Tag Archives | Mastery Challenge

Fruit Butter for the September Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

It’s September and that means it’s time to explore another food preservation skill in the crazy journey we know as the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. This month, we’re digging into fruit butters. For the purposes of this challenge, we’re including butters made from winter squash and sweet potatoes, provided that they are made for the fridge or freezer (since they are too dense to be canned). It can be sweetened in any which way you want and can even be made without additional sweeteners.

Remember that the goal of this challenge is to help you expand your skills while creating something that you’ll actually use. So choose an approach or recipe that will satisfy both your own learning and help you make something delicious.

What is a fruit butter?

A fruit butter is a product that is so named because it mimics the smooth spreadability of softened butter. It is made from a puree that is cooked low and slow for a number of hours, in order to evaporate the excess liquid, concentrate flavors and intensify the innate sweetness in the fruit. Thanks to this concentration, it typically contains a minimal amount of additional sweetener.

How do you make fruit butters?

The basics of making fruit butters are these. You puree some fruit. You cook it down slowly until thick. You add sweeteners, spices, and acid (to balance the flavors) to taste and preserves.

There are three standard approaches to making fruit butters.

  1. Slow Cooker – This is my favorite method for making fruit butters because it is relatively hands off, can be done outside of the kitchen (great for busy cooking days), and is produces the steady, low heat that fruit butters love. Just remember to prop the lid to allow for the steam to vent.
  2. Stove Top – When you’re in a hurry and you have the time to tend the cooking puree, small batches can be done on the stove top. Just keep stirring to prevent scorching.
  3. Oven – Another beloved technique. I often start with whole fruit when making fruit butters, roast them until soft, smash the fruit in the pan, and then continue to cook, stirring regularly. The best part of these oven roasted butters is that they develop a rich, caramelized flavor.

The Recipes

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August Mastery Challenge Round-Up: LTP and Steam Canning

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Hello canners! So sorry for the delayed August report. I came down with the flu on August 31 and it really threw off my work plans. Happily, I’m better now and back with a little round-up. I say little, because on the whole, a lot of you did not like this month’s challenge and so participation was super low. I get it. Not every technique is for every person. Hopefully we’ll all get back on track with fruit butters in September (they’re fun! and versatile! and so tasty swirled into yogurt!).

In August, 32 die hard canners reported their participation in the Mastery Challenge. Of those 32, 25 people tried their hand at low temperature pasteurization and seven took a stab at steam canning.

As is often the case, people reported feeling uncertain about the skills prior to trying them, but once they’d tackled them, those feelings improved. Here are the charts for LTP.

And here are the feelings about steam canning.

These numbers look a little wonky, because only seven people said they tried steam canning, but more are reporting here. I feel like we can probably safely discount four people who said they felt negatively after trying. Though I’m no statistician.

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Here’s what people made!

And that’s it for the round-up for this month!

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Submit your August #fijchallenge Projects!

August is nearly over! Yet another month that has gone whooshing by with dizzying speed! I hope everyone has enjoyed their summer and managed to sneak in at least a little food preservation.

I posted the link to the submission form for this month’s Mastery Challenge in the monthly introductory post, but wanted to share it again here in case there were some of you who didn’t see it.

If you want to be counted in the August tally and included in the round-up, please use this form to submit your project by Wednesday, August 30 (that’s tomorrow!). The form is below!

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July Mastery Challenge Round-up: Hot Pack Preserving

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We closed the books on July a few days ago and so it’s time finish up another skill in our Mastery Challenge. This month, we focused on hot pack preserving and more than 130 of you reported in that you’d tried preserving something using this method.

Starring ingredients included apricots, apriums, artichokes, beets, black currants, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, carrots, cherries (both sweet and tart), corn, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, figs, gooseberries, green beans, jalapeños, kohlrabi, mangos, mushrooms, onions, peaches, plums, raspberries, rhubarb, shishito peppers, sour cherries, strawberries, watermelon rind, wineberries, and zucchini.

People made all sorts of products, including chutneys, fruit packed in syrup, jams, pickles, salsas, and tomato products.

According to the survey, a lot of you made more than one batch, which is always delightful. I’m happy that so many of you were inspired to dig in more deeply.

As far as satisfaction with skill goes, the results made me giggle. Most of you felt pretty friendly towards hot packed at the start of the month.

But, at the end of the month, those of you who participated were all in. Such happy, positive reactions!

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Jams, Chutneys, and Mostardas

Pickles, Relish, and Salsa

Tomatoes and Whole Fruit/Veg Preserves

And finally, a few comments from the submission form:

Lisa from Aurora, Ontario said, “Interesting to see how the hot pack played out in practice, not just theory. Peaches are a lot more work than I thought they’d be!” So true! Peaches are a beast, but so worth the work!

Ann from Vashon, Washington said, “My time was limited and produce was lagging – but the Walla Walla sweets were in so I tried the onion relish. Definitely worth while! So glad I’m learning more about hot pack. Hope to do some tomatoes soon as they are now arriving in our local markets.” Onion relish is delicious!

Tesla from Memphis, Tennessee said, “I had already done a lot of hot pack preserving, but until this month I had no idea that’s what I was doing – or the reasons why you’d use a hot pack with a particular fruit or to get a particular result. This month was an example of how the Mastery Challenges are educational for me, even when I’m not making something new!” So glad it was useful!

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July Mastery Challenge: Pickled Blistered Shishito Peppers

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here to with a recipe to preserve delicious shishito peppers. They’re one of my summer favorites! – Marisa

One of my favorite moments of summer eating doesn’t involve handfuls of blueberries, icy-cold slices of watermelon, or peaches so juicy you have to eat them over the sink. (Although those firsts fruits are up there on the list.) It’s when I spy the first shishito peppers at the farmers’ market.

When I first see those wrinkly, electric green peppers heaped in a basket or bursting out of a fiber pint container, I know I have to have them.

Back my kitchen with my market bounty, I’ll get my cast iron pan ripping hot with a glug of grapeseed oil and add the peppers, cooking for a few minutes on each side until the skin is blistered deep brown and the flesh is just tender. Then, they go into a bowl with a big three-finger pinch of flaky sea salt. A few flicks of the wrist to toss, and then I’ll sit down and eat them all, one by one.

But inevitably, shishito season ends, and it’s rare to find them off-season in supermarkets, so I have to wait for that smoky, salty experience until next year’s pepper feast…unless I can preserve it.

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Submit your July Mastery Challenge Projects!

July is nearly over, which means it’s time to get serious about completing this month’s hot pack preserving challenge! If you’ve already finished up your project for this month’s #fijchallenge, please use the form below to record your information and be counted in the final tally. If the embedded form isn’t working for you, click here.

If you’ve not yet tackled a batch of jam yet this month, check out this month’s introductory post for some ideas.

To be counted in the final tally, please submit your projects no later than Monday, July 31.

Oh, and if you do post to social media, make sure to use the #fijchallenge tag to help spread the word of our preserving activities!

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