Archive for the ‘canning’ Category

I did not do very much canning this summer, but the few things I did invest the effort in were just fabulous.


Hubby’s parents came to visit us at the beginning of September, and they came bearing goodies from the BC fruit trucks of Central Alberta.  Fruit trucks here in Saskatchewan have nothing on their AB counterparts; here, the best you’ll get is a van with a couple cases each of peaches and plums; there, there are semi-truck-loads of Concorde grapes, bushel baskets of peaches, pears, plums, blackberries…yum!


I had been trying to figure out a novel pork marinade using the chipotle seasoning I got in the spring, and somehow the case of peaches inspired me.  I googled “peach BBQ sauce”, and came up with a Ball recipe that I thought I could work with.   Of course, it is modified all out of recognition, but the proportions are still fine for water-bath canning, as I actually reduced the total volume of low-acid vegetables.   It tastes even better than I had hoped, and we are torn between hoarding the jars of sauce and drizzling it on everything from pork to rice to summer squash!


Peach BBQ saue ingredients


 Maple-Chipotle Peach Barbeque Sauce

6 cups peaches, chopped and packed tightly

1 cup red bell peppers, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

1 1/4 cup maple syrup (or honey, for honey BBQ sauce, but I like maple better)

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp chipotle spice


Mix all ingredients in a pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil/simmer, stirring frequently, for about 25 minutes to reduce the sauce and thicken it. Puree in a blender. Ladle into clean, hot jars, and process for 15 minutes (at sea level) for half-pints. Makes approximately 4 cups (4 half-pint jars) per batch.  Use as a meat marinade, BBQ sauce, or condiment.

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When I was a little girl, there was a big lilac tree at the side of the house, as well as a little lilac bush in the back yard. For a couple of weeks in springtime, we would gather big armfuls of flowers for the kitchen table, and I just loved that smell. I loved it so much that I experimented with ways of preserving it to enjoy later. I dried flowers to make sachets, but the scent faded very quickly – a few weeks later, they just smelled dusty. Another year, I tried soaking flowers in alcohol and almond oil in an attempt at making perfume, but that didn’t work, either. Eventually I just gave up and enjoyed them for a couple of weeks in the spring time.




We have lots of lilacs here at the acreage. When I say lots, I mean probably a half-mile or more worth of lilac hedges – they run along the driveway, plus a long hedge out front of the house, as well as a random lilac hedge north of the goat barn. In springtime, I gather armloads of flowers, stuff them in quart jars, and put them in every room.


A couple of years ago, I canned up a batch of wild rose jelly. While I find it too strong to just eat on toast, it’s lovely in baking, in, say, thumb prints in shortbread cookies. Every time I open a jar, I get a whiff of June! This year, I thought I would try preserving the lilacs that way, as well. I gathered a few extra armloads of flowers, and made lilac jelly and lilac simple syrup.


For both recipes, you need to pull the lilac flowers from the stems, and make sure no green parts remain, or apparently they will make the finished product bitter.


lilac flowers


Watch for beetles and worms, too!


worm in lilacs


The color is quite pretty when you’re ladling into jars, but for some reason, it fades in the processing. Nevertheless, the final products taste great! The jelly is less overpowering than the wild rose jelly was, and the flavor reminds me of tutti-frutti. The simple syrup is already in steady use as a sweetener for home-made iced tea, for a novel flavor twist in our favorite summer drink.


lilac jelly and syrup, before and after processing


Lilac Jelly:

Really, this is just an adaptation of the recipe for Rose Petal Jelly;  you could use any edible flower you liked, and someday, I will try other variations, I am sure!


