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7/28/2016

 

Until I moved to a farm in rural Texas and met my late husband, I had never heard of purple hull peas and had only a dim knowledge of any kind of Southern pea. I learned that folks here mostly cook these beloved peas with quantities of one or another fatty pork.

Although this is similar to the way we Yankees bake beans, I wanted to try something healthier, more Mediterranean. I researched a bit and came up with a pea salad they call Texas Caviar and developed my own version of this healthy, nutritious dish.

I’ve only made this salad with fresh or fresh-frozen peas, but I suppose it will work with canned or cooked dried peas. Freshly shelled, the peas should be a pale cream color with a purple-ish “eye." Avoid packages of peas in a market that have turned brown — they’re already fermenting and good for nothing more than the compost pile.

Purple hull, black eye, zipper cream or lady peas are all actually beans, even though in the South they are called peas. They are legumes, an important vegetable protein and, combined with a whole grain, make up a complete protein.

The sweet little round green peas we love in the North? In Texas, they call them “English peas”. I’ve never heard an explanation for that.

Texas Caviar Pea Salad Recipe

Makes about 8 cups, plenty for 6 big portions and some left over

Salad Ingredients:

• 4 cups fresh purple hull peas
• 2 large tomatoes, diced
• 1 medium sweet onion, diced quite small
• 2 cucumbers, peeled and diced
• 1 or more mild, medium or hot peppers, diced small - to your taste
• 1 bunch cilantro, leaves snipped with scissors

Dressing Ingredients:

• several cloves roasted garlic, smashed and chopped
• optional: 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
• 1 tsp Dijon-type mustard
• 2 tsp honey
• grindings of fresh black pepper
• a few red pepper flakes
• pinch of sea salt
• 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (or balsamic, if you prefer)
• 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

1. Peas just picked in my garden, freshly shelled, steamed to my liking in just 15 minutes. Or, you can put the peas into salted water to cover well, bring to a boil and cook about 10 to 15 minutes until tender. The fresher from the garden, the faster they cook. Taste one every few minutes until they’re to your liking. You want them very tender, but not mushy. Note: The peas do firm up when chilled in a salad.

2. Drain the peas and run cold water over to stop them cooking.  Drain thoroughly.

3. Prep, dice and slice, all the raw veggies for the salad.  Whisk together the dressing.

4. Put the tomatoes, peppers, onion and cilantro into a large bowl and stir.  Add the drained peas.  Pour over the dressing and toss.  Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours to thoroughly marinate.  Give the salad a stir now and then. 

5. If space is at a premium, I’ll put the salad into a gallon zipper bag to refrigerate and marinate; that lets me turn the bag over to re-dress it.  Then put the salad into a pretty bowl to serve.

Party Dip

For a dip, you can toss the whole salad mix into the processor and pulse to get a chunky, rough texture. Don’t puree it smooth — leave it rough.

Spoon the dip into a bowl and offer blue corn chips for scooping.

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/28/2016

Broccoli and beans are two vegetables that keep on giving and are simple to freeze.

 broccoli ready to pick

beans in the basket

They are relatively easy to grow and will continue to produce for many months. Beans are extremely prolific — they sometimes need to be picked every day. If you keep them harvested, they will keep sending out new beans until the frost. The same is true of broccoli, but this vegetable grows past the first few frosts.

Broccoli initially sends out one large, beautiful head. Be sure to cut this on an angle, because the plant is far from done and slicing it straight across can result in rain pooling and rotting the stem.

 brccoli cut on an angle

Broccoli will next send out two large heads, then four large-ish heads, and again and again each time with the heads getting smaller until you stop picking it and let it flower. Letting it flower after a few hard frosts gives the bees something to eat in lean times.

All vegetables start to use up their own nutrients to stay alive once picked. That is one reason that it is so important to grow your own or buy from local sources. If you only eat vegetables that come from far away, the nutrients will not be nearly as dense.

Broccoli is one of the worst offenders. According to Jo Robinson in Eating on the Wild Side (available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store), “In order to preserve all the nutrients in broccoli, it must be chilled as soon as it is harvested, kept cool, and then eaten within 2 or 3 days.” The only way to accomplish this feat is to get it locally.

