Preserving the taste of summer

There is nothing like a jar of preserves to bring back summer memories. The harvest can be transformed into relishes, pickles, jams, jellies, chutneys or simply canned to be enjoyed in the months ahead. If you decide to tackle this satisfying culinary feat, your kitchen will be fragrant with the smell of spices bubbling on the stove, and at the end of the day you will have a selection of sparkling jars to admire, and the alluring tastes within to add punch to a winter meal.

Preserving, or canning as it is frequently called, requires some special equipment and techniques to produce safe, delicious food. You will need a trip to a hardware store to buy a canner (a metal pan with lid and a trivet inside to hold the jars), mason jars (made of tempered glass to withstand heating in a water bath), metal rings and lids lined with rubber which will give a good seal, tongs, cooling rack, oven mitts and stamina!

In the same department or in a cookbook section, look for information by Bernardin, a leader in preserving technique, to help you with recipes and any canning questions. These booklets contain the most up-to-date information on safe preserving. Often people want to use a family recipe but ingredients and techniques change over the years, and old recipes should be checked against the modern version. The recipe that follows for my grandmother’s peach conserve is an example. I checked it against Bernardin’s version to make sure the amounts and techniques were updated. Here‘s to a satisfying day in the kitchen “putting food by,” an old-fashioned term for preserving or canning.

Ada’s Peach Conserve

Whenever you received a jar of my grandmother’s conserve, you knew you were getting a treat! It was always a small jar filled with chunks of peaches, almonds and maraschino cherries all in a luscious syrup. It was delicious spooned over ice cream, sponge cake or onto a freshly made scone

1 each, orange and lemon, washed, seeded and finely chopped, including peel
8 cups (2 L) prepared peaches, about 20 peaches, blanched, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped
4-inch (20 cm) piece of cinnamon stick
7 cups (3 lbs) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) maraschino cherries, halved
1/2 cup (125 mL) blanched, slivered almonds

Blanching of fruit kills the enzymes beneath the skin allowing you to easily peel such fruit as peaches and tomatoes. Cover the peaches with boiling water and allow it to stand for 30 seconds then immediately plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. Remove skins.

Prepare Conserve: Cut peaches into chunks. Wash citrus fruit; quarter, remove seeds and cut into quarter-inch (1 cm) dice using a food processor or knife. In a mixing bowl, combine peaches, citrus fruits and sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day turn this mixture into a stainless steel saucepan together with cinnamon stick; bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-high and cook 25 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir cherries and almonds into peach mixture. Continue cooking until slightly thickened, five to 10 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.

Prepare Jars: Meanwhile, fill canner with hot water and bring to boil over high heat. Arrange washed one-cup (250 mL) mason jars in trivet and lower trivet and jars into canner. Place snap-lids and rings in separate saucepan of boiling water and boil for five minutes. Jars, lids and rings stay in boiling water until ready to be filled.

Fill Jars: Ladle conserve into hot jar to within 1/4 inch of rim (this is called ‘head space’). Remove air bubbles by sliding a rubber spatula between glass and food: readjust head space to 1/4 inch (.5cm). Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Centre snap lid on jar. Apply screw band just until fingertip tight. Place jar in canner. Repeat with remaining conserve. Cover canner; return water to boil; process 10 minutes.

Remove jars to cooling rack. Cool for 24 hours. Check for seal – sealed lids curve downwards. Any lids that are bouncy and do not curve downwards should be stored in the refrigerator and used within two weeks, as they are not safe to store at room temperature. Wipe sealed jars, label and store in cool, dark place for up to one year.

 

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer  ~  janmainskitchen@yahoo.ca


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