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Blackberry Winner + Plums in Honey

italian plums

I had such a wonderful time over the weekend in Seattle. I met so many amazing people, reunited with a dear old friend, taught a really fun canning class and saw my parents for the first time in nearly nine months. I have bunches of pictures from the weekend, and so expect a post in the next couple of days that will feature those photos, along with my thoughts about the first Canning Across American weekend (preview: it was a rousing success and I can’t wait for next year).

Before I start talking about plums, there’s a bit of giveaway business to wrap up. The blackberry jam goes to lucky number 13, which is the comment left by Linus (who is a web developer and pickle maker – nice combo). He also seems to be Philly-based, which means that I get to skip the post office this time around and see if I can’t hand deliver this particular jar.

Last week, before I left town, I made tentative plans to meet up with the Philadelphia half of Doris and Jilly Cook to take a Mood’s Farm field trip just a couple of hours after I returned from the trip. My parents thought this plan crazy, assuming I’d need the rest of the day to recover from the red-eye flight. Thanks to my exhaustion and an innate ability to sleep just about anywhere, I landed feeling fairly refreshed and ready to take on an afternoon of fruit picking.

whole plums in jars

The sheer abundance at the farmstand merely hinted at the bounty we’d encounter in the fields. The peach trees were hanging heavy with fruit and the raspberry canes were covered in the largest, most delicious berries I’ve met in about twenty years. We had plans to pick blackberries as well, but mid-picking decided that our containers would be better used for the raspberries.

When we headed back to the city, the station wagon carried nearly 100 pounds of fruits and vegetables. My personal haul included 2 1/2 pounds of raspberries (at $3.75 a pound, they were by far the most expensive item I’ve ever gotten at Mood’s), nearly 20 pounds of rosy peaches, two quarts of Gala apples (those are just for eating, I’ll get some fresh Granny Smith’s later in the season for apple sauce and butter) and four quarts each of Bartlett pears (for butter), Seckel pears (for canning whole and pickling) and Italian plums.

plums in jars with syrup

I haven’t tackled the pears yet, but last night I turned the raspberries into jam (stay tuned, I’ll have that recipe and giveaway up later in the week) and I canned four quarts of the plums in a honey syrup. Canning whole fruit like this couldn’t be easier, because beyond washing, the fruit needs no prepping (some recipes recommend piercing the skin with a sharp fork several times. I skipped it and the skins only barely cracked). You simply pack the raw, whole fruit as tightly as you can into your cleaned jars, pour the syrup in to cover, shake out the air bubbles and process. I tucked a cinnamon stick into each jar, but that’s as fancy as I got. The quarts process for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath and then you’re done.

So, if you have a glut of plums, this is a great way to handle them quickly and easily. When winter comes, you can eat them whole with yogurt or ice cream, make a cobbler with them, or even stew them down further and eat them over oatmeal. So, so good. Recipe after the jump.

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Microplane Winner

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It’s just after midnight and entries for the Microplane Ultra Coarse Grater giveaway are closed. The Randomizer has picked a winner and it’s lucky number 88, Carolyn! Congratulations (I’m sending you an email for mailing info).

For the rest of you who are overwhelmed by zucchini (and other summer squash), make sure to take another peek at the comments section on the giveaway post, there’s a ton of wonderful advice there. I’m also thinking that this Chocolate Zucchini Cake might just be another good way to make use of a zucchini surfeit.

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Preserving Zucchini + Giveaway

shredding zucchini
Had it not been for the destructive maws of the squash vine borer, my fridge would be bursting with zucchini at the moment. Sadly, all of my squash plants (zucchini and patty pan) succumbed to the evil ministrations of that pesky bug, so my entire summer yield was just a single, 12-inch zucchini. However for those of you who are currently awash in squash, let’s talk a bit about how to preserve that which you can’t possibly eat right now.

This might shock you, but my favorite way to “put up” squash does not include a jar or a trip through a boiling water canner. Nope, when it comes to the summer squashes, I turn to a sturdy grater, zip top bags and my freezer. I roughly grate the zucchini, press out a bit of its liquid and measure it out into two and four cup portions. Packed into bags and labeled, that squash then becomes part of quick breads, soups, pasta sauces and even zucchini fritters all throughout the year.

I’ve always relied on a basic box grater for this type of task, but recently, the nice folks at Microplane got in touch to say that they were making a new Ultra Coarse Grater and did I want to try it out. I said yes, as I’ve been enamored of Microplane products since I first tried their basic rasp about six years ago. They make the best graters and zesters I’ve used.

Almost immediately upon arrival in my kitchen, this new coarse grater became my favorite tool for squash shredding (it also works nicely on potatoes, harder cheeses, carrots and apples). It’s easy to use (a rubber strip keeps it stable on the cutting board), it’s super-sharp and its flat design makes it so much simpler to clean than the box grater. I am in grater love.

Happily, I have one of these Ultra Coarse Graters to give away. Leave a comment by Friday, August 21st at 11:59 pm to enter. I’d love to hear your zucchini recipes and preservation tips if you’ve got ’em!

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Fresh Preserving Kit Winner

fresh preserving kit Okay kids, we have a winner in the Fresh Preserving Kit giveaway! At 11:59 p.m. last night, the random.org reached deep down into it’s bag of digits and came back with the number 5. That means that the lucky gal who will get her very own canning kit and Ball Blue Book of Preserving is Meryl.

Oddly enough, Meryl was just blogging about canning tomatoes on her site, My Bit of Earth, so while the kit may not reach her in time for this batch of tomatoes, here’s hoping it will get there in time for her next big round of preserving. Congratulations Meryl!

If you didn’t win my giveaway, make sure to head over to Canning Across America, they still have a few copies of the Ball Blue Book to give out to people who are hosting canning gatherings on the weekend of August 29th and 30th.

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Blueberry Jam Winner

blueberry jam winner

We’ve got a blueberry jam winner! The randomizer selected #20, which corresponds with the comment left by Rebecca. Congratulations Rebecca (I’ll be in touch via email soon)!

Don’t forget that you’ve got until Monday at 11:59 p.m. to enter the Fresh Preserving Kit giveaway!

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Peach Jam Winner + Some Q & A

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As is my norm, I’m a bit last posting the latest giveaway winner. But better late than never, right?

The lucky winner of this half pint of peach jam is commenter #8, Adrienne Bruno. Congrats Adrienne, I’ll be in touch soon to get your mailing address.

When I first started writing this blog, I was really good about replying to each and every comment you all left. However, since then, life has gotten a little more complicated (wedding planning will do that to a girl) and I’ve gotten a little lax when it comes to replies. You’ve all been asking some really question though, so I wanted to call a few of them out.

Tenaya asked: Why do garlic cloves turn blue in pickling solution? This happened when I made some pickled asparagus based on one of your recipes. It didn’t turn completely blue, but certainly blue-ish. It happened after I heated the garlic in the hot pickling solution, if I remember correctly.

Garlic has a tendency to turn blue when combined with an acid, particularly if it’s very fresh and heat is involved. For more about this, here are a couple of threads on Chowhound that go into bluing garlic. One thing I do in an attempt to avoid bluing garlic is to not include the garlic in the hot brine solution, but instead poke a couple of cloves in among the packed veggies, so that they don’t spend to much time in solo contact with the acid solution. Good news is that though it might not be particularly nice looking, blue garlic is perfectly safe to eat.

More questions/answers after the jump…

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