pen rainbow

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tuesday's Cupboard—2012 White Pomegranate Jelly


 An early 2012 harvest & golden white pomegranate jelly

5-1/2 oz. Italian jars from Sur La Table
I love this time of year!  The days grow shorter, the nights grow cooler, and it's time to pick white pomegranates from our tree in Boulder City, Nevada.  

More Water, Less Often
We had a good crop this year.  I changed the watering cycle from short daily waterings twice a day (before sunrise and at 9 p.m.) to longer, deeper watering cycles four times a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) twice a day during the peak summer months.


I followed SNWA (Southern Nevada Water Authority) seasonal watering schedules, and the plants thrived.  The cedars and the rosemarys are spectacularly fragrant, and the lantana are full of tiny lilac blossoms.  The asparagus ferns are lush, and even the slow-growing nandinas have filled out.  I've never seen the fan palm more beautiful!      

Leaffooted Bugs
What causes them?
Last year for the first time, the white pom tree was invaded by leaffooted bugs.  These large, nasty varmints are easily identifiable relatives of the common stink bug.  They are called leaffooted bugs because of the small, flat, leaf-shaped growths on their back legs.  BC versions are usually charcoal-gray or brown with a single prominent reddish or whitish stripe on their backs.  I'm fairly certain that the infestation resulted from  heavy mulching with redwood bark around all of the garden boxes.  They winter in leaves and tree bark, and mulch is the perfect place to lay eggs.  They basically suck the juice out of all kinds of fruit, especially tomatoes, citrus, and nut trees.

Non-Toxic Ways to Get Rid of Them
A bird-friendly yard.  Because we don't have cats around the property, and because I don't use toxic chemicals in the yard, we have an abundance of birds, including mourning doves, starlings, finches, sparrows, and hummingbirds.  Birds are an effective natural defense against leaffooted bugs, and for the most part, I rely on them to keep the LF bug population in check.  I did not have a problem with leaffooted bugs until I started using mulch and leaving it in place from one year to the next.  

Replace mulch every year.  As a preventative for next year's crop, I'm going to rake out all of the old redwood bark, let the ground breathe for a couple of months until December, then make use of the pine needles that are piling up from my neighbor's tree.  Pine needle mulch is light and airy, and the small amount of residual oil left in the dried leaves provides a natural pest deterrent.  Birds also use pine needles for nesting, so it will also attract them to where the leaffooted bugs are hiding.

Other recommendations are to...
1.  Vacuum them off with a hand-vac;
2.  Pick them off every day and toss them into a bucket of soapy water; 
3.  Flick them off with your thumb & forefinger; and  
4.  Plant ladybug and lacewing friendly plants that will attract natural predators to eat the nymphs.  
5.  Some people plant sunflowers and artichokes as a diversion, but planting anything that attracts leaffooted bugs may bring them in from nearby yards, as well.  

Early Harvest
Leaffooted bugs usually appear in late summer and early fall.  In BC, I usually see them in August when the fruit is starting to turn from bright green to pinkish-yellow.  By mid-September this year, our poms were ripe and ready to pick, and the leaffooted bugs were at it, again.  It's been a relatively mild season, so the fruit ripened earlier than usual.  I usually pick our white poms in October.    

Making White Pom Jelly  

Remove the bugs
Leaffooted bugs are slow, and the nymphs are bright red (about the size of ants), so they're easy to catch.  First, I removed all of the bugs.  Then, I rinsed all of the poms in cool water, let them dry, then picked them over and rinsed them again.

Juice the fruit
Pomegranates are surprisingly easy to juice.  Their thin skin is easy to slice, and even the smaller ones are easy to handle.  I got about 6 cups of juice this year from around 30 small-to-medium sized poms.

