Black Goose Jelly w/Homemade Pectin

Last week I made a new batch of liquid pectin and promised I would show the results of a jelly making session with the homemade pectin.  Well, here it is!!

We went up to our future homestead this weekend, to do some work, getting the site ready for a shipping container in which we will store a lot of our household items while we build our new house.  Between work I picked some gooseberries and some blackberries that grow wild on our property.

Because of the drought, the blackberries were pretty small and seedy, but their flavor was still wonderful. The gooseberries were also a bit on the small side, but what they lacked in size, they did not lack in spikes!  These little berries are seriously dangerous to pick without leather gloves!Making jelly with homemade pectin

Since I didn’t have enough blackberries to make a batch of jelly, nor did I have enough gooseberries, I decided to make Black Goose Jelly!

To make the juice, after rinsing off the berries to get any dust or insects off, I placed the berries in a large pot with about 1/2 cup of water, and slowly brought up the temperature. Once the berries were softened, I used my potato masher and smashed the berries, until the pulp was pretty much, well…   pulp! Homemade pectin jelly

The pulp is then poured into wet cheesecloth and allowed to drain for a couple of hours.  Don’t squeeze if you can help it –  if you do your jelly won’t be very clear, but will taste just the same.  how to make jelly with liquid pectin

I followed the recipe for blackberry jelly that Certo Liquid Pectin had online.  It called for 3-3/4 cups of juice to 7 cups of sugar.  Now, I know that’s a lot of sugar, but if you consider that jams and jellies are really just confections, not to be consumed in mass quantities (cone heads?), then it doesn’t seem so unreasonable.  Pectin also needs acid to work, whether it is in the juice itself or added in the form of lemon juice.  Although blackberries are naturally slightly acidic, the recipe called for 1/4 cup.  I have heard some people like to put salt – just a pinch – in their jellies and swear that it makes them taste better.  I didn’t.  But I did add just a pat of butter to prevent a lot of foaming.

So, once the blackberry/gooseberry juice, lemon juice and sugar were all in the pan, I let the mixture come to a full rolling boil that could not be stirred down.  All at once I dumped in a jar of my homemade liquid pectin (click here to see how to make liquid pectin) and started timing exactly 1 minute.  If you boil the pectin too long, sometimes it’s effectiveness can be diminished – stay with the 1 minute timetable.Making jelly with homemade pectin

The jars, bands and lids were all ready to go, as were the jars, so I ladled the jelly into the jars, placed the lids and bands on top, then placed them into a water bath canner for 15 minutes.  I ended up with eight 8 ounce jars of Black Goose Jelly that had a beautiful deep ruby red color.  Unfortunately, I was by myself and I was just too busy to stop to take a picture of the actual canning part. If you have ever made jam or jelly before, you probably know what I’m talking about! :)

How did the homemade liquid pectin work?  Great!  You can see that the jelly stands up quite proudly on the spoon.How to make jelly with homemade liquid pectin

How does it taste?  Wonderful!  The sweetness of the gooseberries mingled with the tartness of the blackberries and made a wonderful jelly.

Here is the actual recipe I used:

3-3/4 cups blackberry/gooseberry juice (for me it was about 50/50)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (acid needed to make pectin work)

7 cups sugar (sounds like a lot, but don’t skimp)

1/2 tsp butter (to stop foaming)

1 eight ounce jar of homemade liquid pectin (seriously, make your own!)

Mix together the juice, sugar and lemon juice and heat to boiling.  When at a full boil, pour in liquid pectin and continue boiling and stiring for 1 minute.  Remove from heat, ladle into clean hot jars, place on lids and bands.  Place in water bath for 15 minutes.

Do you make jams or jellies?  So far, I think my favorite just might be this combination.  It’s really good.  But last year I made some Plum Butter in the CrockPot and that was absolutely delicious!  If you would like to see that recipe, CLICK HERE.

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Pasta Sauce & Oregano Harvest

Last year I planted one itty, bitty oregano plant.  You know, one of those little 2″ x 2″ cubes you get at the nursery with a little sprig coming out of the top.Then I planted some basil this spring.  I also have my volunteer tomato plants.  So…  I have a pasta sauce garden!

Well, I was just a little disappointed with the oregano last year.  It didn’t grow as fast as I thought it should, and by the time I was harvesting basil, peppers and tomatoes, the oregano didn’t look very promising.  Even though it likes to dry out between waterings, I don’t think it was getting enough water.

This year, I have this:canning pasta sauce with meat

It’s starting to get leggy and the buds are just about to bloom (some are blooming and the bees are loving it), so now is the time to harvest some of the oregano – both for dehydrating to use later in the winter and also to make some fresh pasta sauce.

