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Spiced Nectarine Jam

nectarines in a bowl

Earlier in the summer, the folks from the Washington State Fruit Commission sent me a glorious box of sweet cherries as part of their canbassador program. In the past, I’ve only gotten a single shipment from them and so I thought that was it for this summer. However, a few weeks ago, they got in touch saying I should expect a shipment of peaches and nectarines.

The box arrived last Tuesday and immediately filled the apartment with the fragrance of ripening summer stonefruit. So far, I’ve made a spicy peach dipping sauce (think homemade ketchup, made with peaches instead of tomatoes), a small batch of oven roasted fruit, and a batch of this spiced nectarine jam.

I’ll tell you more about the other two tomorrow and Thursday, but since I happen to be teaching this particular recipe tonight, it seemed only right to share it today.

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Gingery Pickled Blueberries for International Can-It-Forward Day

Sad news, friends. The livestream isn’t working. We’re recording demos as I type, and they’ll be available tomorrow. The Ball Mason Jar Celebrity Auction and the special $5 deal on the Ball Canning Discovery Kit (use the coupon code CIFD15 to get the discount) are still happening, so make sure to check them out.

finished pickled blueberries horizontal

It’s International Can-It-Forward Day! Time to stop what you’re doing, get yourself some produce and head to the canning pot. If blueberries are still in season, may I suggest a batch of Gingery Pickled Blueberries?

blueberries in colander

When I first started pickling fruit four or five years ago, I experienced a lot of resistance. People weren’t familiar with it and so often dismissed it as unappealing. However, thanks to both the increasing popularity of shrubs/drinking vinegars and chefs who started putting all manner of pickled fruit on their menus, I’m finding a more welcome climate out there for these tangy preserves.

pouring berries into colander

I find that pickled blueberries are a really great introduction to the world of pickled fruit. For one thing, the require almost no preparation (pickled peaches are also delicious, but you’ve got to scald those peels off). You give the berries a quick rinse and look them over to remove any stubborn stems.

berry-stained tools

The brine is nothing more than vinegar, water, sugar, and some sliced ginger. Once it boils, you tumble the berries in and cook for a few minutes. Once they’ve started to boil and the brine turns dark purple, the cooking portion is done. You get the berries in the jars, top them off with brine, pop the lids and rings on, and into the canning pot they go.

pickled blueberries side

I like to eat these berries with cheese or scattered on top of a salad of baby arugula, feta, and toasted almonds. They pair really well with creamy cheeses, and I’ll often take a jar to parties with a log of goat cheese and some sturdy crackers. They also go really nicely anywhere that you’d serve cranberry sauce.

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Apricot and Sweet Cherry Compote

finished cherry apricot compote

This is a blog post about preserving fruit, but on second read, I realize that it’s also about going with the flow of life. 

I didn’t get as many apricots into jars this year as I like. I ordered my annual half-bushel from Beechwood Orchards like I always do, but it arrived at the start of that week when my mother-in-law went into the hospital, which was also the same week as the photo shoot for my next book.

While I did do my best to prevent the apricots from going bad, at least a quarter of them ended up succumbing to mold before I could cook them down.

prepped cherries and apricots

Instead of feeling bad about the waste (I’m trying to spend less time beating myself up about my inevitable shortcomings), I’m focusing my efforts on celebrating the apricot preserves I was able to make. This apricot and cherry compote is one such victory.

cooking cherry apricot compote

Much like the peach and cherry preserve I wrote about on Wednesday, this simple preserve employs just three ingredients. Because it contains a relatively low amount of sugar, it ended up with a fairly sloshy consistency. Thankfully, I’m okay with that.

finished cherry apricot compote close

You see, one of the privileges of being the preserver is that you get to set the expectations for each finished batch. I will often go into a preserving project thinking I’m making jam, only to realize that I’ve ended up with a preserve, compote, or sauce. Instead of struggling with the outcome, I embrace what is. Being flexible saves a great deal of heartache in the end.

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CSA Cooking: Zucchini, Fennel, and Green Pepper Relish

fennel zucchini pepper relish

Relish is one of those condiments that doesn’t get as much love as it should. Most people associate it with hot dogs and not much else. However, I find that a mixed relish like this one has much to offer.

During the glut of the summer growing season, it can be pressed into service as a catch-all for produce that would otherwise go unloved. And once in jars, it brings welcome crunch and pucker to cheese boards, sandwiches, burgers, and salmon cakes.

