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Lightly Pickled Sweet Cherries

Lightly pickled sweet cherries in jars

Sour cherries are one of my very favorite things to preserve. Sadly, thanks to a late freeze back in April, it is proving to be a very bad year for stonefruit in the Philadelphia region. Sour cherries are proving to be very hard to come by.

two and a half pounds of sweet cherries in a colander

Instead of bemoaning the 2016 sour cherry situation (though I must confess, I was able to get some from my friends’ community garden, so I’m not totally without them this year), I decided to take some of the sweet cherries from the Northwest Cherries shipment, and do what I could to give them a flavor profile similar to that of a sour cherry.

quartered cherries in the sink

I measured out two and a half pounds of the sweet cherries and using my trusty paring knife, cut them in quarters and wiggled out the pits (I don’t like using cherry pitters, because I resent how much cherry flesh you lose with every pit. Quartering them is fiddly work, but so much more of the fruit ends up in the pot).

lightly pickled sweet cherries in a stainless pot

Once the cherries were prepped, I combined them with sugar, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice and let them sit until all the sugar was dissolved. Then I set the pot on the stove, brought it to a boil, and cooked the fruit until the cherries were tender (but not falling apart) and the liquid had thickened slightly.

Lightly pickled sweet cherries in jars close-up

Towards the end of cooking, I took a tiny taste of the syrup in the pot and was so happy with the results. Bright, sweet, and just tart enough that you feel a pleasant shiver in the back of your throat. This is one for sparkling water, pairing with cheese, or eating with a pork chop.

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Gingery Pickled Peaches

finished pickled peaches

Last weekend, I taught a canning and preserving workshop at the Omega Institute in the Hudson Valley. On my drive up there, my car was packed to the gills with pots and pans, jars, bowls, cutting boards, jars (I brought 13 cases and ended up dashing out between sessions for two more boxes of quarter pints), and well over 100 pounds of produce.

pickled peach segments

Of the 12 preserves we made over the course of the weekend, a full five featured peaches. We canned them in quarters, made peach salsa, tossed slices in cinnamon and dehydrated them, did a batch of chunky, vanilla-laced jam, and finally made jelly out of the peach-flavored juice leftover from canning the quarters. It is, after all, the season for peach canning.

filling jars with pickled peaches

One thing we did not do was make pickled fruit (though I did consider it when building the class schedule). We were making a chutney and doing a couple of other styles of pickling as well, so there just wasn’t room. However, had we had just a little more time, I would have slipped in this recipe for pickled peaches.

full jars pickled peaches

There is something about pickled fruit that I just really like. A few slivers spooned from a jar easily serves as a sweet, bright, and tangy counterpoint to any number of meals (and is particularly welcome during the relentless cold and grey of winter). I particularly like to braise well-salted chicken thighs in a slurry of browned onions slices and pickled peach segments. Served over creamy millet, it’s a winner of a dish come November.

pickled peaches overhead

The eagle-eyed among you might look and this recipe and think that it looks familiar. If you have this thought, you are not wrong. The brine is identical to the one I use for my Gingery Pickled Blueberries and works equally well with peeled pear slices. Pickled fruit. It’s hard to go wrong.

Note: You may notice that in these pictures, the peaches are not peeled, yet in the recipe below, I tell you to peel them. I was feeling particularly lazy the day I made these and skipped the peeling step. If you don’t mind having the skins on, feel free to be like me. However, for a more refined pickled peach, remove the skins.

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Home Canned Peaches in Fruit Juice + MightyNest Giveaway

This post is sponsored by our friends at MightyNest! Read through to the end for details about a giveaway worth $200!

row of jars side

There is a park near my apartment that hosts two weekly farmers markets. I almost always go to the Saturday market, but often miss the mid-week one. It takes place on Tuesdays from 10 am to 2 pm and so often, by the time I remember that it’s happening, I’ve already missed it.

empty week jars

Last week, though, the stars were aligned in my favor. I had been out running errands and on my walk home spotted the cheery row of white tents set up along the north edge of the square. It was nearly 2 pm, but the vendors all still had good things on offer. I bought three quarts of yellow and green beans for pickling, a half pint of black raspberries, and five pounds of hail-marked peaches for $5.