Freezing Broccoli

After picking the broccoli, wash it and cut it to your desired size. Place in the top of a steamer and steam for 3 minutes. Then cool it immediately in ice water.

 broccoli in ice water

If you place it next in a salad spinner, you will be able to get a lot of the extra moisture off of the broccoli.

 broccoli spun dry

Place strategically in a bag already marked with the year, insert a straw, close the top on the straw, suck out the extra air and finish closing the bag as you draw out the straw. Now, it is ready for the freezer and will keep for many months.

 ready for freezer

Freezing Beans

The procedure is very similar for beans. However, because they sit upon one another in the steamer, they need to be tossed a couple of times with tongs during the steaming process.

beans tossed with tongs 

Again, three minutes of steaming is good and they go into ice water to cool them down. Spin off the extra water.

 beans in spinner

They are now ready to be placed in their bag (or bags).

 beans in bag

If you don't grow these veggies yourself, check with your local farmer. You may be able to get a discount if you buy a large amount. That way, you will not only be saving money, but serving yourself and your family the most nutrient-dense food possible. Truly the best way to stay healthy.

Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/25/2016

It's been an amazing journey towards self sufficiency since Jesse and I moved to our off grid property in Idaho a year ago. We've made big gains towards self sufficiency by producing our own electricity with solar panels and starting our own garden from scratch. Along the way, we've been searching for ways to stretch our definition of living sustainably and fending for ourselves. One of the things we have tried to focus our attention on is learning the ways that nature can provide food resources for us without us having anything to tend to.

We've found that foraging in the woods has been a great way to increase our sustainability, improve our survival skills, and provide food for ourselves without having to rely as much on grocery stores. It's been an adventure in experiential learning. Once we started to realize just how much food was available in the forest around us, we dropped everything we were doing to gather as many gallons of free fruit from the surrounding woods as we could cart home with us.

Not only have become more intimately familiar with our own region of the world, gathering berries has been a great crash-course for us in learning how to can and preserve our own food. I'm happy to say we now have delicious jams stockpiled away for the colder months.

Whether you live in the Rockies like us or somewhere else entirely, there are bound to be edible plants near you. I hope that our experience inspires you to start seeking out what nature has abundantly provided.

Below are some of the berries we've been capitalizing on in our region of the world.

Huckleberries

Tangy like a blueberry, huckleberries are a big deal around us. They grow in higher elevations and are often hard to come by, so people will go to great lengths to acquire them. In some cases they can sell for over $40 a gallon!

After several picking sessions, we've gathered close to five gallons of huckleberries. The time upfront is well worth it for the opportunity to be in nature and make some incredible berry-­filled recipes.

foraging for huckleberries

Thimbleberries

Though these berries looked slightly poisonous when we have walked by them in the past, we can guarantee to you from personal experience that they are perfectly edible­ and delicious! Our region of Idaho is just ripening up with these berries and we've found that they are better suited for jams and jellies than casual snacking. So far we've harvested a quart and anticipate getting more as they continue to ripen, turning it all into a thimbleberry jam.

thimbleberries as an edible wild plant

Wild Raspberries

Surprisingly smaller than their cultivated cousins, wild raspberries are an awesome trail side snack this time of year. Juicy and delicate, wild raspberries often don't keep well and are best eaten right away or cooked down into jam. Because of their similarity to thimbleberries, the two can be combined in recipes for added complexity of taste.

foraged wild raspberries

Serviceberries

Far from our favorite berry, serviceberries are actually quite bland and tasteless, though they are fairly common in our area. We will be making a jam out of these berries to give them a try, or we may even try to make an ice cream out of them! Worst case, these berries can be combined with other fruits to make the end-product more palatable, but we have high hopes for making something delicious out of them alone!

Wild Foods We Haven't Eaten Yet

We've done a lot of experimentation with wild foods in our area so far, but we're only at the tip of the iceberg with this new found food source. There are dozens of wild plants we haven't had the chance to try yet, but hopefully with time we'll be able to knock more off our list.

Cattails. We didn't know that cattails were edible until just a few weeks ago, but now I'm eager to try some! The peeled stocks are apparently great for pickling, and the pollen can apparently be used as a superfood or even as a flour substitute. Can’t wait to try these wild ideas out!

