Category Archives: Preserving

Apple Jelly

Making apple jelly is like making any other fruit jelly except you don’t need to add pectin. Apples have loads of pectin. When I started making jams and jellies and was much more conscientious about not apples-photo-d-stewartadding additives, I added a few apples to any fruit for the pectin. Then I got lazy and started using commercial pectin.

But in this year’s apple jelly making, I found a recipe that reminded me that you don’t need to add pectin to pectin-filled apples. And it’s easy. Basically, just add sugar and lemon juice to the apple juice and boil until it gels. (My notes are added.)

Apple Jelly (Mick Telkamp, HGTV)

Yield: About 6 half-pints (I got 4)

5 pounds apples (about 16 cups chopped)
6 cups water (to extract 5 cups apple juice)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups sugar (I used 3 cups)

apples-cooking-photo-d-stewartWash and chop apples into small pieces, including skin and cores, and place in a large pot.

Add 6 cups of water to the pot and bring to boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes until apples are soft.

Pour into jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl to separate juice. Allow to drain without pressing or forcing juice from the apples for the clearest jelly. (Leave several hours or overnight)

apple-jelly-froth-photo-d-stewartCombine 5 cups apple juice, lemon juice and sugar in a pot and bring to boil over high heat.

Continue to boil until a temperature of 220 degrees F is reached. (25-30 mins)

Test jelly by dipping in a cold spoon. If the jelly drips from the gel-test-photo-d-stewartspoon in a sheet, jelly is ready. If not, allow to cook a little longer and test again. (Watch it and you’ll see the colour deepen. Also when stirring, the resistance on the spoon increases slightly.)

Once the jelly thickens, transfer it into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.

Cap with lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes to seal.

Apple jelly will store in a cool location up to a year without loss of texture or jelly photo d stewart

Lessons learned

A couple of lessons I learned in my first two times using this recipe. First, when you’re near the gelling point, check it every minute or so. I let it cook another five minutes after seeing it was almost gelling. Too long. I got one jar of jelly solid enough to make gummy bears.

Second, keep stirring. And use a pot with high sides. In my second batch, I left it unattended for a minute too long. I had it in a Dutch oven that I thought was plenty big enough. And it was – as long as I kept stirring the froth down. But left alone, it started frothing higher and higher. I couldn’t get it stirred down fast enough. A huge mess on the stove.

Learn from my mistakes and you’ll have delicious jelly, easily made.

See also my making apple juice. It’s exactly the same except you don’t gel the juice.

Apple Juice

apple-tree-photo-d-stewartIt’s been a good year for our apple trees. They grow near the house, in the fields and woods. More apples than the deer can eat. Different kinds – red, yellow, crab and not. Why couldn’t I make apple juice, I wondered. Cook and strain, just like I did for rhubarb juice. I googled and, yep, you can.

Apple Juice

apple-bins-photo-d-stewartI halved the small apples and quartered large ones. Smaller pieces cook faster and it also lets you better see parts that are bad or wormy. I didn’t peel them or cut the cores out.

Put cut apples in a large pot and add water. After some trial and error, I found about a third as much water as apples gave the right strength of juice. So for 16 cups of cut-up apples, add 5-6 cups water.

apples-cooking-photo-d-stewartCook until apples are soft, about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the quantity and the apples.

Line a sieve or colander (plastic, enamel or stainless steel) with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth, dampen it. Then sit it in a bowl or pot that fits so that there is clearance for the liquid to drain. Have two more containers nearby – you’ll likely need them in the next step.

Carefully pour the liquid and apples into the strainer. Your bowl will soon fill because the juice will drain through quickly. Move the colander over to your spare bowl with one hand and, with the other hand, pour the juice into another bowl or jug.

straining-apples-photo-d-stewartKeep doing that until all the apples and liquid are in the colander. Leave that to drain. Take another colander or sieve, put cheesecloth in it and strain the juice several more times from one bowl to the other. You’ll see a bit of apple pulp in the bottom. Rinse the cheesecloth, and repeat.

If your apples are sweet enough to eat, I doubt you’ll need to add sugar. Taste the juice while it’s still hot to see. Be careful, add only a bit at a time.

You can freeze it in plastic bottles or can it in sealing jars. You can likely make it as a concentrate by using less water.

Is it worth it?

apple juice photo d stewartIf you have the apples anyway, it’s worth doing. But if I had to buy them, I don’t think I would. The juice is a bit cloudy. Maybe a finer mesh sieve or a jelly bag. Maybe a juicer. But that’s just aesthetics. The juice tastes good.

