Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tutorial: How to Can Fruit

Recently I had a comment asking me to provide a step by step tutorial on canning fruit. Thank you for the request, Sam! I am happy to be providing this tutorial to you today. Every year for the past 3 years I have canned peaches and pears, and last year I also did apricots. This year I have done just the peaches and pears, as they are our favourites. Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert or professional canner, I just do what I was taught by D's mom, and I have never had a jar not seal on me. Please follow every necessary precaution when canning food at home, as there is a small but dangerous risk of botulism if you do not sterilize and process correctly.

Ok, are you still with me? Canning is very simple once you understand the necessary steps. Yes, it is time consuming, so make sure you set aside at least a few hours per batch of 7 jars. Trust me, all of the work is completely worth it! Home canned fruit is delicious!

Today's tutorial will be pears, but peaches are very similar. Here we go!

Supplies Needed
1 canner with metal rack
Enough 1 litre jars with new lids to do the amount of fruit you have (Roughly about 10 jars for every 20 pounds of fruit)
Large pot to make syrup
A ladle
Small pot with lid to boil jar lids in
A large cookie sheet
A butter knife
A clean cloth
A magnetic stick to lift lids out of hot water (usually comes with other canning supplies)- or a fork/spoon
A vegetable peeler/knife
A cutting board
A sharp knife to slice fruit
Large bowl to put sliced fruit in

Pears- at least 7-8 pounds to make one batch (7 jars)
Water (tap is fine)
White Sugar (2 1/2 cups)
Lemons (optional)- 1 should do 7 jars

All of these supplies should be in your kitchen except for the canning supplies. I bought my canner for about $20 and the other stuff (magnetic stick, jar lifter) for less than $10. These are a worthwhile investment, as they will last many years and help make the process go by much faster.

To begin, fill your canner about halfway full of water and set it on a large element on medium high heat with the lid on. It always takes quite a while for that much water to come to a boil, so I do this first. Next, preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. Place all of the jars (cleaned in hot soapy water) and their rings on the cookie sheet and put in the oven. The heat will sterilize them, but they must be in there for a minimum of 20 minutes, so do this before starting to prepare the fruit.

Next make the sugar syrup that the pears will sit in. I make an "extra light" syrup, meaning it is not too sweet. I prefer this as it allows the flavour of the fruit to stand out but still provides enough sweetness. Put 11 cups of water into a large pot. Mix in 2 1/2 cups of sugar and place over medium heat to slowly come to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Now, begin to prepare the fruit. With peaches you can dunk them into boiling water to loosen the skins, but with pears they must be peeled by hand. Select fruit that is not overripe and has few blemishes. It does not matter how big they are. Peel and stem the pears and cut them into the size you desire. I quarter mine. Cut out the core and place slices into a cold water bath that has a bit of acid added to it (lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar all work, only a couple teaspoons). This will prevent the slices from browning as you prepare the rest.

coring the pears

all sliced and ready to jar!

Now you must heat up the lids for the jars so that they are hot and ready to seal. All you have to to is put them in a pot and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil and let them boil for 2 minutes, then cover the pot and set it aside.

Once you have cut up all of your fruit, you are ready to start putting them in jars! Now I follow D's grandmother's recipe and add a slice of lemon into every jar. This is not necessary, it is purely optional. All it does is add a lovely lemon flavour to the pears. If you do not want to add the lemons, leave them out.

Remove one jar at a time from the oven (careful, they will be VERY hot!). Place one slice of lemon on the bottom (if using) and then begin layering the pear slices in the jar. If you place them all core side down they will stack much better and you will be able to fit many more slices in each jar. Fill the jar to the base of the lid, where the band will screw on to. 

Now it is time to add the hot syrup that has come to a boil. Carefully ladle in the syrup until it there is about a half inch of head space left in the jar.

Now you have to remove the air bubbles that may have formed between the slices of fruit when you were ladling in the syrup. Now every book that I have ever read has always warned against using a metal utensil to do this, as you risk cracking the jar. Well, I do it anyways, but if you want to be extra pre-cautious, use a plastic utensil. Simply run the knife down the four sides of the jar and wiggle it a little bit and you will see little air bubbles float to the surface. DO NOT force the knife down or wiggle it like crazy, or you probably will crack the jar!

Ok, now wipe the rim of the jar where the lid will sit to get any sticky syrup off it, which will cause sealing problems.

And now place the lid on it! Fish one out of the pot (careful, the water is hot!) and place it over the opening.

Now take one of the seals out of the oven (also very hot!!) and screw it on loosely to "fingertip tight". It is very important not to screw it on too tightly. Basically as soon as you feel it resist a little it is good. Make sure it is on, just not too tight.

Place the rack onto the canner edges (so it is not completely submerged in the water) and put the jars on one by one as you fill them up. Repeat this until you have 7 full jars.

