For my first ever batch of jelly using my steamer I bought a flat of strawberries for $20 from a local chemical free farm. If I really wanted to be thrifty I would have picked my own at a U-pick farm or called around to find a place willing to discount their day old strawberries.
I was a little worried that the waste no morsel, thrifty me would have a hard time parting with the flesh of my strawberries once the juice had been extracted. I found that the steamer sucked the strawberries so dry I had no problem getting rid of the remaining bit of brown mush! It went straight to the chickens without another thought.
Pomona's Universal Pectin which is a little expensive at around $5 a box but a fantastic product for thickening jelly with very little sweetener. For my flat of strawberries I used one box of pectin. It is well worth the expense if you don't want to add all the sugar needed to get the traditional pectin to set. My flat of strawberries yielded about 19 cups of juice. I followed the directions that came with the Pomona's Universal Pectin. It gives a range of measurements for each type of food and the sweetener you are working with. I used the lower range and added 2 cups of Raw Cane Sugar to my juice. Had I been following a traditional or typical recipe for strawberry jelly for 19 cups of strawberry juice I would have used 38 cups of sugar! You can also use alternative sweeteners like honey, agave an even stevia with the Pomona's Pectin. The directions specify if you need to add any lemon or lime juice or citric acid depending on what you are canning.
Once you extract the juice from the berries, mix in the pectin, sweetener and any other ingredients or spices you wish. Just follow the directions that come with the Pectin! Before you ladle the jelly into your jars make sure the jars are piping hot. It works to either have them in the dishwasher being warmed or to fill them up and place them in the canner while you bring the water in the canner to boil. When you remove the jar from the canner, pour the hot or boiling water from in the jar back into the canner. You can also have a bucket or pan of hot water to keep the jars in. Unless specified, most recipes assume a hot jar and hot contents of the jar and base water bath or pressure cooking time on those criteria - that the ingredients and jar are hot.
I have always seen my grandma boil the flat lids in a small pan. After filling the jars she dips the edge of a clean dish rag in a pan of boiling water and wipes the rip of the jars with the hot water prior to placing the lid on. However I was recently canning with a friend who told me it is no longer necessary to boil the lids, that lids these days are made with a different kind of material that do not require being boiled prior to placement on the jar. My friend rinses the rim of her jars by dipping her clean fingers in a bowl of hot water and running it around the rim. That method totally works. I will probably continue to use a pan with boiling or maybe just hot water for the lids because I like to have hot water ready in case I need to top off the waterbath canner.
Lower your jars into the canner either onto a rack that is resting on the canner to be lowered in or all the way in to begin with. Start your cooking time when the water is at a full boil. The jars should be all the way covered with water.
When the specified time for cooking is up turn off the stove and remove the canner lid. If you want you can lift the jar rack up and rest it on the rim of the canner. Wait a few minutes to help with pressure adjustment and then using a jar lifter pull all the jars out of the water keeping them as upright as possible. I lost my jar lifter (or left it at my friends – who knows) and have twice now made due by using an oven mitt to carefully handle the hot jars. I just share that to encourage possible rookies who don’t want to buy a hundred tools for canning. All you need really are jars, lids and a pan big enough to boil the jars in.
The best part of canning for me is hearing the jars seal. They give a quick satisfying pop soon after being removed from the canner! I also love seeing the colorful jars all lined up on the counter. I usually leave them out for a day or two taking my time putting them away! Before I move my goods to storage I rinse the jars and label them with the contents of the jar if it’s not painfully obvious and always a date (month and year). You can buy fancy labels, use a permanent marker on the lid or slap on a piece of tape on. My flat of strawberries yielded me twelve pints of jelly which accounting for ingredients only cost me a little over $2 per pint, a price well worth it for the security of knowing I have a healthy product of which I know the contents.
I’m totally sold on my juicer. It is really the easiest way in the world to make quick and easy jelly. I can’t wait to experiment with other uses for my steamer!