Canned At Last: Sour Cherries In Syrup
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I don’t know why it took me so long to can. Despite websites, books, and blogs, I still didn’t have enough information. Despite the urging of friends, fellow CSA members, and writers here, I still didn’t have enough confidence. Despite, even, a family tradition of canning whole, skinned tomatoes and tomato sauce (i.e., “gravy”), I still didn’t have an urge to try it on my own. Yes, I did have an irrational fear of botulism, but, looking back, I think the real concern was drudgery. In my family, canning tomatoes required a dozen people, two stoves (plus a free-standing gas burner), innumerable bushels of tomatoes, and about twelve hours of your day (sometimes two). Of course, at our peak, we canned well over 1,000 quarts.
Recently, we were “burdened” (I use the term loosely) with three quarts of sour cherries. Even after we gorged on them and my wife made ice cream, we were still left with a quart. Having a bowl of lush, vibrantly red cherries staring at me and knowing that it would soon rot, I conquered my last reservations about canning.
I am exaggerating a little, as I had been reading the River Cottage Field Guide 2: Preserves. With straightforward explanations, beautiful pictures, interesting recipes, and an oddly-British nonchalance about the risk of food-born illness, it was a sufficient motivator on its own. Coupled with the cherries, I had no more excuse. One caveat: the guide uses the metric system measurements, so you will have to do your own conversions.
We preserved these cherries as a “bottled fruit:” we packed the cherries (still with their pits) in a light syrup (made by bringing honey and water to a boil) with some spices (whole cloves or cinnamon sticks) into sterilized jars, and then we put them in a water bath for 10 minutes. We allowed them to cool for twenty-four hours, all the while listening for the distinctive “pop” that means the jars have sealed. (Happily, they did.)
I was surprised at how simple the process was, and how little equipment we actually needed. We used a large stock pot with its pasta insert (filled with cold water), a saucier, a scale, a candy thermometer, and a pair of canning tongs designed for picking up scalding-hot jars. This last item may seem unnecessary, and I was certainly skeptical, but it was immensely useful for pulling jars out of boiling water. (We picked up our pair at a flea market for $5.) But that’s all - no pressure cooker, no canning pot, and no need for additional storage.
This experience was so pleasant that we’ve also canned beets, onions, and fennel. We still have plans for chutney, bottled peaches, plum jam, apple jam, caramelized onions, and, of course, tomatoes. We won’t be canning a 1,000 quarts anytime soon, though.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
I picked up a bunch of rhubarb at the Lancaster County Farmer’s Market in Devon (I don’t really recommend it as it’s not a producers only market and most of the veggies are shipped in from all over). For some reason no one at the Phoenixville Farmer’s Market sells rhubarb, so I have to get my fix elsewhere.
I was just going to make pie, and jam, and some rhubarb sorbet from Simply Recipes, and maybe another pie - but then I saw this recipe for rhubarb syrup at Food in Jars, and this one for rhubarb chutney posted by Naomi, and this one for rhubarb mustard at Planet Green (although I know I saw it somewhere else as well, so apologies to whomever that was!) - and the next thing you know I spent much of the weekend canning!
From left to right in the picture: one row of rhubarb syrup (for canning I followed directions for canning fruit juice, and this is four batches of the recipe); two rows of rhubarb jam (with pectin); two rows of rhubarb sauce (no real recipe I just cooked 5 c of rhubarb with 1 cup water and 3/4 c of sugar, and canned as for apple sauce); one row of rhubarb chutney; and one of rhubarb mustard.
I also made a rhubarb-ginger galette. The sorbet and the next pie are on the menu for this week.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Although my first thought upon acquiring rhubarb is usually something sweet, like cobbler or pie, rhubarb also makes excellent chutney. Today’s batch is based on Boxwallah’s chutney; though the recipe says to leave it at least a month before eating, the sample left over after I canned four half-pints is already quite tasty.
1 lb rhubarb, chopped
1/3 lb onion, chopped finely (3/5 of a large onion)
1 c vinegar
1 T cumin seeds
1 t mustard seeds
1/2 c dried blueberries
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 t fenugreek
1/2 t dry mustard
2 T garam masala
Combine rhubarb, onion, whole spices, and vinegar in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for half an hour, then add the dried fruit, sugar, and ground spices. Simmer, uncovered, for two hours or until rhubarb has completely disintegrated and the desired thickness is reached. Transfer to sterile jars and process in a boiling-water bath.
