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Guest Post: Cranberry Blueberry Compote from Heather Francis

Today’s guest post is from adventurer and home canner Heather Francis. She is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada but has lived and worked on the ocean for over a decade. A professional cook who’s worked on both land and sea, these days you’ll find her in the galley of Kate, the Newport 41’ sloop she and her Aussie partner, Steve, have been sailing since 2008. They are currently looking for wind in the Philippines. Follow their adventures on Yacht Kate.

I hate store-bought versions of cranberry sauce, you know the ones. They slide out of the can with that sickening “slurp” sound that reminds you of feeding the cat in the morning and stand erect on the plate, wobbling. Or they come in a little jar, have a uniform smooth texture and so much sugar in them they should really be labelled “Cranberry Jam.”

The cranberry sauce that I like is slightly tart and full of fruit, ready to burst on your tongue. It is all about the cranberries, with just hints of other flavours to dress it up for a special occasion. Ideally, I would make it just as I am about to serve it with our holiday feast, and usually there is only just enough for leftovers on Boxing Day.

However, I have spent the last decade sailing in the tropics, not a place where cranberries grow, let alone get shipped. So our holiday roasted chicken (they also don’t grow turkeys in these parts) have been accompanied by a mango chutney. Not at all a bad stand in but not quite what I crave this time a year.

This fall, after five long years, I was lucky enough to make a trip back to Nova Scotia. Not only did I get a chance to catch up with family, but I spent some time at my Mother’s stove making a few batches of seasonal preserves.

Nova Scotia is the “Wild Blueberry Capital of the World” and this year was a bumper crop that lasted well into a very warm September. Two rounds of jam, a few pies and a traditional Blueberry Grunt and the freezer was still overflowing. Then October rolled around, and the first cranberries hit the grocery stores. I jumped at the opportunity to put two of my favourite berries in the same jar.

Ready in less than half an hour this compote is a dressed-up version of the classic cranberry sauce but is simple to put together. You can use fresh or frozen berries and have a light hand with the sugar since cranberries always set so well. I like using the petite 4 oz. jars, they make for a nice gift and are a little easier to fit in your luggage. The addition of almonds and a hefty splash of rum (I am a sailor!) make it feel special enough to add to a cheese board.

I won’t be heading home for the holidays this year, but I will be enjoying a little taste of Nova Scotia with my festive feast in the Philippines. I hope you enjoy it too.

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How to Create Homemade Honey Candy

Happy Friday! Our regular contributor Alex Jones is dropping in with a recipe for homemade honey candy. These are perfect for soothing a sore throat or any time you need a virtuous sweet treat. If you’re in the Philly area, there’s also an opportunity to learn to make these candies in person this Sunday. Details at the bottom of the post! -Marisa

Ingredients for homemade honey candy

Since I don’t have kids and I live in a multi-unit building that’s not conducive to trick-or-treating, I don’t typically think of Halloween as a time to stockpile candy. (Wait till the day after when it’s on sale — that’s the real trick).

But this time of year is when I start thinking about preparing for winter — making fire cider, stockpiling local root veggies that will last me through the end of the year, planting garlic.

And thanks to a fellow member of my Philly food community, I have a recipe to share with you that’s great for this time of year, whether you’re looking to make some naturally sweet candies or prepare for winter cold season.

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Guest Post: Five Canning and Preserving Survival Tips by Lynne Curry

Today’s guest post comes to us from cookbook author and seasoned canner Lynne Curry. She’s dropping in to share some of her hard won canning wisdom with those who are just getting started, or who simply need to be reminded how to stay sane during the height of the preserving season. Enjoy! -Marisa

The strawberries and cherries have already come and gone for many of us, and the stone fruit avalanche is well under way. And that’s just the fruits! Before you know it, we’ll all be swimming in green beans and tomatoes, racing to pack them into jars.

As a longtime food preserver, I’ve had moments–even small-batch canning–when things nearly got out of hand. With the washing and sanitizing of jars, the peeling and cutting of fruits and vegetables and timing the steady boil in the canner, it’s a lot to manage!

Happily, I’ve adopted five practices from my professional life as a chef and recipe developer that keep me organized and productive from batch to batch over the entire growing season.

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Mango Habañero Mint Shrub

Today’s guest post comes to us from Erin Urquhart. She’s stopped by to share her recipe for Mango Habañero Mint Shrub. Welcome to Food in Jars, Erin! 

Over the past couple of years I have began to notice that unintentionally many of my preserved goods either include alcohol or pair perfectly with alcohol- a strange coincidence, indeed. I’m beginning to think that I “subconsciously” come up with pickle ingredients with martinis on the mind. By no surprise, I admit that I am a sucker for any type of brined, vinegar-based, or bitter cocktail.

