Pear Butter, One Great Comfort Food

After we finished canning all of the pears, we were ready – well, kind of – to make pear butter. We made some last summer for the first time and it was very good. The recipe is so simple. All you need is plenty of time to cook down the pears.

I saved the softest pears to use in the butter. When I was almost finished peeling them, Frank started the first half cooking. Jackie Clay has a simple, yummy recipe in her book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food.

The recipe calls for:
1/2 cup water
7 lbs. pears
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
4 cups sugar (we used 2 1/2)
Put everything in the pot and start simmering. We ended up with 11 1/2 pounds of pears so we adjusted the recipe accordingly. 

We let the butter simmer all afternoon, but it still wasn’t cooked down to the desired consistency. This is all a matter of preference. Here it is about half way through the day. So, into the frig it went.

Life got busy and a few days later, Frank started the butter simmering again and let it cook down for another afternoon. It cooked down to a beautiful, rich butter. 

We planned to can it up that evening, but there just weren’t enough hours in that day. So the next morning, after another night in the frig, it finally made it into the jars. We processed it in the water bath for 10 minutes.





Our 11/ 1/2 lbs of pears yielded 7 1/2 pints of butter. We still have some butter left from last year, so here is a comparison. Since we took more time to cook down the butter this year, it is a darker color.

It is hard to tell in a picture, but this year’s butter is also thicker with less liquid surrounding the fruit pulp.

We plan to go and pick more pears if there are any left. Sometimes I wonder at all of these plans we have, but we both feel a sense of urgency about doing all we are able. We will continue to can and preserve our harvest as time allows. Each new jar of food on the shelf adds to our peace of mind. What are you adding to your shelf today?

Until next time – Fern

Making Tomato Sauce, Part 2

Last night we got the tomatoes cooked and strained. Tonight we finished it off and got it canned.

While I was at work, Frank set the sauce to simmer and thicken. He also washed the jars, lids and rings, set up the water bath canner with hot water simmering, and boiled the water to sterilize the jars. Teamwork is an essential key to a successful marriage and Frank is wonderful. We have always done everything together and it makes all the difference in the world.

So, when I arrived, everything was in order. I only had to change my clothes and we were ready to get the sauce in the canner.

We added 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. of citric acid powder to each pint jar. This is the same citric acid powder I use when I make mozzarella.

We had more sauce than I thought we would which is wonderful. We filled the water bath canner with seven pints and had a little more than two pints left over. We debated what to do with it and decided it would be a good time to make a few pizzas. That will give us some to eat and some to freeze for later. We have extra mozzarella in the freezer, so tomorrow night we will make a few pizzas with our fresh sauce.

We brought the canner to a full rolling boil, and processed the sauce for 35 minutes. When it was finished, we took the lid off and let everything sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars.

 
Here they are! This is another dream come true. That may sound kind of funny. I think most ‘dream come true’ situations don’t involve a kitchen full of messy tomato processing stuff. But for me, this is another thing I have wanted to learn for a long time. I have said it before, you are never too old to learn something new that may be of use for your family. Even if what I make or try isn’t always successful, I learn so much every time. Because of the opportunity to learn, whatever work I put into the task is definitely worth the effort. So…….go try something new!

Until next time – Fern

Update on Canning Okra – DO NOT USE THIS RECIPE

I have received several comments/questions about the Canning Okra post I did. Some of the comments expressed concern about how well the canned okra would keep since I did not put it through the water bath. I will include the comments below and then report the information I found out.

Since this is not put through a water bath, do you have any idea how long these will be good? Does the vinegar act as a type of pickling agent? Even so, pickles are put through a water bath, unless you go the lactose fermentation route. I love fried okra, so this would be a good way to have okra on hand, but I am worried about how long it would last.
This is the first year I have tried this so I don’t know how long it will keep. I have made relish and pickles that I don’t water bath and they are good for a year or more. The ratio of vinegar to water in the okra recipe is much less than standard pickles or relish, though. I will ask the lady I got the recipe from and see if she knows how long they will keep.
Do any of you canners out there have any input?
Thanks for the question. It is a good one.
Fern
I too am a little worried about no processing. I process pickled okra and it has more vinegar and salt. May slide over and ask Patrice 🙂