Summer in the Winter
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I look forward to February all summer, and lunch yesterday reminded me why. With help from our winter share Farm to City, we had summer-y spaghetti sauce. The onions were from the winter share, fried in olive oil with local garlic we had put up in the summer. We added a jar of our summer farmstand’s fabulous tomatoes we had canned last July plus pesto we had made from Weaver’s Way basil last summer. Finally, we mixed in winter share spinach.
For dessert, we had local peaches we froze last summer plus maple syrup we picked up in Virginia last summer when we were on our way to West Virginia (so not local to Philly, but local to where we bought it!). I didn’t know they did maple syrup in Virginia, but it was lovely.
We’re starting to plan our garden in our new house, so I’ll keep you posted…
Local Food Gift Idea: Apple-Maple Jam
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I like making jam, and my friends and family enjoy eating homemade jam, so it’s one of my standard gifts these days. However, much as I love eating strawberry marmalade in the cold of January, I hesitate to call such sugar-intensive recipes local, and they require a lot more planning ahead for use as holiday gifts. Local apples, though, are still widely available, and don’t require as much sugar for gelling.
The two jars above are two different batches of apple-maple jam; the smaller jar, on the left, is this year’s batch, and the larger jar is last year’s. Here’s the recipe I used:
3 qts chopped, peeled apples (~6 lb)
6 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
1 c maple syrup
Prepare as jam and can in a boiling water bath. (Put apples and sugar in a large pot. Cook on low to medium heat, stirring, until there’s enough liquid to keep the apple bits from scorching. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the apples are soft. Add spices. Cook a little more, then bring to a boil again and divide into sterile jars.) Makes about 8 half-pint jars’ worth.
That recipe is really for an apple-y, mapley jelly with chunks of apple suspended in it. I prefer fruit preserves that are easier to spread on toast or PB&J sandwiches, so I purée mine with an immersion blender. And I don’t peel the apples. Otherwise, last year’s batch is pretty close to the recipe. This year, I wanted to make my apple-maple stuff entirely local, so I used about 2c honey and 1.5c maple syrup instead of the 6c sugar and 1c maple syrup called for. It came out quite nicely, if closer to applesauce than jam on the preserved-fruit continuum. , If you’re looking for something to take to a latke party this week, some of what didn’t get canned was very tasty on latkes a few days ago.
Another reason to love brussels sprouts
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I know that just about any vegetable can be made into a pickle. But the idea of brussels sprouts made into pickles strikes me as kind of bizarre.
The other day on the train I was reading a book on canning and preserving that someone bought me last year, and I noticed that brussels sprouts were mentioned. Apparently, canning brussels sprouts is a very bad idea. Sprouts freeze nicely, so it would not have occurred to me to even try to can them…but there it was: canning can unpleasantly intensify the flavor of sprouts and will usually result in a gross discoloration, too. Unless you pickle them, that is.
Well, now that I got the idea in my head, I can’t get it out. I do love brussels sprouts, and I’d probably even love them pickled. And it’s been recommended to me that I try them in a Bloody Mary or Martini, because they are allegedly the perfect addition to a cocktail. Who knew?
I ended up finding several recipes for pickled brussels sprouts:
- Pickled Sprouts with Fennel
- A pretty standard pickle
- Pickled Sprouts with Cayenne and Garlic
- Pickled Sprouts with Szechuan oil
Brussels sprouts are very in season right now, so I’ll be sure to pick up a few pints of sprouts this weekend and give it a shot. I cannot resist!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
The last of the harvests are coming in and that can only mean one thing: the final frontier of preservation, pickling! My husband has tried pickling in the past, to varying degrees of success (can’t get the regular, cucumber pickle to not turn to mush, but he makes a mean sauerkraut and pickled green tomato!). So this year, I’m trying 2 different pickling methods: the regular refrigerator pickle and the canned pickle.
First, the refrigerator pickle. I’m trying my hand at an Indian-style pickled cauliflower. I’m thinking it can’t be that authentic (got it from a PA Dutch book). But hey, those people know how to pickle! Besides, a refrigerator pickle is such an easy thing, if I mess up, oh well. There’s still some more cauliflower-time left.
