September 2009 Archives

Sugar Syrup For Canning

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sugar syrup 2 Sugar syrup is used primarily in canning fruits.  It's easy and fast to make.  I will list the different strengths of syrup you may want to make for different projects and the approximate yield.  Deciding how much you need for a given recipe is (I've found) a guessing game.  There are a lot of variables such as how much fruit you put in each jar, whether the fruit is diced or in large chunks, and how many jars you end up filling which depends on the same variables.  When I am going to can a big batch of peaches or pears I start off making a triple batch of syrup because I nearly always need at least that much.  If you run out in the middle of your project it is very easy to make more.  So don't let yourself get too worried.  If you make too much you can store the extra syrup in the fridge indefinitely or if you prefer you can put the extra in a jar and can it to use later. I have never used a heavy syrup for my peaches and pears.  I usually use either a light or an extra light syrup.  The sugar syrup helps to maintain the fruit quality and color as it sits in your pantry.  You can also use fruit juice or plain water, but I prefer the more traditional sugar syrup.  It is all a matter for your personal preference. General instructions: 1.  Choose a pot that will acomodate the quantity of syrup you are going to make. 2.  Measure the sugar into the pot. 3.  Measure the corresponding amount of water into the pot and stir really well. 4.  Put it on the stove on high heat and bring it to a boil while stirring it. 5.  By the time it comes to a boil the sugar should be well dissolved, it is ready for use. List of syrup types and the ratio of water to sugar for each one: Type of syrup:     % of sugar     Sugar                    Water                         Yield of syrup Extra-Light            20                   1 1/4 cups            5 1/2 cups               6 cups Light                          30                   2 1/4 cups            5 1/4 cups              6 1/2 cups Medium                    40                   3 1/4 cups            5 cups                      7 cups Heavy                        50                   4 1/4 cups            4 1/4 cups              7 cups

Tomatoes: Skinning And Seeding

No matter what you plan to do with your glut of tomatoes, you will need to process them first.  There are many ways of preparing them and Stitch and Boots will work to compile a number of different methods.  This one is a classic and is called for in many canning preparations such as making sauces, juice, and salsas.

Peeling and seeding your tomatoes is ideal if you're going to make sauce, salsa, or can diced tomatoes.  I didn't use to think it was necessary to peel or seed my tomatoes (thinking it was a colossal waste of time...) until I made my very first batch of tomato  sauce without doing either.  The seeds are juicy and covered in a gelatinous membrane that doesn't reduce when being cooked so that a sauce that's full of them doesn't ever get that pleasing thick consistency that is the ideal.  I know this because I've done it!  Similarly, if you you don't peel your diced tomatoes you will end up with curls of peel floating in your soup or your casserole which, while not the end of the world, will prevent your food from reaching a state of excellence.

Peeling and seeding your tomatoes does take some time, but is not at all difficult to do.  You're going to need:

1.  A large pot of water.

2.  A slotted spoon to place and remove tomatoes from the boiling water.

3.  Paring knife.

4.  Lots of ice to put in a big bowl. 

5.  (And a big bowl.)

 cross cutting 2

  • I never buy sprayed tomatoes so I don't wash them first.  They are going to be boiled and skinned so a little dirt isn't a concern.  However, if your tomatoes are especially dirty, muddy, or coated in pesticides, you will want to wash them first.
  • Before you set your water to bowl or put the ice out you will want to score the blossom ends of all your tomatoes.  Simply use your paring knife to cut an "x" in the skin.  This will help you slide the skins off easily after blanching the fruits.

coring 2

  • Then you want to core them all.  Some roma tomatoes barely have a core and in this case you may just want to slice the very end off.  If the tomatoes are a little tough further down, definitely core them.  I usually core and score each tomato but you can do all the scoring first and then all the coring- whichever way seems the most streamlined to you.
  • When you get 3/4 of your tomatoes cored and scored, put the pot of water on to boil.  Then fill a bowl with ice and some cold water.
  • When the water is boiling and your tomatoes are all prepared, put a few tomatoes in the pot at a time.  If you are processing slicing tomatoes only put 2 or 3 in the pot at a time, if you are processing romas, put about 6 of them in the pot at a time.  If you put too many in the pot at once it will bring the temperature of the water down so far that it will not start boiling again for longer than you want your tomatoes in the hot water.  When you see the water recover to a boil you let the tomatoes blanch for 30-60*  seconds.  It is good to gently stir them with your spoon to make sure all the skin surface of the tomatoes has been submerged.

icing toms 2

  • Remove each batch from the boiling water straight into the ice bath.  Let them cool down while you put more tomatoes in the pot.  Then remove the cooler ones and put on your counter or in another large bowl.  I like to get all of them blanched before working on slipping the skins off and seeding.

loose skin 2

  • Once all your tomatoes are blanched, slip their skins off.  Now put the tomato in the palm of your hand, over the sink or a compost bucket and gently squeeze until most of the seeds have come out.  This can be messy so wearing an apron is recommended.  Don't worry about getting all of the seeds out.  Just concentrate on getting the bulk of them out.
seeds pressed 2

  • When you have squeezed the seeds out your tomatoes will be a little flat.  This makes them easy to chop.  Now you're done.  You can either chop them for salsa, sauce, or freezing for later, or you can leave them whole.
It takes some time to process tomatoes but you will find that there are circumstances where you will be well rewarded by your efforts!

*An exact time isn't important.  If you do a search for information on how to peel tomatoes, you will find all different times being recommended.  15 seconds may not be enough to loosen the skins, and you definitely don't want your tomatoes boiling for more than 60 seconds or they will really start cooking and breaking down.  Start off timing yourself for about 30 seconds.  Once you have a feel for it, don't worry too much.

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