December 13, 2015

Time to Clean Out the Freezer

The first week of December was cold and rainy in our neck of the woods, so I decided it was time to clean out the freezer. This is an annual late fall/early winter project for me, because I've been tossing fruits, tomatoes, and bones into it all summer long. Once the harvest is over, I can begin to process all of these into jams, jellies, and sauces.

First up - elderberries.


Their destination is elderberry jelly. I tried making an elderberry pie last summer, but we did not like it! The seeds totally ruined it. But the pigs loved it, so there was no waste. That was my clue to stick to elderberry jelly and never mind trying jam.

I'm going to include the recipe here because it isn't in my Ball Blue Book or the boxed pectin directions. If it's here, I can add it to my recipe page and always know where to find it.

Elderberry Jelly
6 cups elderberry juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1/3 cup (rounded) bulk low sugar pectin

Combine juices. Mix pectin with about 1/4 cup sugar and mix into juice. Bring to a boil. Add sugar and bring to a boil again. Pour into sterile half-pint jelly jars, cap, and process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

NOTE: My favorite pectin to use is Pomona's Universal Pectin, but it's not easy for me to get at a decent price. My frugal side decided to try bulk pectin. It was still pricey and I still prefer Pomona, although next year I'm hoping my crab apple tree will finally produce enough that I can start making my own.

Next I got out a gallon bag of my frozen figs. With these I wanted to make a fig and orange jam. Earlier this year I made a fig jam and used orange juice to replace the water needed to make 5 cups. It was really good, but I thought real oranges would be even better.


Fig & Orange Jam

3 cups crushed figs
1 cup filtered water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 whole orange finely chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
4 cups sugar
1/3 C (rounded) bulk low sugar pectin

Combine figs, orange, lemon juice, and water. Simmer until the orange peel is tender. Meanwhile mix pectin with about 1/4 cup sugar. Stir pectin and cinnamon into the figs and bring to a boil. Add sugar and bring to a boil again. Pour into sterile pint jars, cap, and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Fig jam by itself is kinda blah, but it combines well with other fruits

Lastly, I got out my frozen tomatoes to make sauce.


The recipe for my pizza sauce is here. This year, though, I drained off the liquid from the thawed tomatoes and saved it for soup. (Thanks to Kris for that idea.)

While I was digging around in the freezer I found a half-gallon of broth from cooking chicken. What better thing for lunch on a dreary, drizzly day than Thanksgiving leftover Scrap Soup.

I used chopped garden arugula for the greens and it was pretty tasty.

The soup was so good that it got me started on making more soup to can. Home-canned soup is one of my favorite convenience foods.

So I got the fridge cleared out as well as most of the freezer. It's nice having a productive day like that.

41 comments:

  1. What size are the seed in elderberries? If they are about the same size as raspberries and you have a tomato seed/pulp separator or food mill gizmo run your elderberries through the mill/separator. I did that as an experiment with my tomato gizmo and was pleasantly surprised at how much pulp/juice I got and how few seeds. Had to run the waste through a second time to get the seeds dry enough but it beat the heck out of having seeds in my raspberry jams and juice.

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    1. Larger than raspberry seed! More about the size of millet. The mill is a good idea however; I just used my jelly bag, hung the cooked mass of elderberries for awhile, and squeezed it out. I probably would have gotten more if I'd used the berry screen on my Roma juicer. Next time!

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    2. I've used a mill (looks just like the one in the middle photo of your header) for elderberries. It does work great!

      But the seeds have some kind of waxy or gummy component that would get stuck on the inner spiral piece if the berries were too hot when I put them through. I couldn't get it to clean up with soap and water, so since then I've been putting the berries through at room temperature or less; trading a bit of juice yield for easier cleanup.

      I didn't try to clean off the waxy residue with something abrasive (like Bon Ami), which might work better than soap. (It does on beeswax, anyway!)

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    3. Jake, excellent information. I don't know why I didn't think of the mill - my mind just thought of the traditional jelly bag, but I know I didn't get all the juice!

      And it's good to know Bon Ami works on beeswax!

