Monday, September 13, 2010

September 2010 Daring Cooks Challenge - Food Preserving

I must admit, I had mixed feelings about this challenge. I have been happily preserving foods throughout the summer, first with a quartet of jams, and testing all my berry butters. While I am still very excited to share my experiences, I didn't want too many more, since I was experiencing burnout...

So I kind of cheated. I finished my berry butter experiment, and made some yummy oven roasted tomatoes to freeze for later tomato sauce. I hope this counts, but I had run out of canning jars, and really didn't want to buy any more.

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Thank you John for such a "daring" challenge. I am happy that you got some people to try preserving foods for the very first time. And, I enjoyed reading the debates about what is vs. what is not considered safe in each country.

All that being said, I strongly encourage you to dip your foot into the water of Home Food Preservation. It's very fun. I do suggest you check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation, though, if you plan on starting to can.

There was a lot of discussion over what's safe, what's healthy, etc. And, I'm not really going to address that except to say - do what you feel comfortable with. Some people feel the precautions are over cautious, some feel the opposite. If you decide to do any home preserving, I strongly encourage you to know the facts, and make your own decisions and choices. You can check out this site for more information.

Phew...all that over with! Now, back to the fruit and berry butters. Originally, I wanted to make fruit and/or berry butters, but with a lower amount of sugar, if possible. While I realize this possibly makes them not shelf stable (and that's one of the reasons why I chose to freeze them), I wanted to create something my diabetic mom could possibly enjoy. Let me tell you the results of my experiments below. Keep in mind that I used about 4-5 cups of mashed fruits for each experiment, unless otherwise noted.

Apricot - Apricot butter is really is. It required the most sugar - I added over 1 1/2 cup sugar, along with about 1 t. lemon juice to make this work. While this is much less than most recipes required, I was a bit disappointed it took that much.

Blueberry - I ended up adding about 2/3 c. sugar and 2 t. lemon juice. As I mentioned previously, the blueberries had a ton of seeds, so if you make blueberry butter, I strongly recommend you strain at least 1/2 of your blueberries before you begin.

Pear - Pear butter was the sweetest of the ones I did. I used about 1/4 c. brown sugar and 2 t. lemon juice total.

Pumpkin - ok, I admit, I cheated with the pumpkin and started with canned pumpkin. I simply couldn't find sugar pumpkins anywhere. For pumpkin, it's mostly about the spices anyway. I added 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 t. lemon, 1 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1/4 t. cardamom, and 1/4 t. salt. This is really good. It's like a pumpkin pie spread.

Raspberry - I strained about 1/2 the raspberries because I didn't want too many seeds. Still, raspberries required quite a bit of sugar - almost 1 cup. And, I added 2 t. lemon juice to this.

Plum - This really was an experiment, and I'm happy with it. It wasn't too sweet, or too sour. I used about 2/3 c. sugar.

Now, what am I going to do with all of these? Well, I'm going to use some of them for Christmas Cookies, and I'm planning on using some of them to flavor butter cream frosting, or somewhere I want the flavor of the fruit without a lot of moisture. The rest, we shall see.

I also wanted to include the roast tomatoes. Yes, I spelled it incorrectly on the package, but this is a *great* way to preserve food for the winter. If you can get some cheap tomatoes, this is one way to enjoy them for a while. I seeded most of mine, sprinkled them with olive oil, a little sugar, and a little salt, and roasted until they were about 1/2 the size as when I started. Then I let them cool, put them in a ziploc freezer bag, dated them, and tossed them in the freezer.

They will be a great addition to a tomato sauce in the dead of winter when just canned tomatoes won't do. I also can't wait to puree some of these to put on a sandwich or two!

Now I'm off to celebrate my birthday!


  1. I love reading about your fruit spreads - did you use any pectin or anything with any of them? I love that you strive to be low sugar with them, too - being inexperienced with the process, I just followed the recipes I found, but really, really want to cut down on the sugar for future efforts. Love the varieties you made and the tomatoes look great, too! Awesome job.

  2. Great variety of butters! I made plum too, and it was a bit sour, but good!

  3. I agree with Shelley entirely. I'm so impressed that you're able to modify this kind of recipe. How on earth do you figure out that they're going to be safe for canning? Is there some kind of crazy mathematical formula?

  4. Thanks for the great comments! @Kristina and Shelley C. I didn't really figure out the fruit butters. I used a crock pot to let them reduce (which is a great way, by the way), and then I added a little sugar when they were about 1/2 way, to taste.

    I mentioned in my post that I froze all of these, and that was one of the main reasons - I didn't know if they were going to be safe for waterbath canning, and I really didn't want to pressure can them.

    I did a lot of research, and thought they would be with the little sugar and lemon juice, based on some of the low/no sugar pectin recipes out there. That's how I did my jams - no sugar pectin and the assurance of a friend that has been canning for years that my converted jam recipes were OK to can.

    But, in the end, I chose to freeze them because it was much more convenient. We have a pretty big deep freezer, and these have so little water in them, they don't freeze solid. You can take them out a spoonful at a time from the freezer. And, let's face it, once the seal is broken, they last for a limited time in the fridge. That's not true in the freezer. Well, it is, but they keep for a longer period frozen than thawed.

    So, if you are looking for lower sugar, I recommend you freeze them. There are some great freezer containers out there (you can even freeze them in the canning jars) that will do the job, and I'm really happy with the results.

    I didn't use pectin at all either (I did for my jams but not butters), just some lemon juice at the end. That was some for acidity, but for taste as well. To be honest here, I really don't like overly sweet jams and jellies, so I have been working on alternatives for quite a while. I will actually eat the butters now that they are low in sugar and you can actually taste the fruit as a primary ingredient, instead of just super sweet.

  5. Thanks for sharing recipes that use less sugar than most. I am also on the lookout for these types of recipes. They look great by the way. Great job!

  6. Wow! I loved all your butters. I think I'll make them too. Great tips.But why you've decided not to use pectin? Any special reason?

  7. @Maria - Thanks! I decided to not use any pectins because when I was experimenting with these, I really felt the consistency was enough they didn't need pectins. Since the consistency seemed OK without them, and I was freezing them, I chose to save the $3-5 each and not use pectin.

    @chef_d and VeggieWiz - Thanks! I am actually very happy with them. I love to experiment in my kitchen.