Finally! :)

For the pasta sauce, I set aside 2 tablespoons of the fresh oregano to make the sauce and processed the rest for my spice cupboard.  Since I don’t use pesticides, I know my herb is perfectly safe.  I also harvested some of my basil for the pasta sauce. Harvesting basil by cutting off the top three or four sets of leaves depending on how big the plant is, or in the case of oregano cutting the stems in half, is actually good for these herbs.  If you keep loping off a little of the basil now and then, it will branch out, get bushier, and you will have loads more to harvest!  Same with the oregano.

The remainder of the oregano was washed in cool water several times to make sure I got all of the dirt, spiders, etc. off.  Once that was done, I stripped the leaves from the stems and spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment so the oregano could dry.  Make sure you don’t put it in the sun – that’s not good for herbs that you are dehydrating. If you want to use a dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s directions.  I prefer to dry mine the “no power” way because the oils and flavors in the herb are very delicate and heat sensitive – and why use power if you don’t need to!  It only takes a day or so for the oregano leaves to dry. Once the leaves are leathery (almost crumbly) dry, they are done. Pack into an airtight container and, as with all herbs, it is preferable to keep out of light.pasta sauce with fresh oregano and basil

Alternatively, you could harvest your oregano, clean as above, then bunch together with a rubber band.  This can then be hung in a warm, dry area to dehydrate right on the stem.  Purists say this is the best way because all the oils follow gravity down the stem and into the leaves, which makes the most intense flavors in the herb.  I don’t really know for sure.  I have done it both ways and don’t really see a difference.Fresh basil and oregano pasta sauce

So – onward to my pasta sauce!

ground chicken in pasta sauceFirst comes the tomatoes.  I had some regular old slicing type tomatoes and some grape tomatoes in my freezer and I bought a couple pounds of Roma tomatoes to make the sauce.  Last year I discovered that the easiest way to peel tomatoes is to freeze them. You can see the entire instructions HERE. Once they begin to thaw, their skins start to break.  Once thawed, all you have to do is tug on a peel and it comes right off!  No boiling water to scald your fingers!  If you click on the picture, you will see that some of the tomato skins are starting to crack.

Easy-peasy!

Once the tomatoes were peeled and quartered, I placed them into a large pot and let them come to a boil.  I didn’t bother making sure all the seeds were out.  I don’t mind seeds.  The tomatoes simmered for an hour or so, to cook down, get soft, and concentrate some of the juices.  Then, I cheated – I poured the tomatoes into my blender to make a smooth tomato sauce.

:)

The sauce was poured back into the pot and then I added 2 tablespoons of chopped basil,Pasta sauce with ground chicken 1 tablespoon chopped oregano and 2 tablespoons of minced garlic.  Those were the fresh ingredients.  Since hubby and I like just a little bit of “kick” in our pasta sauces, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of the red chili pepper flakes that I dehydrated and ground up last year, plus a generous grind of black pepper.

While the pasta sauce was simmering again, with the fresh herbs, getting nice and thick, I browned some ground chicken in a skillet, then added it to the pasta sauce.  I let the pasta sauce (all ingredients now in) happily bubble away on my stove top while I prepared the jars, lids, and pressure canner.Fresh basil, oregano and garlic pasta sauce

My pressure canner is a heavy one, and it isn’t recommended that I use it on top of my glass cook top range, simply because of the weight.  Happily I have an outdoor kitchen.  Unfortunately, we are in the process of re-doing the granite top of the outdoor kitchen.  Luckily, dear hubby had a better idea, anyway.  Our middle son gave us one of those outdoor turkey cookers several years ago for Christmas.  Though we have used it a couple of times to cook turkey, and once to process a bunch of crab, I think we have found it’s best use yet:  Canning!  The pressure cooker fit perfectly into the stand – just like they were made for each other!  I even realized that the large pot that came with the turkey cooker will double very well as a water bath canner!  This is ideal because I won’t have to heat up my kitchen ever again!  Wahoo!spaghetti sauce with ground chicken

Once the hot jars were filled with the hot pasta sauce to within one inch of the top of the  jar, they were placed into the canner that already had hot water.  Did you pick up on the term hot?  Always remember, hot jars for hot food into hot canning water.  Cold jars for cold foods into cold/warm canning water.  If you don’t follow this rule you may just end up with a lot of cracked jars and a mess in the canner! :(

The pasta sauce was then processed (after venting and bringing up to 10 pounds of pressure) for 75 minutes for pints (90 for quarts).  You must always process any low acid food in a pressure cooker – that means all vegetables and meats, and even some fruits!

After the 75 minutes were up, the gas was turned off and I let the jars just sit in the hot canner for about 5 hours, so they could cool down.  If you don’t do this, you risk having bad seals or even cracking a jar.  It’s even better to just let it sit overnight.