1 quart (4 cups) slightly packed lilac flowers, green parts removed

1 quart water

juice from 2 lemons

1 packet pectin

5 1/2 cups sugar


Simmer the lilac flowers in the water for about ten minutes. Strain out the flowers. Add lemon juice, and pectin. Bring to a boil (as per pectin packet instructions), add sugar, return to a rolling boil, and boil for one full minute. Remove from heat and ladle into jars. Process jars in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes for pints.


lilac flowers


Lilac Syrup


1 quart lilac flowers green parts removed

1 quart water

4 cups sugar

juice from two lemons


Simmer the lilac flowers in the water for about ten minutes. Strain, return to pot, and add lemon juice and sugar. Return to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar. Ladle into jars, and process fifteen minutes for pints.


lilac flowers in jar

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I am not detailing the harvest from the acreage, this year.  We were gone when we should have been planting (due to the birth of Baby M), and gone when we should have been harvesting (due to my sister’s wedding), so our garden did not amount to all that much.  We have half a small rubbermaid container of carrots, about as many beets, and perhaps twice as many potatoes.  We managed to put away some peas, and a fair bit of fruit, but I have not done any canning at all.  I bought my pumpkins from the farmer’s market, and was given a bunch of squash by neighbours.  Mom is bringing us a few things from her own garden surplus, and Hubby’s mom did the same earlier in the year, so it’s not like we’ll starve (fat chance) or be reduced to *gasp* buying carrots or anything.   Our onions did really well, though, and we got a decent harvest of tomatoes.  Sort of.


We harvested the tomatoes on Sept 8th, by pulling the plants by the roots, then storing them on the basement floor to ripen while we were gone to my sister’s wedding in Alaska. We did not do anything more with them until approximately 3 weeks later.


Not sure of the exact harvest weight, but a significant percentage (maybe close to half) had gone bad in the 3 weeks they were on the floor. They probably should have been hung up, as the side of each plant not touching the floor had significantly fewer rotten ones. Also, Hubby did not realize that the Black Krim toms were supposed to look like that, and he disposed of several which were probably fine. Similarly, he did not realize about the Green Zebras staying green, so we failed to pick numerous ripe tomatoes on time before they rotted. Note to self: let Hubby know when you’re planting unusual varieties that may perform differently from usual expectations.


Hubby is eating the cherry tomatoes as they come ripe, and quite enjoying them.


I cut up a roasting pan full (and I mean overflowing full) of ripe tomatoes, and roasted them at 250-275 for about 15 hours over two days. I was scared to leave them unsupervised overnight, but actually I could have done so without worries, early in the process – they don’t seem to need a lot of stirring until after they have reduced by about 30-40%. Next time, I’d chop them in the afternoon, and throw them in the oven in the evening to cook overnight and all the next day. Then I’d process them the next afternoon / evening.


I processed the roasted tomatoes after they had reduced to less than 50% of their original volume, and started to get a bit browned . Processing involved throwing the pulpy mess into the food sieve and mashing through until all the pulp was separated from the skins and seeds. That took maybe 15 minutes. This year, I then packaged it in ziplocs and threw it in the freezer; it could also easily be canned. I just did not have enough to bother with running the canner. I got 5 cups of tomato sauce that was about halfway between the consistency of commercial tomato sauce and commercial tomato paste – quite thick. I packaged it in 1-cup containers, as I think I will likely thin it down with water for most recipes. The flavor is very intense.


This was SOOOO much easier than peeling, seeding, chopping, and boiling (especially with trying not to burn) like we did back in 2009; I could actually see trying to process multiple bushels this way, especially if you had enough deep pans, like roasters and cake pans. It would be most efficient to fill the oven with as many pans as would fit, I think, and you still wouldn’t be left with an overwhelming amount to process in the end. In fact, you would need several deep roasters going just to get a canner load worth of finished sauce.


This used up about 40% of our tomatoes (and all of the ripe ones, except cherry toms for Hubby). If the rest ripen in large enough batches, they will receive the same treatment.


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I was recently accused, via a post on facebook, of Food Insanity.  Oh, the poster did not call it that, but I don’t think it’s a stretch.  This happened by way of a link to a blog post at Northwest Edible Life:  The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater.  While it’s a funny post, and parts of it hit rather close to home, I don’t think we’re quite that far gone yet.


I could try to argue that we’re saving money by growing our own, but any savings from the garden are more than offset by the price of the goats and chickens and their hay and grain.  Forget the $64 tomato; we’re somewhere in the range of the $140 pound of (fresh, artisan, organic) ricotta and the $20 (fresh, free-range, organic) egg.   I’m sure we could buy groceries, even organic ones, for less.


