Saturday, July 11, 2015

Canned Nectarines

I went on a canning frenzy because Sprouts had all kinds of fruit for some of the best prices we're going to see all summer.  One day, I made strawberry vanilla and cherry vanilla jams (small batch, so they shared the bean).  The next day, the nectarines were finally ripe enough to use.

The original plan was to make pie filling, but I couldn't find ClearJel.  That's the thickener which works both when you can originally and when you bake the filling in a pie.  Some of the other thickeners will break down on the second heating.  I could have used apple cores, especially because I was making applesauce as an oil substitute for zucchini bread that day, but I personally find the apple flavor overwhelming and feel like you lose the flavor of the main ingredient.

Plan B was to can in syrup, since I am going to have to add cornstarch when I eventually make a pie, so I might as well just make an all-purpose canned nectarine.  Flipping to that page of the  Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, that turned out to be a better choice.  It's really easy to can stone fruit in syrup, far easier than I was expecting.  What the book didn't mention is how hard it is to get the pit out of a nectarine.  I was hoping it would get easier as I went along, or I would discover some magic trick.  The best I could do was make quarters and try not to bruise the fruit too much.  It explains why there aren't canned nectarines in the market.

This is the hot-pack method with a light to medium syrup.  You don't need to preserve in a full-strength 1:1 simple syrup.  You can even do it in plain water.  You just have to process longer and the finished product won't have as much flavor.

For those scared of canning, consider this the recipe for a poached nectarine.  You can have it drizzled with creme anglaise, over ice cream, with cottage cheese, with yogurt, or in a dish by itself.

1-1/2 C water
1 C sugar
2 lbs nectarines (about 7 or 8), pitted, cut in quarters or sliced
lemon juice to prevent browning

1.  For canning, start the hot water first and get your jars heating.  Lids go in a separate pot of warm water.

2.  Stir together water and sugar in a large pot.  Bring to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer until the nectarines are ready.

3.  As you slice the nectarines, place the pieces in a bowl with at least 1/4 C of lemon juice in it.  Make sure to toss them often so all sides get the juice.  This will prevent browning.

4.  Once everything is ready, place nectarines in the syrup in a single layer and turn up the heat slightly.  I got about half of them in at a time.  By heating the slices before canning, you get rid of some of the air in them and they will shrink less in the jar.  When water approaches a boil, the nectarines are heated and you can get the jars out of the water.

5.  With a slotted spoon, pack as many slices of nectarines as you can get into the jar.  They are still going to condense more (see photo).  Add syrup to 1/2" head space.  Poke out the air bubbles, wipe rim with a damp towel, and center lid.  Screw down finger-tight and process in a boiling water bath 25 minutes for pints and 30 for quarts.  Check seals after cooling and store in a cool place away from light.

6.  There will be leftover syrup.  Don't toss it!  It is now a nectarine-flavored simple syrup.  Use it in iced tea.  I froze some of it up into a granita.  Be creative.

Makes about 2 pints

Difficulty rating  :-0

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