Now, carefully lift the handles of the rack off the edge and submerge the jars into the hot water. Make sure that each jar is covered by about one inch or more of water. If they are not, simply add some more hot water to the canner until they are all submerged. Put the lit back on and bring the water to a rolling boil. Once it is boiling, set the timer for 25 minutes ( you may need to adjust the time if you live at a very high elevation, which you would have to research). When the timer goes off, remove the jars very carefully from the canner (don't tip them!) and place them on a tea towel. You can suck up any water that is sitting on the tops of them by placing a corner of a towel on the lid and allowing it to absorb the water, but don't rub them or press on the lids in any way. 

Cover them all with another tea towel and leave them to sit for 24 hours. They should all be sealed by then, which you will be able to tell that the lids have sealed downward and do not pop when you run your fingers along them. If a jar has not sealed, place it in the fridge and eat it within a couple weeks. To get them ready for long term storage, remove the rings from the jars and wipe down the entire jar and ring to get rid of any sticky residue which could mould over time and destroy the seal. You can either store the jars with or without the rings, whichever you prefer. Make sure to label each jar with the contents and year you did them, and enjoy!

My canning shelf last year

I hope this was helpful and informative. If any of you have questions please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer them. Please let me know and I will do my best to answer them. And let me know if you tried it or how you can your fruit, I would love to get some feedback on this!

Happy Preserving,


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Warm Chocolate Pudding

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post, I am feeling much better!

Tonight, I offer a recipe. Pudding was a staple dessert in my family growing up, probably because it contains nothing but pantry staples and is easy to make in large batches. There is nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of pudding on a cold night. I go back and forth between butterscotch and chocolate as my favourites. Tonight, chocolate won.

Chocolate Pudding

Serves 2 (or one if you are being indulgent)

2 cups milk or cream, whatever you have on hand
2 tbsp. cornstarch or flour ( I used gravy flour, a super fine flour made for thickening sauces)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

In a heavy bottomed pot, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt. Add half of the milk and turn on to medium heat. Slowly add the rest of the milk. Heat slowly to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Slowly add a small amount of hot liquid to egg yolks, beating well. Add egg yolk mixture back into pot and bring up to a boil again, stirring constantly. Take off the heat and add vanilla. Strain if you desire ( I usually do as for some reason my egg yolks always leave a slightly grainy texture). Serve warm or chilled, however you like it.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

On My Mind

Joining in with Rhonda Jean today for another On My Mind Post. Today I am thinking about my diet and some changes that need to be made. I have had several days in the last few weeks with some bad stomach upset/pain, and I think I need to take a close look at my diet and what might be causing this.

I will be using these cookbooks a lot in the near future!

I am really at a loss as to what could be causing my discomfort. I do not have a history of troubles with certain foods in my family, and never have I had problems before. I have been eating out more than usual lately, so I am going to cut that out entirely and begin to start a food diary to see if I can pinpoint a certain food that is bothering me. I am going to stop eating anything that is not homemade or that I know all of the ingredients to and go from there.

Completely unrelated is a book I have placed on hold at the library. Nourishing Traditions. I realize that this book is completely against vegetarianism and promotes meat eating, but I am curious. I have read so many blog posts about this book (including over at Rhonda's), and I think that it is time I read it. No, I am not thinking about abandoning my vegetarianism, but I think it is imperative that I hear "both sides of the argument" in order to be fully educated in what I eat. I will let you know what I think when I have received and read it.

Have you ever had food intolerance concerns? What are your thoughts on your diet?


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Warm Apple Pie

Can just make all of the little things clouding your mind just float away...

How can you argue with that? That is a thing of beauty.


Monday, September 19, 2011

A Delicious Dinner

I recently purchased two cabbages from the market and was at a bit of a loss with what to make with them. The most common use for cabbage in this household is a traditional meal to eat when feeling under the weather. This recipe is called Sick People Soup, and it uses up an entire half head of cabbage. The second half is usually then frozen and ready for the next batch of soup. But seeing as both of use have been feeling just dandy, I figured I needed to branch out a bit in my cabbage repertoire. Umpteen searches on the internet gave me the idea of vegetarian cabbage rolls. But a lot of the recipes called for soy "ground meat", an ingredient we don't eat because of the risks of it possibly containing genetically modified soy. So I was on the hunt for a different kind of recipe, one that sounded interesting and impossibly delicious. And I found it, along with 62 (yes, 62!) other cabbage recipes. No, they are not all vegetarian, but a large amount of them are, along with the hundreds of other recipes she has on her blog. Here is her link:

Seasonal Ontario Food's Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls with Cheese, Wild Rice, and Mushroom Sauce

They are ten times as good as they sound, and they sound amazing! The mushroom sauce is to die for, and it really made the cabbage rolls outstanding. This recipe is most definitely a keeper.

These are the rolls before being baked. I was so excited when they were ready, that I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished product with the sauce. They pretty much looked exactly like the picture on the original recipe's post, so I am trusting you to use that as a reference when envisioning mine. You really should make this, it is delightful. I ended up with 7 rolls and the only change I made was using green onion instead of chives, and we used dijon mustard in the sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce, which usually contains anchovies. 

