I've really enjoyed some of the food processing/canning I've done this year (I should take a pic of some of the remaining tomato products sometime!). I've used tools in better fashion. Gotten better results from the stuff I've grown or bought at pick-your-own farm markets. Had pretty much everything turn out great tasting - either as is (jellies) or in recipes (tomato sauces, crushed tomatoes, etc). But I'm still trying to improve.
This year I've decided it's time to plan on getting a food grinder/strainer set up for my KitchenAid mixer. No more hand-cranked food mill if I plan on making more sauces etc next year. We'll see if I get these goodies off my Christmas wish list, or if I'll be buying them myself. Annnnd I've just tried changing from the jelly-making pectins that require a ton more sugar to something more natural:
Not too long ago I pulled all my raspberries from the freezer, heated them with a little water in a giant soup pot, then dumped them into a clean, white cotton pillow case (which is now known as my jelly bag). The first day it felt like I just wasn't going to get any juice out of them. I left them in the pillow case, in a strainer over the pot, in the fridge for about 24 hours, and was excited to find I got exactly 8 cups. This was from the berries in two 1 gallon freezer bags if I remember right?
I found a recipe for making raspberry JELLY - which is surprisingly difficult to do. Apparently most prefer seeded raspberry jelly. Two issues here: 1) I hate seeds in my jellies/jams, and 2) I really don't like the idea of bugs in my food, and we were definitely getting hit with the spotted-wing Drosophila here this summer (same as the person in the above link mentioned). Mary and I heard warning about it at a gardening lecture a year or two ago, and boy were the pictures gross. While most Drosophila (aka fruit flies) lay their eggs in overripe fruit, the spotted-wing Drosophila aim for not-fully-ripe fruits, and you'll see the larvae crawling around on the fruit.
Just think - you take that fruit and mush it down and make jam and, guess what, dead wormies in your jam! Blech. I'm ok knowing this is all natural and some critters are going to make it through once in awhile - extra protein! But Drosophila are the bunnies or guppies of the bug world.
So the pillowcase did double duty - no seeds and not a single bug (dead and frozen) made it through. No, I didn't really see all that many at the time of harvest, but I know some where in there, and they went out with the pulp and seeds into the compost.
Anyhow - this is about pectin, not pests.
So I had 8 cups of juice. The recipe I used called for 4 cups, and I was busy so I only made one batch. It called for 5 1/2 cups of sugar. Now I have a sweet tooth, and I know jellies, jams etc are really all about sweet stuff, but it still seems weird that there's more sugar than fruit stuff in a lot of these recipes. That being said, the jelly turned out AMAZING, and people I shared it with also raved about it. Yay!
But I had another 4 cups of juice that had gone back in the freezer. I'd heard about Pomona pectin, decided to give it a try, and ordered some from Amazon. The raspberry jelly recipe in the Pomona book calls for 4 cups of juice - great coincidence! Annnnd how much sugar? One and a half cups! Whoa - huge difference!
The jelly made up a little bit faster with Pomona if I remember right, and tastes great, but obviously didn't make nearly as much (hey, I'm short 4 cups of sugar in this recipe). So I got about half as much finished jelly, but the taste? REALLY good! Maybe not as sugary sweet, but definitely tastes like fresh raspberry. I would say it maybe tastes a bit ...more rich? More raspberry-ish? I'm definitely happy with the result, and will try making more jellies with Pomona pectin in the future.
It's interesting, btw - because you get two packets of stuff in the Pomona box - a tiny packet of calcium, and a larger packet of pectin. You make more "calcium water" than you need right now with part of the calcium packet, storing the excess in the fridge for months, until you use it up. You then use a little of the calcium water with the juice, getting that to a boil. You then stir a mix of sugar and the dry pectin powder into the boiling juice/calcium water mixture. The calcium is required for the jelling process when using this sort of natural pectin, which I believe is derived from citrus? I wondered if I would get a citrus background taste in the final jelly product, but I definitely haven't noticed any....