Camas­. A beautiful purple-­flowered plant, the roots of camas are not only edible, but were once considered a delicacy! The roots supposedly taste sweet with a slightly sticky texture.  Though I don’t know that I’d consider them to be an everyday meal option, camas would be a great survival food to have on hand or access to in an emergency situation.

Stinging Nettle. Though difficult to handle (it really does sting you!) this type of nettle loses all its prickles when cooked. Nettles grow just about anywhere and recipes for cooking with them are in abundance the internet, so there is no excuse to not try this forest delicacy.

Fireweed. As these are scattered throughout the forests around us, we're hoping this fun plant is a delicious as it is gorgeous! The flower petals are supposed to make a great jelly, though you will need a bit patience to harvest the quantity of flowers needed.

How to Forage and Find Edible Wild Plants Wherever You Live

Though it’s natural instinct to think of the grocery store first when it comes to food, there is plenty of free food available in nature, so long as you know what to look for. Take some time to cultivate your edible forest product side by taking a hike with an experienced friend or guidebook to educate you about what you can eat.

how to forage for wild edlbe plants

This should be common sense, but remember to never try eating a plant you can't identify. That's just asking to get poisoned. Once you identify an edible species, sustainably harvest some it of and research some recipes that you can use it in. Then, impress your friends with your “local food”.

We think that will a little time and effort you will find foraging food from the wild as fulfilling as we have. Good luck with your adventures, and be sure to let us know of any delicious species we are missing out on!

Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off grid homestead from scratch with as little money as possible. She is blogging about the journey from start to finish in hopes of inspiring others that wish to take a similar path. Follow her many DIY projects, including building with reclaimed materials, building an off-grid hot tub and milling lumber with an Alaskan chainsaw mill. Follow Alyssa on her homesteading blogFacebook, Instagram, and YouTube. View Alyssa’s other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/22/2016

Homemade Nectarine Preserves Canning

Rather than use commercial pectin, such as Sure-jel or Certo for making thick preserves and jams, I like to use the old-fashioned methods that use far less sugar.

A commercial pectin recipe for this preserve calls for 4 cups of fruit to 7 cups sugar. I use about ¼ of that: at least twice as much fruit and half the sugar, so my jams and preserves taste of the fruit instead of sugar and have half or less calories.

As well as the usual breakfast toast spread, try adding your own homemade preserves to plain yogurt. I promise, it tastes better and is better for you.

Nectarine Preserves Recipe

Yields 7 half-pints

Ingredients:

• 4 pounds ripe nectarines
• 4 cups cane sugar
• zest of 1 large orange
• 2 tsp ginger puree*

Note: Ginger puree is so handy to have on hand and so much tastier and easier to stir in than the dry powdered stuff. Watch for fresh, silky-skinned ginger and buy a big piece. Roughly peel it and slice into ½-inch pieces. Toss those into the mini-prep processor, add about 2 Tbsp cane sugar to 1 cup of ginger chunks and process to a paste.

The sugar keeps it from freezing too hard. Keep this in a jar in the freezer to add to preserves like this one, pickling syrup and even stir fry. And, yes, gingerbread! There’s not enough sugar to make any difference to flavor.

Directions:

Nectarines are one of my favorite fruits to preserve! No peeling!

1. Wash the nectarines and cut them up. I run my knife around the middle, the “equator” if you will. Then, cut slices a scant ½-inch wide that fall into two pieces, because you’ve already halved them with your first cut. Put all the nectarines into your jam pot.

2. I like to use a zester so I get tiny shreds of peel, but you can also use the finest holes of a grater. Zest the whole orange right on top of the nectarine pieces. Then, add 2 tsp of ginger puree.

3. Now, add the 4 cups of sugar and give it a stir, mixing the sugar into the fruit. Walk away for a half hour or so and when you come back, the nectarines will be juicing out enough that the sugar looks wet. Turn on the heat under your jam pot and stir in using a folding motion while gently heating so the sugar is melting and your fruit is submerged in juice.

4. Bring the preserve just to a boil, stirring, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the preserve rest overnight to develop flavor and completely juice out.

5. In the morning, you’ll see that your preserve is much more syrupy. Turn the heat back on and, stirring from time to time, bring slowly back to a boil. Set a jelly/candy thermometer in the pot.

