Highbush Cranberries: Making Jelly and Ketchup

 

Lucy inspects the berries

The highbush cranberry is a shrub that grows up to 4m in height and produces a bright red or orange fruit in August and September. It’s not really a cranberry at all, but the fruit is used similarly and often served with game, turkey or pork. Bushes produce abundent berries which are relatively easy to pick, making them popular for the amatuer canner. 

Jelly made with the berries can be served with bread, muffins or toast. It is delicious with poultry and can be served with any meat that is enhanced by a fruit chutney. 

Highbush cranberry ketchup is made with cranberry puree, vinegar, sugar, onions, garlic and spices to create a flavourful sauce that can be used as a substitute for regular tomato ketchup in any recipe. HBC ketchup is delicious served with burger, hotdogs, game meats and pork. It can be used any time you reach for the regular Heinz stuff. 

Viburnum trilobum is a native shrub found close to rivers from one end of Canada to the other and as far north as Alaska & the Territories. I picked a couple of pails of the ambrosial berries one evening in early September while I was walking my dog down along the river valley in Edmonton. 

After washing them and picking out all of the leaves and stems, I had approximately 32 cups or 12 lbs of berries. I added 8 cups of water (just enough to almost cover them in a large stock pot) and boiled them on the stove for about 15 minutes, crushing them with a potato masher and stirring constantly.

I strained this mess through a jelly bag overnight and was rewarded with 16 cups of clear cranberry juice. I processed the juice in two seperate batches (8 cups each) adding 3 cups of sugar to each batch and 1 1/2 pkgs of Bernardin “No Sugar Needed” Pectin. I used this product so that I could use less sugar than would be needed with standard pectin. I wanted the jelly to be less sweet than some of the other jellies I make, but that’s just a personal preference. 

When all was said and done, I had 10 x 500 ml jars (5 from each batch) of bright red and vibrantly flavored cranberry jelly. 

I also had a jelly bag full of cranberry mash. I ran it through a food mill to make 6 cups of puree. To this I added several cloves of garlic and one small onion chopped, lightly sauteed in a pan then pureed in the blender. In a large pot I mixed the puree with 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and 1/4 tsp ground cloves. I cooked it for several minutes on the stove then poured it into hot sterile jars and processed them for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. 

This made several jars of highbush cranberry ketchup, which is used on meat and anywhere that regular ketchup might be used. 

Note: I am not an expert canner. There are canning websites that can give you much better advice about canning fruit than you’ll ever get here. Because canning is tricky and can potentially result in food safety issues, please don’t take any advice from this blog as the gospel truth with respect to proper technique.

 

 

 

 
 

 

Change is Good

I liked the look of my blog in the past, but I love the look of it now. I hope you do, too.

Why change? Well, change is good for starters. It adds excitement to otherwise routine lives, it keeps our minds young and fresh, and it sells more cola.

 

Drying Apples: Rings of Gold

 

Dried apple slices

Drying apples is surprisingly easy. Well, ok not easy exactly, but certainly not difficult. 

I picked a large bag of apples at a neighbour’s yard and brought them home to see what I could make with my new dehydrator. I started by using an old fashioned peeler/slicer to cut them up into rings. It’s pretty cool how it makes a spiral of the apples and removes the core, saving a ton of labour. 

If you’ve looked closely at the picture, you can see that I didn’t even bother to peel all of the apples. After about the third batch in the dehydrator I didn’t think it was necessary, and not peeling them saved me a significant amount of time and effort.

I soaked the apple slices in the requisite amount of Fruit Fresh preservative, which is supposed to prevent them from turning brown but frankly I saw only a small amount of difference between using it and not. It makes no difference to the taste what-so-ever, only the appearance. If I was making these for a gift I might be more concerned, but I plan to eat (almost) all of these myself. So there!

I then placed the slices in my dehydrator, careful not to overlap them. They took about 4-5 hours to dry at a setting of 120F. Voila, I had the most amazing dried snacks that will keep in the fridge for months should they be so lucky to last that long.

Note: I made apple fruit leather at the same time; for that blog post go here.

Making Fruit Leather

The apple-strawberry leather sauce has just been put in the dehydrator

Recipe for vegan leather 🙂 That sounds so wrong…

This is the perfect snack food – both healthy and delicious.

