Tag Archives: canning

Just Beet It!

23 Nov

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“You’re pickling what with what now?”

This was my roommates reaction when I started making pickled eggs and beets. I didn’t realize that you wouldn’t know about this dish if you didn’t grow up near amish country. I guess you could pickle eggs without adding beets, but why miss an opportunity to eat something fluorescent pink?

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I started with this recipe but I didn’t have any cinnamon stick. Instead of using ground cinnamon I decided to omit it entirely and added a bit of pepper. I found I had way more beet juice than the recipe predicted so I added a bit more sugar and vinegar and tossed in a few more eggs. In total I pickled eight eggs, but I probably could have fit more in the batch. In the future I’ll probably add a clove or two of garlic.

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Mostly I just eat them straight from the jar, but I did manage to act like an adult one night this week and put them on a salad. I don’t know if they’ll last long enough for me to try them with any other dish.

~Robin

Outbreak

3 Nov

My roommate Rebecca reacted to the Great 2013 Canning Bender with the same sassy bemusement that she reserves for, well… all of my antics. She would walk into the kitchen and see me sweating over the stove, elbow-deep in slimy peach goo, and just shake her head and quietly chuckle to herself. She must have thought I didn’t notice.

I first suspected she was up to something when I saw her CSA veggies overflowing the fridge week after week. How could a single person (even a vegetarian) eat all of that produce before it spoiled? My suspicions grew after I saw her eating pickles. Homemade pickles. Pickles that I didn’t make.

Then I found this in the kitchen:

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She was definitely up to something. I laid a trap (by which I mean I sat on the counter with my camera until she walked back into the kitchen). She moved so quickly that the photos are blurry but here it is folks: photographic proof of my darkest suspicions.

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This canning thing is contagious.

Alert the CDC.

~Robin

P.S. She was making this recipe.

Millions of Peaches

22 Sep

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I wanted to take my quest to can seasonal food to the hyper-local level. With that goal in mind I romped a few hundred feet up the hill to my friend Sarah’s house armed with a fruit picker. Sarah’s house has a peach tree growing in her yard that caught the attention of a local bear last year. She offered free fruit to anyone willing to pick it before the bears found it again.

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As it turns out I didn’t even need the fruit picker. All it took was a sturdy shake, and the tree rained peaches. Within a few minutes I had more peaches than I knew what to do with.

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I learned the hard way that preserving a five gallon bucket’s worth of tiny peaches is an enormous undertaking. If you’re going to try it you had better be committed (to the task, but possibly also to a place with padded walls). Blanching and coring them was a huge pain. These little peaches aren’t the freestone variety that you find in the supermarket, so getting the pit to surrender the fruit is easy as ripping a chronically bored teenager away from their smartphone.

I froze a few pounds for smoothies but the rest of that five gallon bucket went into cans.

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Peach Butter from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

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Peach Salsa

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Brandied Peaches from The Preservation Kitchen

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Andy is excited for peaches. I’m still exhausted by the very thought of them.

~Robin

The Great Tomato Canning Adventure

19 Sep

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Aside from it’s rampant popularity, there were two reasons why canning piqued my interest. I like the idea of eating seasonally and locally, and I would love to reduce the number of jars I pitch into the recycle bin. I realized that I use a lot of canned products, particularly marinara sauce and salsa. The rate at which I accumulate these jars is frankly alarming. Fortunately my canning bender and tomato season hit about the same time.

I started with this salsa. I had never heard of Anaheim peppers before reading the recipe.

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As it turns out Anaheim peppers are a bit grumpy.

The best part of this recipe is the roasting. I have a bit of experience roasting peppers, but I had never even considered roasting tomatoes before. It was a revelation. It filled the house with an amazing tomatoey aroma, and the tomatoes tasted incredible. I even enjoyed munching on the leftover tomato skins. In the future I will be looking for any excuse I can find to to roast tomatoes.

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Happy Spoon also approves of roasted tomatoes.

I was so happy with how the salsa came out that I decided I wanted to roast the rest of my tomatoes. I had originally planned to make marinara sauce with them, but I was horrified appalled outraged shocked when I saw that the recipe called for ten pounds of tomatoes to make three itty bitty pint jars of sauce. I have never made marinara sauce from scratch before; I had no idea that the jars of store bought sauce that I crack open nearly every single week use so much.

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Instead I opted for this recipe which calls for roasting then canning the tomatoes whole. This does mean that when I want to use these suckers I’m going to have to go through some extra work to turn them into sauce.