The other pickle is a shelf-stable canned red wine beets. I don’t know who I’m fooling: both pickles are not the fermented kind, so there’s really no fear of failure. But there’s something scary about cooking something and then letting it sit for a few weeks. What if I forget? What if it tastes like crap? It feels like an investment. I just hope that pickling doesn’t turn out like our economy…
On a final note, I’d like to get suggestions from farmers and farm market supporters about marketing issues or questions that they’d like discussed in future postings. I had such great feedback about the website needs of farmers and I’d like to throw in my two cents where possible. So send them in!
Can it, buddy!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Via Ramping Up the Garden, I learned that the National Center for Home Food Preservation has a free, self-study course in home canning. It’s offered by the University of Georgia WebCT system. How cool! It includes:
- Introduction to Food Preservation
- General Canning
- Canning Acid Foods
- Canning Low-Acid Foods
For those of you who want to learn to can but don’t have a class near you, this is a great opportunity to bone up on the basics!
I’ve been on a soup canning kick lately. I will thank myself later when I drag my frozen carcass home from work and can immediately sit down to a nice, hot, homemade bowl of soup.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
This may be the last week for a lot of us to get our mitts on fresh local tomatoes, and I for one plan to do just that! Over the past couple months, I’ve supplemented my own garden and Blooming Glen Farm CSA tomatoes with those from several places around town.
Anyone who’s canned large quantities of produce knows that it’s so much better with a buddy. My canning partner this year has been my mom, and together we estimate that we’ve processed about 175 pounds of tomatoes since mid-August. Early in the season, we canned a bushel of mixed tomatoes from Hideaway Gardens in Harleysville. Farmers Matt and Lauren Harrington (Lauren is a former contributor to Farm to Philly) hand-picked a lovely selection for us, which you can see above. For several weeks over the summer, Blooming Glen Farm offered CSA members a great deal 20-pound boxes of San Marzano plum tomatoes, so I snatched up two of those for some amazing salsa. And just last week, Ray’s Greenhouse had huge baskets of tomatoes for sale at the Indian Valley Farmers Market; we bought about 55 pounds of them and turned them into 14 quarts of sauce.
It seems unlikely, but all of this doesn’t seem to be enough, and I find myself wanting more! That’s not wrong, is it?
The butter that isn’t butter
Friday, September 05, 2008
I’ve never really understood why fruit butters are called that. I mean, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to actual butter. But really, who cares? It’s good and it’s surprisingly easy to make. I had some peaches that were in deep need of being used up, so I made peach butter on Labor Day.
What I particularly like about making fruit butters is that you don’t need a gazillion pounds of fruit. I had seven peaches, which ended up becoming five half pints of peach butter. And yes, it took all damn day to cook…but it was in a crock pot and I only set foot in my kitchen a few times. And the result is better than I could have hoped for. The peach butter is heavenly. Spectacular. Amazing. Very, very good. I’m not even exaggerating.
All right, so, getting started is easy enough. If you have peaches, a crock pot, and some spices, you’re pretty much all set.
- First step: prepare the peaches. The easiest way to peel peaches is boil up some water and drop each peach in for about 60 seconds and then plunge into ice water. The skin will loosen, making peeling a lot easier. Remove the peach pit. Roughly chop the peaches. Or, you’re like me, tear the peaches in pieces with your bare hands. Throw peaches directly into your crock pot. Note: if you have ALOT of peaches, you can fill the crock pot to within an inch of the top.
- Season the peaches. Add a couple Tablespoons of cinnamon, a teaspoon of ground cloves, half a teaspoon of allspice, and four cups of sugar (yes, that’s a lot of sugar - but you can substitute fake sweetener for some of it if you really want to. I’m not sure how honey would be as a replacement); mix well. Turn on your crockpot to low and cook uncovered. You may want to throw a splatter screen over top, just in case.
- Ignore your peaches for about six hours. Stir if you feel like it.
- Give the peaches a stir, turn the crock pot up to high, and go away again. Come back every now and then to give the peaches a stir.
