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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Canning Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed tomatoes are probably my third favourite way to preserve tomatoes, after making salsa and tomato sauce. It is one way that I try to preserve them every year though, because crushed tomatoes can be used for such a wide array of dishes. I use a lot of the jars to make chili throughout the winter, and crushed tomatoes are also great for soups, stews, sauces, you name it!

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Two great publications to refer to for tomato products are this USDA guide, and and PNW 300. Keep in mind that you can both raw and hot pack tomatoes, and that there are guidelines for both hot water bath canning them, or for pressure canning them. Hot packing and pressure canning will of course require the shortest processing time, whereas cold or raw packing and hot water bath canning takes the longest. For example, if you raw pack whole or halved tomatoes, they need to be water bath canned for 85 minutes! So you may want to consider cracking out the pressure canner for whole packs, as the processing time is only 25 minutes. Nice to have options though, isn’t it? This time, I did a hot pack of crushed tomatoes. Typically, this is how I use tomatoes anyways, so it’s the way I most commonly preserve them. It’s a shorter processing time than packing them whole, and produces a very nice product.

Here’s how its done! First I cored and blanched them.

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Then threw them in cold water to cool them off. Peel and cut the tomatoes in quarters. If you are doing a big batch, check out this post by Erica, from Northwest Edible Life, one of my very favourite blogs. She shows her strategy for blanching and peeling large batches of tomatoes.

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Mash about a quart or so of the tomatoes in a large pot and bring them to a boil. You want enough in there and mashed that you fill your pot 2-3 inches deep. Once at a boil, continue to add quartered tomatoes slowly to the pot, stirring frequently. After you have a good layer of crushed ones, just stir the rest in without crushing them. Wait until it returns to a boil, add more, and so on until all the tomatoes are in the pot. You’ll need about a pound or pound and a quarter per pint, so if you are aiming for a full 7 quart batch, you’ll want at least 14 pounds. The PNW publication says 2.75 pounds per quart, which might be a little bit high, but in the ballpark of 15 -18 pounds should equal a canner load. Meanwhile, prepare your canner, jars and lids. I think it’s worth it to do a full batch since the processing time will be 45 minutes. If you do a whole pack and an 85 minute processing time you had better be doing a full load or you’re just silly.

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Once all the tomatoes are added, maintain a boil for 5 minutes, then fill your hot jars. Make sure to acidify your tomatoes when filling the jars. This means adding either 1/2 tsp per quart of citric acid or 2 tbsp per quart of bottled lemon juice. I like to just add it to every jar first so that I don’t have a chance of forgetting. Remember that this is an important step because tomatoes are on the borderline of pH levels safe for hot water bath canning, so the extra touch of acid ensures that you will have a safe, botulism free product. Also as a note when filling jars. What I like to do is use a slotted spoon to get the crushed pieces that stayed more in tact, and fill jars first with those. But still make sure you have enough liquid in there so it’s still a good crushed tomato pack. Doing it this way I label my later jars as being more runny, and use them for purposes such as soup, and the others where I want more of a meaty product. If you have juice left over at the end, use this to make up some sauce or something. I threw my leftover juice in the freezer to use this weekend when I make a big batch of spaghetti sauce.

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Place the jars in the hot water bath canner, covered by at least 2 inches of water, and bring to a full rolling boil. When processing for these long processing times, if your canner barely fits your jars you may need to add water part way through. Especially if you are doing 85 minutes, water will boil off. Bring some water to a boil on another burner and add it to your canner if too much water is boiling off. Alternatively, pressure can the tomatoes at 11 pounds of pressure (sea level) for 15 minutes (25 if doing a whole or half pack, or a raw pack). With venting for 10 minutes, bringing the canner up to pressure, and waiting for the pressure to return to zero, it probably doesn’t actually save a ton of time, but there still could be an argument made for pressure canning being easier. I think I will try to pressure can some whole ones shortly and let you know how it goes. After 45 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, check seals, label and store.

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Sometimes you can get a little separation occurring in your jars like in the image below. This isn’t something you need to worry about though, it’s just because the tomatoes were boiling in the jar so the solids were pushed up to the top. Once the jar is completely cooled and you have checked the seal, give it a little shake and mix the liquids and solids back together.

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After a little shake it looks perfect. Label, store and enjoy all winter long.

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Watermelon Jelly

Watermelons are a classic summer treat that we usually only get to enjoy for a few months while they are in season. These two delightful jelly recipes will allow you to preserve that taste of summer so that you can enjoy it all year long.