6. Set up your water bath canner and set out your impeccably clean jars. Be sure you have the rack in the bottom of the kettle. Bring the water to a boil. When almost ready to fill the jars, dip each jar and lid into the boiling water and set upside down on a fresh sheet of paper towel. Dip the ladle and canning funnel, too.

7. Stirring frequently, being sure to stir the entire bottom of your jam pot, cook the preserve to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be quite thick and glossy, most of the nectarine slices will be looking transparent, nearly glaceed. Turn off the burner (on an electric stove, you’ll move your pot off the burner).

8. Fill your jars to within ¼ inch of the top, wipe the rims if necessary, and seal with 2-part lids. Process your preserve for 10 minutes in the water bath, then remove immediately to cool on a towel. Leave some space between the jars so that they cool quickly. Listen for that pretty “ping” as the jars seal.

Enjoy.

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


7/20/2016

San Diego Fermentation Festival

“Microbes maketh man,” proclaimed Dr. Rob Knight, professor at the University of California, San Diego and director of the Microbiome Initiative that, among other things, explores the connections between the human microbiome and health. Dr. Knight’s keynote was among the highlights of the annual San Diego Fermentation Festival held at Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas, California, this past February.

“You might think, well, we're human because of our DNA,” Dr. Knight continued. “But it turns out that each of us has about 20,000 human genes, depending on what you count exactly, but as many as two million to 20 million microbial genes. So whichever way we look at it, we're vastly outnumbered by our microbial symbionts.”  And a growing body of evidence is finding that fermented foods are packed with many of the microbes that hang out in our gut that we need for good health.

Besides a lineup of speakers, the San Diego Fermentation Festival included a tent dedicated to helping people learn about and prepare their own canning jar of fermented sauerkraut, plus fermented beverages to try – like the amazing mead from Golden Coast Mead – in the Ambrosia Garden, plus numerous nonprofits or businesses dedicated to the art of fermentation, sharing samples to taste.

Gold Coast Mead 

“Kombucha and other fermented foods deliver living organisms and nutrients in bio-available form that the body can recognize and instantly utilize,” explains Hannah Crum, founder of Kombucha Kamp and co-author of The Big Book of Kombucha.  Kombucha Kamp was one of the many exhibitors at the event.

“For most people, consuming the wide range of fermented options will contribute to diversity in the microbiome, improve digestion, boost immunity and generally support a healthy lifestyle.”

Below, find her recipe for the popular fermented tea called kombucha; you’ll need to secure a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) “starting culture” to make the recipe.

Fermented Food, Health and Wellness

“People want to feel good, and they're realizing how food can be medicine,” says Austin Durant, co-founder of the Fermenters Club and organizer of the San Diego Fermentation Festival.

“Folks who have been captive to the standard American diet are seeing the consequences of that, [like the] explosion of western diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and are waking up to realize how beneficial fermented foods are to their health.”

“I think people want to take control back of their diets,” Austin adds.  He has another Fermentation Festival scheduled in Portland, Oregon, for September 10, 2016.  The 2nd-annual Oregon Fermentation Festival will have a similar format, be held outdoors on the 150-acre Kruger’s Farm on Sauvie Island, with a Makers Marketplace, educational demos and workshops, and the Ambrosia Garden, featuring local and regional fermented beverages.

Making Fermented Foods Safely

“Most people fear they're going to ‘poison their whole family,’” observes Austin, regarding why many people are reluctant to get started with fermented foods.  “The truth is, vegetable fermentation is extremely safe and simple to do. Some incorrectly believe botulism is a risk, but because of the high acid quality of fermented foods as well as the populations of beneficial bacteria, a pathogenic microbe like botulism doesn't stand a chance.”

Filling in the information gap is exactly what the Fermenters Club’s Fermentation Festivals in San Diego and Oregon are all about.  And others are popping up around the country, too, like the Fermentation Festival: A Live Culture Convergence held every year in Wisconsin and the Farm to Fermentation Festival in Sonoma County, California.

“Finally, everyone seems to yearn for a link to their past, to their ancestors,” notes Austin.  “Fermentation was a necessity back in the days before refrigeration and global food supply chains. There are people who have known about fermentation for years but never made a fuss and others who are brand new and curious. Kombucha, kimchi, pickles and sauerkraut are enjoying a renaissance.”

