I know that cranberries are far from being an essential food. However, they are tasty and have some great fiber, and are even known for their Vitamin C. Unfortunately, after canning, the Vitamin C is probably destroyed in these beauties, due to the heat involved, but we won’t belabor the details. We will enjoy what we have, be glad we have it, and save it for the future.
One of the great things about fruits like cranberries is that they are high in acid. That means they can be processed using either the water-bath method or, if using the pressure canner, they can be processed for a much shorter time.
I put a couple of really big bags of cranberries in my big roaster, added a bit of water, and brought them to a boil. It’s not necessary to specify exact amounts, just as long as the berries aren’t dry. We don’t eat sugar in my family, so I added some sucralose (liquid Splenda) to sweeten them, but after tasting the canned product, I can see that I am going to need additional sweetener when we get around to eating these. Cranberries are very tart!
Once I brought them to a boil, I cooked the berries a little while to thicken them, and added four teaspoons of plain gelatin (I used plain because the sugar free gelatin has aspartame, which I did not want to heat, though I can envision using unsweetened Kool Aid for a flavor boost). I don’t expect them to thicken up in the jar, but one day, when we put them into the refrigerator, I would expect the gelatin to thicken them at least a little bit. Then I ladeled the berries into the jar carefully, and as we shall soon see, filled the jar up a bit too much in at least one case.
Carefully closing up the canner, I followed the instructions to the letter. Bring the canner to a boil and allow steam to escape from the open vent pipe for a full ten minutes (this exhausts all air inside the canner and the jars as well, a necessary step). Add the pressure regulator and make sure the pop-up seal on top of the canner engages. Then watch the pressure rise to six pounds and set the timer for eight minutes. All this went very well, but I did have a bit of a problem moderating the temperature. Once the gauge reached six pounds, I reduced the heat on the stovetop, but the pressure continued to rise until it got all the way to ten pounds, which is where the regulator starts to let off pressure. I will need to practice a little more to determine when it’s okay to turn off the stove at a point that will still allow the amount of pressure needed, but not go so much higher. The good news is that it’s okay for the temperature and pressure to get higher than needed; it’s just not okay for it to be lower than needed.
Once the time requirement at pressure was satisfied I very carefully moved the canner away from the heat source and allowed the temperature and pressure to drop without any assistance. It is very important to allow the pressure to drop naturally to avoid jar breakage due to too-fast change in temperature.
When I opened the canner, I had an unhappy surprise. The water surrounding the jars was bright cranberry-colored! My first thought was that a jar had broken, but as I removed the jars, I could tell that instead, one of the jars failed to seal, due to overfilling, and some of the liquid contents had leaked out. I set it aside and took this photo. You can see here the jars’ alarming appearance with red juice all over them. After allowing the other jars to cool, I washed them carefully and stored them away. Since I actually had more cranberries to process, I cleaned the overfilled jar and reprocessed it with the others, making sure to put to use my new-found knowledge about how much headroom to leave in the jars. The second batch had absolutely no problems and at the end of the process, the water inside the canner was pristine and clear. Now I have some 18 jars of lovely cranberries to enjoy later on in the Fall.
Now that we’re coming up on summer and growing season, I plan to find lots of other goodies to put away. Tomato is one of my special favorites that I look forward to canning. What sort of foods do you plan to can this summer?
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