Food Preservation

Easy Low Sugar Preserves: Success

I started preserving food when I moved to Ohio three years ago, and instantly loved it, but also felt nervous about some aspects of it, and in each of the past three seasons, I've been in the grips of scientific uncertainty, wearing out instruction pages of three canning cookbooks. This year I realized I have it under control, and have learned enough about why we do what we do to know when and how much of it is necessary, for the foods I like to preserve. One of the main items on the agenda for this season is to use less sugar wherever possible. Even contemporary small batch cookbooks use huge quantities of it, but this recipe perfectly exemplifies why that it is not always necessary. As well, there's a lot of good thought to be gleaned from the long, friendly comment section. Plus, the blog, Northwest Edible Life, is just good and interesting over all. I look forward to reading more of it.

I used plums, nectarines, and white doughnut peaches from Green BEAN, to make two pounds after chopping, and added four ounces of sugar, then refrigerated it all night.  The peaches are lower in acid than the other two fruits, but I used least of them.20140628_111223

The next day, I followed the instructions, using lime juice, a quarter teaspoon of blended curry powder for the "dry zest," and then I was going to add Amaro Averna for the "wet zest," but forgot it in the end! 20140629_130718
I ended up with four half pints of preserves plus a 4 oz "tester," which I inverted to see if it would seal without the processing. 14 - 1
It did, but of course I just wanted to see how it would set up, so then I opened it and tasted it first at room temperature and then again today after chilling. It's just as she described, perfect for me. 20140630_091621
It tastes great, though I think the liqueur would have been a perfect finishing touch. I can see others wanting to add a couple more ounces of sugar for this particular combination, and it would still be "low sugar" if you did. The secret to this preserves technique was in using the wide shallow pan, allowing the fruit to thicken pretty quickly without added pectin and the huge quantities of sugar needed for the pectin to set. It was so easy, I can't wait to try it again with a new batch of fruit. 20140629_133950
I will add, if you use this recipe, that sugar is still definitely a preservative in itself (to a certain degree, not to imply that simply putting things in jars with sugar is what preserves them.) So once you open these jars, they probably won't last as long in the refrigerator as a super sugary kind would. But...you won't let them, anyway.

If you have never canned food, you might start as I did, with the simple Ball canning starter kit. I added funnels, a jar lifter, and a magnet for removing caps and bands from the hot water in which they soften for use. (And my silicone "trivets" are a big help, as well.) The kit setup allows me to do four smaller jars or three quart ones in my 12 quart stockpot. Last year I bought a 20 qt stockpot to do more, but I'm uneasy about using it on the glass cooktop, so haven't used it much. And for me, it's better to do everything in small batches of just a few jars. Plus you can be more creative that way.20140629_142355-EFFECTS