Extension connection: Canning allows for tasty food throughout year

Angela Treadaway / Guest Columnist

One of the rewards of autumn is all of the fresh produce that is available. I think this is the best time of year for home cooking. Of course, knowing the bounty is fleeting and that winter is right around the corner makes the food taste even better.

What I have learned is that if I take some time now to preserve some of my favorite fruits and vegetables I can continue to enjoy them well into winter. Most people don’t do as much canning as they use to but when it comes to items you can’t easily find at the supermarket like muscadine jelly, canning is a must.

Muscadines, or scuppernongs, are wild North American native grapes that ripen in late summer and early fall. The fruit’s large size, sweetness and dense pulp make muscadines ideal for making preserves.

Ingredients: 2 quarts muscadines or scuppernongs washed and stemmed, grated peel of 1 lemon, juice from 1 lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 cups of sugar, sterilized glass jars with seals and rings. Directions: Begin by removing the skins from the washed and de-stemmed muscadines. Using a sharp knife, slit the skin of the muscadine about half way around and squeeze the pulp out. Set the skins aside. Place the pulp in a large stainless steel or enameled pot. Put just enough water to keep the pulp from scorching (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup). Cook the mixture over medium high heat, stirring for 15 minutes or until pulp is softened. While the pulp is cooking, place the skins in a food processor to chop. The skins will not break down much when cooked, so you want to get the pieces as small as you can.

When the pulp is through boiling, remove the pan from the heat and press the pulp through a coarse sieve or a food mill to remove seeds. Return the pulp to the large pot and add the skins, grated lemon peel, lemon juice and salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the sugar and return to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently. Cook for about 20 minutes to thicken it. For a more spreadable consistency this is fine but for a better jell you will need to cook it until it forms a ball when dropped into cold water.

Now, to pour the preserves into your jars the preserve should be hot and the jars should be warm. You can keep them warm by placing them in hot tap water. When you pour the preserves into the jars leave about a 1/4-inch of headspace and carefully wipe off any residue from the jar mouths.

If you plan to eat the jam immediately you can just put it in the refrigerator or you can freeze it to use later. If you want to keep it in the pantry or give it as a gift you will need to process the jars in a boiling water bath to make the seal permanent. This takes only about 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

For more information on canning and making jams and jellies contact Angela Treadaway, your regional Extension Agent at 410-3696 or come to a class on Monday October 1 or Tuesday October 2 from 9am to 12 noon at the Extension Office in Columbiana. We will hold a Muscadine Jelly class with some 4-H’ers from Hope Christian