I normally just stick to relish for canning.  In fact, I don't recall ever making any jam or jelly.  I'm enamored with hot peppers in some sort of sweet medium.  I elected to try my hand at making a peach and hot pepper jelly.

I regret that I'm such a skeptic/cynic when it comes to OPR (other people's recipes) for canning.  I liken it to my dive into making my own dog food:  once I became committed to the process, I realized that that some people's 'recipes' were rather far afield from the science.  I found a couple of trusted DVM resources (Pitcairn/Strombeck), and then felt that I could balance the science and the mythology of dog food.

I've made a commitment to ensure that I understand the science behind the methods for canning.  Sure, I've done it all rotely before.  However, I'm willing (and want) to do the deep dive on the principles.  I simply want to be able to identify problems before they happen.  Also, I want to know what I can change v. what I cannot change.   And arming myself with some basics, I can generally spot recipes that I would like to steer clear of. 

Digression:  Miyamoto Musashi wrote the book of Five Rings.  I promise you that if you apply the following principles to everything that you do, all will be right in your world.

  1. Think of what is right and true.
  2. Practice and cultivate the science.
  3. Become acquainted with the arts.
  4. Know the principles of the crafts.
  5. Understand the harm and benefit in everything.
  6. Learn to see everything accurately.
  7. Become aware of what is not obvious.
  8. Be careful even in small matters.
  9. Do not do anything useless.

Every one of those principles are important in home food preservation.  Here are a few examples of things that I'm glad to know:
  •  Vinegar is not an acceptable substitute for lemon juice.  Why?  Lemon juice is a more powerful aciduant  (agent that acidifies the batch).  The point is to get the pH well south of 4.6.
  • There is a reliable on-line reference on the pH of foods, and you can find it here.  When (not if) you are tempted to make changes in recipes, (and the rule is that you should not), check the pH of what you are intending to swap.  If it is lower or in the same range as the ingredient, then you are likely okay.
  • Understand the properties of the overall ingredients--meaning that the acids are there to bring the overall pH down of your ingredients.  If you change the proportions, then the acid balance is going to be off in terms of either taste (too much) or safety (too little).
    • I love Plan to Eat for canning recipes.  It allows me to scale up or down a recipe base on the quantity of product that I have on hand.  This works very well for relishes, though I understand that jams etc require smaller batches--and pectin must be scaled which may cause your mileage to vary.  (I'm intrepid, and I'm not deterred).
With my father transitioning with his terminal illness, I'm feeling compelled to preserve in a way I've never been motivated to do.  Not a bad way to cope.  Yesterday, I wanted to locate some peaches to make a hot pepper and peach jam.  I found some SC peaches as the SuperFresh (not a place I typically shop).  They were 67c/lb.  That's a good price, and the peaches were beautiful.  I also found this great recipe at Colorado State University Farm to Table. (I see quite a few other recipes about, but I wanted to find a tested one).

After I washed, peeled and pitted them, I ended up with 40% more than the recipe.  So, I used my Plantoeat program to scale the recipe.  I have great digital scales so measuring out the pectin was not a problem.  One of my jar bands was misapplied by me, so it did not seal.  I just stuck it in my fridge.  I have to say, it is very delicious. We will see if my scaling has any long term effects on the product's setting.  I'm definitely going to make more of this. 


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