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Happy Spoon promises to be there for me when that time comes. I hope it’s worth it.

~Robin

In a Pickle

17 Sep

The great 2013 Yosemite canning bender all started with my friends Lauren and Glikin. They recently bought a beautiful patch of dirt in Cathey’s Valley and started Raw Roots Farm. When I got back into town I stopped by their table at taco night and bought a few of these cute little cucumbers. Little did I know that those cucumbers would be the tiny little pebbles that started the avalanche.

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I took them home and made them into refrigerator pickles. I used fresh dill because I didn’t have any dill seed and because fresh dill is one of the most magical things on earth.

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The recipe also said to let them cure for at least a day before eating them but I got curious about twelve hours later and tried one. With the help of a few roommates and friends that first jar barely lasted a day.

Thanks for the cucumbers guys! If you hurry I might let you try some from the last jar before they disappear.

~Robin

I’ve Caught Canning Fever

15 Sep

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In case you haven’t noticed canning is in. I don’t know if this is the direct result of the Mason jar craft mania that’s been rioting all over Pinterest or because everything is in season and now is the time to can. In any case it must be contagious because somewhere in the middle of all the insanity of the past few weeks I decided that it was high time that I tried canning. (Also, I’m pretty sure April is at least partly to blame here.)

My quest began, as most great quests do, at the library where I found The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant. Of all the canning books I’ve scoped out recently (and there have been a lot) this book is my favorite so far. I love that he gives ingredient lists in grams, ounces, percentages, and regular old cups and spoons. The recipes are pretty enticing, and it doesn’t hurt that the photography is gorgeous.

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I was visiting family in Ohio, so I headed to the Countryside Conservancy Farmers Market at Howe Meadow in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I was thrilled to see that the farmers market has more than doubled in size since I was last there.

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I knew I wanted to start with pickling, so I just bought a bunch of whatever was in season and I had a recipe for.

After a few hours in the kitchen with the (much needed) supervision of Amanda I had my first canned goods.

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Pickled Candy Onions and Grilled and Pickled Sweet Peppers.

Ironically, because I had to hop on a plane back to California without checking luggage, I couldn’t take them with me. I gave a few cans to Amanda; she’s going to have to tell me how they turned out because I won’t be able to taste them for awhile.

Any sane person would have probably stopped here right?

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I am clearly not sane. After I had gotten settled back in Yosemite, I went on a canning bender of epic proportions. Brace yourself.

~Robin

Canning Again

22 Jul

It’s been forever since I canned.  “Oh, April,” you say, “Don’t exaggerate so!” (I love how proper you are.)  Okay, it obviously hasn’t been forever, but to give you an idea of time I’m pretty sure this is the last thing I canned.  That was 2011 guys!  That’s over two years ago!  Part of the problem is that I realized that I don’t really like jams and jellies.  And I’m not that convinced my loved ones like them that much either.  So, while I enjoy the creativity of it, my overflowing cupboard of canned goods started dissuading me.  Also, I just wasn’t home as much anymore and it seemed like when I did have a day to myself it was used for cleaning.  That’s one fun aspect of living solo.

Even though I haven’t canned much, I did have the intention to and last year I purchased this pot which was recommended by Food in Jars.  I do love this pot.  I use it for steaming and boiling veggies, boiling water for tea, cooking pasta… you name it.  I just hadn’t used it for the purpose I had purchased it for until last week.

As I told you earlier, my garden is tripping me out this year.  I can’t believe I’ve been able to get so much out of a few pots!  Last year, I had planted four pots of cucumbers in the hopes of pickling something I grew and all four of them died.  This year, in a that continuing quest, I purchased a pepperocini plant.  I love pickled pepperocinis on sandwiches or in salads and my serrano and cayenne plants were pretty successful last year, so it seemed like a good choice.

I finally had a good bumper crop of pepperocinis – about seven good-sized peppers – so I took to the stove.  I grabbed some serranos and put them in with a second 4 oz batch.  I’m interested to see how the pickled serranos taste in my guacamole.  With the smaller pot, it only took about an hour to prepare and can my goods, rather than the half a day it takes with the big guy. 

I just made a brine of three cups of water, one cup of white vinegar and about a tablespoon and a half of pickling salt.  I packed the peppers in (probably not as tightly as I could have) with half a garlic clove.  I put a small slice in the serranos first, but pickled them whole. 

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Now it’s the worst part o pickling… time to wait and see how this batch went.  I’m hoping to get another dozen or so peppers to make another set in the next few weeks.  This small batch canning is addicting!

