The last few batches I've processed in my boiling water canner have produced jars with an undesirable white film on them. This film is also coating the inside of the canner. I've determined that it is hard water residue. I guess I didn't think we had hard water in this region, but there you go.
It can be pretty successfully removed by washing the jars in soap and water, using more soap as if you were washing something greasy. I've also read that soaking the jars in a solution of one cup of vinegar to a gallon of water for several hours removes it.
Next round of canning, I am going to add some vinegar to the water to help clean it off the inside of my kettle.
Also, I've never used pectin. I always cook my fruit down to be highly concentrated and my preserves have contained only fruit, sugar, and lemon. I bought both the regular powdered pectin and the low/no sugar, but I found the instruction pamphlets confusing and thought I might end up destroying some jam, so I've avoided them. I also use far less sugar than most recipes call for. I confess I'm appalled when I see how much sugar is called for in most recipes. When you are new to canning though, it is probably advisable to stick with the recipes and directions until you get the hang of it. Then you can start playing.
Adding lemon works on a couple of levels. The lemon contains high amounts of pectin and acid which will help gel and preserve the end product. Lemon also helps retain color and imparts another level of flavor.
I made another batch of apple butter which yielded five pints this time. I really loaded the crock pot and the second batch was all gala apples. I think you can expect four pints out of a six quart crock pot on a regular basis. In the second batch I added a squeezed, seeded lemon and the flavor was really different. The tartness was nice, but I would probably only use half a lemon next time. I ended up adding a cup of white sugar to the puree as I was reducing it slightly. With both batches after putting the apples through the food mill, I've cooled it completely in my garage fridge and reheated it for processing the next day. The crock pot food mill method takes a long time and makes quite a mess, so you might want to spread it over two days. Just remember that you need to heat the fruit puree to a full boil and boil it for a few minutes before you ladle it into the hot jars.
Another note on fruit. If, like me, your garden doesn't produce enough of any one thing for a canning adventure, you can turn to the farmer's market. I'm lucky enough to live a beautiful, fifteen minute scenic drive from Remlinger Farms and that's where I've been getting my fruit this summer. Grocery store fruit may not be ideal for canning.
I am now trying to decide whether to make another batch of the godhead red plum jam or move on to chutneys and relishes...in the dead of winter I think I'm going to want that scarlet vixen red plum jam on my morning whole wheat english muffin...
And I still have to wait another TWO WEEKS to see how the pickles turned out. Like the pessimist I am, I'm keeping my expectations low and hoping to be pleasantly surprised!