Since I found a dehydrator at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago I’ve been using it like crazy to make all sorts of treats. One of the simplest is fruit leather (AKA Fruit Roll-Ups).

Basically all you need to make fruit leather is some sort of fruit sauce. I made apple sauce with some apples from a neighbour down the street. To make apple sauce, follow one of the many simple recipes on the internet, such as this one. Don’t add any more water than you absolutely need to make the sauce; if you do it’ll take longer to dry.

I made mine with only (peeled and cored) apples, some lemon juice and a bit of cinnamon. You can add nuts (but then you have to watch how you store it). For my second batch I added strawberries that I had in the freezer.

I learned a few things in doing this: First, make sure that the sauce is as even as possible when you place it in the dehydrator. You don’t want areas that take significantly longer to dry than others (although there will be differences here and there).

Second: Don’t fret too much about the peels. In fact, some peel in the sauce is good for you.

Third: Be patient. It takes hours and hours for this stuff to dry. I dried apple rings on other trays at the same time, and I could do almost two sets of apple rings in the time it took to dry the fruit leather. See next week’s blog for more about apple rings.

Lastly: Use your imagination. Just about any fruit can be dried this way, so try raspberry-banana or peach-cherry. Whatever you have in your backyard (or your neighbour’s backyard – with permission) will blend nicely with whatever you froze last month.

I have a NESCO dehydrator with six trays (two fruit leather sheets). I’ve found that 120F is just right for dehydrating fruit. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can use the oven (preferably with convection) and I’ve heard that you can use the microwave as well.

A Happy Accident: Mystery Tomato

I grew this mystery tomato this year

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I buy my tomato plants from my sister-in-law’s mother who raises them on her farm just south of Edmonton. I “ordered” two roma tomato plants this spring, and I got what I thought were two romas. In one of the pots I had one small and one large plant, so I thought I had a little bonus tomato. I placed the small one in a flowerbed and promptly forgot about it. The other two plants got top billing in my tomato box.

When the fruit began to grow, it was apparent that one of them wasn’t a roma. It turned out that the little guy I put in the flowerbed was a roma and the main plant in that pot was a mystery tomato. It appears to some sort of heritage tomato.

I sliced into the first ripe tomato from that plant today, and enjoyed the juicy delicious flesh and a flavorful surprise. Sometimes mistakes can be enlightening; next year I plan to add this tasty cultivar to my garden deliberately.

In the meantime, I still have lots of my good ol’ reliable romas to enjoy.

Update: Growing Potatoes Above Ground

This year I decided to try an experiment with growing potatoes. I had heard about growing potatoes above ground, and I wanted to give it a try. In the spring I designed a couple of vessels which I used to grow my spuds and I planted one potato in the traditional way as a control. See June 2010 for the original blog post.

Well, I’m writing this post through a film of misty tears; I don’t think I’ve had a bigger disappointment in the garden to date (ok, a little artistic license here).

My potatoes grown above ground were a complete failure.

Last week I dug up my “control” hill of red potatoes to find that I had six small spuds. The control was a standard potato planting that I had hilled in the usual way as the tops grew. It couldn’t be too hard to beat six tubers with my highly advanced above ground system, right?

Today I skipped excitedly, bin in hand, to unzip my above ground plastic repurposed tent slash potato bin and reap the rewards. I slowly unzipped then stood at a respectable distance with my bin at the ready to catch the bounty. Instead I found a bunch of mouldy straw and leaves and, ultimately, two small potatoes just below the soil surface.

This couldn’t be happening…

I decided that if I was to have any potatoes for supper I had to reveal the contents of my above ground experimental chick-wire bin. Again, all I found was a pile of straw and, thankfully, some potatoes in the soil at the back of the bin where I had hilled one of the plants that grew outside the confines of the chicken wire. In other words, a regularly hilled potato plant – a “control” plant.

Sigh.

Too much water? Too little? Too aggressive with the leaves and straw? I guess these questions will be answered next year when I try once again to successfully grow potatoes above ground. This can’t be rocket science, people.

Well, at least I’ll have a few potatoes for supper tonight; tomorrow it’s off to the farmer’s market.