A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Preserving the cherries and currants

Okay, so maybe it wasn't my NEXT entry, but here it is...

With close to 30 pounds of fruit ripe and ready to preserve, I needed to act quickly. As I said before, I immediately began freezing cherries as Mom pitted them.  I am not one to rely solely on freezing for preservation for several reasons.  First, if we lose electricity for an extended period, I will have a tremendous amount of food to eat very quickly, or I will lose it, if my harvest is primarily frozen.  Second, the life of frozen food is significantly shorter and less predictable than that of canned goods.  Third, frozen food continues to cost me money to keep it frozen.  Last, one only has a finite amount of freezer space and I try to reserve it for the food I HAVE to freeze such as surplus meat or produce I can not preserve in other ways, or  fast enough (like tomatoes when they ALL ripen at the same time).

I decided to try canning the cherries that were left after a large portion were frozen.  They look just beautiful in the jars, and I am hopeful they will be tasty when we need them. I used a light syrup (sugar water mixture) and canned them in quart jars.  They floated a little, which is to be expected since I raw packed them.  This means that I did not heat them before adding them to the jars, which would have released some air from them before canning.  Nevertheless, I am very happy with the results.

My attention next turned to the red currants that were ready to be processed.  They were at their peak of ripeness and I did not want them to sit and languish and, heaven forbid, go bad, waiting for me.  I looked around online for a suitable recipe, as I had never worked with red currants before.  I knew immediately when I found the one I wanted to use.  It was called Slacker Red Currant Jelly.  The idea is that there is VERY LITTLE work in the recipe... hence, a good recipe for a slacker to conquer.

In the event that the link ever goes bad, here is the recipe (it's been known to happen):  

Slacker Red Currant Jelly

Currants, washed with stems on (the stems and seeds contain loads of natural pectin that will make this jelly set up!)
Water, ½ cup per lb of fruit
Sugar, 1 cup per cup of currant juice

Place currants and water in a non-reactive pot, cover and bring to a simmer. Mash the fruit a bit and continue simmering for 20- 30 minutes. Drain the juice through a dampened jelly bag left to hang over night. Do not squeeze the bag! This will result in a cloudy jelly.

Place equal parts currant juice and sugar in a preserving pot. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is disolved. Raise heat and bring to a slow boil. Skim as needed. Watch carefully for set, it happens quickly.
Place jam in hot sterilized jars, seal. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Label and enjoy.

Note:  I stored my resulting tart currant juice, refrigerated in a quart jar, after hanging the pulp overnight for a day or two as I was not in a position to immediately mix the jelly and can it.  It stored beautifully and without any compromise in taste!  This is a wonderful and easy way to make a unique and tasty jelly.

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