See also my Apple Jelly. Or see how to make Rhubarb Juice and Rhubarb Jelly. It’s the same process, just with or without gelling or added pectin.

Rhubarb Juice

glass of rhubarb juiceLast summer, looking at my still flourishing rhubarb patch, a friend said “We used to make pies and jam and then made the rest into rhubarb juice.” Really? This had never crossed my mind. Just cook it down a bit and strain it, she said. So I did. It’s wonderful, like pink lemonade only better.

I cut washed rhubarb stalks into 1″ pieces and put them in a large stainless steel stock pot. I did 16 cups of chopped rhubarb at a time.

rhubarb-in-potI added water to more than cover the rhubarb and cooked it on medium heat until it softened, about 30 mins. Then I added sugar, 2 cups to start. The amount depends on how sweet you want the juice. Cook the rhubarb another 20 mins until completely soft. Taste the juice and add more sugar if you like. I added about another half cup. Add sugar when the juice is hot so it will dissolve.

While it cooked, I lined a big colander with 3 layers of cheesecloth, overhanging the edges. Use stainless steel, plastic or enamel. Rhubarb will discolour, and be discoloured by, some metals.

rhubarb-in-cheeseclothPut the colander on the rim of a deep pot or bowl, so it has clearance to drain. Carefully pour the rhubarb and water in it. Let sit until fully drained. Skim foam off the top of the juice.

juice-bottlePour the juice into clean bottles. I used 1.89 litre plastic store-bought juice bottles and filled about two and a half per batch.

It freezes well. Don’t fill the bottle right to the top so it has room to expand. You can also bottle the juice in sealer-lid jars. Here is how to do that. This recipe is for a concentrate. You add water when you want to drink it. Some recipes call for zest (grated rind) of lemon or orange, added while the rhubarb is cooking.

Grilled Zucchini

zucchiniIf God has blessed you with so much zucchini that even the chickens run away when they see you coming, here is one solution. Grilled, for the freezer.


preparing grilled zucchiniJust cut the ends off, cut in half and slice lengthwise.

Toss with olive oil and herbs such as oregano, basil, or herbs de provence.


Zucchini on BBQGrill lightly on the bbq both sides.

You don’t have to cook it, just grill until it “sweats.”



Grilled Zucchini ready for freezerThis what they look like when they’re done.

Then lay out in a single layer on non stick cookie sheets and put in the freezer.

After freezing, bag ’em and you’re done. It’s easy and is great in tomato sauce or casseroles, especially in the middle of winter.

My husband spent all day dealing with produce from our garden.  He posted his grilled zucchini process on Facebook, and I stole it.


Rhubarb Jelly

This year, with a lot of rhubarb, I wondered about making jelly. It is rhubarb for making jelly photo-D-Stewartmore time consuming than jam, so I hadn’t done it in a long time and never with rhubarb. I found a recipe (below) from Bernardin, the canning people. It is easy and the jelly is excellent.

While reading, I learned a couple things. First, make small batches of jelly because the more fruit you have, the longer it takes to cook. Successful gelling needs a short cooking time.

Second, plan on a full day or two partial days for making jelly – the fruit needs time. You may see a difference in colour rhubarb-jellybetween the two jars. In my first batch (right jar), I watched the juice quickly trickle into the bowl then stop apparently totally after an hour or so. Why wait six hours, I thought, there’s plenty of juice and nothing more is coming out. So I made my jelly. It was easy enough that I decided to prepare another batch to make the next day. That fruit sat in the sieve overnight, like the recipe said to do. The juice was a much deeper pink, and that is why you let it sit so long.

Bernardin Rhubarb Jelly

4 cups (1000 ml) rhubarb, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) water
3 1/2 cups (875 ml) granulated sugar
1 pouch (85 ml) BERNARDIN® Liquid pectin

• Put rhubarb and water in a medium stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil; simmer 5 minutes; remove from heat. Pour through a dampened cheesecloth lined strainer or jelly bag. Allow juice to drip 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

• Measure juice. If necessary, add water to yield 1 3/4 cups (425 ml) rhubarb juice.

• Place 3 clean 250 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Heat sealing discs in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and lids hot until ready to use.

• In a large deep stainless steel or enamel saucepan, combine rhubarb juice and all the sugar, mixing well. To reduce foaming, add 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter or margarine. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add pectin, squeezing entire contents from pouch. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam, if necessary.

• Quickly pour jelly into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) of top of jar (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more jelly. Wipe jar rim clean. Centre hot sealing discs on jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining jelly.

• When canner is filled, cover jars by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner with lid and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), boil filled jars 10 minutes.

• When processing is complete, remove lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours. DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.