~ April

A Canning Cocktail

9 Aug

I’ve been gone!  And you’ve missed me! (Don’t lie, I know you have) I’m settled back home and am finally getting into the swing of things.   As promised, I will share photos of my adventures in the near future, but for now I’ve got other good things to share.

This weekend I had time to spend a day in the kitchen making a mess canning.  I have this weird thing about wanting to can things I would not be interested in eating.  To be honest, I don’t even really like jelly or jams.  Every now and then I’ll go through a “I forgot how awesome PB&J is” phase, but that’s the extent of it.  Case in point: I dislike peach flavored things.  I like peaches, but unless they are in their whole form, I could care less.  This weekend at the farmers’ market, tested my resolve since peaches were all the rage.  I’d planned on canning whatever looked best, so home I returned with a bag of peaches.

After about three minutes looking at recipes, I realized my dilemma.  I was just not going to enjoy eating any of these recipes, as interesting as they were.  Then, I had a brilliant realization:

I could eat anything as long as there’s liquor in it.

So, with a mixture of searching around the liquor cabinet and some online investigation, I settled on a peach concoction that I can’t wait to try. Peach Amaretto Jam. A lot of the recipes of the same sort use butter, but I didn’t feel safe water bath canning butter, so I used this one instead. But that’s not the real purpose of this post.

See, I didn’t use all that much amaretto for the jam so I just had to pour some into a glass.  I mean, what’s the point in cooking with alcohol otherwise?  And then while skimming off the foam when the jam reached a boil, I had a revelation (yeah, another one).

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Doesn’t this just LOOK good?  If peach and amaretto taste good in a jam it tastes way better in a cocktail.  I probably dolloped too much of the foam over the amaretto and ended up with a pretty sugary cocktail so you should definitely invite your friends over and serve everyone from one batch of jam. And the combinations are pretty endless.  Blueberry jam foam on top of vodka.  Strawberry or mango with rum.  I found this cool site that offers up suggestions for taste pairings, which is useful for canning in general as well as cocktail-making.

So what do you think of my invention?  Yay or nay?  What combos would you try?

Oh yeah, guys… remember the Not-So-Lazy Giveaway is still open.  I’ve seen a lot of the goodies in person and they are definitely worth an entry, even if you hate bicyclists.

~April (in Autumn)

Spiced Grapefruit Marmalade

24 Feb

I tend to like experimenting with things.  I rarely follow a pattern or recipe 100% exactly.  I’m sure many of you are the same way.  When I started canning, that inclination disappeared.  Canning intimidated me.  If you do something different with a sewing pattern, the worst that can happen is you have to rip out some seams.  If you change up a stir fry it might not taste all that great.  Even baking, which I often avoid because of its fussiness, just leaves you with an inedible mess if your alterations go awry.

Canning is another story.  If you screw up canning, you can give someone botulism and land them in the hospital.  That’s what I gathered, anyway, and for my first year of canning I wouldn’t change so much as a grain of sugar in my recipes.  Then I started reading Tigress in a Jam.  Going over the entries to her Can Jam 2010, I saw a ton of experimentation gone right.  It encouraged me enough to try my own modifications.

That’s how I created:

Spiced Grapefruit Marmalade
adapted from Grapefruit Marmalade recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

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The grapefruits I used were actually a cross between a grapefruit and an orange.  It also turned out more syrupy than I would have liked.  I’m hoping to revise the recipe in the future to give you one that gels much more nicely.

Makes about 3 half-pints. Takes (me) about 1.5 hours to prepare with at least 12 hours of resting time.

Ingredients
About 2 1/2 smaller grapefruit. Since mine were hybrids they were pretty small. You’ll need to get 1 1/3 cups of pulp out of them.
6 cups of water
Sugar (have at least 6 cups on hand to be safe)
2/3 cup of citrus peel. You can definitely use the grapefruit, but I used kishu peels because they were available and different. Also, since they’re so thin, there was less work to remove the white rind.
Spice mix

Spice Mix
As in all of my recipes, I didn’t measure exact amounts of spice for this. Instead I’ll give you the types of spices I used and you can adjust to your tastes. You could also use mulling spices, because that’s basically what this is.
Brown sugar
Cinnamon
Allspice
Nutmeg
Cloves

The Process
Mix your spice mix in a shallow wide bowl. Cut the grapefruits in half and dip the open end in the spices. Place peel side down in an oven safe pan and put under the broiler for a few minutes, just until the top is starting to brown.