The truth is, we do this because we love it.  Hubby has never been happier with his ‘job’, and I am happy with my low-stress husband.  We get to play in the dirt, keep cool pets like goats and alpacas, and hang out in the sunshine without having our view spoiled by fences or neighbours.  Rather than going to the gym, we get our workouts digging in the garden, pruning trees, picking berries, hauling water, and pitching bales.  At the end of all of that, we actually have something to show for it, too, which is a nice benefit.  We are both happier, and more relaxed, since we moved to the country; this is a lifestyle that suits us well, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we got pregnant just six months after moving here, despite all the issues we’d had before.


For instance, a couple of days ago, we spent a lovely sunny afternoon picking chokecherries along a neighbour’s lane.   Last year, we picked mostly here at the acreage, but the storm in June took out quite a few of our chokecherry trees, and blocked our access to many more with fallen trees and debris.  The neighbours have tons of bushes that are easily accessible, and had no plans to pick them; we spent a relaxing couple of hours gathering a few gallons of berries.  They were happy to let us at them, for the promise of a pint or two of chokecherry syrup later, once it cools down enough to do the processing.


(This is where I wax poetic about homestead food.  You can’t get chokecherry syrup in the store, and I have never seen chokecherries for sale…)



Recipe:  Chokecherry Syrup


For this recipe, you need chokecherry juice.  If you are lucky like me and inherited a steam juicer, this is not a problem.  For the rest of the poor folks in the world, though, you have to do a little bit of extra work.  Boil the berries for a few minutes in just a little bit of water, and crush them up as best you can with a potato masher to release the juice.   Put the whole mess in a strainer lined with a couple layers of cheesecloth, positioned over a bowl or bucket to catch the juice, and let drain overnight.


For the syrup, mix 3 cups of chokecherry juice with 6 1/2 cups of sugar.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Boil hard for one minute, then ladle into jars.  Process in a water bath for 20 minutes.


We serve warmed chokecherry syrup over pancakes.  It’s a great Saturday morning treat on a cold winter day!


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It felt like a day to accomplish something, though we did not really get going in very good time.  I managed to sleep in until 7:30, then we lingered in the barn, playing with the goats.  We decided to try to get the buckling drinking from a bucket instead of a bottle, which was an entertaining process that ended with me wearing considerably less milk than I had really expected. We will be weaning him in earnest sometime in the next couple of weeks.


After chores, we went for a little wander around the forest behind the house.  I found a thicket of wild roses that were still in bloom – I thought all the flowers had all come and gone here, and had been quite sad about that, as I had really wanted to try making rose jelly to go with the dandelion jelly I made a few weeks ago.


We went and grabbed buckets to pick into, then got right at it.  Despite our best efforts, however, we came up short of the quart of loosely packed petals the recipe called for.  That’s when Hubby commented that we had seen some roses still in bloom in the ditches around the Acreage, and maybe we should go have a look around the provincial forest just down the road, in case there were any there.


resized IMG_4871


Hubby’s idea was inspired.  We hopped in the car with our buckets and bug spray, and Hubby brought his camera with the macro lens.  In just an hour’s picking, we came home with well over  a quart of petals, plus Hubby got some fantastic pictures of the local insect life:


resized IMG_4904


Anyhow, we came home, and I made my peace with the Jam Gods.  I started out with a recipe, then modified it beyond all recognition, and it even worked!  Here is what I did:


I simmered one quart of (loosely packed) wild rose petals in one quart of water for about 15 minutes, until the petals had gone all clear and gobby.  I strained the petals, and added the juice of two lemons, which, incidentally, took the rose water from an unappetizing brownish color to an incredible shade of pink that I did not believe occurred in nature, but I digress…


I topped up the rose / lemon liquid with water, to make an even 4 cups, added a pectin packet (regular, not low-sugar), and brought it to a boil.  Once boiling, I added 5 1/2 cups of sugar, brought the whole mess back to a rolling boil, and boiled it for one minute, as per the pectin packet directions.


