October Unprocessed proceeds apace, tho I did indulge in some of Maggie’s famous cookies at spinning & knitting Monday evening. I know that she uses chocolate chips and probably a bit of flour in her oatmeal, cranberry, and chocolate chip cookies, but they are home made. I certainly wasn’t going to turn down that goodness over a few chocolate chips & a bit of flour. They were +so+ good, especially after having dutifully turned them down for the past 3 months. Yum!
The October Unprocessed Challenge does illuminate an aspect of my canning, however, that doesn’t fit the strictest definitions of ‘unprocessed’.
This is the culprit that falls into the grey area. Crystallized sugar from sugarcane in the form we are familiar with has been produced for centuries, long before new world refining plants, bleaching, and sugar futures. I’m sure the ancient processing methods were something we could accomplish ourselves.
The standard white sugar we are exposed to so much is made from sugarcane or sugar beets, which are put through a variety of exciting processes (phosphatation, carbonatation, bleaching) to produce the purest version of the sweetener. Not something I could undertake at home.
I use organic evaporated cane juice for most of my preserves. It’s a nice caramel color, with the slightest hint of molasses flavor, and works well in place of standard sugar. This sweetener is made by passing the whole sugar cane through a set of rollers, then drying the extract into crystals, no extra processing and no additives. A little pricier than the white stuff, but I consider the lower environmental impact and absence of irksome extras well worth the price. I’m fully aware it really isn’t nutritionally any better for us than the normally processed stuff – in the end sugar is sugar. The organic evaporated cane juice work well in my jams and butters, although I did have someone mention that my peach jam wasn’t as brightly colored as theirs. I was devastated… ;)
Local organic ingredients & being home made trumps using sugar every time in my book. The jams & preserves I make are certainly far less processed than anything at the store. I +know+ where the fruit comes from, and have often had lovely chats with the growers on Saturday mornings at the market. Some of my ingredients come from folks I know well. They include a bit of Colorado summer and my own elbow grease – how can you beat that? I feel my preserves fit the spirit of the October Unprocessed Challenge well.
For the challenge Andrew has an exquisite understanding of human nature, encouraging everyone to participate to the extent they are able. Which includes the ‘deliberate exception’ clause.
Also, a note regarding the “deliberate exception” clause: The idea is to decide on any exceptions before we start, if possible. It’s not there for you to use your exceptions as a way to cheat in the moment. Instead, it’s about making an informed decision, in advance, about a particular food. ~ Andrew Wilder
The ingredients I use my preserves were one of my considered exceptions. I wasn’t about to stop canning!
Speaking of canning, I’ve been making tart cherry sauce this week. I used to call it tart cherry BUTTER, but since I don’t cook it down that much it’s really a sauce. Either way, it reminds me of my childhood. The wonderful flavor is just the thing to brighten up my fat free greek yogurt. There are several growers on the Western Slope who raise pie cherries, which I was fortunate to find at the Farmer’s Market a few years ago. I buy the pitted, frozen cherries in 9 lb buckets which live in the freezer until canning time.
Tart Cherry Sauce
Tart Cherry Sauce
FRUIT: 18 lbs frozen, pitted tart cherries
SOURCE: farmer’s market
RECIPE: see below
YIELD: 17 pints, 2 half pints (reg.), 1 quarter pint (fair)
TASTE: very cherry
The incredibly simple recipe:
9 lbs pitted tart cherries (enough to fill 7 qt. crockpot)
4 cups sugar
Grind or prepare cherries in food processor.
Fill 7 qt. crockpot with prepared cherries.
Add sugar. I suggest adding when crockpot ½ full & mix often as you add rest of the cherries.
Bring up to heat on high setting for ~ 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Turn down to medium.
Rest lid of crock pot on something to allow steam to escape. I use skewers, but butter knives will work as well. Cover area crockpot is on to avoid spatters.
Cook on low or medium heat for 6 –12 hours, until desired consistency. Smooth with an immersion blender.
Ladle into hot pint jars with ¼” headspace.
Wipe jars and rims.
Close with 2 piece lids. Do not overtighten.
Hot water bath process for 20 mins @ 5000 ft. Adjust as necessary.
Yields ~ 8 pints (8 oz jars).