I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. For us, the great canning and jamming extravaganza has continued. I would like to blame it on people for sharing great fruit and veggies with us, but we should all know by now that when I get on a roll, it is just nearly impossible to stop me.
First on Thursday... I was scanning the grocery store ads and ran across a great sale on Honeydew melon. And I thought... BEST JAM EVER! I mean, honeydew. Honey-dew. Yes! I... Must... Make... Jam.
I Love (yes there is a capital L on that love) Honeydew flavored anything. So Friday I made four giant double-batches of jam... starting with the Honeydew.
Sadly however, the honeydew flavor all but cooked out of the jam and I was broken-hearted over the hint-of-honeydew that was left. I guess it could be a good jam for people who want a very mild flavor, but it wasn't what I had hoped it would be.
Delicate Honeydew Jam - A mildly sweet and delicate honeydew flavor with a mere hint of mint makes this semi-soft jam uniquely subdued. While it will never steal the show, it might win "Best Supporting Actor" in shows like General Hoggieroll, All My Cheeses, and One Loaf to Give.
Then I made a great coconut and lime jam that was what I was trying to make back when I accidentally made "Sweet & Sour Coconut Lime". I was quite pleased with it. I also made another large batch of Cinnamon Candy Apple (without the lime zest) so that we would have more to give away and maybe sell, too.
Then I made Banana Candy Jam. No, not bananas... banana candy. You know... like the banana popsicles or little banana-shaped candy. Not like real banana fruit. I thought that the honeydew base (since it had very little flavor on it's own) would be perfect to add banana candy flavor to and have a perfect "kids of all ages" jam. However, the faint hint of honeydew and the banana actually fought like boxers in a heavy-weight match. I have no idea what they have against each-other, but it was a fight to the death and resulted in my adding more and more flavor and sugar until this...
Yea... not a great idea. Luckily hubby made it home in time to help me stir... very... carefully, and we packed it into more jars than we have ever previously attempted in one batch.
Hubby says he likes the flavor and it tasted like banana candy to him, but it wasn't what I hoped for, so to me... it is "meh". Of course, nearing 20 batches of jam, I guess one or two were bound to not be perfectly to my tastes, but I am still hoping they will be great to someone.
Jumping back into earlier in the week... I made a Winter Jam and Plum jams with "Extra Low Sugar" and their counterpart with "Stevia Natural No-Calorie Sweetener". I pre-measured what should have been equivalently-sweet measurements of sugar and Stevia and then used as few dishes of sweet as possible in two half-batches of jam to get just barely sweet enough to be passable as jam and recorded the amounts in the recipes. And realized quickly that doing two half-batches at once is twice as hard. Not only do they want to burn, but I was constantly having to stir the back pot over the heat of both the front pot and the canning bath pot.
Why go to all that trouble? Well, it gave some interesting results for my efforts of discovering whether a natural no-sugar sweetener would be better for people with diabetes (or very restricted sugar diets), or if it would be better to use as little sugar as possible and skip the no-sugar sweeteners. For me, even the natural Stevia gives a bit of a diet-soda aftertaste so I didn't care for it at all. However, at least a couple of my friends who have tried it so far (and drink diet sodas) said the slight aftertaste didn't bother them at all. Of course, I will need to have several more taste-testers before I can really make an opinion as to whether it is better for a very low sugar tart jam or a slightly sweeter Stevia jam for diabetic needs, or worth making them that way.
On to Saturday and hubby and I canned several types of relish.
I first used my blender with the slicing disk to cut up cabbage. Then mixed it with diced onions and added it in layers with a little salt so that it could sit in the fridge the allotted time while we made the zucchini relishes.
Then I used the grating disk to quickly grate about 12 cups of zucchini. We packed the zucchini with dill pickling spices and fresh garlic while the vinegar brine for the first batch was simmering.
Something to note about relish... when the recipe says pack tightly... they don't mean tightly, and they definitely don't mean as tight as possible with super-human-strength and a rounded handle to smash it even tighter. Yea... that isn't good... because then none of the brine will go down to the bottom of the jar and you are left trying to wiggle the shreds around with a grill skewer trying to get the liquid down and the bubbles out.
Just... not... good. So if it says to pack tightly, barely put it in and press it lightly with a spoon or something. Then the liquid goes in adequately.
Another thing to note... if you want to use ground dill seeds to more evenly distribute the favor, using 2/3 the called for is probably still too much compared to regular dill seeds. They are so much more potent when ground, that using 1/2 or less is probably more appropriate... maybe only 1/4.
So we made Extra Dilly Zuke Relish, Garlic Dilly Zuke Relish, Green Chili Dilly Zuke Relish, Hot Chili Dilly Zuke Relish...
And my last thing to note about canning relish is to check your quantity of cabbage BEFORE you prep your sauce and spices. I had a traumatizing moment of celery-seed disaster that lasted about 30 minutes as I poured enough for the number of jars into the sauce only to realize it was supposed to go into the veggies instead... scooping it out into the cabbage only to realized that there were less than 20% of the cabbage after squeezing the water out than I thought there would be... then trying to rescue the cabbage by scooping out the portions of the worst excess of celery-seed and attempting to divide the remains into jar sized portions... all the while simmering about 10 times too much sauce.
Thank hubby for my not just throwing it all out into the yard.
So we made a few jars of Chow Chow (a slightly sweet cabbage relish), a spiced Chow Chow, and a half dozen jars of onion-zuke relish to use up more of the sauce and extra zucchini.
(I won't bother posting recipes for the relish until it has been tested and tasted several weeks from now... in case it all turns out terrible.)
And of course, all of this while also making 10 half-loaves of zucchini bread, too.
So... not too surprising to know that we spent most of Sunday in bed resting. Right? Well, I did... Hubby made lightly breaded and fried chicken nuggets and tossed them in the Sweet & Sour Coconut Lime sauce for breakfast. Sooooo Goooood!
It was so good that I thought we should share, so Monday, after doing some needed shopping in town, we went to my sister's and cooked fried mushrooms and Sweet & Sour Coconut Lime chicken for them and had a nice visit.
Tuesday I made another 3 large batches of jam (one Mango Lime and two Peach). Today will be some cleaning up around the house... and tomorrow... probably a nap.