four pounds peaches

The peaches were a little beat up but it was nothing some careful work with a paring knife couldn’t fix. I set them out to ripen for a couple days and applied myself to the rest of the produce. I trimmed the beans, fit them into a large jar with garlic and spices, and covered them with brine (we’ll talk more about those next week when they’re finished fermenting). The raspberries? Those I ate with my lunch.

peach quarters

A few days later, the peaches were ripe and ready for canning (and eating! I did set aside a few for snacking). I considered turning them into jam, but I just discovered a cache of peach vanilla jam in the back of the cabinet, so that seemed unnecessary. Instead, I decided to can them in fruit juice for later in the year when all available fruit is being shipped from the other side of the world.

apple juice

Over the years, I’ve preserved fruit slices in syrups made from cane sugar, honey, and agave nectar, but when it comes to ease and virtue, there’s nothing better than plain old apple juice. When I first started working on my natural sweeteners book, I got into the habit of keeping a few canisters of 100% juice concentrate in the freezer because they’re so useful during canning season.

peaches in juice

I prepped the peaches by cutting them in quarters and laying them in a heatproof baking dish. Once they were ready, I put the pan in the sink (to help prevent large messes), brought a kettle of water to a boil and poured it over the peaches. This helps loosen the skins and when you’re working with relatively small amounts of peaches, makes for an easier peeling process.

peaches in jars

Once the peach quarters had sat in the hot water for about three minutes, I lifted a corner of the pan and tipped out most of the hot water. Then I ran some cool water from the tap over the fruit. Then, I peeled the skins off the peach segments. They lifted away easily enough, though some benefited from a little paring knife assistance.

peaches in jars top

I’d prepped the juice ahead of time (using the regular dilution of one can of concentrate to three cans of water) and brought it to a simmer in a four quart pot. After each peach segment was peeled, I dropped it into the hot juice. The acid content in the juice is enough to help prevent oxidation, and the heat helps the fruit release some of its trapped air, making for a finished product that should siphon less that peaches that were done using the cold pack method.

single jar of peaches

Once all the peaches were peeled and in the simmering juice, I pulled three clean, hot 1/2 liter Weck tulip jarsout of my prepped canning pot and filled them with peach slices. I ladled in enough juice to cover, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace (make sure to wiggle out any trapped air bubbles).

Finally, I wiped the rims, eased on the seals and lids, and clamped them in place with the metal clips. Because they were a hot packed product, these jars (which are the functional equivalent of pint jars) spent just 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

finished peaches

Once the time was up, I slide the pot off the hot burner, removed the lid, and let the jars cool for ten minutes still in the water. This is another way to help prevent the siphoning of the liquid to which whole fruit is so prone.

Finally, I pulled the jars out of the water and let them rest on a folded kitchen towel. You can always tell with Weck jars that they’ve formed a seal because the little rubber tab will point downward.

down turned tab

Now, here’s the fun part. Our friends at MightyNest are huge canning fans and want to help one lucky Food in Jars reader get set up for a very successful canning season. To that end, they’re letting me give away a canning pot, jar lifter, stainless funnel, and an assortment of jars. The total value is $200. Just plug your information into the widget below to enter.

Disclosure: MightyNest is a Food in Jars sponsor. Additionally, they provided the Weck jars you see featured in this post. However, all opinions remain entirely mine.

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Guest Post: Honey-Vanilla Bean Quince Preserves from Camille Storch

filling jars with quince preserves by Camille Storch

I have a big treat today! A guest post from Camille Storch! Camille is a writer, runner, and canner living with her family in rural Western Oregon. Her blog, Wayward Spark, focuses on small agriculture and sustainable living. Camille’s husband Henry is a commercial beekeeper who manages nearly 300 hives in the Willamette Valley and remote areas of the Oregon Coast Range. Through their business, Old Blue Raw Honey, Camille and Henry sell their unique varietal honeys at local events and online (I’ve tasted this honey and it is spectacular).

bag of quince by Camille Storch

I got turned on to quince a couple years ago when I overheard my friend Ana, a pastry chef, ranting and raving about the fruit’s flavor, texture, and rosy metamorphosis in the cooking process. After getting my hands on some, they quickly became one of my fall favorites, and I’ve since tried out a number recipes including quince jelly and spiced quince leather.

