What about food poison? Botulism can't grow in high-acid foods. Therefore, if you are a beginning canner, stick with high- acid foods such as pickles, chutneys, fruit preserves and high-acid vegetables such as tomatoes.
Can I reduce the sugar in homemade jam? Sugar helps fruit mixtures reach high temperatures (jams need to reach 220F or thereabouts), which helps jam and jelly set. Reducing sugar in a jam recipe could result in a runny produce. Sugar also acts as a preservative. Reducing the sugar in a recipe would reduce its shelf life.
Do I have to have proper canning equipment? The most important equipment you need is a large stock pot that is high enough so the water can cover the filled jars by at least 1 inch above. A "proper" boiling-water canner with rack can be found at most stores that carry kitchen supplies. You can also use any large pot you have in your kitchen. For a rack to hold the jars, you can use a cake rack, silicone potholders, or even line the pot's bottom with extra rings from jars.
Gingered Pear Chutney
Yield: about 5 pints
10 cups peeled, chopped pears
4 cups sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup raisins
¼ cup finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1. Place all ingredients in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven and stir to combing. Set kettle over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thick, about 1 - 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, wash jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water or in the dish washer. Place in a kettle of boiling water. Keep at a low simmer until needed.
3. Use tongs to remove jars, one at a time, from simmering water and fill with simmering chutney mixture, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Add lids and rings, tightening to "finger tight." * Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
*When hot food is put into jars and then heated, the food will expand. It is important that hot air inside the jars is allowed to escape even though lids are put on the jars. Rings are used to keep the flat lids from floating off the jars while sterilizing. They should, however, not be so tightly fastened that they prevent the hot air from escaping. If the lids are not tight enough, the simmering water in the canner can leak into the jar and ruin the food. Therefore, it is important that the rings be tightened just to a snug "finger tight."
Yield: about 5 - 7, ½-pint jars
8 cups figs, either chopped or left whole
8 cups sugar
1 lemons, thinly sliced
1. In a heavy kettle, stir together figs and sugar. Let sit 1 - 2 hours until juicy. Place over low heat and cook until soupy. Add lemon slices. Adjust heat to keep mixture at a slow simmer. Simmer several hours, stirring often, until mixture is thick.
2. Ladle hot mixture into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Add lids and rings, tightening to "finger tight." Process 20 minutes in boiling-water canner.
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