Competitors are often surprised to learn I don't taste products. Because a sealed jar doesn't ensure a safe product (previously discussed here), I judge the jars on other properties. A lot can be learned just by looking at the jar:
- Food Maturity: Green beans should be tender and young. Large beans are generally overly mature and tough. Pickles should be made using small pickling cucumbers, which when harvested young, have small seeds.
- Appropriate headspace: Recipes can call for anywhere from 1 1/4 inch to 1/4 inch headspace.
- Submerged food: Liquid should cover the food. Exposed food can discolor during storage.
- Clarity of liquid: Cloudy liquid can be caused by over processing, causing the food to break down (different produce varieties also stand up better to canning).
- Discolored food: Light colored fruit, like apples, pears and peaches, can oxidize and brown during preparation and processing.
- Correct pack: Peaches should be cut in half, cavity side down. Whole fruit, like cherries, should be packed tightly without crushing fruit.
- Fruit spreads: Jellies should be clear, not cloudy and move slightly. Jams should have a tighter set with bits of fruit distributed throughout the jar.
- Firm seal: An unsealed jar is automatically disqualified.
|Jars are arranged by class. I prefer to judge in front of|
exhibitors (open judging). Questions are encouraged.
|The applesauce in the center was placed first. The other two sauces oxidized |
(safe to eat, but discolored from browning fruit during
processing). The jar on the left has too much headspace.
|Neither of these jars of sweet cherries won first place. The jar on the left |
doesn't have enough headspace and the fruit is packed loosely.
The cherries on the right are sitting above the liquid.
|These were all nice jars of sour cherries. The center and right jars |
both had too little headspace with fruit outside the liquid.
|To judge jellies, I pass a light through the jar. The clearer the jelly, the higher |
the quality. How do you ensure clear liquid? Refrain from squeezing
the jelly bag as it force bits of pulp into the fruit juice.
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