UtHC’s Jam, Jelly and Preserve Swap: An Update

Six weeks ago, I invited you to participate in a Jam, Jelly and Preserve swap, scheduled to happen late this fall. I promised to keep you abreast of the details and so here is the latest news, hot off the press!
If this is the first you have heard of Under the High Chair’s Jam Swap, read more about it in the official invitation!

OK, I’ve been meaning to post this update for a while now and encourage everyone in their canning endevours, but how could I light a fire under those of you who are still undecided when I myself had not yet gotten started on preserving summer? Fortunately this week I managed to make a batch of fresh local Raspberry-Vanilla Bean Jam, so now I can at least say that I have gotten a jump on my home canning! I still have many little jars to fill ( love these ones from Canadian Tire) and am waiting for inspiration to hit me for the next batch.

So, for the update!! I was thrilled with the response I received back in June to the invitation and heartily thank those of you who emailed and left comments. A few people have been asking if the swap is still happening and let me reassure you, we are in like Flynn!

Good news, we have a date set!

The swap will be on Sunday, November 9 sometime in the afternoon. It’s not too close to Christmas, but late enough to turn those October apples into butter and sauce. I will booking a location once I have a better idea of how many people will be attending. Just a reminder, if you are interested in participating, just leave a comment or send me an email and let me know. If you have an idea what you are bringing, that would be good information to have as well. Again, read the initial invitation for suggestions and requirements on how to participate. Also, please feel free to email at any time if you have any questions or suggestions to help make this event a success!

It is great to see people getting excited about this swap!! In addition to a group of about twenty local participants (so far), we will be welcoming readers who are making the trip from Quebec City and Ottawa. Talk about dedication! I have received a few emails detailing what people are bringing and the line-up is tantalizing; I’m particularly anticipating some Okanagan Cherry Jam from a reader who was recently in British Columbia and was thinking ahead for the swap.

Also something to look forward to is the participation of famed Montreal chef and spice merchant, Philippe de Vienne (and several of his staff) who I’ve talked about on many occasions like here and here. I’m sure he’ll come up with something that will leave us all shaking our heads in wonder.

One a closing note, I have had a few requests from individuals for a tutorial of sorts on jam making and the safety issues of preserving, but I am nowhere near qualified to give any such thing. I have never claimed to be an expert in this area and shudder at the thought of leading people astray, or worse, causing anyone harm by coaching a fatal batch of spoiled beans. Home canning is still a huge learning process for me. Personally, I have never experienced any problems, either with products I have made or received as gifts, but I know it is a concern for some people.

So, I guess all I can say is, do your research, don’t bring any jars to the swap that haven’t been sealed properly, and if you think a product is questionable, test it out yourself; don’t use us as guinea pigs. Remember, I have kids who need their mother! 🙂

If you are lucky enough to have a family friend or grandmother who is skilled in this area, consider asking them to show you a thing or two and walk you through the process.

I won’t be giving the recipe for the Raspberry-Vanilla Jam because on closer inspection it is a little too runny to be classified as ‘jam’. It is more like a coulis or thick syrup and I’ll have to figure out what happened. And here I was so happy that the vanilla seeds didn’t sink and the raspberry seeds didn’t rise! Oh well. It tastes heavenly and I am thinking how fabulous it would be over vanilla ice cream or a stack of waffles. OK, I know what I am having for breakfast!

Happy canning to each and every one.

Announcing…Under the High Chair’s Homemade Jam, Jelly and Preserve Swap

Dear readers. You’re invited!!

I don’t mean virtually, either, I mean if you live locally, then you are literally invited to my first ever Jam, Jelly and Preserve Swap that will be happening this fall!

Admittedly, this is somewhat of a social experiment; you don’t know me, I don’t know you, and we live in a sprawling metropolis, not on a neighborly country lane where we often exchange eggs for butter. But I’m doing something different and hopefully people respond. If not, I’ll be eating a LOT of my own crabapple jelly!

If you are not familiar with the concept of a swap, let me sing its praises! Simply put, it’s a great way to head into winter (and the holidays, think gifts) with your pantry shelves laden with a whole variety of sweet and savory home canned goods, and, no you haven’t been slaving over a hot stove all summer long. Sure, you’ll have to do some work, but making one massive batch of apple butter, compared to something new every week, is far less work.

Here’s how it will work: similar to the very popular cookie exchange I do every Christmas season, I invite you to prepare a few batches of your favorite jam, jelly or preserve and bring it over. After introductions and a tasting of the goods (perhaps on fresh hot scones?) we will swap preserves and be on our merry way. It’s as simple as that!

