Welcome to Tea Tuesday. Last week was a wonderful time for tea and cakes as the world paid a call on London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Central Weekend. And while international media has moved on to other stories, the Queen and Royal Family continues with celebrations around the world. You can keep track of the Queen’s schedule on her official website www.thediamondjubilee.org.
Lord D and I were on the hunt for local strawberries and asparagus this past weekend, and thought we spotted the Queen pitching tasteful Jubilee items at the lovely gift shop at Springridge Farm in Ontario.
The British may have failed miserably in other culinary areas, but they excel in the tea ritual.
Today we are going to talk about the lovely preserves– which we could not do without– at tea.
This is the time of year when thoughts of “putting up” refers not just to having the kids running under foot all summer. Large gardens produce plentiful produce which is more than one can consume (believe me I tried hard), or should consume while it is still fresh. Like a bank account, cooks for centuries have been preserving food for the long winter months. Growing up we were a family of five with a large garden which provided an abundance of food which we canned. It was like a science lab in our house. My father wasn’t interested in pickling, but loved experimenting with tomato sauces and in particular took great pleasure in creating jams from saskatoons, and cherries.
History of Canning
So if you are Daisy in Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen, part of your duties would be canning as fresh produce from the Downton gardens became available. The process was patented by Nicolas Appert in the early 1800s, after winning a large cash prize Napoleon offered to find a better way to preserve food to feed his troops. Appert came up with a system of precooking, air-tight sealing and final processing in a newly designed glass canning jar. His wide-mouthed pint “bottles” were filled with hot cooked foods, stoppered with hand-cut corks fitted to the irregularities of the blown glass, sealed with a compound made of lime and skim milk and then finished in a boiling water bath. He wasn’t quite sure why the food would not spoil. It was Louis Pasteur who answered the demonstrated the role of microbes in food spoilage fifty years later.
Home canning took off in the First World War as food rationing was in place and governments promoted “victory gardens”, providing instruction to housewives on the art of canning at home.
Starting your canning career with jam is a good place to start. The quantities are smaller, and you get to immediately enjoy the rewards at breakfast and tea. You can be creative and create your own labels to give away as hostess gifts. Much more glamourous than the tomato sauce ritual in late summer, but you can build up to that and gather family around have a big canning party.
Here are two recipes using two different methods. My dad likes the old paraffin method for his jam since there is not a great deal of extra work and the jam is used up in a relatively short period of time, reducing the opportunity for bacterial growth. Here are how to instructions to sealing with wax. Canning Homemade is a great blog which explains the other method which is the water bath. It has a ton of recipes, and also explains when you need to use a pressure canner (for low acid foods). There is also the freezer method which has its own type of pectin, but Mrs. Patmore did not freezer capabilities, so we will pretend that it hadn’t been invented yet.
As you can see there is a lot of sugar in jam, so if you want to explore low sugar versions, particularly if you are diabetic, you should be looking for the no sugar-low–methoxyl-pectin which requires little or no sugar to work its magic.