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  2. I've made fig jam before and been disappointed witht he lack of taste, maybe I'll try yours next time I have a gult. Made lots of chutney and jam lately, red onions relish next week I thik and maybe some gooseberry jam and use up the freezer as well, we (my wife and I) were talking the other about how I need to use some fruit up. With a friend coming round on Thursday who is also into preserving it will make a fun afternoon.

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    1. Kev, one of the things I do every year is make a mixed fruit jelly or jam with all the odds and ends leftover from larger projects (or from tiny harvests). That gives us a "new" flavor every year. :) Gooseberry sounds really good! Wish I lived in a cooler climate so I could grow them.

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  3. Your pantry is such a treasure trove of preserves. Dan certainly gets a wide variety of flavours.

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    1. Lynda, I'm lucky that Dan is pretty simple and plain in his food tastes. He'd probably be pretty happy if all I made was strawberry jam, but he's learned to appreciate other flavors. If I'm short on strawberries, a strawberry fig jam is just as good, he says. He really likes the elderberry jelly too, and the fig/orange was a hit. I still have more figs in the freezer, so we'll have to see what else I can come up with. :)

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  4. Love your pots of produce :)
    I thought I'd be making a crockpot of soup this weekend, but yesterday the weather was incredibly warm - downright balmy! - so I held off. I do my big freezer clear-out in Oct/Nov, so I can line the bottom with 8 gallons of apple cider. Already down to six!

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    1. Quinn, I would love to have all that apple cider! Lucky you. :) And yes, warm weather is a soup deterrent, LOL

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  5. I often would make the elderberry juice as a colorant for my ugly fruit. Green fruit cooks down to a slightly unpleasant look. I made Old Goose (Elderberry/Gooseberry) and Old Rhu (Elderberry/Rhubarb) jams. It adds anti-viral properties and makes it dark purple. My gooseberries make a high pectin content naturally, so I put them in a lot of things, too. Mostly just a souring, not a flavoring.

    You picked a great activity set for a less than pleasant day. I believe there is some venison sausage making on my agenda for the same reason!

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    1. Barb, great ideas for elderberry juice! I usually have some leftover and toss it into my mixed fruit jelly. Using as a colorant is a good idea. And thank you for mentioning the anti-viral properties.

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  6. I had to clean out part of the freezer as someone had left the door agar. I cooked so many dishes last weekend and no one asked why??? They, did however, eat and eat and eat. I made soup, pie, casseroles, and we had food for several days. My husband said that at least we didn't have to ask what's for supper as the leftovers fed us most of the week! Love your jelly recipe. My husband's favorite jelly is orange marmalade. I'm already ready for spring and gardening again and it hasn't even snowed yet!

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    1. Oh no! Was much defrosted? At least you saved the food.

      I really like orange marmalade too, but can never find the "proper" oranges. Recipes all call for bitter oranges but I can only find the fresh eating kind (which didn't stop me from putting them in the fig jam :)

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  7. I did not know you could simply bag whole ripe tomatoes and fruits and stick them in the freezer to cook with later. That's good to know. Fig preserves are my favorite. Hopefully, I will have a fig tree that produces figs next year. I've certainly tried to grow one for years now.

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    1. Oh yes, and frozen tomatoes are so much easier to peel than fresh! Just dunk the frozen tom in lukewarm water until the peel begins to split (several seconds). The peel comes right off.

      I hope your fig does well! Ours were hidden in the brush when we bought the place. I'm guessing other varieties are more flavorful than what we've got, but I'm just thankful to have them.

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    2. Then save the peels to dehydrate and powder!

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  8. Your posts always remind me of how much more I need to get done. And even though we'll be done with the show today, next week looks too busy for getting anything done also. sigh. But I do intend to get the freezer cleaned out and canned so there's more room for stocking up in case we get stuck in a blizzard.

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    1. Oh Renee, it's that time of year! After finishing Critter Tales I didn't know what to do with myself for a couple of days, hence I tackled the freezer. I'm getting the hang of what to do with my time though. :)

      If anybody has a chance for blizzard, it's you! Stocking up is always good insurance for that.

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  9. Looks like this year we won't have to clean out the freezer as it was such a bust year and I was too focused on fencing to worry about the growing side much.

    We rarely get figs up here. Maybe one or two off our little tree is about it.

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    1. Some years are like that - focusing on one thing more than another. There's always next year!

