Thursday, January 22, 2015

Some things I've figured out and tips to be aware of....

Well, as some of you may have noticed over the past year, I have become quite the canning and food preservation addict. I've had so much fun exploring new flavors, trying and picking new to me fruits and vegetables and putting them up to enjoy through the winter until the next season starts. And I will sadly admit that I probably forgot one of the basic cardinal rules of having food intolerances and celiac. That rule is; ALWAYS READ the labels, EVERY Label!

Read the labels of every ingredient you use to help make that jelly or pickles, etc. DUH! I wasn't as diligent as I should have been, much to my body's distress.

My error and glossing over that simple rule is most likely part of the reason I've dealt with gastric issues all winter. Insert embarrassed facepalm here.

I never even thought to check labels on the pectins used to make my jams and jellies. I just figured that pectin = fruit, right? Well I was wrong. Many commercial companies are sneaky, they love adding unnecessary things to products to extend shelf life and cut down costs and amounts of prime ingredients. Blech....

This is one of the main things I discovered.... Many pectins are processed in facilities that also process wheat and soy, many also contain ingredients from corn, like maltodextrin, dextrose, and usually require lots of sugar to make your jams and jellies. And all that sugar isn't good for those that can't be having sugar either.

So I began to research and really start reading labels of commercial pectins. Sadly most all have that little disclaimer that they're made in facilities that also process wheat, most all contain derivatives of corn in the form of maltodextrin or dextrose. Clear jel/gel and Perma Flo are modified corn starches, and they aren't certified GF either or GMO free.

Well, what is someone like me to use to make goodies that call for pectin or clear jel? I can't use corn products or possible products that may have wheat contamination?

A couple options, I can make my own liquid pectin from citrus rind, apples or other high pectin fruits, or find a certified GF pectin commercially. The only one to date that I have found that is simple citrus pectin, gluten free and corn free is Pomona's Pectin.  They also will work without sugar or very low sugar. I am hoping to try it out this coming season early until apples and such come into season so I can make some of my own.

For me on the clear jel issue and pie fillings or those recipes calling for clear jel, (it's a ultra fine modified corn starch), I've had to be resourceful on my own and experiment on starches I know are safe for me. And while this isn't officially approved with the national canning associations yet, I've been using Arrowroot starch successfully which takes less than the modified corn starches that are clear jel, perma flo, etc. I found I did not get any separation of the finished product months later, things thickened nicely and quickly and several months in from canning them, still look and taste just fine. Though I will note if you haven't used arrowroot starch in cooking or aren't familiar with it, there are tips and tricks to successfully using it so it doesn't clump and fall to the bottom.

Please understand that I am not recommending you use this starch alternative, I want you to be safe, and follow safe canning practices,  I am only stating what I have tried and found successful for my dietary restrictions. And if I find ways to make and thicken things without clear jel, I will certainly share them with you!

I am recommending that if you have intolerances or allergies to foods and such, please, read the labels carefully for all ingredients, unlike myself! Do a little research and source your ingredients from places that can ensure there is no cross contamination, or ingredients that may trigger distress for you. Make your own mixes for pickling, they're simple really, use whole ingredients, fresh things, and be safe as you go along. And I promise that as I go through this coming season, I will certainly be sharing recipes for yummy things to put up to enjoy through the year. And I hope to do so much more than I did this past season.

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