I’m curious to know if you heard back from the lady you got the recipe from. I have a freezer is quickly filling with garden veggies and would love to can some this way. I have heard of doing jelly using this method but not okra. I’m going to give it a try though! My little family loves okra and I would love to save some freezer space! Enjoying your blog posts! And we are also Oklahomans – Westville. What a wonderful summer we have had for gardening here!! Abundantly blessed!
I asked the Canned Quilter over at Hickory Holler what she thought about the recipe and here is my question and her response:

Hello CQ,
I have gotten some questions about the recipe for Canned Okra I have on my blog and I was wondering if you could give me an opinion. There are a few people that are concerned about how long the okra will keep without running it through a hot water bath. Would you have any concerns with the following recipe?

Canning Okra
1 gallon sliced okra 
2 tbsp. salt
6 tbsp. vinegar
1 cup water
Prepare jars, lids and rings. Place okra in a large pan. Mix vinegar, salt and water together. Pour over okra. Fill pan with enough water to cover okra. Bring to a full boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
Fill jars with okra. Pour enough liquid in jars to cover okra. Seal. No hot water bath. Just have everything hot and the liquid boiling. Put the rings on tight, cover with a towel and let them cool slowly and seal.
Thank you for your time. Fern
 
I saw this on your blog the other day. Salt and vinegar can both act as preservatives but the amounts seem really low for that purpose. The vinegar and salt are probably to cut the slime of the cut okra. However I would be really unlikely to use this recipe without hot water bathing it. I have pickled okra and canned okra in tomatoes but both were hot water bathed.I prefer to freeze my okra either plain or breaded and it dehydrates really well also. I know that some people are looking for alternatives to freezing and in that instance try dehydrating and I think you would have a better outcome and maybe safer.

Hope this helps, 
CQ

I also asked Patrice Lewis over at Rural Revolution her opinion. Here is my question and what she said:

 
Hi Patrice,
I did a post about canning okra for frying that did not include using the water bath. Some of my readers had concerns about how long it would keep. One of them recommended asking your opinion. I will be doing an update to the post reporting the opinions of people I have asked for input. Would you like to provide some information?
Here is the recipe:
1 gallon sliced okra 
2 tbsp. salt
6 tbsp. vinegar
1 cup water
Prepare jars, lids and rings. Place okra in a large pan. Mix vinegar, salt and water together. Pour over okra. Fill pan with enough water to cover okra. Bring to a full boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Fill jars with okra. Pour enough liquid in jars to cover okra. Seal. No hot water bath. Just have everything hot and the liquid boiling. Put the rings on tight, cover with a towel and let them cool slowly and seal.
Thank you for your time.

Fern

 
I’ve never cooked with (or even eaten) okra, but I consulted my canning bible (“Putting Food By”) and they recommend that okra ONLY be pressure-canned (not water-bath canned, and especially not “nothing” canned).  While there’s vinegar in your recipe, it’s not enough to pickle the okra.  Okra is low-acid and to preserve it safely, it must be hot-packed and pressure-canned, 25 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts, at 10 lbs (adjusted for altitude).
Remember, just because a jar seals doesn’t mean the food is safely processed inside.  It just means the jar sealed.  Nothing replaces heat when it comes to preservation.
Hope this helps!
Patrice


The lady I got the recipe from has not talked to her niece, who has used this recipe the most so I don’t have an updated recommendation from them. But due to the new information I have received, I NO LONGER RECOMMEND THIS RECIPE AS IS. 

I plan to try canning some okra and see if it still fries up okay or if the canning process makes it too mushy to fry. I will let you know how it turns out. I do not want to share any recipes that will result in unsafe food.

Thank you all for chiming in and sharing your views. It helps all of us learn better ways to preserve our food in a safe and tasty manner.
Until next time – Fern 

Did Someone Say Peaches?

There are several orchards in this area that grow peaches. We have wanted to can our own for several years but haven’t gotten around to it – until this year. Some of our friends made a trip to the orchard for peaches and kindly picked up three bushels for us. We tried to estimate how many we might eat in a year, so we will see how this turns out.

The first thing we did is eat two or three, then we sorted them out. Most of them needed to sit and ripen for a few days before they were ready to can. The really soft ones we set aside to eat first.