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I made two versions of this recipe, one is the zesty watermelon jelly from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, and the other is my own creation, where I simply subbed lemon juice in for the vinegar and omitted the lemongrass. Remember, lemon and lime juice are both better acidifiers than vinegar, which is why it is safe to sub it here. However, that extra acid is mandatory, watermelon is not acidic enough, and therefore not safe to waterbath can without it.

Ingredients:
6 cups crushed watermelon (enough to make 2 cups juice)
1/2 cup vinegar (use white balsamic, white wine or apple cider – I used apple cider here)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
5 cups sugar
1 stem lemongrass, finely chopped
2 pouches liquid pectin

or

6 cups crushed watermelon (enough to make 2 cups juice)
3/4 cups lemon juice
5 cups sugar
2 pouches liquid pectin

Here’s how to make it:

Crush up the watermelon and heat it gently for about 5 minutes.

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Mash it up some more and strain through a dampened jelly bag, or cheesecloth/muslin with some sort of strainer or funnel like below. I don’t have a legit jelly bag setup, so I just used the hopper from the Victorio strainer and some muslin and strained it into a half gallon jar. This actually strained amazingly quickly, unlike some other juice for jellies. I guess they are called watermelons for a good reason.

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Measure out two cups of the juice. If it’s been sitting a while and some of the sediment has settled out, you can stir it up a bit if you like, so that you get that pink colour. If you pour off the top with a lot of the sediment settled out your jelly will be much lighter.

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Prepare the canner, jars and lids. This recipe yields about 5-6 half pints.

Combine all the ingredients except for the pectin in a deep stainless steel pot. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. When the boil is reached, stir in the two packets of pectin quickly and return to a boil. Maintain a hard boil for 1 minute.

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Remove from heat and quickly skim any foam.

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This jelly starts to set up really quickly, so you need to work fast filling the jars. If you have a helper when you are making this, have them get the hot jars ready as you are stirring so you can fill quick like a bunny. Fill the jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and tighten the bands finger tip tight.

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Process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes, ensuring the jars are covered by at least 1-2 inches of water, and beginning the time when a full rolling boil is acheived. After the ten minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes, and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, check seals, wipe down, label and store.

Pictured here is the zesty watermelon jelly on the left, and on the right is the version with just lemon juice. I think the colour difference is in part due to the cider vinegar, but also because I made the right one second and I think had more of the sediment in that batch. They are both pretty, but I was hoping for pinker, and think I might need to experiment with using less sugar to achieve that. But the flavour is certainly delicious!

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Watermelon Jelly on Punk Domestics

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

This recipe is one I’ve made every year since I started canning, from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I’ve never made the rhubarb drink on the next page, but am really excited to try that one too. Stay tuned. When I got really excited to make the rhubarb one as well, saying it would be excellent with gin, Kiki called me out, saying we can’t make things just because they taste good with gin. Or can we? My favourite way to use this concentrate is actually with just a couple tablespoons in my gin and tonic. I swear, I really don’t drink that much gin. Of course you can just drink it as lemonade by adding water, tonic water, or ginger ale. I bet this would be amazing if you used a soda stream for some carbonation! Mix 1:1 or 2:1 water to concentrate, although I usually make it even weaker since it is really quite flavourful.

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Ingredients:
6 cups hulled strawberries
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups granulated sugar (or much less if you like it the way I do!)

Here’s how we made it:

First, prepare the berries. Ball tells you to simply puree the strawberries in a blender. By all means you can totally do it that way if you like, and I have made this 3 or 4 times that way, but this year I decided to try and get rid of some of the seeds. To make the lemonade seedless, and partially because I just love an excuse to use it, I cracked out the Victorio food strainer. I ran my 6 cups of berries through multiple times, to get rid of the seeds. It’s kind of nice not having those pesky seeds in a beverage. I don’t mind them in jam, which is why we just used the extra poop you see coming out the left there in the jam we were making.

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Next juice a bagillion lemons. OK maybe not a bagillion. We found that 4 large lemons were pretty close to a cup of juice. A fun tip to get more juice out of them is to microwave them for 20-30 seconds. It really did seem to help.

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Combine your lemon juice, strawberry puree and sugar. We actually decided to do 1/4 of the sugar in this recipe. You can certainly adjust it to taste, or maybe try sweetening with honey or something. That could be really good. It definitely decreased the yield quite a bit, but this actually means you use less jars and lids, and if you decide it’s not sweet enough you can always add more sweetener when you open up the jar later. Heat the lemonade over medium high heat. Don’t boil though, bring it up to 190F.

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Remove from the heat, and fill your jars, leaving a quarter inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and tighten the bands finger tip tight.

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Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, check seals, remove bands, clean, label, and store. Enjoy a nice summer treat all winter long! Or just make it and consume immediately!

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