Judging Preserves At The Alameda County Fair

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I was asked to be a judge at the fair. I’m very naive thinking I was going to taste some wonderful home made preserves. They had me tasting butters, marmalade, curds and hot sauces. They had other judges tasting jams, pickles, olive oils, honeys, relishes, chutneys, canned fruits and jellies. The butters had too much spice and sugar. I couldn’t taste the fruit. The marmalade had big pieces of peel, very bitter. The curd had the smell of eggs and you could see the egg whites. The hot sauce was in a new category for professionals. This is a category for people that sell their products and want to say they won in the Country Fair. We all know the first thing you do when opening a jar is look, smell and taste. The ” look”  you are looking for is bubbling and or mold. The “smell ” will be stinky if there is a problem. If a jar has bubbles, mold and smells bad please do not taste. After opening one of the hot sauces it started to look like a volcano, pouring out all over the table. This is a bad jar with a lot of bacteria built up inside. This could have happened because the room was warm. They had another category that was mixed fruit. This is where I found the best jar of the day. It was a Cherry Balsamic Chutney. It was a beautiful color with great texture. The balsamic was the perfect hint of vinegar and it had some nuts for a little crunch. After I was done I walked around to see what was out there. I asked where is the Pie Filling and Mustard. They wrote them down, so maybe they will be doing that next year.  There are a lot of bad canners out there and I hope they find All In A Jar Private School. Remember to keep jars in a cool dark place. Happy Canning.

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Bad Information On The Internet

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With the first day of summer in just a few day, I think of all the beautiful fruit that is coming in to season.There are so many recipes we can make with fruit, like jams, chutney, curd and one of my favorites, pie filling. With this in mind, I decided to look at what is on the internet for pie fillings. Wow, there are a lot of recipes, but most are not safe. Please be careful when looking for recipes. Please go to these websites: National Center For Home Food Preservation and Ball. The recipes you find on these website are tested and safe. Never use flour or cornstarch when canning. They will go bad in the jar in a few weeks. You need to use Regular Clear Jel; this is a modified cornstarch made for canning. You can also use it to make sauces, gravy and anything you want to thicken. You can order this at http://www.barryfarm.com. Remember to look for small berries, they contain less water and will have more flavor. Happy Canning.
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What is Curd

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What is Curd
I think of curd as if it is pudding in a jar. With the citrus season here, it’s  time to make curd. Fruit curd is a delicious dessert spread.
Curd is a fruit based dessert spread and topping, usually made with lemon. Specific types of fruit curd are named after the central curd in them. For example,  made with lemons is known as ” Lemon Curd”. The basic ingredients are eggs ( sometimes yolks only or whites only or whole eggs  ), sugar, unsalted butter, fruit juice and zest, which are gently cooked together until thick ( trying not to make scrambled eggs) and then allowed to cool, forming a soft, smooth, intensely-flavored spread.  In the late 19th and early 20th century,in England home-made lemon curd was traditionally served with bread or scones at afternoon tea as an alternative to jam, and as a filling for cakes, small pastries and tarts.
Homemade lemon curd was usually made in relatively small amounts as it did not keep as well as jam. In more modern times, larger quantities are feasible because of the use of refrigeration. Commercially manufactured curds often contain additional preservatives and thickening agents. This is why I can.
Modern commercially made curds are still a popular spread for bread, scones, toast, waffles, crumpets, pancakes, or muffins. They can also be used as a flavoring for desserts or yogurt. Lemon-meringue pie, made with lemon curd and topped with meringue has been a favorite dessert in Britain and the United States since the nineteenth century.
Curds are different from pie fillings or custards in that they contain a higher proportion of fruit  juice and zest, which gives them a more intense flavor.  Also, curds containing butter have a smoother and creamier texture than both pie filling and custards; both contain little or no butter and use cornstarch or flour for thickening.  Never use flour or cornstarch when canning. If you need a thickener use Clear Jel. Clear Jel is a modified cornstarch used in canning, like for pie filling.  Never use salted butter, it has iodine and it will make the curd an ugly color.
Additionally, unlike custard, curds are not usually eaten on their own. Fruit curds can be made using lemons,  limes, tangerines, passion fruit, mangoes, blackberries, oranges ( I like using vanilla bean in my Orange Curd) and cranberries.
If you are planing to make homemade curd for Holidays gifts, put the date you made it, and the date it needs to be eaten by. Homemade curd  is good for three months in the jars.   Happy Holidays and Happy Canning.

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