This is what I ended up with:

Spaghetti sauce with ground chicken, basil, oregano

Now, when I want to serve spaghetti, I will pour the contents of the jar into a pot, heat it up to a simmer, and then add whatever I want – mushrooms, fresh tomatoes (to make it chunky) olives – or nothing at all!  Then it can be poured over freshly cooked pasta. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan.  Mmmmm…

Or this could be as the base sauce of a home made pizza.  Yum!  What is your favorite way to use pasta sauce?

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Homemade Liquid Pectin

It was time to thin my Granny Smith apple tree that my husband and I have in the backyard of our valley home.  The June drop was pretty much over (yes, there is such a thing) and the apples were starting to rapidly develop.  Time to thin.

How to make pectin at home

Our Granny Smith apple tree just doesn’t know when to quit!

But wait!  Don’t throw out your thinned apples! If you don’t use chemical pesticides on your apple trees, you can make natural pectin for your future jams and jellies!  With tart, unripe apples like the ones in the picture below, there is a lot of pectin inside, and simply boiling the apples with water releases the pectin!

How to make homemade pectin

This is about seven pounds of apples. After all the worm damage was cut out, I ended up with about six pounds of cut up apples.

Just wash them to get the dust off, chop them up (don’t worry about peeling or taking out the core), and throw the whole apple in a large stockpot.  Since we didn’t use any pesticides on our apple tree this year, the apples had a few worms, so I cut out the damaged parts and used the rest.  The ratio I used for this batch was 6 pounds of apples to 8 cups of water.  I let the mixture simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring quite often so the apples didn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, and squishing the apples against the side of the pot once they got soft.

Once the apples are all mushy, strain through a cheesecloth and let the liquid drain for an hour or two.  Return the liquid to the stove and simmer for another 1/2 hour or until the liquid begins to thicken and is reduced by almost half.  You now have liquid pectin!  If you aren’t using it right away, you can can the pectin in 8 ounce jelly jars and process in a waterbath for 15 minutes.

Making pectin at home

Okay – you can stop laughing now! I know this looks silly, but it works for me! :)

Of course, the amount of pectin in each batch will be a bit different, and it isn’t quite as simple to use it as is the store-bought kind.  One thing to know is that each fruit will have different levels of natural pectin, so the amount of fruit to sugar to pectin to acid ratio will be just a bit different with each batch/type of fruit you plan to make into jam or jelly.  Generally, over-ripe fruits have the least amount of pectin and under-ripe fruits have the most.

The fruits with the most natural pectin and acid, needing the least amount added are:  sour apples, crabapples, cranberries, gooseberries, eastern concord grapes, lemons, loganberries, plums, raspberries and citrus skin.  These are the fruits that I remember my grandma making into jam or jelly.  She would boil them for quite some time and I don’t remember her adding any pectin, just lots of sugar.

The fruits with some natural pectin and not as much acid are:  ripe apples, ripe blackberries, sour cherries, most grapes (not concord) and loquats. These are the fruits that will generally need some lemon juice added with pectin, along with the sugar.  Sometimes you can add some not-quite-ripe fruit with the ripe fruit to get a better gel, but the flavor might be a bit more tart.

Apricots, blueberries, sweet cherries, figs, western concord grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, pomegranates and strawberries generally have the least amount of natural pectin and acid, and will require the addition of both.

I have found that if you follow the general directions for making jams and jellies with commercial liquid pectin, you should be good to go with your homemade stuff.  One company that makes liquid pectin, Certo, has recipes online that you can look up.  One package of Certo liquid pectin is 6 ounces, so using a full 8 ounce jelly jar of your homemade pectin should be just right, if you have a very concentrated pectin. And remember to add the liquid pectin into your boiling fruit and sugar mixture when there is only one minute to go, or you could ruin the ability of the pectin to gel.

If you want to test how well you pectin jells, try this trick:  pour some rubbing alcohol into a cup.  Drop in 1/2 teaspoon of your cold homemade pectin.  Then, try to pick up the pectin glob with a fork.  If it stays in one large glob, the pectin is good enough to make your jelly or jam just like the commercial stuff.  If the glob starts to drip from the fork and hangs there, it will form a soft jelly or jam.  If you can’t pick up the blob at all, your pectin is too weak.  If it’s too weak, just boil it a little longer to concentrate the pectin, then try the test again.

Testing homemade pectin for effectiveness

After it cooled off, I tested the pectin in some rubbing alcohol. This blob shows that I got a pretty concentrated pectin and should expect a good set when I make jams and jellies!

Word of warning:  When making my pectin, I always tend to want to squeeze the cheesecloth to make the liquid strain through faster. Yes.  I can be impatient!  This won’t hurt anything, but tends to make a cloudy pectin, and a cloudy pectin might make a cloudy jelly.  If you aren’t entering the jelly into your local fair or trying to impress your mother-in-law, it really doesn’t matter.  It will taste the same.  If you want clear pectin, just let it drain for several hours – maybe even overnight – and don’t squeeze!

