This blog is about my journey into the world of canning, or "putting up" as others would like to call it. I will try to pickle almost anything and smash berries and sugar together on any given day. I'll also write about general baking, which is another passion of mine, but not as overwhelming, addictive or obsessive as canning has become.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Becoming Addicted


My very first canning experience this year began with making Blueberry-Lemon Preserves around July 2011.  I never knew that it would grow to be an obsession, or to put it more eloquently, a passion that I now have. 

I am literally waking up each morning and besides the usual, “I don’t want to go to work or get out of bed” thoughts floundering around in my brain, I’m wondering what I’m going to make that night after I get home from work. 

I used to just enjoy making myself dinner or bake some sort of treat for my coworkers.  Ever since that batch of Blueberry-Lemon Preserves, it’s like a whole new creative canning world lies in front of me.. waiting… waiting for me to pick more berries, buy more sugar and boil pectin into a smashup of tasty, fruitful delight.

When I started canning I wasn’t a pro with my camera and to be honest, wasn’t pleased with it at all.  I bought the camera two years ago and spent about $240 – plenty, I thought, for a good, reliable camera.  I’ve never been too impressed with its picture taking abilities and to be honest, my iPhone camera has always done a better job.  That was until I started paying close attention to the pictures posted on some food blogs that showcased food in a new light.  The food item was the star of the show – it was on display – and it was beautiful.  The background was soft, the food was glimmering but in a very detailed and in-focus fashion.  I spent hours one night searching through random food blogs, just loving all of their pictures.  I finally emailed one blog author and asked how she got her pictures to look so amazing.  She emailed me back and to my shock, she said she had an old hand-me-down camera that had an aperture setting that made the food look comforting, inviting and in focus with a dewy, soft background taking everything out of focus, just a bit.  It softened the background and that allowed the food to take center stage and really shine.  I ran in my room, grabbed my camera and found an actual FOOD setting on my camera.  Go figure.  I also found about 25 other very specific settings that would have come in handy over the past few years, but I digress.  As fast as I could switch it to the food setting and line up a few bananas for a test shot, my camera displayed the following equivalent of the “blue screen of death” on a computer – “battery is exhausted”.  I figured it needed to be charged so I plugged the little guy in.  A few hours later it still says the same sad line.  The next morning, same thing.  I finally realize that the lithium ion battery has literally bit the dust and I needed a new one.  Isn’t it funny how when you really need something it suddenly becomes unavailable?  The next day I stopped at the local electronics store and picked up a new battery - $40.  Unreal.  But worth it for the pictures I’m now able to take.

Needless to say, for the first few recipes, I won’t have any pretty blog-type pictures to go along with my post.  You’ll notice when I figured out how to use my camera just by the pictures – a few posts in, I predict. 

For now, here is the first canning recipe I tackled which won my heart and now has me completely obsessed with smashing fruit and sugar or vegetables and vinegar into little glass jars:

Blueberry-Lemon Preserves

Ingredients:

·         5 cups blueberries
·         4 cups of sugar
·         Zest of two lemons
·         Juice of two lemons
·         2 (3 ounce) envelops liquid fruit pectin (Ball Fruit Jell)

Directions:

In a large saucepan over high heat add blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Stir frequently while bringing to a rolling boil.  I used a meat tenderizer at this point – I have one from Pampered Chef that is reversible – one side has spikes and the other is flat.  I used the spiky side and smashed these little berries so that they were somewhat beat up but not completely destroyed.  There should be some whole berries left and the rest should almost resemble a quick run through a food processor – very torn apart.

Stir in the pectin and continue boiling for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Skim any foam if necessary and ladle into the hot prepared jars.  Be sure to leave at least a 1/4” space at the top of the jar.  Place the cap on the jars and process for another 15 minutes boiling water canner.




I made two batches of this jam – the first one I followed Paula Deen’s recipe perfectly and it was really just too sweet.  Too sticky sweet for my taste buds, but I’m a skim milk with one sugar kind of girl – I don’t like anything too sweet.  I cut the sugar down by 2.5 cups and it seems to be perfect now. Still sweet but not overpowering like it was.

I ladled this beautiful dark blue chunky syrup into cute jars that almost resemble the shape of a mini pumpkin – short and fat with curved sides.  Not typical canning jars, obviously, but their presentation is certainly something to appreciate.  I made up labels that perfectly fit on a flat part of the jar and I tried my best to tie in the blue and yellow hues from the blueberries and lemon.  The ending result is quite nice, I think, for a first round of canning.

The only picture I have is the finished product -


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