Strain out the pulp
I used 4 layers of new, clean cheesecloth and strained the juice into 2 quart jars.  I let the juice sit (covered) in the fridge for 2 days, then poured off the clear juice from the solids at the bottom of the jars.  For crystal clear juice like my mother and grandmother used to make, I could have strained it one more time through a jelly cloth, but it was clear enough for me.  I wanted to retain some of the beautiful yellow color.

Canning Day!
I really like making pom jelly because all of the work is up front in the prep.  By the time that the juice is made, the kitchen is clean, and all of the equipment is ready—making the jelly is easy!  

My recipe:  Canning, Freezing & Drying, Pickling Smoking — A Sunset Cook Book, Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, California ©1982

Pomegranate Jelly Recipe

Clean Jars & Equipment
Prepare 6 half-pint canning jars.  For this recipe, I always end up with 5 jars, plus a working glass for immediate home use.  If you use 4 oz. jars, plan on 11 canned and 1 spare for the fridge.  


Boil jars for 15 mins to sterilize_scald lids & rings until ready to use

If you are new to canning, start with new jars, lids & rings.  Always check the jar rims for nicks and cracks, and do not use lids or rings with dents or rust.  Discard (recycle) any damaged jars, lids or rings.  You want a firm seal between the rim of the jar and the inside of the lid, so don't compromise on the quality of your canning jars.  I run everything through a dishwasher cycle, then as instructed in my cookbook, I immerse the clean jars in the canning kettle covered by 2 inches of water & boil them for 15 minutes to sterilize.  Immerse clean lids & bands in scalding water and keep them in scalding hot water until ready to use.

Funnels, tongs, jar grabber, 1/2 c. metal measuring cup, clean towels

Set your canning tools up on a clean kitchen counter next to the stovetop.  I use a heat-proof counter protector covered by an old, clean dishtowel for the canning area.  Have another area set up on a heat-proof surface with a clean dishtowel for the cooling area.  

Ingredients

•  3-1/2 cups pomegranate juice (red or white poms, fresh or bottled)
•  1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
•  1 pkg. (1.75 oz.) powdered pectin
•  4-1/2 cups ultrafine white sugar

Make It
1.  Combine pomegranate juice, lemon juice and pectin in a 4 or 5-quart pot.
  
2.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
  
3.  Stir in sugar until well blended; it will be a glossy, clear color with a little foam on top.

4.  Return to a boil over medium-high heat and continue boiling, uncovered and stirring occasionally for 2 minutes.  Watch it constantly so that it doesn't foam over.  If the foam starts to build up, lift the pot up to reduce the foam, and quickly return it to the heat.  Remove from the heat immediately when the time is up.

Fresh powdered pectin (1 box for this recipe)
Can It

5.  Remove the jelly from the heat & let it stand for a minute to allow the foam to congeal.  Then, carefully skim off the foam with a large spoon into a small bowl or glass measuring cup.  Remove as much as you can (it will skim off easily) and discard the foam.
  
6.  Remove a hot jar from the canning kettle with your jar grabber.  With a firm grip on the jar grabber, quickly tip it upside down to let any water run out, and place it on your canning surface.  Position your funnel slightly into the mouth of the jar, and use the 1/2 c. metal measuring cup to fill it with hot jelly up to 1/8 inch from the rim.

7.  Use a clean, hot washcloth to carefully wipe off the rim of the jar.

8.  Remove a hot lid from the scalding water & place it on top of the hot rim (keep a dull dinner knife handy to separate lids).
  
9.   Remove a hot ring from the scalding water and screw it onto the jar as tightly as you comfortably can.  Use a clean, dry dishtowel to give it a final twist and move it to the cooling area.  

No Need to Process

10.  You don't need to process this jelly.  Too much heat will affect the pectin's ability to create a good jell point.  Cool the jars away from drafts on a clean dishtowel.
  
11.  Listen for the tell-tale *pop* as each jar creates a seal.
  
12.  Label & store in a cool, dark area, or in the fridge after the jars are completely cooled and sealed.   

Happy canning!

Neat quilted 4 oz. Kerr jars from Ace Hardware