Whether you make the best peach jam in town or you’ve never canned but want to try your hand at it, I would be delighted if you packed up a couple dozen jars of your creation and joined me and others to exchange our goods! Be it traditional (grape jelly), exotic (ground cherry compote), comforting (apple butter), savory (pickles), or spicy (salsa), start planning something to bring and make a note to attend Under the High Chair’s first preserve swap.
You can make whatever you like; I am not a fan of pickled beets, but hey, make me a believer!

Stay tuned to this blog for details! Depending on the number of attendees, I will be booking a downtown central location for the event; however, if there are just a handful of us, it will be in my own home. I am planning the exchange for sometime mid-October, thus allowing enough time for us to turn those Cortland apples into beautiful blush pink applesauce.

This is also a great opportunity to meet some of you, my readers, and one that I am super excited about! Maybe you’ll even get to meet my son, the notorious picky eater, Noah. Just don’t expect him to dig your homemade relish, OK?

Interested? Here’s what to do:

Send me an email and let me know you are planning on coming and what you will be making . I am suggesting that everyone can their goods in 250ml portions to have the same sized product throughout.

This is an early ‘head’s up’ because right now it’s rhubarb season-with the strawberries not far behind- and some of you are already turning it into beautiful jams and chutneys. Rhubarb-strawberry jam is one of my favorites, so get out those jars!

Here’s wishing you a safe and happy canning season!!

Preserving Autumn: Maple Apple Butter

Maple Apple Butter with Cinnamon on a Oatmeal Scone

We were married in an apple orchard, Danny and I. It was spring and the sun shone, the grass was tall and the apple blossoms were budding a light pink. I had always dreamt of getting married outside and Quebec’s sprawling apple orchards provided the perfect backdrop when the time came.

We are fortunate enough to live close enough to that same orchard so we can visit it a few times a year. Usually we plan this around two seasons: in the spring when the blossoms are in full bridal splendor, and in the fall to gather the harvest.

This autumn we brought Noah, who picked apples for the first time. He was oblivious to the history of the orchard, but ran around happily with a partially eaten apple permanently clutched in his little hand. We gathered as many apples as out bag would hold and then sat to eat a few and enjoy the beautiful day.

This year I vowed to do something different with my apples other than pies and caramel apples-a personal favorite. Although I had stocked up on enough candy apple sticks to last me a lifetime (or at least the lifetime of my teeth) it was time to make some butter, just like my mother used to make for us kids. A normal Sunday morning in winter would become unexpectedly extraordinary when she opened a jar of apple butter to have with our homemade toast.
This recipe is a combination of about three different ones, yet turned out great. The majority of the work is passing the pulp through a sieve to get the tasty puree. It is well worth the work and we now have a shelf in our pantry stocked with this luscious spread to enjoy during the coming cold months.
Maple Apple Butter4.5 lbs apples
1 cup cider or apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup maple syrup
Wash, quarter and remove both stem and blossom ends from apples.
Combine apples, apple cider and cinnamon sticks in large, deep stainless steel sauce pan. Simmer, covered, until apples are soft, about 25 minutes.
Remove cinnamon sticks and reserve. Crush apples with potato masher. Put mixture through sieve or strainer to remove peels and seeds. Measure out 6 cups of applesauce, set aside.
Measure maple syrup; set aside.
Return apple puree (and, if you want, cinnamon stick for a more potent cinnamon flavor) to a clean large stainless steel saucepan and stirring occasionally, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 30 minutes or until apple spread mounds on a spoon or desired thickness is reached.
Add maple syrup and cook gently another 30 minutes, stirring often.
Now at this point I chose to throw caution to the wind and abandon traditional canning directions in favor of a time-saving technique I got from a friend. It worked for me, so here’s what I did.
Place 7- 250 ml mason jars in your dishwasher and run through a hot rinse cycle. Set screw bands aside and place lids of jars in a small pot. Bring to a low simmer. Have ready a sterilized ladle, tongs, funnel and a clean dish towel for moving jars.
When apple mixture has reached desired consistency, remove from heat. Working with one jar at a time, remove hot jar from dishwasher and using a funnel and a ladle, fill jars with apple butter. Remove a hot lid from the water with your tongs, place on the jar and screw on the screw band to finger tight.
Place on a clean towel on your counter and DO NOT TOUCH for 24 hours. (Tip: make sure you husband knows to stay the heck away from them too, or you’ll have issues like I did.) Repeat with remaining jars until apple butter is finished.Jars will seal on their own. After 24 hours test for seal. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. If any have not sealed, place in refrigerator for immediate use.

Preserving Summer: Crabapple Jelly

Every autumn comes around and I can’t resist buying a basket of pretty crabapples thinking I’ll make a jelly. The problem is, I’ve never made jelly and as simple as it may be, the first time for anything is reason enough to drag one’s feet. I usually end up packing the small apples into a wide mouth jar, adding some sugar and topping it up with vodka for a nice pink liquor come Christmas time.
But this fall was different and I actually produced a batch of crabapple jelly; mornings are cheerier when you can wake up to this pretty pink spread on toast .