This particular batch absorbed the green peppers and onion from my July Philly Foodworks share, along with two heft zucchini and some young, sweet fennel bulbs. It left our apartment smelling like the most delicious sandwich shop ever for at least 24 hours, and while I’ve not yet cracked open a jar, I have grand plans for it once the weather starts to cool.

I’m curious. How many of you out there are relish lovers? If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopping you?

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Sweet Cherry and Yellow Peach Preserves

finished cherry peach preserves

A couple of weeks ago, just before I left on my trip to Portland, I hit a familiar preserving wall (I bash into it at least once a summer. And sometimes more than once). I had a fridge full of fresh produce, stonefruit ripening on the counter, and I had just a day and a half before I was leaving town.

peeling peaches

There was no time for careful preserving, with long maceration times. I needed to prep as quickly as possible and fling everything into the pot. I peeled the three pounds of peaches that my friend Audra had given me from her tree by cutting them into halves and quarters, lining them up in a baking dish and pouring boiling water over them.

cherries in a pot

I pitted the cherries (these were from my July Philly Foodworks share) by heaping them into a pan, adding a tiny bit water, and simmering them for 10 minutes. Once they were cool enough to handle, I plunged my hands into the warm fruit and pinched the pits out. My fingernails were stained for days, but the cherries took less than 8 minutes of active work.

simmered cherries

I combined the peaches, the pitted cherries, and any juice left in the cherry pan in a large measuring cup to see how much I had and found that I had exactly 8 cups of fruit. I poured the fruit in my beloved maslin pan and spent a moment thinking about sugar.

peaches and cherries in measuring cup

As you may have noticed, I’ve been making lower and lower sugar preserves, mostly because I want to be able to eat what I make and I don’t always want to be eating fruit with an equal measure of sugar. I’ll often use Pomona’s Pectin in order to get a good set with minimal sugar, but this time, I just didn’t feel like bothering with pectin at all. Instead, I decided to add 2 1/2 cups of sugar, boil the heck out of it, and be happy with whatever set it ended up with.

prepped cherries and peaches

After about 40 minutes of vigorous cooking, I ended up with 6 half pints of deep red preserves. It has a very soft set, but isn’t so loose that it can’t wear the catch-all preserves handle. It’ll be a good one for eating with yogurt, cottage cheese, or oatmeal come fall and winter, and I wouldn’t be at all ashamed to tuck a jar or two into gift baskets.

cherry peach preserves two jars

Note: Because the peaches I used in this preserve were a tiny bit tangy, I didn’t use any lemon juice in this preserve. However, if your peaches are quite sweet, a drop or two wouldn’t go amiss. Additionally, you could easily spice this one up with a touch of ginger or cinnamon.

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CSA Cooking: Salad Pickles (aka Waste Prevention Pickles)

salad pickles two jars

Like many of the recipes I’ve posted on this site over the years, this pickle is a highly practical one. It’s not really a looker, and it probably won’t be the thing you tuck into gift bags, but it has the ability to use up a lot of produce, and makes edible many of the scraps and bits that might have otherwise ended up in the garbage.

I also appreciate it because all the various vegetables are chopped into similar sizes, so you can spoon it directly into vinaigrettes, or pasta, grain, or potato salad with zero additional work.

scapes and asparagus

Every time I make a batch, it is different. The version you see pictured here included asparagus, garlic scapes, kale stems, and broccoli stems. At other points in the year, I’ve made it with various green/purple/wax/flat beans, chard stems, fennel, minced zucchini, radishes, and the thick stems from beet greens. Essentially, you gather up things of similar densities, chop them into small bits, and pickle the heck out of them.

This is a great one to have in your back pocket when your garden starts producing like crazy, or your CSA share becomes unmanageably abundant. This batch was made with some of the goodies from the Philly Foodworks box I got back in the beginning of June (I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a while now).

chopped veg for pickles

I call it a salad pickle because I find that it most often gets used in a salad of some kind. In other regions of the country, you might find something similar being called a relish or chow chow (I don’t think anyone would hang the title piccalili on this one, but you never know).

salad pickles close

Typically when I make this pickle, I keep things simple and add just mustard seed, red pepper flakes, and garlic cloves for flavor. This time around I skipped the garlic cloves because so much of the vegetable matter was made up of garlic scapes. It would also be good with dill seed, coriander seed, and black peppercorns. I make mine without any sweetener, but a little sugar or honey in the brine would be just fine.

Do any of you make something similar?

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