With many Americans increasingly familiar with many of the other popular fermented foods and beverages like cheese, wine, breads, mead, beer, yogurt and chocolate, a transition to a diet filled with more live culture foods is a natural step to get our gut, and the microbes living there, in a healthier balance.

Kombucha Recipe

Courtesy of Kombucha Kamp

Yield:  1 gallon

Scale up or down depending on the size of your vessel.

Ingredients:

• 1 cup sugar
• 4-6 bags tea –  for loose leaf, 1 bag of tea = 1 tsp
• Kombucha Starter Culture (SCOBY)
• 1 cup starter liquid
• purified/bottled water
• tea kettle
• brewing vessel
• cloth cover
• rubber band

Directions:

1. Boil 4 cups of water.

2. Add hot water and tea bags to pot or brewing vessel.

3. Steep 5-7 minutes, then remove tea bags.

4. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.

5. Fill vessel most of the way with purified water, leaving just 1-2 inches from the top for breathing room with purified cold water.

6. Add SCOBY and starter liquid.

7. Cover with cloth cover and secure with the rubber band.

8. Say a prayer, send good vibes, commune with your culture (optional but recommended).

9. Set in a warm location out of direct sunlight (unless vessel is opaque).

Do not disturb for 7 days.

After 7 days, or when you are ready to taste your kombucha tea, gently insert a straw beneath the SCOBY and take a sip. If too tart, then reduce your brewing cycle next time.  If too sweet, allow to brew for a few more days.  Continue to taste every day or so until you reach your optimum flavor preference. Your own Kombucha Tea Recipe may vary.

Decant & flavor (optional).

Drink as desired! Start off with 4-8oz on an empty stomach in the morning, then with meals to help with digestion or as your body tells you it would like some more! Drink plenty of water as it is a natural detoxifyer and you want to flush the newly released toxins out.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife, Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John's Mother Earth News posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/20/2016

You can easily make your own glace cherries for fruit cakes and your Christmas stollen.

The cherries you do yourself will be a darker red instead of that false neon color and will be made with only cane sugar and very little or no GMOs.

These will actually taste like sweet cherries, with no odd chemical aftertaste. You’ll also save money.

I used beautiful dark Bing cherries for mine — you could choose to use Royal Anne, Ranier, or other varieties if you choose.

Ingredients:

• 1 pound pitted cherries
• 3 cups sugar
• 2 cups water
• optional: 1 tbsp light corn syrup

Note: Corn syrup is a GMO and you may choose not to use it. It is only 1 tablespoon and it does prevent the syrup from crystallizing. All other syrups I can think of will crystallize.

Directions:

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, stir the sugar into the water. Bring to a boil and cook to 230 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. At this point, I transfer to my copper jam pot, because it will now foam up a lot. You need a big pot. Stir in the cherries and the optional corn syrup if you’re using it, bring back to a simmer and cook gently for an hour. Stir only often enough to be sure it’s not sticking. The syrup should be quite thick and the cherries translucent.

3. Turn off the heat and let the cherries rest overnight in the syrup. The next day, heat up the cherries and bring the mixture up to 230 degrees. Turn off the heat and let them cool. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cherries to a wide-mouthed canning jar or freezer tub.

Because there are no preservatives used in my method, I like to store my cherries frozen in a little of the syrup until it’s time for holiday baking.

Save the Syrup! Pour it into a jar and refrigerate to add to summer drinks instead of sugar.

Make Sangria with Cherry Syrup

This is lovely, not-too-sweet and a very festive pink. If I were Spanish, I’d add some brandy, but I like to drink this on a hot summer day without getting tipsy. Mix this all up in a big pitcher with plenty of ice.

Ingredients:

• 1 bottle chardonnay or sauvignon blanc
• 1-liter bottle club soda
• juice of 2 big limes
• ½ cup leftover syrup from cherries

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



7/19/2016

 

Apples add the pectin needed to make the fruit juice gel. 

Jellies made from just the juice of fruit are the most beautiful preserves, and they have many uses beyond PB&Js, including glazing fruit tarts and cakes, glazing meats, using in thumbprint cookies, even adding to herbal vinaigrettes for a hint of both sweet and fruit.

The only difference between making jam and making jelly is the extra step of extracting all the fruit juice and discarding the solids.  Jellies can be made easily with high-sugar pectins like Sure-Jell, with low-methoxyl pectins, like Pomona's Universal Pectin, or from homemade pectin. Or you can just throw some apples into the pot and let them contribute the pectin, which is what I do.