Having only ever read about shrubs on ingredient lists, I was surprised to learn the very intentional alcohol related origin of liquid shrubs. As story goes, shrubs originally gained popularity in the 1680s among English smugglers who were trying to avoid paying import taxes on booze being shipped from Europe. To avoid detection and thus taxation, smugglers would sink barrels full of alcohol off the Atlantic coast to be retrieved at a later time. Upon retrieval, the addition of the shrub fruit flavors were used to mask the taste of alcohol fouled by sea water. Who knew!?

Unless your pirate heritage runs deep, nowadays, shrubs, aka “drinking vinegars” are making a come back in the international cocktail scene. Due to their high concentration of vinegar and sugar, shrubs can be prepared in advance made as a pre-made drink mixture. When Marisa announced the 2017 Food in Jars Mastery Challenge late last year, I found myself beyond excited with anticipation for all the creative and weird cocktail shrubs I planned to make.

Apparently, because my craft shrub confidence isn’t quite up to par to make more wild types of shrubs like a fennel fruit shrub, or a sweet tomato shrub, I decide to play it safe for this month’s challenge. This recipe presents a refreshing yet spicy shrub combination, a Mango Habañero Mint Shrub. To keep the flavors strong and fresh, I opted for the cold-pressed shrub method. Additionally, because I didn’t want to mask any pepper or mint, I chose the more delicate color and flavor profiles of champagne vinegar.

The resulting sweet heat of this mango shrub is pretty phenomenal. I admittedly coughed following first gulp (oops), “wow that’s really strong!!”. Alas, after bottling and letting it settle in the fridge for a couple days the taste is now just right, and it’ll only get better. For a stronger mint flavor, I recommend upping your fresh mint amount.

For a refreshing drink serve this Mango Habañero Mint Shrub with ice cold water/seltzer, or get spicy and serve it with the Tequila Shrub Cocktail listed below. Also, make sure you reserve that mango fruit pulp for an awesome topping for your Saturday morning french toast, or perhaps use it in a homemade spicy mango cornbread. Yum!

Scientist by day, pickler by night, Erin Urquhart (from Putting Up with Erin) has always had a deep affinity for pickles. She’s the type of person who is super disappointed if pickles aren’t included in every holiday spread. A regular contributor of pickle reviews to her local Durham, NC newspaper, she even drives a car with “Pickle” vanity license plates.

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Guest Post: Transforming Your Jamming Fails

9-sieve-and-berries

We’ve all been there.

Staring with glazed and uncomprehending eyes at a dozen pints of our favorite “jelly” sitting on the counter: a jelly that never jelled.

How could this have happened?

We followed the recipe to the letter. We didn’t fall into the “a little less sugar won’t hurt” trap. Our choice of pectin was impeccable. We gave up most of a Saturday, standing over a pot of boiling, staining fruit that spattered our bare arms with specks of magma while our friends hit the beach or the bar.

The seal is tight; there’s nothing wrong with the preserves inside. Still, the truth is staring us in the face: our jam or jelly didn’t get the message it wasn’t supposed to turn out like maple syrup. After all, it wasn’t pancakes you wanted to eat it with; it was toast, darn it!

10-jelly-sheeting-spoon

Well, buck up, canners! Here’s what to do next:

  1. File this one under the “A rose by any other name smells as sweet” category! Did you think you were making marmalade? Surely you meant ‘marinade’! Through bitter experience, I’ve discovered that runny preserves work marvelously well as meaty accompanists. Use the old standbys as your guide: citrus and cranberry paired with poultry, for instance, or apple or rhubarb with pork. One of my family’s favorite recipes, the cheekily-titled “Becky’s Breasts” is basically runny cranberry sauce whisked up in equal parts with bottled Italian dressing. Souse your chicken with the above, leave in the fridge a few hours, bake, and serve!

2. Skip the sugar! Planning on whipping up the weekly apple crisp for supper? Be my guest, but why not sub in some of that failed jam or jelly as a sweetener? Some favorite failures: strawberry-rhubarb, raspberry un-jelly, and the blueberry-peach jam experiment that wound up tasting like cough syrup, but was vastly improved in its fruit crisp setting. Mix and match!

3. Your favorite neighborhood watering hole. Didn’t think that’s where you worked, did you? Now look at all of that black currant syrup you just put up. Are you going to throw out all that work, or are you going to go out shopping for some vodka and soda water and throw yourself a party? Doesn’t that feel better?

Life is a lot like canning, friends. Some relationships are going to jell beautifully, while others may require some serious adjustments in outlook. Canning pros like Marisa will tell you that it’s those willing to be flexible who enjoy the most delicious success.

Elizabeth Peirce writes books about how busy people can grow, prepare and preserve their own food. Exhausted parents get extra empathy and free pep talks at her blog, C.O.O.K. (creativeorganiconlinekitchen.com), along with recipes, how-to’s, and book links.