We have planted fruit trees, but we have never been very successful at growing anything. We will keep trying. But for now, it is nice to have fresh fruit to put up. And did I say these are good? I really like peaches.

This picture is only half of the peaches (and some whey left from making cheese and the harvest from the garden for the day).

The first thing we made was peach butter. We had great luck with pear butter last summer and like the simplicity of the recipe. So we tried our luck at peach butter.

The recipe is fairly simple, but I didn’t follow it exactly, of course. We did an experimental batch to see if it was good before we made more. It is good. Really good. It kind of tastes like peach cobbler without the crust. I also didn’t get any pictures. So I will just describe it for you.

Peel, pit and slice or chunk 9 lbs. of peaches. In a stainless steel pot, combine peaches with 1/2 cup water, 2 tsp. grated lemon zest (I used dehydrated orange peel) and 6 tbsp. of lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon). Boil gently until peaches are soft – about 20 minutes.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving recommends using a food mill or food processor to puree the peaches, but I used my potato masher. I took about half of the peaches out and put them in another pan just for ease of working, then took my time and mashed them up. They aren’t consistently smooth, but that’s okay with us, we like a little more texture. This step will be a personal preference in consistency.

Next, return all the peaches to the pot and add 3 cups sugar (if I followed the actual recipe it would be 8 cups of sugar – way too much for us), 1/4 tsp. almond extract, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (these spices are not in the original recipe). Stir until the sugar dissolves, bring to a gentle boil and simmer until thickened to the desired consistency. Since I use much less sugar than called for, my butter doesn’t thicken up as much, but it holds together fairly well when chilled. It isn’t runny, but isn’t smooth and buttery textured either. The last step is to process it in a water bath for 10 minutes (for pints). The most time consuming step is letting it cook down to consistency.

Next came canning peach slices. If you have read some of the other posts, you know by now that we use minimal sugar.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has a great table that shows how to make ultra light syrup for canning fruit. I didn’t use quite as much as it calls for, but almost.  5 cups of water and 1/3 cup of sugar – we did 5 times this much.

The first step is to blanch the peaches to loosen the skin. Put the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute then move them to a sink of cold water.

We added ice to the water in the sink to keep it cold.

Next skin the peaches……..
We blanched about a bushel and a half – enough to fill up the dish pan. We weren’t sure how many quarts this would make, so we stopped there for the first go round.

Slice them. Fill the jars with peaches, fill with syrup, wipe the rim, seat lids and rings and place in canner.

Our water bath canners hold seven quarts and we are using both of them. Round one goes well and uses a lot of the peaches. We have enough left for six more quarts. 

Shortly after we started the last batch, one of the jars broke so we got to fish out some floating peaches. It’s the one in the back that’s higher than the rest. We couldn’t find anything wrong, so it must have been a jar with a weak place. The bottom broke off all the way around in one piece.

Day One = 19 quarts of sliced peaches and 8 pints of peach butter

We got started earlier on day 2 so we thought we would be finished at a decent hour. This was not the case. First we washed up the jars from day one, labeled them and got them put away.

Time to get out more jars and get them washed up and ready to go. You know, we have named the dishwashers here – Frank and Fern.

Since we wanted to use both water bath canners, we got out our hot plate to heat the syrup on. This really filled the cabinet up, so we had to be very organized.

Milk buckets sure do come in handy. We have our rings and lids in the bucket with boiling water over them.

Here is one of the batches fresh from the canner.

12 hours later, we were very, very tired. But the peaches are finished and beautiful to behold.

Total count
40 quarts of sliced peaches
26 pints of peach butter
2 tired people

Growing, processing and canning your own food is a lot of work. I have great respect for our ancestors that grew and preserved what they ate – or they didn’t eat. We all know that changes are in the wind for our country and our world. We don’t know when, what kind or to what degree, but we do know they are coming. I continue to urge you all to learn something that will be beneficial to your family now and in the long run. Now is the time to learn while failure is still an option. Yesterday Frank was talking about using up some of the store bought green beans we have on the shelf. So we made a green bean casserole for lunch at church. He said if we don’t grow enough this year to can and replace them, we will go the store and get more. We still have that option, and I am grateful we do. It may not always be the case.

Until next time – Fern