- After another few hours, use a stick blender to puree the peaches if you want a smooth consistency to your butter. At this point, your peach butter should be brown and sort of mushy looking. You are looking for a reduction by volume of about half. If you like a looser consistency, your peach butter will probably be done in about 12 hours. I cooked mine for about 20 hours because I like mine a little thicker.
And then can your peach butter the same as you would can preserves.
Super simple, and a great way to use up fruit that’s not getting eaten quickly enough!
A cutlet to spare
Sunday, August 03, 2008
I’ve been trying to eat more vegetarian meals lately. One thing that becomes obvious when you’re writing about your food intake is just exactly how much meat you’re eating! And it’s not that I have problems with eating meat - but I feel like maybe I just eat a little too much for my own good. There are both health and environmental reasons for eating less meat, both of which I am conscious. And really, it’s so easy to take advantage of the huge amounts of gorgeous locally grown produce in season right now.
Even though I’ve been reducing my meat consumption, it’s not like I’m ever going to be a vegetarian. I happen to think cows and ducks are pretty tasty, and I have no moral qualms about eating them (veal and foie gras are OK with me, too, for the record). Since I try to stick to locally grown meat that is ethically and sustainably grown, I worry less about the moral and environmental reasons. And again, I really like meat. But this is not a love song about beef, chicken, or lamb - it’s a love song to the vegetarian meal I ate last night.
I made some breaded eggplant cutlets a few weeks ago that I prepped and froze. Usually I buy up eggplants at some point and make tons of them for over the Winter - they’re great to have on hand for a quick dinner, and they’re easy to make. I think the most important part is the prep: slice up the eggplant, salt it, and press it a colander for an hour. The salt draws out the moisture and gives it a meatier, more dense texture. Dip the eggplant into a bit of egg white, dredge in breadcrumbs, and then bake at 450 degress for about 10 minutes. Let the cutlets cool and then layer them on wax paper, pop them in a properly labeled freezer bag and freeze them. Reheating is a snap: bake at 350 degrees for about 10 or 15 minutes. You can make sandwiches, eggplant parmesan, whatever - all on the fly.
Last night I heated them up and just threw a couple slices of salted heirloom tomatoes on top, and served with sauteed swiss chard with parmesan and new potato and parsley salad. It was a great dinner, and I didn’t miss the meat at all.
I was also pretty excited about the potato and parsley salad. Last week’s CSA share included all these super tiny, marble-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, and a few weeks ago I pulled about a dozen of the same potatoes out of my garden (interestingly, I did not grow potatoes this year - they were just leftovers from last year’s potato experiment that went horribly wrong). So it was just thrilling to find something to do with such tiny potatoes, and it was a great use of the huge amounts of parsley growing like crazy in my garden.
Where it all came from:
eggplant, Lancaster Farm Fresh - 100 miles
egg, Natural Acres - 100 miles
breadcrumbs, made from Le Bus bread - 15 miles
tomatoes, Urban Girls - 29 miles
potatoes, Landisdale Farm - 100 miles and my garden - 0 miles
parsley, my garden - 0 miles
garlic, my garden - 0 miles
swiss chard, Landisdale Farm - 100 miles and my garden - 0 miles
parmesan, Hendricks Farm - 39 miles
not local: olive oil, salt, and pepper
My kingdom for a gherkin
Sunday, July 06, 2008
July is a fantastic month to visit farmer’s markets. There’s just so much available - tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini are coming into season, there’s tons of fruit, and everything is just beautiful. A visit to the Headhouse Square Market this morning was too much to resist - and even though I had have a big CSA box full of gorgeous produce and fruit and I was able to get pretty much everything on my grocery list yesterday at Clark Park, I had to buy a few more things that I didn’t really need.
These West Indian Gherkins were available at two different stands, Culton Organics and Yoder’s Heirlooms (I think). They were just too tempting to pass up, so about a dozen of them came home with me. West Indian Gherkins are a completely foreign cucumber variety to most of us. These tinies beauties must be picked before they reach about 1.5 inches long or else they will likely be bitter. And they are super crisp and very sweet.
There’s pretty much only one thing you can do with a West Indian Gherkin: pickle it. I plan to use this recipe.
Bok choy, why do you mock me so?