Although you can make completely sugar-free jelly, I don't recommend it. The sugar is a preservative.  Once opened, low-sugar jellies and jams will keep for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator before starting to mold or ferment. No-sugar jams have an even shorter shelf-life.

This summer with the last of my strawberries, I made strawberry jelly. Sixteen cups of mashed fruit (plus 4 apples) will yield about 8 cups of juice. The juice, sweetened with 2 cups of sugar, will yield about 4 half-pints of jam. To increase the yield, increase the sugar. These numbers apply to all the berries and stone fruits.

Don't double your batches (unless the commercial pectin you are using says you can). Working in large batches runs the risk of overcooking and destroying the natural pectin in your fruit.  

There are two ways to extract the juice from fruit. The first is with a steam juicer and the second way is to cook the fruit until it yields its juice, then drain. Steam juicers run $75 to $150 and take a lot of cupboard space. If you are going with the draining method, you may be enticed to buy a stand with a jelly bag, which run from $10 to $20 (again think of storage space for the stand). I use butter muslin (denser than cheesecloth) and hang it from a cupboard over a bowl. 

 

 Cook the fruit and apples until completely broken down.

After extracting the juice, add sweetener and boil until it reaches the gel point – either following the directions of the commercial pectin you are using or bringing the jelly to 220 degrees Fahrenheit or testing for jelly visually: by the sheet test – the jelly drips off a spoon in a single sheet rather than individual drops – or the cold plate test – your finger will leave a distinct trail through the jelly.

Here's how I make jelly with apples.

1.  Quarter and chop 4 apples (don't peel) and add to a large heavy saucepan with 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (the acid helps extract the pectin) and 2 tablespoons water (to prevent the apples from scorching). Cook while you prepare the fruit (because apples take longer to break down than softer fruits like berries).

2.  While the apples are cooking, prepare the fruit. Peeling isn't necessary. Just chop, pit as needed, and measure. For this batch of jelly, I used 16 cups of mashed strawberries.

3.  After the apples have cooked and broken down to a mashable state, 20 to 25 minutes, add 16 cups of mashed fruit and bring to a boil.

4.  Cook until the fruit is completely broken down, another 20 to 25 minutes.

 

Drain for 4 to 6 hours. 

5.  Set up a damp jelly bag over a bowl. Or line a colander with a damp double layer of cheesecloth or a damp square of butter muslin. Set the colander in a bowl.  Pour the fruit into the jelly bag or cloth-lined colander. Gather the corners of the cloth and knot onto the handle of a cupboard or refrigerator shelf so it drains into the bowl. Let drain for 4 to 6 hours — you will have about 8 cups of juice (the exact amount is not important).

6. Discard the fruit solids and proceed to make jelly from the fruit juice. Or refrigerate the fruit juice overnight and continue the next morning. Alternatively, freeze the juice and make the jelly sometime in the future.

7. Before you start to make the jelly, put a plate in the freezer to get ready to test for doneness. Sterilize 4 half-pint jelly jars (I always sterilize a 4-ounce jar also, just to be safe), place the canning lids in warm water, and prepare a boiling water bath canner or an atmospheric steam canner (see the MOTHER EARTH NEWS article "Is Steam Canning Safe?")

8.  Bring the fruit juice to a boil over high heat. Add the sweetener (I use 2 cups sugar) and return to a boil. Continue to boil until the jelly reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit on a jelly thermometer, or until the jelly sheets off a cold metal spoon, or until your finger leaves a trail through a spoonful dropped onto a cold plate.

 

The test on the left shows the jelly isn't ready; one the right, my finger left a clear trail and the jelly is ready.

9. Fill hot sterilized jars leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Screw on the two piece lids. Process in a boiling water bath or atmospheric steam canner for 5 minutes, adjusting for altitude and using the steam canner as directed. Let cool for 24 hours. Test the seals and store.

Andrea Chesman has written more than 20 cookbooks, including The Pickled PantryRecipes from the Root CellarServing Up the Harvestand The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-HowShe teaches and does cooking demonstrations and classes at fairs, festivals, book events, and garden shows across the United States. She lives in Ripton, Vermont. Read all of Andrea's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.









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