 Go check out her blog, there are some incredible sounding recipes on it, and she is a Canadian!

Let me know if you made this, I would love to know what others thought of it.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

An Autumn Breeze

The air has become crisp here. When I wake up, the bed is extra warm and snuggly compared to the cool outside, and I can hear dry leaves rustling in the wind outside of the window. Fall has arrived, and I could not be happier. Leaves have just barely began to fall from their trees, dancing along the road as I drive to work. Today is cloudy and rainy, and I am cozied up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and a book.

Two days ago I went and picked apples from the lonely and forgotten tree that sits untouched in the backyard of our old home. I was the first to pick from it in many years last year, and discovered that these unknown variety of apples are wonderful for baking. Last year I picked a huge bag full of them, and this year I got a bag and a half. 30 pounds of organic apples, free! I cannot believe someone would pass up the gift of free produce as it sits in their backyard. I guess that means more for us :)

Yes, the apples are small and inconsistently coloured, but they are sweet and juicy with the perfect amount of sourness to compliment a pie or crumble. I will be baking up a storm with these in the coming days, and I will be sure to take you along with me as I go. 

At the market, gloved hands pass me cabbage, carrots, squash, and potatoes. My cravings have turned to stick to your ribs soups and breads to warm the belly and the soul. We are beginning to plan for the cold grasp of winter by preserving all we can and taking a stock of the freezers and pantry to make sure that we can easily make a nutritious meal from what we have on hand when it just is too darn cold to venture outside.  This, my friends, is the most glorious time of year. The harvest.

How are you enjoying your season change, be it Spring there or Autumn? What are your favourite recipes right now? Leave a comment and/or a link so that I can see into your world!


Monday, September 12, 2011

A Day of Canning

Every year for the past 3 years I buy 40 pounds of peaches from a local organic orchard and can them to enjoy throughout the winter. This year was no exception. In total I got 19 jars (1 litre jars) and have a few left over to enjoy fresh. D's parents have a peach tree so we have been getting those by the bucket to eat and cook with, so we are pretty peached out! I made 9 jars of peach salsa last week, peach crisp, and have eaten so many of them that I am seeing peaches in my sleep. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining by any means. I absolutely love this time of year!

When I can, the kitchen gets all sticky and smells of hot peaches. There are pits everywhere and bits of peel stuck to the counter and in the sink. It is incredibly hot because all four burners are going along with the stove and it is more humid than a night in the rainforest. But I am centered and at peace, despite the chaos and work before me. I get into a rhythm. Dunk peaches into boiling water, run under cold water. Peel them one by one, revealing the bright pink speckles that dot along the yellow flesh. Slice, place into acidified water. Fill sterilized jars with slices, fill with hot syrup. Place hot lid on top and then screw band onto. Repeat. I love the feeling of preserving my own food, knowing exactly where it came from and who grew it. Knowing it is free of chemicals that would harm my body. Knowing that I will be able to enjoy the fruits of my labour (pun intended) in the middle of the winter when the snow is up to the window and the fruit from the grocery store tastes like cardboard. This is what summer is all about.

What have you canned this year or in the past?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Giveaway Winner

Well after a visit over to the random number generator, we have a winner!

The lucky person is Bruise Mouse! Here is what she wrote:

"What a wonderful giveaway. Cookbooks are something that I am lacking at the moment. I follow."

Please send me your contact information at and I will get it sent out to you!

Thank you so much to everyone who took part in my first giveaway! I really do appreciate every one of you and love every comment you leave, it really brightens my day!

I am off to the market, and then it is peach canning day! More on that later.

Have a lovely day!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fall Cleaning

Today is Fall Cleaning Day! Well, it is supposed to reach 33 C here today, so it doesn't really feel like fall quite yet, but in my mind it is coming! I will be giving the house a good scrub over, and I thought I would share my recipes for cleaners that I use.

Floor Cleaner- can be used on any hard surface

Half of a kitchen sink (or 3/4 if you have a large amount of floors to clean) full of hot water
1/4 cup-1/2 cup borax
4 tbsp. white vinegar
3-5 drops desired essential oil (I use lemon or orange)

Bathroom and Kitchen Counter Scrub

2 tbsp. baking soda
1 drop essential oil (tea tree is the best for the bathroom as it is antibacterial)
enough water to make a moist paste

Mix these all together and watch soap scum and baked on food wash away!

Carpet Stain Remover

small bowl of hot water
1 squirt natural dishwashing liquid
1 tbsp. white vinegar

Use a stiff bristle brush and this cleaner to scrub away stains on the carpet (or also known as in my house, cat vomit-blech)

As you can see, none of these recipes are exact. They are, however, cheap and easy to make and all of the ingredients can usually be found in your pantry! So next time you go to buy that expensive cleaner from the store, think about making it and see how you like it!

Happy Cleaning!