After taking the jelly off the heat, I ladled it into jars, then water bath processed the lot.  Some people just sterilize the jars, but I just don’t want to run the risk of losing a whole batch of jelly, especially when the wild rose petal-picking took so long, and is only really an option for a few weeks out of the entire year.  That is the upside and the downside to seasonal fare, I suppose – it is short-lived, then you get to anticipate it until next year.


The jelly did not set up right away, but after a couple of hours, was plenty solid enough.  It is not overly sweet, which is nice, and I think it would be good with cream cheese (maybe on a cheesecake?)  or in jam cookies, as well as on toast.  This one will be a novel addition to some future gift baskets, for sure!


resized IMG_9445

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(Or, What I Did With My Pressure Canner Today)


Ages ago, there was a great sale on cryovac meat at the local grocery store.  Something completely ridiculous like a dollar a pound, for beef.  I bought a lot of it at the time, and when I say a lot, I mean thirty or forty pounds.  I figured, for a buck a pound, cut half-and-half with porridge oats (about ten cents a pound) and vegetable scraps from people food preparation (free), we could feed the dogs a whole pile cheaper than the premium dog food that they normally get.  My dogs get this sort of stuff (though usually freezer-burnt) as a semi-regular treat anyways, and they love it.


Now, my dogs are big, but not that big.  They are also better fed than a lot of people.  They could probably have polished those great hunks of meat in a week, but I doled it out, a couple pounds at a time.  The big chunks went in the freezer, to await their turn as doggy supper, and a couple of packages promptly made their way into the rift in the time-space continuum that resides somewhere in the bottom of that stupid appliance.


Hubby and I were cleaning and inventorying the freezer last week, in anticipation of new additions from the farmer’s market and garden, and came across about fifteen pounds of meat in the bottom.  I thought:  “Hey, what a great excuse to try out the pressure canner!”


I got the pressure canner ages ago, last fall, with the intent of canning up a whole bunch of produce, and I sure it would have worked really well, had it fit on our stove.  Note to self:  when building a house, watch how low you put the exhaust fan over the stove.  Fortunately, they apparently did not have over-the-stove exhaust fans in Saskatchewan in 1959…or, at least, not in this house.  Bad for indoor air quality, but great for canning.  I’ve got about five feet of clearance between the stove top and the ceiling.  Which is good, because the pressure canner is about four feet tall.


I am exaggerating, of course, but that monster really is huge.  It claims to fit nineteen pint jars, or fourteen quarts, in two layers.  It is about the size of a five-gallon bucket.  Unfortunately, Canadian canning jars appear to be a different shape than American, as I was not able to fit two layers of quart (1L) jars, but I can do lots and lots of pints (500 mL jars) at once.


My Mother In Law, who was raised on a farm in Alberta, wondered aloud why I would need to spend all that money on a pressure canner.  I told her it was for canning meat, mostly.   She replied that her mom had always just water-bath canned meat, boiling it for an hour and a half.  I know that was common practice, and my grandma probably did that, too, but a water bath cannot get hotter than 100 degrees, Celsius, and botulism spores can survive that.  It doesn’t happen often, hardly ever at all, but I have no interest whatsoever in checking out what botulism poisoning feels like.   Hubby, of course, has eaten venison that was water-bath canned by one of his Uncles, but I am just waaayy too chicken to try.


Anyways, I took a hunk ‘o’ beef out of the freezer on Friday, thinking it would take a couple of days to thaw.  The forecast for Sunday was cold and raining.  Of course, that was the forecast for Monday through Saturday, too, but I digress.   I cubed up the meat, and was quite surprised to find it only filled six pints, plus the bellies of two dogs.  There was quite a pile of trimmings, but luckily they did not go to waste…with these dogs in the house, I don’t need pigs to feed the kitchen scraps to!


I followed all of the instructions in the manual, which I read twice.  I checked all the gauges, fiddled with the lid, took a deep breath, and turned on the stove.  I have heard horror stories about exploding pressure cookers, including one from Granny that included beet juice on the ceiling and a bad scalding.  Hubby and the critters have apparently heard those same stories, as everyone was creeping around the kitchen on tiptoes, as though there was a live rattlesnake on the stove, that would bite them if they walked too close, or made too much noise.   I have an All American canner, which regulates pressure by way of a weight over a valve, and the jiggling and hissing of steam escaping drove the cats nuts.  Well, actually, it is a slightly annoying noise, and it drove me a little nuts, too, but unfortunately, I couldn’t retreat to a hidey-hole under the bed, as I had to supervise the process.   I wondered a bit about the stream escaping from around the lid seal, but apparently that is fairly normal for the first few uses.   It looked kind of terrifying, though.


