All sorts of delicious treats are coming into the season, including blueberries, blackberries and figs galore. It seems as though all of this tasty, nutritious, low-fat produce comes and goes so quickly we barely get a chance to enjoy it properly.
If you are wondering how to preserve your bounty, there are plenty of ways.
Berries and figs freeze well. Sort berries and throw away any fruit that has gone bad. Simply rinse under cool running water and drain well. Freeze on a tray and then pour frozen fruit directly into a freezer bag or container.
To prevent figs from turning dark, sprinkle with an ascorbic acid like Ball-Fruit Fresh (found in the canning section of stores), and follow the freezing instructions.
Figs and berries can both be canned whole in syrup using the water bath canning method. Jams, jellies, preserves and purees can also be made out of these fantastic fruits. Be sure to follow your canning recipe instructions exactly to lower the risk of food-borne illness.
Figs are excellent for drying or making a fruit leather. You may have less success drying whole berries, but do try a fruit leather.
For drying figs, select ripe fruit and clean it. Small figs can be left whole. Large figs may be cut in half. Blanch whole figs in boiling water for 30 seconds until the skins split. This will ensure faster drying. Dip figs directly into an ice-water bath to prevent cooking. Figs will take about six to 12 hours in a dehydrator, possibly less if cut in half.
Here is a jam recipe courtesy of the National Center for Home Food Preservation:
Berry Jams (without added pectin)
9 cups crushed berries
6 cups sugar
Yield: About 7 or 8 half-pint jars
Please read Using Boiling Water Canners (http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/using_bw_canners.html) before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning (http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE01_HomeCan_rev0715.pdf).
Sterilize canning jars (http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_01/sterile_jars.html).
Wash berries before crushing. Combine berries and sugar. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Once sugar is dissolved, cook rapidly to, or almost to, the jellying point (http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/jelly_point.html) depending upon whether a firm or soft jam is desired. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Remove from heat and fill hot, sterile jars with the hot jam, leaving a one-fourth-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner.
Note: If seedless jam is preferred, crushed berries may be heated until soft and pressed through a sieve or food mill; then add sugar and proceed as above.
Recommended processing time for hot packing half-pints or pints of the jams in a boiling water canner is five minutes at altitudes of 0 to 1,000 feet; 10 minutes at 1,001 to 6,000 feet; and 15 minutes above 6,000 feet.
Contact me at 689-5850 or email@example.com for more recipes or information about preserving foods.
You may also register for the extension office's cheese making workshop, set for 6:30-8 p.m. June 20 at 3098 Airport Road, Crestview. The cost is $25 per person. RSVP by June 18 at https://okaloosacheesemaking.eventbrite.com.
Jill Breslawski is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.