• Next day, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use within one year.

Making Jelly Clear

In a recipe for a lovely savoury rhubarb-rosemary jelly, I read that you rhubarb jelly skimmed-photo-D-Stewartcan press rhubarb slightly to make the juice come out faster. Doing that with most fruits is not advised if you want to have the clearest possible jelly. Rhubarb juice is never totally clear so it doesn’t matter, the author says. I did not press the fruit at all and, yes, the jelly is not totally clear. Still, it isn’t a huge deal to put aside the bowl with a strainer full of fruit and let gravity take its course. That way you know you’re getting the prettiest jelly possible.



rhubarb in garden photo D StewartIf, like me, you’ve been watching your rhubarb plant get bigger and bigger but you don’t feel like making a pie or jam, here’s what you can do. Just cook the rhubarb. The resulting stewed fruit can be eaten as is, as a topping for ice cream or with granola and yoghurt.

rhubarb pieces in pot ready to cookWash the cut rhubarb stalks and chop into 1½ inch pieces.  The following are two ways to cook it. The first is how my mother and I have done it, to eat or freeze. The second is from a recipe for canned rhubarb that I tried, with success, this year.

Rhubarb reacts with aluminum, iron and copper and darkens both rhubarb and utensil.  Stainless steel, Teflon and enamel pots, strainers and spoons are fine to use.

stewed rhubarb in pot1st: Put rhubarb in a pot with just a bit of water so it doesn’t burn on the bottom before it starts making its own juice. Cook on low heat until it’s soft – half an hour? Depends on the amount and the consistency you want. Add sugar to taste. The amount you add depends on what your eventual use for it is. If you plan for it only to be in sweets, add more. If you might use it in a tart chutney or rhubarb in container for freezer (photo D Stewart)something, add less or none.

When it’s cooked, you can just put it in a bowl in the refrigerator right away or in plastic containers for the freezer.

2nd:  To each quart (approx. 4 cups) of chopped rhubarb, add ½ cup sugar. Let stand in pot about half an hour to draw out juice. Cook until tender. Have your jars and lids ready in boiling water. Pack rhubarb with juice in jars, leaving ½ inch headspace in jar. Put on lids and screw tops, then process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. If you have never done canning before, read up on how to sterilize June-Rhubarband fill jars. In canning, it’s best to add the sugar in order to help with preserving.

If you really don’t want to do anything with it but hate seeing it go to seed, just cut it up as in the top photo, put the uncooked pieces in a freezer bag or container (don’t overcrowd) and freeze. Worry about it later. You can make pies, jams, chutneys or just cooked fruit from it whenever you want. For baking, follow recipe instructions for frozen fruit.



bag of tomatoesFreezing is probably the easiest way to prepare a supply of tomatoes.  In season, buy a large quantity of them or grow your own.  At other times of the year, look in the reduced food bin for bags of tomatoes priced for quick sale.

If you’re a purist, heat a pot of water to boiling.  Keep it simmering and put the washed whole tomatoes in it for 20 seconds or so (blanching).  Use a big slotted spoon to put them in and take them out.  Run cold water over them to stop the blanching and cool them.  Then cut the core out and use your small knife to gently peel the skin off.  It should just slide off.  Plum tomatoes are especially easy to peel, and make the best tomato sauce.  If, like me, you’re not a purist and don’t mind pieces of tomato skin in your sauce, just wash the tomatoes and cut the core out.

Cored tomato ready to halveThen half or quarter the tomatoes or, best for flavour retention, leave them whole and cook them.  Add a tiny bit of water to your pot in order to keep the tomatoes from burning or, better yet, turn the heat on very low until they cook a bit and produce their own liquid.

You can add herbs and seasonings to the pot or just leave them so you can flavour them later when cooking the final product.  Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked down and soft.  The length of time depends on the amount of tomatoes, the size and the tomatoes cookingdegree of softness you want.  Figure on an hour to an hour and a half for a large pot.

When they’re done, open a large size freezer bag and stand it on end.  You can also put it in a container, like a tall milk pitcher.  Use your large slotted spoon to carefully spoon the tomatoes into the bag.  The pitcher averts spilled tomatoes all over your counter until you get the hang of spooning and holding the bag upright at the same time.  Two people doing this can also avoid accidents.  Fill the bag about half full.  Zip it up and it should lay almost flat.

Make sure the outside of the bags are dry so they don’t freeze together, and lay them flat on top of each other in your freezer, and presto, tomatoes ready for sauce-making.  Each bag is about freezer bags of tomatoesequivalent to a large can of tomatoes.  At harvest prices, four bags cost about the same as one can.

