Monday, July 1, 2013

Canning: First-Timer

Among bean sprouting experiments and robbing local nurseries of their staff (thanks to some distant relative, our son has got the knacks for flirting), I decided to improve my family's diet further by learning how to can and make my own flour. 

The first project involved making orange-lemon-ginger marmalade. Now, let me tell you something... I do not follow recipes very well, unless I am sure I know absolutely nothing about making the specific dish I am attempting to recreate. Canning I saw my mother and both grandmothers do. Clearly, I can figure jams and jellies out on my own! Well, the first "marmalade" became a fruit soup, because I neglected an important ingredient- pectin. The second resulted in a rubber-like, tasteless, although good-looking mess. 
Blueberry, cherry and mango preserves

I almost lost hope, BUT third time is a charm, right? So I left the original marmalade idea and instead opted out for mango jam. Just for the occasion, I had three ripe and juicy mangoes, so I peeled them, cut the flesh into small cubes and threw them into the pot, along with some lemon zest, freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice and clover honey for sweetness. I must caution you here that most honey sold at grocery stores across North America is either completely void of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals (through rigorous processing) or is not honey at all, but rather high-fructose corn syrup in disguise*. 

Once on high, the mass started softening. To avoid over-processing, I poured everything into Vitamix, blended all for several seconds and poured it back into the same pot. Half a teaspoon of dry pectin and a teaspoon of calcium water finished it off. 

Now, my jam was ready to be canned. I disinfected (by steam) two 250 ml jars, filled them with bright yellow mass and screwed the lids on. Beautiful! Next, it was blueberries' turn- and very quickly, 4 lb of Oregon-grown berries turned into 3.5 litres of delicious jam. Cherry preserves finished off the successful day of canning- and my confidence rushed soaring back up.

Encouraged by my eventual success in canning, I ventured out to make my own flour. Just a few days prior, I purchased some organic rye and Polish wheat berries at Nutter's- a bulk and natural foods store- knowing, I could grind them to fine flour in my Vitamix dry container. The process took longer than I expected- much time was spent sifting the flour to get rid of larger particles, which I later processed again- but I was able to make 3 cups of rye flour and use some of it later to make bread.

Rye berries & flour
The key to making a good loaf of rye bread, I found, was to maintain the whole wheat or all-purpose to rye flour 2:1. Otherwise, the dough gets really heavy and sticky and refuses to rise. This time, I baked it in my Breadman, although one can let the dough rise for 3 hours or so, shape it into a boule and bake it on a baking sheet in the oven. That way, a nice round shape is achieved. Just before baking, the dough can be brushed with some grape seed oil or egg white and sprinkled with rosemary. That would make for a flavourful and aromatic boule!

No comments:

Post a Comment