Friday, December 25, 2009

My First Attempt At Home Canning: FAIL

Last week I attempted to make persimmon jam. This is a project that I mentioned briefly last month, and once there were finally enough fruits on the tree that were ripe enough, I set to it.

Now, there are two varieties of persimmons. The variety that most people are familiar with are called Fuyu - they're crisp, similar to apples or pears. During the late fall and early winter it wouldn't be too uncommon to see these at local farmers markets.

This is not the variety of tree that I have.

The variety that I have are called Hachiya. It would be unlikely to be familiar with this variety of persimmon unless you, or a neighbor, have a tree in your yard. The reason why they're not well none is simple: they do NOT transport well.
When a Hachiya persimmon is ripe it is very very very soft - holding a ripe Hachiya persimmon feels a lot like you're holding a water balloon, and they squish incredibly easy. When squished, the fruit inside oozes everywhere - the pulp of a ripe persimmon has a bright orange jelly like consistency, and that bright orange pulp is a bear to get out of clothing!
An unripe Hachiya persimmon tastes disgusting. There is an astringent flavor to it that removes all moisture from your mouth. Hands down, biting into one has been one of the grossest tasting food experiences of my life. Seriously, I would rather eat blood pudding if I had to choose.
HOWEVER, when the Hachiya persimmon is ripe it is fantastic. It is sweet and smooth and has an apricot like flavor that is heavenly.
Since I have a tree FULL of fruit I decided to try making persimmon jam, figuring that since it already has a jelly like consistency it would be an easy first step into home canning. Last Saturday I picked some fruit and set out to make some jelly for Christmas gifts. I'd bought the jars and lids, sugar, everything I needed and had selected a recipe that looked very easy. All it called for was 2 quarts of persimmon pulp, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup orange juice and the zest from one orange.
I pulped the persimmons and took an initial taste test to ensure that I had not included any under ripe fruits - everything tasted fine so I mixed together all of the ingredients and started cooking the jam per the recipes instructions.
Once everything was looking like it was ready, I prepped the jars for filling and took one final taste test of the finished product. I am so glad that I took that final test before actually canning the jam.
The astringent taste was back with full force. It was disgusting. I spent several minutes spitting into the kitchen sink "I CAN'T GET THE TASTE OUT OF MY MOUTH!!!!!"

Why it was initially sweet and apricot like, then after cooking disgustingly astringent I did not know.

Since then I have done some research and found that Hachiya persimmons have high levels of tannins, which cause the initial astringency. Once they've been through at least one frost the tannins evaporate, leaving the sweet pulp. HOWEVER baking reintroduces the tannins, causing the astringent flavor to return.
A couple articles that I read said that when baking with Hachiyas, the use of baking soda will offset the reintroduction of the tannins and effectively prevent the astringent taste from returning. But, I'm wondering if baking soda could be used when making a jam or chutney (yes, I found a chutney recipe using persimmons that sounded amazing and that I planned on making after the jam).

So, I'm left with all of the canning supplies but no canned product. I'm considering another attempt at canning and have found a couple of recipes that sounds great:
1 - pomegranate jelly
2 - strawberry balsamic jam
3 - cranberry tangerine chutney

I will admit that I am incredibly frustrated by this initial canning failure. I am fairly adept in the kitchen and I am very crafty. I frequently experiment with different recipes and crafts with various levels of success - some are fantastic and some are just okay. I am not accustomed to a complete and total failure. Part of my wants to throw in the towel, but the stubborn as hell part of me wants to keep trying until I get it right.

I think the fact that I've already lined up some additional recipes tells me that I'm going to continue with my attempts at home canning.

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