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Guest Post: Pink and Yellow Pickled Eggs from Heather Francis

Today’s guest post comes from Heather Francis. Heather is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada and has spent the last decade working and living on boats. Since 2008 she and her Aussie partner Steve have been living and sailing Kate, their Newport 41’. They document their travels and their edible DIY projects on their blog, Yacht Kate. Last year, Heather shared her recipe for mango chutney with us. Today, she’s telling the tale of pickled eggs. Enjoy!  

Eggs

Captain Chook is the Master of the good ship Pollo Picante. He watches over his crew, keeping everyone safe as his vessel is heaved to and fro by the ocean. His job is not an easy one, his crew are not the heartiest bunch and his vessel has limited space. No more than 24 can live aboard in peace and late one night we woke to find that mutiny broken out.

Overloaded, the Pollo had broken free from her mooring and was run aground. We were able to salvage the ship and some of her crew, but several were mortally wounded and were given a burial at sea. We think Chook he is a fair and able Captain; not many under his command could be considered ‘bad eggs’.

We eat a lot of eggs onboard. A couple mornings a week we have an egg for breakfast and I will often make a frittata for lunch or serve a fried egg perched atop a stir fry for dinner. On passages there are always hard boiled eggs in the fridge for an easy to grab snack while on watch, and when there is fresh bread and good mayo around I treat us to a curried egg sandwich.

eggs in a carton

Fresh eggs have never been hard to find, once I stopped looking in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, that is. In most places we find eggs sold at the local open-air markets alongside all the fresh fruit and vegetables that people grow or forage. These markets are held in the municipal center or large township and islanders from surrounding villages often travel for several hours and camp out for days in order to participate.

I frequently buy my eggs in bulk, a flat at a time, so we have enough on board to last 3-4 weeks, or until we get to the next market town. However since my hanging egg basket (A.K.A the good ship Pollo Picante) can only safely hold so many I use another method to store eggs onboard; I pickle them.

I didn’t realize that pickled eggs were something unusual until I mentioned it to an Aussie a few years back. Turns out the pickled egg phenomenon never made it Down Under. I, on the other hand, have been eating pickled eggs for as long as I can remember.

Pickled Eggs Jar

On hot summer days when we all piled into the family car to take the long meandering drive through rural Nova Scotia to visit my Grandparents we would always stop for a pickled egg. On a sharp corner of a long wooded road was a small milk-carton shaped building, not unlike nearly every other house we passed that day. Maybe it was a corner shop, maybe it was just someone’s house; there was no sign or takeout window and none of us kids ever got out of the car to find out.

My Father would disappear around the corner of the building and a few minutes later return with a half a dozen pale brown pickled eggs in a small clear plastic bag. The bag was passed around the car and we would each pick out our own firm, but slightly squishy pale-brown egg. I could literally taste the anticipation as I waited or my turn, the air filling with the acidic tang of vinegar that would tickle my nose and make my mouth water. It has been over two decades since I last drove down that road and stopped at that mysterious house but a good pickled egg is still a favourite snack of mine.

Making pickled eggs is easy: hard boil and peel the eggs, put them in a large jar with desired spices and cover with a vinegar brine. When cool put them in the fridge and wait at least a week before eating. Eggs will keep for 4-6 weeks in the fridge and the flavour will continue to develop and intensify the longer you let them sit.

Traditional pickled eggs are flavoured with a blend of pickling spices; bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, caraway and mustard seeds. And although I have a soft spot for that classic flavour profile I also like to experiment. Which is how I came to make pink and yellow pickled eggs one year around Easter time.

Pickled Eggs

Unlike painted Easter eggs the colours for my pickled eggs are not achieved used dyes but by adding natural ingredients to the pickle brine. For the pink eggs I layer the hard boiled eggs with slices of pickled beets from a tin and add a little of the water from the can to the brine solution. The deep burgundy colour is slowly absorbed by the eggs and after a couple weeks penetrates almost all the way to yolk. When the eggs are sliced they are both startling and beautiful. Although many people have aversions to pink foods most agree that my Beet ‘n’ Pickled Eggs are delicious.

Anyone who has cooked with turmeric knows of its power to stain hands/aprons/dishcloths/utensils. I figured a teaspoon of ground turmeric would do good job of staining eggs too, and then I threw in some mustard and cumin seeds and a few chillies for good measure. The turmeric doesn’t penetrate the egg as severely as the beets but the result is a pretty sunshine-yellow egg with bright Indian flavours.

To most batches of pickled eggs I also add onion slices to the jar. The onion not only adds flavour to the eggs and ends up nicely pickled as well, and is a delicious addition to sandwiches or sundowner crudité plates. Of course you don’t have to wait until Easter; I keep a jar of pickled eggs in the fridge year round.

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