In honor of National Food Preservation Month in September the Kearny Public Library hosted a demonstration on canning, storage, pickling, and drying techniques with each person present getting “hands on” experience. Each person got to take home their own jar of cactus jelly and watermelon rind pickles!
See recipes below.
WATERMELON RIND SWEET PICKLES
7 lb or 1 gal rind 1 stick cinnamon
10 c. sugar few whole cloves
1 qt. vinegar
Select a firm melon with a thick rind. Peel green skin and remove pink melon leaving only white inner rind. Cut into uniform cubes or slices. Soak overnight in cold water in the refrigerator. Next morning boil in same water 10 minutes; and drain. Meanwhile boil vinegar, sugar and spices, tied loosely in cheesecloth, to a thick syrup. Drop rind into syrup and cook until clear. Pack hot into hot canning jars, seal by boiling in hot water bath for 5 minutes. Remove from water and set jars on a folded towel to cool. Let set two weeks to pickle before serving.
The differences between agar agar and gelatin. Agar agar has several advantages over the traditional gelatin, namely: •It is derived from a plant source rather than an animal source, meaning that it is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets, and also for diets with restrictions for moral, ethical, and religious reasons.
- It has no taste, no odor and no color.
- It sets more firmly than gelatin.
- Agar agar is able to set at room temperature; it also stays in jelly form even as the temperature rises.
- Agar agar gives a sensation of feeling full, which can aid dieting.
- It is used as a digestive aid by some people, to ease stomach upsets.
Use agar agar for your cooking needs. Here is how to use it:
- Dissolve 1½ tablespoon of agar agar in ½ cup of hot water; this may need up to 10 minutes.
- Bring it to a boil.
- Simmer for one to five minutes for powder and 10-15 minutes for flakes.
- Mix well with warmed ingredients.
- Put aside to set. As the ingredients cool, the agar agar will set.
Prickly Pear Jelly
2 1/2 cups prickly pear juice
3 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 package powdered pectin
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 quart of prickly pear cactus fruit should make about 2 1/2 cups of juice. Pluck the fruit from the cactus with a long-handled fork or tongs. Wash under running water in a colander to clean. I don’t even mess with the spines, I simply fill up my food processor or blender with the fruit and I add ½-1 cups apple juice and process or blend using a wooden spoon to push fruit down until it becomes a slush. Now tie in a clean old pillow case or cheese cloth and hang above a bowl overnight to collect the juice. Throw out the pulp. For clear jelly, do not use the portion containing sediment.
Traditional Prickly Pear Jelly
In a saucepan, measure out 2 1/2 cups of cactus juice; add 1 package of powdered pectin. Bring mixture to a fast boil, stirring constantly. Add lemon or lime juice and sugar. Bring to a hard boil (one that cannot be stirred down with a spoon) and let boil for 3 more minutes. The timing is important to get the mixture to jell properly. Remove from heat, skim and pour into hot canning jars leaving 1/4 inch space per jar. Wipe jar rims and seal lids. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 6 1/2 pints of jelly.
You can drink the juice of the prickly pear fruit in the pure state or extend it by adding it to water. To the brilliant color and subtler flavor you could add such things as carbonated water, honey, local citrus, tequila, creosote tincture, and/or sweetened lemonade water.
Agar Agar Jelly
1 ½ T. agar-agar 1-3 c. diced fruit
½ c. hot water 2 c. fruit juice
Put the agar-agar into a pan with the hot water, bring to a boil & simmer rapidly for 3 minutes, stirring constantly
Pour the agar agar into the fruit juice and mix and add the chopped fruit. If you want pure jelly, just skip the diced fruit.