You’ll have tomato-flavoured water left.  You can freeze it in small containers and use it like you’d use any vegetable stock, in soups or stews.

You can freeze uncooked whole tomatoes too – blanche and peel them if you like or just pull the stem off and wash them.  Put them in the freezer on cookie sheets, making sure they are not touching.  After they’re frozen, bag them up and put them back in the freezer.  You won’t be able to use them as “fresh” tomatoes, like in salad, but they’re fine for cooking.  The only disadvantage is they take more freezer space than partially or fully cooked ones do.

Two caveats about home-made frozen tomatoes.  One:  the slight thickness of the liquid that is in canned tomatoes isn’t there.  I don’t know what is in canned tomatoes to give that, and I like it for helping the texture of your final tomato sauce.  You get the same thing from home-canned tomatoes.  Maybe it’s the heat-retention from long cooking.  Maybe that’s what “stewing in your own juices” means.  To approximate it with frozen tomatoes, I’ve added a bit of flour or cornstarch in the final sauce.  I’ve also added canned tomato soup or tomato paste thickened with a bit of flour or cornstarch.  You just want something that makes your sauce less watery.

Two:  I watched Chef at Home once when chef Michael Smith was talking about tomato sauces.  He prefers canned tomatoes over fresh because the lag time between picking and processing is less.  Canned tomatoes, he said, literally are picked in the field and canned next door, within a very short period of time.  Therefore, they are at the height of ripeness and freshness.  He also prefers canned whole plum tomatoes photo D Stewarttomatoes rather than diced.  Whole tomatoes, he said, require only one cooking process in their canning whereas halved or diced tomatoes require two.  In your cooking, you ‘process’ them yet again, and each time they lose nutrients.  So, despite the appeal of fresh tomatoes cooked slowly into a lovely pasta sauce, you’re actually better off with a can.  Who knew?

If money is as much an issue as nutrients, there is a compromise.  Supplement your store-bought can with cheap fresh (or frozen or home-canned) tomatoes.


Preserving: Basics

frozen food preservingIt’s not hard preserving food and doesn’t have to be especially time-consuming. You can freeze, can or dry foods for use later. It’s a good way to make use of harvest time when local foods are plentiful and cheap.


Nesco dehydrator on Amazon
Nesco dehydrator on Amazon

I know nothing about drying foods but there are plenty of books available. I’ve dried herbs with some success. Hang the plants upside in a dry place and when the leaves are fully dried, take them off (whole or crumbled) and put them in a jar. They keep pretty well as long as they are completely dry.


Freezing is probably the most fool-proof, but you need freezer space. It doesn’t have to be huge. This small chest freezer (top photo) can hold a lot of garden produce, bulk buys of meat and freezing of portions of bulk cooking projects.

Canning or Bottling

Bernardin canning kit on Amazon
Bernardin canning kit on Amazon

Canning, or bottling, of vegetables and fruit is easier than you may think from reading canning books. But the books are invaluable because there are certain things you must know and precautions to take if you don’t want to lose your entire batch of pickles or get food poisoning. An advantage to canning is you only need shelf space to keep the product of your efforts. You don’t have to make vast quantities at a time. Small batches are easier to control, and once you get the hang of it, you can do a few jars of pickles or jam from start to finish while watching a movie on tv.

Sealing Canners

Canned (or bottled) meat is fabulous. If you ever have the chance to try bottled rabbit or moose, do it! Sell your soul if necessary. I have never made it and never will. It requires more knowledge to do properly and ensure its safety than I have. But the taste is to die for!

presto pressure canner Amazon link
Presto 23 qt pressure canner on Amazon

For meat, you need a sealing canner, like a big pressure cooker. The regular big canning pot works for high acid fruits, tomatoes and anything with vinegar. The sealing canner is needed for vegetables that aren’t pickled and all meats.

Be careful with meat preparation, sterilization of equipment and temperatures of cooking and bottling so you don’t risk having a tainted product. You don’t want to literally die for it. If you find someone who knows how to do it, I’d suggest learning from, and with, them. I’d never try it with only the help of a book unless you’re a Home Ec. or Chemistry student. (However, a friend who is neither a home economist or chemist told me he bottles meat all the time and it’s as easy as doing jam.) With the right equipment and care, I assume.

Reduced food bin – a preserving source

A theme in preserving and cooking that you will see throughout this section is: the reduced food bin is your friend. Look for what they euphemistically call “ready to use” produce, baked goods and meat in any grocery store at a discounted price. It has to be used quickly or be thrown out. Buy it. Cook or preserve it right away, and you’ve just stocked up your food supply at maybe half the regular price.