Seventy five rather tense minutes later, I turned the monster off to cool.  Half an hour after that, I very carefully opened the lid, and retrieved six pint of well-cooked and still-boiling cubed beef.  It actually looks pretty tasty.


I know people do this every day, but I, for one, am pretty proud of myself…

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…Actually, it’s not just the Jam Gods.  It’s also the Chicken Coop Gods, the Hitting Yourself in the Knee with a Hammer gods, and the Sore Back Gods.  I think they are having a good old laugh at my expense.


We got going on the barn at about 6:00 this morning, as we wanted to get things finished up before the chickens arrive…tomorrow.  Things went fairly well until about 11:00, when we ran out of nails.   It all got pretty frustrating very quickly after that.  Hubby moved some straw bales around and was off doing useful things, but my back was too sore to contemplate most of the useful stuff that I could reasonably tackle.  With my back being so messed up, I can’t reliably work the clutch in the car, so I couldn’t even drive into town for more nails.  It’s probably for the best, as it would be an awful waste to spend $10 in gas to buy $5 in nails.


I was leaning in the doorway of one of the stalls, contemplating the goats’ million dollar view, when I noticed the dandelions getting thick again, even though Hubby just mowed the lawn.  in the spirit of good permaculture, I decided to try to make a resource out of something that is otherwise a nuisance.


I wandered inside and googled ‘dandelion recipes’, and came up with some interesting ideas for a batch of wine.  Unfortunately, they all seemed to call for about four gallons (!) of dandelion flowers.  I decided I had nothing better to do, and at least crawling around on all fours doesn’t aggravate my back.  It was interesting getting down there with a bucket – I noticed all sorts of bugs that I would never normally see, as well as really looking closely at dandelions for probably the first time.  Once you get past the ‘noxious weed’ mindset, they are actually quite pretty.  I was even kind of enjoying myself, but after about two gallons’ worth of dandelion heads picked, the knee I smacked with the hammer earlier (don’t ask) started to protest.  I couldn’t keep picking, but I did not want to have wasted all that effort.


I eventually found a recipe for dandelion jelly that looked pretty good, and only used ingredients I happened to have on hand.  It was fiddly, as you have to cut the petals off of each flower, enough to make a quart of petals (which takes about two quarts of flowers), but again, I had lots of time.  I cut the petals off the couple gallons of flowers I had, and got to work.


The first batch of jelly, I got over-excited, and put the sugar in before the pectin.  That one may just be syrup.  The second batch, I used low-sugar pectin, because I had run out of the regular stuff, and the whole thing set into a solid mass the second I added the sugar.  I am not sure what I did wrong there, as I followed the directions exactly.  Panicking, I added more dandelion broth and sugar, but it just turned into a lumpy soup, even after bringing back to a boil.  That used up almost all of my dandelion broth, so the planned third batch did not happen.  This really sucks, as it actually tastes great, even if neither batch gelled properly.   I am already looking forward to having some on pancakes.


So, in case anyone else wants to tempt the Jam Gods, here is the recipe for Dandelion Jelly:


1 quart dandelion petals (takes about 2 quarts of flowers.  I just used scissors to cut the petals off)

2 quarts water

Boil these together for about 10 minutes.  Strain through several layers of cheesecloth, or a jelly bag.  Add the juice of one lemon.


Measure out 3 cups of dandelion juice, and put it back in the pot.  Return to heat, and add one box of (regular!) pectin.  Following the directions on the package, add 5 cups of sugar (my packet said to add the sugar once the juice has come to a boil, then return to a boil for one full minute before removing from heat).  Ladle into pint or half-pint jars, and process for ten minutes.


Hopefully it will work better for you than it did for me, but by all means try it – it really does taste great!

