Since Spring is in the air, lots of people (including me!) are gearing up to plant our yearly gardens. Our family recently moved to a home with a much larger yard than we’ve ever had, so obviously we are planning a much larger garden than we’ve ever had before. Honestly I plan on growing so many vegetables that we can’t possibly eat them all fresh.
So recently I began exploring the world of home food preservation, specifically canning. Basically, you process all your surplus fruits and vegetables to they become shelf-stable, and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor (see what I did there?) all year long. Canning actually doesn’t involve cans, but glass mason jars with lids. You can can and preserve all kinds of things, from the traditional jellies and pickles to sauces, whole vegetables, and even meat and stews. There is lots of great information out there on canning, but unfortunately a lot of inaccurate information as well.
Before you attempt to can or preserve your own food, I suggest you invest some time and research into the proper tested techniques. Otherwise, you could can your food incorrectly and end up getting very sick or worse. Some of the best sources out there are the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and Jarden Home Brands Fresh Preserving (they are the manufactures of Ball and Kerr mason jars and canning products). Both these organizations have extensively tested recipes and procedures that guarantee food canning safety. I highly recommend both. Become familiar with what equipment you will need and the proper techniques for specific foods, and always follow a recently tested recipe (not all of grandma’s are going to be proven safe anymore).
The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving offers 200 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving. This book provides information about equipment and step-by-step instructions for each preserving method. Also included are over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, freezing food, and much more!
So anyway… I’ve been practicing my techniques in both pressure canning and water bath canning recipes. I came across this one in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and I thought I’d share it with you. It was relatively easy and yielded an AMAZINGly delish spread, perfect for a holiday turkey and simple enough for an accompaniment to a weeknight chicken or pork chop dinner.
“Are you looking for an alternative to traditional cranberry sauce for your holiday meals? This is it! Cranberry Conserve blends traditional flavors in a new way. Serve it with turkey, poultry, or pork. To add another layer of flavor, toast walnuts in a saucepan or oven for 3-4 minutes.”
Canning Cranberry Conserve Instructions
Yields about 4 half pint jars
Canning Equipment Needed:
- half pint sized canning jars with new lids and bands
- boiling water canner (heavy stock pot with high sides will do nicely)
- rack for canner bottom (or if need be, a folded kitchen towel will do in lieu of this)
- sauce pan
- jar lifter
- headspace measuring tool (optional)
- jar filling funnel (optional)
- A nice kit is available from Ball which includes all of these canning tools, this is what I use. I purchase most of my canning supplies at Walmart and from Amazon.
Cranberry Conserve Ingredients:
- 1 quart cranberries ( I had mine in the freezer from Christmastime)
- 3/4 cup chopped orange (about 1 medium, peel and all)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Prepare canning jars and lids per manufacturer directions (mainly, wash jars, new lids, and bands. Keep jars hot in a simmering water bath; set lids and bands aside).
Prepare water bath canner: fill with water, heat to simmering (about 180 degrees).
Prep: Wash cranberries and orange under cold running water, sort and remove squishy or diseased berries, drain. Cut orange in half and remove seeds. Coarsely chop orange, peel and all, measure 3/4 cup of chopped orange.
Cook: Combine chopped orange and water in a large sauce pan with high sides to prevent boil over. Cook over medium heat until peel is tender. Add cranberries, raisins, and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Cook rapidly until almost to the gelling point (220 degrees on a candy thermometer). Add walnuts during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat.
Fill: Ladle hot conserve into hot jar, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Remove air bubbles. Clean jar rim thoroughly with a clean damp cloth (I like to dampen my cloth with white vinegar). Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip tight only (this is important! Don’t over tighten or your lids won’t be able to seal). Repeat until all jars are filled. Place jars carefully into simmering water canner.
once jars are lowered into canner, ensure they are covered by hot water by at least 1 inch, and there should be about 3 inches of space between water and the top of the canner (to allow space for boil). Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a boil. Process half pint jars at a gentle rolling boil for 15 minutes. Do not start timing until water is completely boiling! After 15 minutes, turn off heat and carefully remove cover from canner (lots of steam, so be careful!). Let jars and water cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully remove jars from canner, be careful not to tip or turn upside down. Let jars cool on a towel on your kitchen counter for a full 12 hours undisturbed. Do not attempt to remove bands or check seal until then. After complete cooling, remove bands and check for a vacuum seal on the lids. Wipe down jars, label and store!