      I probably wouldn't have planted figs, but they were already here and doing very well, so that's a bonus fruit for us.

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  10. Hi Leigh, how do your tomatoes turn out when defrosted? From the photo I see you freeze them whole. I had a bunch in September that I blanched for a few minutes to remove the skin, let them cool then I bagged and froze them. When I defrosted them for sauce, they were stringy and pretty awful. I'm hoping your method works better because every summer we have lots of tomatoes and end up giving most of them away.

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    1. My frozen tomatoes are pretty mushy when defrosted. But I run them through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds and then cook them down in a slow cooker to sauce consistency. The sauce turns out really well.

      This year I poured off the tomato defrost water, strained it, and used it instead of plain water for soup. It wasn't a strong tomato flavor, but I figured it was better than wasting it. My other option would have been to feed it to the pigs. :)

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  11. Thanks for the ideas Leigh, I've a freezer full of elderberries and wasn't sure quite what do with them.

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    1. Another idea is syrup. I had hoped to have enough juice to make jelly and syrup too, but it all went to jelly. :)

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  12. I never thought of elderberry jelly. I have organic dried ones I used to make a syrup, pretty potent! The fig jam sounds good, as I love oranges...

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    1. Dried foods can really pack a punch, can't they? And the orange-fig combo is good enough to make me wish I had an orange tree. :)

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  13. Hi! We didn't care much for the ways I tried using elderberries so got rid of our bushes. Maybe we shouldn't have but they tried my husband's patience with the mess and trying to mow under them. Lots of nice things you are making! Nancy

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    1. Nancy, you're right about that! They do spread in a messy way, which reminds me that I told Dan I'd transplant some to move closer to the fenceline. If I don't, they engulf my apple trees soon.

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  14. I so need to clean out the freezer! I have frozen elderberries destined for cough syrup. And about 6 turkey carcasses and tons of veggies scraps ready to be roasted and simmered into broth to can.

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  15. I find elderberries to be a great addition to black berry jelly. Oddly, it tastes more like fresh blackberries to me than does the straight blackberry jelly.

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    1. You make me wish we had blackberries! Sounds like a good combination.

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  16. Have you ever heard of putting vinegar (white) in the pot with the Chx-turkey carcass to make broth? It is supposed to help the marrow leach out better for more taste.

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    1. Oh yes! In fact, I have a post on making bone broth here. It's fun to experiment with different kinds of vinegar.

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  17. Leigh,

    Your recipes really look inviting, I'm going to have to try a few of them.

    Cleaning out the freezer to make jams, jellies,pizza sauce and soups makes for a long day. Are those plum tomatoes you're using for your sauce?

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    1. Sandy, no they're not. In the past I've always grown Roma or Amish Paste tomatoes, but have a lot of trouble with blight so I decided to try something different. I had less blight problems but the sauce took a lot longer to cook down. I use my crock pot for that, so it wasn't more work, it just took longer. I'm debating whether or not to go back to paste tomatoes next year.

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    2. Still can't post a comment....dang thing....LOL! Your jam looks so yummy! I love elderberries, have made a tincture many times. Congrats on your book Leigh!

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    3. Pam, elderberry tincture would be very handy to have on hand. I thought about making syrup but had quite a demand for the jelly this year. :) I get more berries every year though, so I have high hopes of being able to do that someday.

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  18. When I was growing up we ran wild through the woods and fields picking berries and fruit all the time. Elderberries didn't taste good to me, but some of the neighbor ladies did. I would pick them baskets of the berries and I was rewarded with bread and jelly later in the season. I still don't care for the berries, but I miss the jelly. I envy you your figs and berries. Yum!

    I am giving up San Marzanos - not much pulp to them. They are delicious, but with my smaller container garden, stuff has to pull it's load. I am going to try another Italian saucing tomato (want some seeds?). With the freeze/defrost/remove 'whey' process, they should sauce up well. I'll let you know.

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    1. Kris, yes, I'd be very interested. I'm undecided about what to do for next year's tomatoes. The non-sauce kind seemed to do a little better in terms of resisting blight, but I felt like it took longer to cook them down, even with removing all that defrost water. I really have more trouble with disease than insects! (Although insects are currently doing a number on my cabbages!)

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