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
A couple of years ago I grew bok choy in the garden. It was one of the easiest vegetables I’ve ever grown, but I just didn’t fall in love with it enough to have it in the garden again. I’ve just never found very many recipes for bok choy that I love or can eat over and over again. Last year I made a killer wonton soup using a bunch of bok choy from the CSA share, but it’s not soup weather. And I make a great kimchi, but I still have some leftover from last year.
There was a giant head of bok choy in the Landisdale Farm CSA share last week that, predictably, sat around the kitchen and never got used. My rule is that if I don’t use it within a week, I have to find a way to preserve it. After giving it much thought and doing a ton of research, I decided to do two things with the bok choy: dry it and pickle it.
I got the idea for drying bok choy from the many websites that kept saying bok choy stalks have a very celery-like texture - which means freezing is out of the question. Well, maybe not out of the question, but the texture suffers. Anyway, I ran into a site that suggested drying celery in a dehydrator. I stripped off the leaves and sliced up the stalk - it took about six hours on the lowest heat setting.
Pickling bok choy leaves is not quite the same as making kimchi. It’s more akin to making sauerkraut: you cut the leaves into chiffonade and pack it into canning jars, laying pickling salt in every 1/2 inch or so. The salt will draw the water out of the bok choy, making its own brine. If you are super careful about canning, you can run the pickled choy in a water bath after a week or two, but you can just as easily skip all that if your jars are very clean to begin with.
Garlic scapes a-go-go
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Recently I found myself with an overabundance of garlic scapes. I never thought I would ever utter those words, because you can never have enough, right? But I had most of the harvest from my own garlic patch, a pound purchased from Fair Food Farmstand, and a handful from my CSA for two weeks in a row.
So what does one do with that many scapes? I researched ways to preserve them.
Freezing does not appear to do scapes any favors…at least not if you intend to saute them. They lose their texture and that’s just no good. You can slice scapes into small bits and freeze for use in soups and things like that, but I didn’t think I’d use them that way.
Scapes can be canned. Well, sort of. Apparently, pickling scapes is super easy and produces a nice, crunchy, slightly garlicky pickle. I seriously love almost any pickled vegetable, so I opted to test drive a jarful. It’s pretty easy - cut scapes into smaller lengths and put a shallow layer of scapes into a canning jar. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat the scape and salt layering until you have about a 1/2 inch of headspace in the canning jar. Leave the jar on a kitchen counter for a few days to allow the salt to leach the water out of the scapes, forming its own brine. You may have to add more salt. When the brine has formed, process in a water bath for 25 minutes. It’s sort of the same process as making sauerkraut, but without the pressing.
Having started the pickled scapes a few days ago, I gave them a try today - delicious!
I saved a few scapes to have sauted scapes with dinner the other night, but for the rest of them I opted to make scape pesto. I put the scapes in a food processor with some olive oil. Right now it’s being stored in my fridge until I can get my hands on some Hendricks parmesan and walnuts. I haven’t decided if I will freeze or can the pesto.
There is a distinct possibility that I may find myself with more garlic scapes within the next couple of weeks. Well..bring it on, says I. I think I’d like to make some garlic scape aioli to have on hand.
Sweet, sweet leather
Thursday, May 29, 2008
There’s a brand new dehydrator sitting in my kitchen - a Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator All-In-One Kit with Jerky Gun. I’ve been dying to try it out, so I bought a very non-local bag of cherries, pitted them, and soaked them in white wine and amaretto overnight, and then dried them. And they turned out pretty well, I’m happy to say.
It was only this week that I was able to try my hand at drying something locally-grown: the rhubarb compote I made last week.
The dehydrator came with two fruit leather trays. I couldn’t quite imagine making my own fruit roll ups, but I assure you that it worked like a charm! I just spread the compote out over the trays thinly, plugged in the dehydrator, and about ten hours later I had two massive sheets of super fresh-tasting rhubarb fruit leather.
Yes, ten hours. I’m thinking that I will only use the dehydrator when it is loaded with stuff to dry - otherwise, I feel like I’m using too much energy just to dry a few things.
Still, I’m really excited that making fruit leather is so easy. I’ll be overrun with strawberries in a few weeks - normally I just freeze bunches of them, but this year I’ll definitely puree a bunch and make fruit leather.