There is very little labor involved in this jelly. No apple peeling, coring, or sieving; just wash them, cut in half and cook them down slowly, then mash them up and leave them to drain overnight in a jelly bag and see the lovely pink juices gather. These will make great gifts come holiday season!Crabapple Jelly
4 lb (1.8 kg) apples or crabapples
5 cups (1250 ml) water
5 cups (1250 ml) granulated sugar
1 pkg (57 g) Fruit Pectin
½ teaspoon butter Wash and remove both stem and blossom ends from apples. Cut apples into chunks and combine with water in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and boil gently 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Thoroughly crush mixture and boil gently 5 minutes longer.
Pour cooked fruit into a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined sieve over a large bowl. Let juice drip, undisturbed, 2 hours or overnight (squeezing bag may cause cloudy jelly). Place 7 clean 250 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer Set screw bands aside. Heat sealing discs in hot water, not boiling. Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use. Measure sugar; set aside.
Measure 5 cups juice into a large, deep stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in pectin until dissolved and add 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter to reduce foaming Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Add all the sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat; skim foam if necessary. Quickly ladle hot jelly into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch of top rim. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner ensuring jars are covered by water. Repeat for remaining jelly.Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. Process 10 minutes.
Turn stove off, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours. After cooling check jar seals. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. Makes about 7 x 250 ml jars

Preserving Summer: Tomato Herb Sauce

OK, OK, so I’ve been grumbling a bit about saying good bye to summer, but I am not going to pretend that I am excited about the coming winter. So, I have started a little canning operationto help me hang on to summer a little longer and perhaps even through the winter—if I can track down enough jars!

When I was growing up, my mother canned all sorts of produce, but did I ever pay any attention? No. Usually I was giving the most mundane tasks, like peeling the tomatoes or pitting the apricots, and I would let my mind wander, waiting for the chance when I could slip away and get back to my book.

Now that I am a mother and want to take up these domestic duties, it’s a trial-by-error project.
I mean, I’ve made a few jams and jelly’s over the years, but that about it. But how hard can it be, right?

So, I am excited to get started with preserving summer’s beautiful produce in pretty glass jars and hope to inspire you to do the same. What better way to keep the flavors of summer alive that to preserve them and store them in a pantry for that cold December day when the tomatoes at the grocery store taste like cardboard.

Gorgeous Italian tomatoes tomatoes at the market were the first to catch my eye and I was reminded of my own yellowing plants at home. I bought 40 lbs, hurriedly, knowing that if I thought about it too long, I would chicken out at the big task ahead of jarring these beauties.

I was very please with this simple sauce; the herbs and garlic don’t overpower the tomatoes, it’s thick, has vibrant color, and I was proud to jar it.

Tomato Herb Sauce

20 lbs Italian tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, chopped
I medium onion, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped finely
Black pepper

Fill a 5-quart pan with water and bring to a boil. Wash tomatoes and make a small “X” with a knife in the bottom. Prepare a large bowl with cold water. Blanch tomatoes, a few at a time, quickly in the boiling water until the skins loosen. Plunge immediately into cold water. Peel tomatoes and using your hands, squeeze the juices and seeds out. Discard seeds and skin.
In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil. Sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add tomatoes and herbs and stir well.
Cook on medium heat until heated through, and then reduce to low for a gentle simmer. If you prefer your sauce smooth rather than chunky, puree it now with an immersion blender.
Cook for about 4 hours, until reduced slightly and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Place eight, one-quart clean mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat water to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside; in a small pot, heat lids in hot water, NOT boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and lids hot until ready to use. Have ready: a pair of tongs, a jar lifter, a 2-cup glass measuring cup, a wide-mouth jar funnel, and a few clean dish towels.
You are now ready to can! Make sure any small children are not underfoot at this time. Working with one jar at a time, remove jar from hot water and place on your workspace. Place the funnel in the top. Ladle hot sauce into a hot jar to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim . Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Using your tongs, remove a lid from the hot water standing by and center lid on jar; apply screw band securely & firmly until resistance is met –fingertip tight. Do not over tighten. Place jar back in canner; repeat for remaining jars. When all jars have been filled (or your canner is full –don’t overcrowd), make sure jars are covered by at least ½ inch of water.
Cover canner; bring water to a boil.
‘Process’ (meaning “boil”) at a gentle boil for 40 minutes. When processing time is complete, turn heat off and remove canner lid. When boil subsides, remove jars without tilting.
Cool jars upright, undisturbed 24 hours. DO NOT RE-TIGHTEN screw bands.
You should hear the musical “Pop, Pop” of the jars sealing. This is a proud moment!
After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. If you have any leftover sauce, why not enjoy it with some spaghetti for supper? You shouldn’t have to do any more cooking for today.