Okay, the other day I related my canning adventures…Today I broke into the nectarine preserves. (By which I mean, I opened them, not that I busted the jar or anything.)
Oh. My. God.
Unfortunately, I didn’t even use anything like a proper recipe–I started with the one from The Art of Preserving, and then kind of improvised from there. (By the way, improvisation is something to be wary of in home canning in a water bath, which can only be done with high acid foods. I sort of went on the theory that if you can make preserves out of raspberries, and you can make preserves out of nectarines, then combining the two shouldn’t be an issue, right? As usual, the disclaimer: please don’t read this blog, decide to do what I did about pretty much anything, and then blame me if you get sick. Do your own homework! I’m a musician, not a CDC worker.)
Just for those who are not canning-obsessed: Jam is a process that causes the fruit to break down and gel, either from its own natural pectin or from added commercial pectin. Jelly is like jam, only strained and clear. Preserves are pieces of whole fruit suspended in syrup, and actually a lot easier to make because you don’t have to worry about jell points and stuff.
Nectarine Raspberry Preserves
- Pit and quarter–or eighth–about 3 lbs of nectarines. (This was a pain in the tail, because the pits all split open.)
- Place in a non-reactive metal bowl with about 3 cups sugar. Let sit overnight in fridge.
- Here you have choices: most intelligent non-lazy recipes tell you to drain off the syrup from the fruit and boil it for half an hour or so, and then to re-introduce the fruit for another ten minutes. I found only one recipe that told you to just dump it all in a pan and boil it for 30-40 minutes or so, so naturally that’s the one I used, because I didn’t feel like getting my strainer all sticky.
- Five minutes before the end, throw in a cup of raspberries, 2 tbs lemon juice, and a splash of brandy.
- Using a slotted spoon, divide the fruit among 5-6 sterilized half pint jars. (More or less.) Fill with syrup to about a quarter inch from the top. (Leaving the head space is important.)
- If you have enough leftover syrup, pour this into another half pint jar or so; otherwise just save in the fridge.
- Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Wow. I mean, just, wow. You could probably do this without soaking the nectarines overnight–and this does make for a runnier syrup than you’d have if you drained and cooked it down before adding the fruit, or if you didn’t soak them–but the syrup is one of the best parts, so I am happy to have it.
And by the way–if you don’t feel like fussing with the hot water bath, just make the stuff and refrigerate it. I can almost guarantee it won’t go to waste, because it’s seriously delicious. imagine this over vanilla ice cream…(or yogurt, I guess, but ice cream would be my choice.)…or in a shortcake kind of situation…or in a trifle…
I am imagining those things too…while I sit there with the jar in one hand and the spoon in another.
Seriously, you gotta try this stuff.
I stopped at a local produce market a friend has been trying to get me to for about a year, but I never quite managed it…and I am hooked. For under ten bucks I got out of there with 6 pretty zucchinis, 4 lbs of beautiful firm Roma tomatoes, a bunch of nectarines, and a couple more things, I don’t remember…
All of the above are now preserved in Ball jars on my counter.
I made Tomato Basil sauce from The Art of Preserving, which I reviewed at The Green Phone Booth yesterday. I made spiced zucchini pickles that were just too intriguing to pass up (and besides, I had the ingredients around–most pickle recipes require celery seed and turmeric, neither of which I had in the kitchen; cinnamon sticks and cloves I had.) I made a nectarine-raspberry preserve that’s a hybrid between a couple of other recipes; since fruits like that are high acid, I’m not worried about spoilage and botulism and stuff, so I felt okay messing with the recipe a bit. And a special, today-only bonus: there was a whole lot of leftover syrup after making the preserves, so I canned a jar of that too. (And put the leftover half jar into the fridge.)
Verdicts so far: Despite my love for tomatoes and my new-to-me-ebay Foley food mill, I don’t see tomato sauce as something I’ll be knocking myself out to produce on a regular basis, BPA in commercial can linings or not. It takes something like 45 lbs of tomatoes to produce maybe 7 quarts of product, and it’s just too damn much work. All those who make this happen on a regular basis–I salute you. But I don’t think it’ll be me. I only got about a pint and a half of sauce out of my mini-recipe, and one of the jars didn’t seal–I think I need to start leaving more head space in the jars, I underestimate how much expanding room the food needs when it heats…
The pickles I won’t know for a week, since part of the deal with pickling is that, well, you have to let the food pickle. They look and smell fairly amazing, though. Got three little half pints and one bigger pint; the small ones may be gifts. If I know anyone who likes spicy zucchini pickles. 🙂
The preserves look lovely–they are this gorgeous swirl of orange and red, like some exotic sunrise. I overfilled those too, but they sealed okay, I believe. (I’ll check it out tomorrow when they’ve cooled, to be sure. ) Got I think one pint and two half-pints out of that, and another half pint of syrup.
Still have the four jars of plum jam from last week.
None of these were huge batches; if I’m going to go all fubar on a new project, I’d rather do it on a smaller amount of produce, you know? Still, it was a very labor-intensive few hours, although I did find it helpful, as long as I paid attention, to move things in and out of the water bath without having to reheat the whole damn pot of water every time I had a new batch. That part worked okay.
But this is so very cool…I love having a new skill, and I love knowing that even though 6 days before a 2 week vacation was probably not the best time to buy a buttload of produce, it will all survive till we return and beyond.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some nectarine-raspberry syrup out of the jar and then go to bed…