is some okra left. Time to put in the winter greens. I’m really interested in your ginger syrup. How do you make it, and how do you use it? I should have kept notes, I can’t even remember how I did what I did from one year to the next.

  6. Kathy

    I think I’m done and then find more to preserve, which is such a gift from the earth. I went to the local farm Monday to buy a bushel of thai peppers for the winter and she had just picked the last of her tomatoes. I was so excited to see them that I bought the 20lb box and am roasting them right now. Then they’ll go in the freezer. Our beet crop was low this year, never enough for a full batch to pickle and can and judging by what I saw at the farms this summer, it wasn’t just me. I did buy a small bag yesterday from a different farmer but it yielded just 4 quarts. I really wanted to do one large batch and be done so I’m still looking for beets and maybe more apples to keep on the back porch.

  7. angelina Post author

    Mindy- I have the recipe and instructions here: I use it when I’m feeling run down or when I’m already sick. I just take 1 to 2 T several times a day. It’s very warming and strengthening. It can also be good for nausea (I had a strong ginger beer when I was really nauseous one time, because I didn’t have ginger syrup prepared, and I must say it really helped a lot).

    Kathy- you lucky lady! I could get my hands on some more tomatoes but I’ve just told myself no. I got a few concord grapes so I’m going to boil them and crush them and make some grape syrup for Max. And I got some apples. They are a little bit wormy so won’t keep long. I’ll be making apple sauce out of them. What recipe for pickled beets do you use? I made them once and didn’t really like the results. I love beets! My mom’s did pretty well (we haven’t picked them yet- they’re getting big!) but she didn’t plant lots of them. Tant pis!

    Nicole- I got your quince notes and will look over them this weekend. I am going to pick my quince before they fall off the tree. I can’t tell when they’re really ripe – I read that they’re ripe when they’re yellow and smell perfumy. I know a couple of them are yellow but the others I can’t quite say- but I read they ripen off the tree as well.

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