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We eat a lot of yogurt. It’s good stuff, and good for you. Someday, we’ll make it from milk and cream from our own cow, or maybe goat. In the meantime, we make it from stuff we get from the store…it is unbelievably easy. Today, I had my homemade yogurt with a bit of sugar and a few big spoonfuls of raspberries that I canned last fall. It was divine.



I make my yogurt in glass containers. I have been making it two quarts at a time, and they will last a couple of months in the fridge. Well, not around here, but theoretically they would, if I didn’t eat them up first…

Measure out your milk and cream (I use half 1% milk and half 10% coffee cream). You can vary the proportions, or even leave the cream out entirely. It just tastes richer with cream in it, is all. The easiest way to measure is to just pour the milk and cream into the containers you will be using. Glass quart (4 cup / 1L) jars work really well.

Pour the milk / cream mixture into a good-sized pot, and bring to a boil on the stove, stirring constantly. While this is warming up, rinse out your jars with hot soapy water. I sometimes pour a bit of boiling water in and swish it around. This serves two purposes – it kills off any bacteria in the jar, and it also warms the jar, so that pouring in boiling milk does not cause it to break from the sudden temperature change. Once the milk boils, pour it into your jar(s). Put the lid on loosely, and set it in a draft-free place to cool a bit. Once the jar is cool enough that you can hold it in your hand without burning, open the lid and stir in a tablespoon of yogurt from your last batch, or from a container of store-bought yogurt that has an active culture (it will be labeled as such). Put the lid on tight, wrap the jar in a towel, and set it in a warmish spot, like the counter beside the refrigerator. The idea is to keep it warm for several hours. I usually do this after supper, and leave the towel-wrapped jar on the counter overnight. In the morning, it has solidified, and you can put it in the fridge. Now you have plain yogurt.

You can flavor it any way you like, or just eat it plain. Today I had mine with canned raspberries.


    Canned Raspberries:


We pick our raspberries by the ice cream bucket. As soon as we get home, we rinse the berries, gently so as not to mash them, and pack them snugly  into pint jars. We make a syrup of 2 parts sugar to 3 parts water to pour over the berries – for each pint of berries, you need about one cup of syrup. After pouring the syrup over the berries, we put the lids and rings on the jars, and process for 15 minutes (at 3,000 feet) in a boiling water bath.


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We brought quite a variety of canned goods with us to Saskatchewan – some for gifts, and some to contribute to Christmas dinner (and dinners to follow).  We provided Christmas dinner dessert – rum spiced pears over ice cream, which met with rave reviews, and even some folks going for seconds, despite being groaning-full from Mom’s turkey feast.  The other surprise hit was dill pickled beans, which my cousin managed to scarf half a jar of before Mom wrestled them away from him…

So, in the interest of spreading joy and canning skills, the recipes:

Dilly Beans recipe (4 pints):

2 lbs fresh green beans

4 cloves garlic

4 heads of fresh dill OR 4 tsp dill seed

½ tsp red pepper flakes (2010 I added more like ¼ tsp per jar)

2 ½ cups vinegar

2 ½ cups water

2 tbsp kosher salt

Wash and tip beans. Peel garlic, and place one clove in each pint jar, along with one head of dill (or 1 tsp dill seed) and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Pack each jar full of beans. Bring water, vinegar, and salt to a boil, and ladle hot brine over beans, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Processed for 15 min at 3200 feet (for pints)

Rum Spiced Pears

For the syrup:

2 cinnamon sticks

6 cloves (whole)

2 cups dark rum

4 cups water

2 cups sugar

Boil these ingredients together for awhile, to blend the flavors and dissolve the sugar.  In the meantime, wash, quarter, and core the pears (about 2-3 pears per pint, 4-5 per quart).  In each quart jar, place 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half or thirds, and two cloves.  Pack the pears into the jars, and pour the hot syrup over them, leaving about 1 inch of headspace.  Process in a water bath canner for 25 – 30 min (at 3200 feet).

Makes about 6 quarts (or 5 with some rum left over to drink)

To serve, open the jar and heat the contents, then spoon pears and syrup over ice cream.

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