Friday, July 31, 2009

A Canning Miracle!

I was reading GardenWeb's Harvest Forum, as is always my way, and someone calling herself Malna from New Jersey posted a picture of her new canner that her hubby surprised her with. It's from Ball (Jarden), and it's their new Elite stainless steel canner. Well, one look at that beautiful thing was all I needed! I decided to splurge and buy one for myself! (Some girls treat themselves to clothes or shoes or purses--I prefer kitchen equipment. Tee hee.) To be sure, the price tag was a bit daunting at $80, but I rationalized the purchase in two main ways.

First, my current (classic speckled enamel) canner--at 13 years old--was looking worse for wear, coated with mineral deposits inside and getting thin in spots on the bottom. And the uncoated rack was all but disintegrating due to rust! In fact, I had been considering buying a new stainless steel rack for my old canner (the kind with narrower concentric circles so that small jars don't fall through), but the rack was twenty bucks by itself. Which leads to my second justification, which was that the only replacement canner I could find around here was the whole Ball canning kit, including all the tools that I already have, and that one is $60! OK, OK...I could order just the canner and rack online for maybe $25, or to be truly frugal, I could go buy a big pot at the kitchen supply store for even less and fit it with a round cake rack in the bottom to serve as a rack. But DARN IT, I just wanted the new, fancy canner! And as my first one lasted thirteen years, the heavy-bottomed stainless steel one should last the rest of my natural life! I'll certainly get plenty of use out of it, as anyone who reads this blog knows that I can A LOT, and also teach canning classes at school from time to time.

Even though I thought I could probably get another season out of my old canner, I talked myself into ordering the lovely new model from a site called The Housewares Store. They had it on sale for $68.99, so with eleven dollars for shipping, that took it to $80, which is about how much it costs if you order it from Ball's website, but then you still have to pay shipping on top of that. So at least I saved a little there! However, I didn't have time to wait for the new canner to be delivered, as I still had three pounds of Black Velvet apricots getting overly-ripe in the fridge, and one of my projects for the weekend was to experiment with an aprium-pomegranate pepper jelly based on my favorite apricot pepper jelly recipe. So earlier today, I busted out the old canner and got to work. I had the jelly cooking on the stove, and the water in the canner was almost up to a boil when I heard a funny sound, like a hissing, and then smelled propane. As I bent down to examine the burner, I could see that the depression around the element was filling with water which had snuffed out the flame. My faithful old canner had sprung a leak, the day after I placed an order for the new one! DIVINE PROVIDENCE, I say! The universe clearly wanted me to have the fancy new canner!

I swear to you, I did NOT sabotage my old kettle with a screwdriver or anything to further justify my extravagant purchase. And if I did, I certainly wouldn't have filled it with very hot water that then leaked all over the kitchen for me to clean up! Furthermore, I had to process the pepper jelly in my pasta pot which wasn't really big enough for the job and kept boiling over, making even more of mess for me to deal with. By the hardest, though, I completed the two batches (having to process it in three!), and I must say, for all my trouble, the fruit combination was delicious and made a terrifically tangy and spicy pepper jelly! And it is a beautiful burgundy color as well! However, the first batch didn't set enough to my liking, so I'll give it a few days, and then decide if I need to reprocess it. By that time, the Cadillac of canners will probably have arrived, and that'll be a good excuse to break it in! In the meantime, here's the pepper jelly recipe if you want to give it try...if your canner is still sound and water-tight, that is!

Aprium-Pomegranate Pepper Jelly

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped finely
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (I used a smaller yellow bell pepper, plus one Hungarian Hot Wax pepper from my garden to make up the size difference)
1/2 cup hot peppers, seeded and chopped (I used one Anaheim-type, two jalapenos, and two serranos)
9 fresh Black Velvet apricots (or any aprium or pluot variety), pitted and chopped
2 cups cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 pouch (3 oz) liquid pectin

Put the dried apricot bits into a microwave-safe bowl and pour the pomegranate juice over them. Microwave on high for four minutes, and set aside to let the dried fruit absorb the liquid. In the meantime, seed and chop the peppers and the fresh apricots.

Add the reconstituted dried apricots, peppers, fresh apricots, vinegar and sugar to a large pot and stir. Bring to a full rolling boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pectin and stir in. Bring back to a hard boil for 5 minutes. Check the set, and continue to boil at two-minute intervals until the desired set is achieved. Fill (seven or eight) half-pint jars, wipe the rims, adjust the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


Kurt Proctor said...

Canners are much cheaper here in Utah. (As are houses) I'm just saying...

Gramma Greenjeans said...

You'll love it. I really, really like mine.

Happy canning!

Gramma Greenjeans aka Malna

J S Grant said...

I always wonder, why can't I make a little bit of jam and cool it off and freeze it in little plastic containers and just pull those frozen guys out and defrost in the middle of winter when I have company? And then just finish off the jam in a week? How can you get botulism then? How lazy can I be? (Very!) How much hot water on a hot day do I want? (None!) You are brave Gina!

Joy Bugaloo said...

Oh, Kurtis! Utah...been there, done that. But I'm hoping to come for a brief visit for your play in November (in combination with my college reunion)!

Hey, Gramma/Malna! Thanks for dropping by! And THANKS for inspiring me to get a new canner!

Scott, you certainly can make freezer jam. It's easy, too! They sell special pectin for it, and even cute little freezer jars and containers. You should give it a try! Alternately, you could freeze the fruit and make jam out of it later, long after the heat of summer has passed. I know LOTS of people who do that--myself included. In fact, when my new canner arrives, I am finally going to get around to trying my hand at some cranberry salsa....from last year's cranberries! ;-)