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(these are pre-broiled… I didn’t get any pics post-broiling)

Remove the pulp from the grapefruit once they’ve cooled a little. Remove the seeds from the pulp as you go.
Chop up your citrus peel and cover with 2 cups of water; boil 10 minutes; drain. Add the pulp and 1 qt of water to drained peel; boil 10 more minutes.

Cover and let stand overnight (at least 12 hours). I did not read this part of the recipe before I started and let me tell you… it’s no fun getting all your canning stuff out on Sunday only to find your going to have to do most of the work after you get out of work at 7:30 on Monday.

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After it sets, move the mixture back to the stove. Cook rapidly until peel is tender. Measure the mixture and add 1 cup of sugar for each cup of fruit mixture, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Cook rapidly almost to gelling point.

Remove from heat. Put into half-pint jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace.

Process for 10 minutes in boiling-water canner.

Try on a toasted raisin bread. If it’s too liquidy, like mine, you can always use it on pancakes. Mmmm…

~april

Christmas Gifts: Canning

4 Jan

2010 canning

Every year I seem to get a little bit better at giving handmade.  I think it’s because my repertoire of handmade gifts is slowly expanding.  It began with knitting.  Last year I gave some sewn gifts and this year I added canning to the mix.  Who knows? I might be building people houses by next year.

Each month I want to share a roundup of crafty things I’ve been working on.   Whenever I come up with amazingawesomeincrediblefantastic original projects, I’ll post them up here on their own, but anything I’ve pulled from a pattern or recipe will just have to share their posts.

To start that tradition out, I’m sharing some of the Christmas craftiness I indulged in this year.  Since Christmas is such a crafty time, I’m going to split this installment into two posts, starting with my canned goods.

This was my first year canning.  The picture at the top of the post shares the fruits of my year’s worth of labor.  Obviously there were a lot of failures.  A whole day’s worth of canning one weekend left me with one jar of berry jam and a pot full of exploded zucchini salsa.  The one jar I did save didn’t even taste all that great.  I didn’t discover the awesomeness of half-pint sized jars until about 2 weeks before Christmas so a lot of my ventures ended with one large jar of jam.  Now that I’ve discovered the increased gift-giving (and jam-keeping) potential of the smaller jars I think this pile will triple for next year’s presents.

There are a ton of beautiful jam labels out there, but I decided to go the cheapo route.  I didn’t want to buy a new color cartridge for my computer (well, I did, but I didn’t want to spend the money on it) so I just cut out circles of my sadly neglected scrapbooking paper and slapped it on the jar with double-sided tape.

Here are the different types of goodies and links to recipes:
Lemon ginger 2
Actually Easy Lemon Ginger Marmalade

Anytime someone tells you marmalade is easy I suggest you laugh heartily in their face. While the actual cooking of the marmalade is easy (and this recipe turned out much more marmaladey than my other attempt), the prep is unavoidably cumbersome. The finished product was yummy though despite my suspicions that it didn’t cook long enough to make the peel soft and my fear that the ginger might be too clumpy.

Chocolate pear
Pear and Chocolate Jam

I made a ton of this stuff because… who doesn’t love chocolate (besides my coworker who’s allergic – how sad!)? The recipe was super quick and simple, if not detailed.

Cole mugging

My cat decided he couldn’t have me taking pictures without climbing up on the shelves and getting involved.

Orange carrot marmalade
Carrot and Orange Marmalade (from Preserving the Harvest)

This recipe turned out a little watery and took way more time than the Ginger, but for one of my first attempts at canning it was a success.

Spicy pickled carrots
Spicy Pickled Carrots

I haven’t had a chance to try these yet, but I cannot wait. A few weeks a go I had a vegetarian bahn mi sandwich from the Nom Nom Truck. I sliced them pretty thin so these carrots would go great on a sandwich like that. I’m also hoping to put them on tacos and just eating them straight from the jar. Only another week or two…

Nutella
Heavenly Chocolate Hazelnut Almond Spread

I think this may have been the most successful gift (in my mind anyway). It was super easy, came out perfectly and allowed me to use my new food processor. I used grapeseed oil in my first batch rather than canola and liked that better. Maybe just because I prefer grapeseed oil. It wasn’t technically canned, but according to the giftees it wouldn’t have lasted long in the cupboard anyway. Some people used it on popcorn and I dipped homemade soft pretzels into it so it’s versatile, too!

Next up from me: the rest of my Christmas crafting.

~ April