peeled and halved quince by Camille Storch

Quince may seem exotic, and the fruits take a little more work to prepare than an apple or a pear, but the flavor of sweetened (perhaps spiced) quince is unrivaled and almost universally appealing.

simmering quince and lemon by Camille Storch

Starting in late September, quince aren’t too hard to come by at farmers’ markets or even grocery stores ‘round these parts. For the last three years, I’ve had the privilege of visiting and harvesting from the quince orchard at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, OR where more than 200 different quince cultivars from all over the world are planted.

reducing quince by Camille Storch

This year, I put off my orchard trip until almost too late in the season, so only a few stragglers were left on the trees for me to pluck down. Luckily, I made off with just enough fruit for two batches of honey-vanilla bean quince preserves and one quince-boysenberry pie.

jars of quince preserves by Camille Storch

The following recipe was inspired by my friend Lisa who sometimes brings me fresh butter from her dairy cows but on one occasion brought me a jar of homemade quince preserves instead. I popped open the jar immediately, and then we sat around the kitchen table chatting and eating through a stack of pancakes smothered in chunky, rosy, quince-y goodness. Later when I asked for her recipe, I got only a few vague instructions, so I had to recreate her genius more or less on my own. Thankfully, the task wasn’t difficult at all.

half pint of quince preserves by Camille Storch

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Orange Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika

orange tomatoes

Of all the ways you can buy groceries in Philadelphia, the Italian Market is the most unique. It’s a blocks long market, made up of storefronts and curbside produce stands. It was originally entirely populated by Italian-owned stores and stalls, but over the years it has become increasingly multi-cultural.

There are butcher shops, fishmongers, coffee houses, sandwich joints, kitchenware stores, restaurants and produce stalls. It is slightly dirty, prices are often fluid and, in the winter time, they still light fires in giant metal cans to keep warm.

chopped orange tomatoes

Often, the produce you find at the Italian Market isn’t local. In fact, there’s no way to know whether it’s from the US or somewhere increasingly far-flung. However, in late summer, you can occasionally find an incredible bargain on something grown just over the river in New Jersey. Such was the case for me last week.

I was in the market to pick up jars at Fante’s for a class (sometimes I feel like I’m constantly buying jars) and I walked by an enormous display of orange tomatoes. The signage proudly proclaimed that they were fresh from South Jersey and they were just a dollar for an overflowing two quart bucket. A single buck.

orange tomato jam with smoked paprika

I brought them home and riffed on my standard tomato jam (in the last hours before we left for vacation). I reduced the sugar slightly, added vinegar to compensate for the lower acid levels of orange tomatoes (in addition to the lemon juice already present in the recipe) and made it fire-y with cayenne and smoked paprika. My yield was just 2 1/2 pints and after I was done, I wished there was time to dash back to 9th Street and pick up another dollar’s worth of tomatoes.

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Tips for Tomato Canning Season

heirloom seconds

There’s been a rapid up-tick in questions about tomato preservation in the last week, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to gather all my tomato-centric posts in one place. Before you shoot me an email with a tomato query, take a look through these posts because your answer may be there.

Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes – A basic tutorial that will walk you through the steps of canning whole tomatoes packed in their own juices. This is my preferred method for canning tomatoes for use throughout the year.

Tomato Canning 101 – If you’re dealing with floating tomatoes, a separated product or loss of liquid during processing, read this post in order to set your worries to rest.

Did your Sungolds, grape tomatoes and cherries do really well this year? Check out this post which details five ways you can preserve small tomatoes. On the flipside, if your bigger tomatoes are doing well, here are five ways to put them up.

Last summer, I made tomato paste for the first time. I wasn’t too keen on when I first did it, but I must confess, it’s been incredibly useful throughout this year. So much so, that I’m thinking of biting the bullet and doing it again (if I’m able to get a really good deal on tomatoes in the next few weeks).

Finally, no tomato post is complete without mention of my two favorite tomato jams. The classic and the one featuring yellow tomatoes and basil. Both are delicious.

In other news, the winner of the Mountain Rose Herbs giveaway is commenter #717, Elizabeth Dalton. Thanks to all who entered!

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