Blackberry Raspberry Pie Filling

When I saw a recipe for raspberry pie filling in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, I have to admit that I was fairly skeptical as to how well it would turn out. It’s a recipe with ClearJel, and if you’ve ever used ClearJel, you know what a gooey mess it can become. I was unsure how well I could maintain the integrity of such a delicate berry, but of course, that didn’t stop me – challenge accepted. So I thought what I’d try was just making one jar at a time. Since I had picked raspberries and blackberries on this particular day, I made a jar of raspberry, a jar of blackberry, and a jar of half and half. I am actually pretty happy with how it turned out! For the recipe I ended up following the extension publication, which was pretty much the same as Ball, but it gives amounts  for 1 or 7 quarts – Fruit Pie Fillings extension pub linked to here.

Ingredients (for just one quart):

3 1/3 cups raspberries or blackberries (or a combination)
1 cup sugar (I reduced to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp ClearJel
1 1/3 cups cold water or fruit juice
1 tbsp + 1 tsp bottled lemon juice

Here’s how it’s made:

Prepare your canner, jars, and lids. Combine the sugar and ClearJel in a large pot and stir. Remember, you can safely reduce the ClearJel or sugar, if desired, so make one jar, see how you like it, and adjust accordingly next time. The lemon juice (added later), should not be reduced.

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Add water or juice, and cook mixture over medium high heat. It will initially get thick in chunks, and will smooth out to look how it does below. For a few more pictures check out my Cherry Pie Filling recipe.

Once the mixture is thick and bubbling, add the lemon juice and boil for one more minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

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Remove from heat, and gently fold in the berries.

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Doing just one jar I was able to keep the berries fairly unsquished, but if you go for the full canner load of 7 quarts, I make no guarantees. I have done a full batch of blueberries though, and with their firmer texture it works beautifully. The blackberries might be ok too, but I have my doubts on the raspberries. However, mushy would still be tasty!

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Immediately fill the hot quart jars, leaving a full 1 inch headspace, or perhaps even slightly more. ClearJel will expand a bit and you don’t want to risk jars not sealing over cramming in a couple extra berries. Wipe rims, apply lids, and tighten bands finger tip tight.

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Process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for 30 minutes (0 – 1000 feet elevation).

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After processing, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes, and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, check seals, label, and store. Below I have the raspberry on the left, blackberry on the right, and the 50:50 combo pie in the middle. Can’t wait to make these into pie!!

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 2

I promised to post about master food preserver class each week, so here is what we learned in last Thursday’s class! I took 116 photos in class during week 2, and it didn’t feel like enough, so you know it must have been a good class! And of course it means this post will basically be a picture show. 😉 This week we covered freezing, fruit pie fillings and soft spreads. So I would like to start off with some fun facts that I learned in class that you may or may not already know.

Freezing
– The best way to freeze if you are going to do a bunch of stuff, is to turn your freezer extra cold (down to -10F) the day before so that things freeze quickly. Frozen goods should be kept at 0F or below, so once frozen return the temperature to 0.
– Vegetables should always be blanched before freezing to stop enzymes that would otherwise cause changes in colour, texture, flavour and nutritional value. Recommended blanching times vary by vegetable and range from 1-10 minutes

One thing we covered for freezing was freezing convenience foods. So we did just that, and will eat these food later in the class! YUM.

One convenience food we froze was a “meal in a bag”:
-1 chicken breast cooked and diced
– 2 cups blanched veggies (or frozen ones)
– 1 cup pasta cooked until almost done
– seasoning packet in a separate baggie (such as 2t chicken bouillon, 1/2t garlic powder, 1/2t onion powder, 1/2t paprika, 1t parsley, 2T parmesan cheese)

Freeze it all up in a baggie. When you want to eat it, dump it all in a wok, stir fry it up and … presto!

Chicken for the meal in a bag.

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Blanched veggies for the meal in a bag.

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Combine it all and freeze. A great idea if you have a free weekend day and freezer space!

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Another convenience food we froze was twice baked potatoes. nom nom nom.

Bake potatoes, halve, and remove innards to a large bowl.

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Mash and mix in milk, sour cream, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese.

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Refill, top with more cheese if desired, then freeze on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to freezer containers. When you want to eat it, bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes.

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The last convenience food we did was cookies. Works with most cookie recipes.

Mix up the recipe.

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Mold into balls (and in this case dip in sugar – yum!)

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Freeze on a cookie sheet and then transfer to a freezer container. When you want to eat them bake without thawing at 400F for 10-15 minutes.

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Fruit pie filling (and juice hiding in back)

Most fruit pie filling recipes for canning call for clear jel. What is clear jel anyways? It’s a starch used for thickening, and is basically a modified corn starch. You shouldn’t used regular corn starch or other thickening agents in canning, because they are not specifically designed for canning like clear jel. Clear jel has been modified to make it more heat stable, so it can take the heat of the canning process. It is also stable in low pH, like the pH of fruits. It makes products more shelf stable, and doesn’t separate over time like other starches can. It can be reduced in recipes too if you don’t want quite as much. If you don’t like the starchy pie fillings though, don’t try and can a pie filling recipe without it. Either follow a recipe for canning fruit in syrup, and then drain the syrup to use it in pies, or freeze the fruit instead!

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Soft spreads

Fun fact. Do you know the difference between a jelly, jam, conserve, preserve and a marmalade?
Jam – made from crushed or chopped fruit
Jelly – made from fruit juice
Conserve – made with two or more fruits and nuts or raisins
Preserves – made with whole fruits, or large pieces, in a clear, slightly gelled syrup
Marmalade – made with soft fruit and citrus peel in a clear jel

In class we made the following soft spreads. Click the names to link to the full recipe posts.

Blueberry lime jam

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and all canned up.

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Jalapeno pepper jelly.

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Strawberry lemon marmalade.

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And strawberry rhubarb jam.

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So many delicious treats! And the day’s excellent haul.

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