How to make pectin from apples

I got six 8 ounce jars of liquid pectin (enough to make six batches of jam or jelly) from apples that most people throw away.  Now that’s sustainable!

Okay, off to gather some blackberries and gooseberries to make some jelly!  How about you – have you ever made your own pectin?

 

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Manic Mother

 

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Our Homestead in Drought

We took a vacation up to our future homestead this past week and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!  Our friends Shelley and Bruce invited us over for a Fourth of July Party and we had so much fun visiting with lots of our neighbors.  We met the “new guy” who just recently purchased property in our area, made some new friends, and Ray found a new fishing partner!

Between clearing an area to place a shipping container to use as a storage shed, getting our valley house ready to put on the market, and  bad nonexistent internet service on the future homestead, I haven’t been blogging much lately. Plus, I found out that I have bursitis, tendonitis and a probable healing rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder… and I’m right handed!  Ugh!  Hopefully physical therapy will get me back on track.

The drought here in California isn’t getting any better.

California lake in drought

This high mountain lake about 1/2 hour from our future homestead is usually one of the last lakes to get drained in the fall. At this time of year the water is usually way up and spilling over the dam.  Unfortunately, it’s already pretty low because there just wasn’t any snowpack to fill it up.

Anyhow…  there are a lot of things happening on the future homestead:

gooseberries

The gooseberries are starting to ripen, though because of our drought I don’t think we have half as many as we did last year.  In fact, some of the bushes that were loaded last year have only a dozen or so gooseberries this year.  It’s a shame.  However, I do think I will get enough to make a batch of gooseberry jelly.

blackberries

The blackberries look even worse.  The berries that are developing look very small and will probably be very seedy, and I think it’s too late to water them, though I don’t think I would anyway.  While I know they will still make a great jelly, I was hoping to get some nice juicy ones to can into pie filling this year.  This is the recipe I wanted to use: http://oursimplelife-sc.com/blackberry-pie-filling-recipe    Maybe the hubby and I can take a ride down to our local creek and find a few plump, ripe berries.

ripening rose hips

Even the rose hips that I planned to harvest this year for a healthy and delicious tea are already starting to ripen, which is way earlier than I remember this happening in previous years.  At least they look somewhat plump, despite the drought.  I guess I will just have to harvest earlier than I had planned.

woodpile torn up

And then, near our campfire ring where our wood  is  was stacked, some critter tore it to pieces and made quite a mess.  I assume whatever it was (bear, raccoon, dog), was going after some critter that had made a nest in the woodpile.  Unfortunately, if you look at the bottom of the picture, you can see the beginnings of a poison oak bush, which is why I didn’t clean up this mess right away.  UGH!  I hate poison oak and unfortunately it likes me! :(  I will just have to keep my Technu and Stri-Dex pads on the ready.

Along with all the bad news due to our current drought here in California, we still have some good to report:

irrigation using rain barrels

The new zero pressure water timer and irrigation system we set up for our raised boxes is working well!  These tomatoes have absolutely tripled in size and are in full bloom!

ambassador walnuts

Our two year old Ambassador walnut tree has seven walnuts on it!  Heavens to Betsy – they aren’t supposed to produce until they are at least five years old, but this one seems to be extremely happy.  We weren’t positive that walnuts would grow well in our area, but apparently they do!

Redhaven Peach

Our Redhaven peach tree has three nice peaches on it, and at the rate that they are taking on color, they should be ripe in about a week.  Unfortunately our apricots didn’t put on any fruit this year, probably because we had a snowstorm just when they were starting to bloom, and the few cherries that we had were eaten by birds.  But, we are very hopeful that within a few years our small orchard will be providing us with lots of fruits and nuts!

purple thistle to make vegetable rennet

Finally, the purple thistle is starting to bloom again.  Apparently they aren’t bothered much by drought, because they seem to be as numerous and as big as they were last year! It’s time for me to start harvesting the purple thistle (before the down develops) so that I can continue my experiments with using it as a vegetable rennet to make cheese.  Now that our local natural foods market sells raw goats milk, I have all I need to make fresh goat cheese!  Click HERE to read about how to make rennet out of purple thistle.

Because of this drought we are seeing a lot more beetle activity and wasps on the future homestead, partly because they didn’t die off during the winter because of our warm temperatures, and partly because the drought weakened trees aren’t able to resist the beetle invasion.  We may lose some of our pine trees because of this. :(

On the brighter side, our well seems to be holding it’s own.  So far.  Since we were able to get three 1,100 gallon water storage tanks full from the winter rains, we haven’t had to pump much water from the well, which is a good thing.

Until next time – stay happy, healthy and as honest as you can be.

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The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

 

 

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