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Questions About Canning Whole Fruit

pears from above

I’ve gotten a couple of questions lately about the loss of syrup when canning whole fruit. Here’s the story. From what I’ve found and read, the loss of syrup isn’t a major problem unless the jars loses multiple inches. Ideally, you don’t lose too much in the processing, but sometimes it happens that upon removing the processed jars from the water, some liquid will bubble out as the air escapes (the official word for this loss of liquid is siphoning). However, as long as the jars sealed, you should be okay. You may get some discoloration in the fruit if you wait a long time to eat it, but if you use it in the next few months, you shouldn’t notice any loss in quality.

For next time, try to do a more complete job of removing the air bubbles from your jars before processing. Make sure the sealing compound in your lids is quite soft and tighten the rings more tightly than you typically do. Also check and ensure that your jars are completely covered with water during processing, as low levels can increase the chance of losing the liquid from your jars.

And, if you haven’t figured it out from the picture above, you can also can Seckel pears (the tiny, crispy ones) whole, just like the plums I did a couple of weeks back. The only change I made to the recipe was that I added a couple of teaspoons of powdered ginger to the syrup, for a slightly different flavor profile. I can’t wait to open those babies up!

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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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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 Radish Storage

radishes in a jar

Up until a couple of years ago, radishes were something I mostly just ignored. As far as I was concerned, they were fairly tasteless orbs (except for the occasional one that was painfully spicy) that were best ignored or crunched over quickly in restaurant salads.

I was of that mind until I had my first brush with regular farmers market shopping three summers ago. It was there that I started seeing fresh radishes, with their greens still attached, in all colors of red, pink and white. At about that same time, I spotted a flurry of blog posts suggesting that radishes were best eaten with salt and butter, either straight or on a slice of chewy bread. Once I tried them that way, I was instantly hooked.

Radishes became a staple on my mental farmers market shopping list and I would grab a bunch with every visit. The one problem I found myself encountering was that occasionally, they’d lose their signature crunch before I had a chance to finish off the bundle. Happily, someone (I think it was a Slashfood reader, but the source escapes me right now) passed along a wonderfully helpful storage tip for radishes that I’ve been employing ever since.

After you do your shopping, if you know you’re not going to be able to get to your radishes right away, trim them of their greens and put them in a jar. Put enough water in the jar to cover the radishes and store it in the fridge. They’ll keep for a good 4-5 days this way without losing any of their crunch or flavor (of course, the most satisfying way to eat a radish is while holding onto the greens, like Bugs Bunny with his carrot. You will miss that particularly tactile pleasure, but it’s a small trade-off).

Or, if you really want to go crazy, you could pickle your radishes so that they’ll last far into the fall or winter… (recipe coming soon).

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