Site Wackiness

Hey Food in Jars readers. Just wanted to let you know that we’ve discovered a small, strange hack on this site. We have to go to a baby baptism right now, but will be back later this afternoon to fix this problem. Essentially, when you search for something on Google and a Food in Jars result turns up, Google is displaying information about propecia. Rest assured, all will be well by later today.

I’ve never been more grateful to have a husband who wrote a book about WordPress than I am right now.

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Upcoming Classes in Philadelphia

empty jam pot

We’re heading head-long into the final days of summer. The edible delights of the season are now reaching their zenith and what better way to honor all that abundance than to learn to can? I’ve got a number of classes coming up in the Philadelphia area…

Monday, August 2 (yes, that’s tomorrow)
Peach Jam at the Devon Whole Foods
6:30-8:30 p.m.
This class is free! Email me at foodinjars@gmail.com to sign up!

Saturday, August 7 (currently full, contact me if you’d like to get on the waiting list)
Cucumber Dills at Indy Hall
11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 21
Tomato Chutney at Terrain at Styer’s
2-4 p.m.

Thursday, September 16
Pickled Zucchini at Terrain at Styer’s
6-8 p.m.

I’m also plotting out classes for fall. Leave a comment if you’d be interested in a class around applesauce, pear-ginger jam and an array of cranberry products.

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Canning 101: Why You Should Bubble Your Jars

bubbling the relish

Often, when you read a recipe for pickled vegetables, chutneys, relishes or whole fruit preserved in a syrup solution, you’ll come across a phrase that says something along the lines of, “bubble your jars thoroughly.” For new canners, this is often a confusing statement. What exactly is the recipe asking you to do and why do you need to do it?

When a recipe instructs you to bubble your jars, it is telling you to take either a plastic or wooden utensil (I really like that long, skinny spatula you see in the picture above. However, a wooden chopstick or a plastic knife work well too) and insert it into your jar. You use that utensil to wiggle your product around in order to release any trapped air bubbles. You do this after you’ve packed your jars and topped them with your brine or syrup (or after a chunky sauce/chutney/relish has been ladled in).

The reason you want to choose a tool that is made of either plastic or wood is that they will not scratch up the insides of your jars. Metal utensils can leave very small scars behind that end up shortening the lifespan of your jars. When working with glass, it’s always a good idea to do what you can to prevent breakage. This is one of those things.

The reason it’s important to rid your jars of trapped air is that in canning, the empty space to product ratio needs to balanced carefully. You need to have enough air in the jar so that after processing, the escaping heat can pull the oxygen out of the jar and create the vacuum seal. However, too much air and you find that some of your product is left sticking out of the preserving liquid, leaving it prone to discoloration and the development of off-flavors.

Additionally, if you leave those air bubbles trapped somewhere in the middle of the jar, they may try to escape during processing and can end up pushing some of your liquid out of the jar, leaving you with even less of your precious brine or syrup.

If you’ve had that loss of liquid happen to you in a previous canning attempt, don’t despair! As long as the seal is good and firm, the contents of the jar are still fine. You will want to move them up to the front of the consumption queue though, as they will not keep as long.

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Small Batch: Mixed Stone Fruit Jam

mixed stone fruit jam

About a week ago, I had three peaches going mushy, a handful of soft apricots and a flat of sugar plums all competing for my attention. Knowing that I couldn’t ignore all that overly ripe fruit a day longer, I peeled and chopped the peaches and diced the apricots. The plums were promised to another project, so I couldn’t pilfer too freely. I liberated just enough to bring the volume in my measure to up to three cup mark.

This all happened just before I went to bed, so I combined the fruit with a scant two cups of sugar and poured the whole mess right up to the rim of a wide-mouth quart jar. Into the fridge it went.

The next evening, after the dinner dishes were done, I poured the prepared fruit into my small batch cooking pot and prepped three half pint jars, hoping that I’d lose that final half pint during the cooking process. I added no additional pectin, choosing instead to cook the jam up to 220 degrees and hope for the best. I added the juice and zest of one lemon towards the end of the cooking. The fruit itself was so sweet, tart and flavorful that it didn’t need an additional things in terms of spices (although a bit of vanilla or cinnamon would be lovely).

It hit 220 degrees easily and as I filled the jars, I was happy to discover that I had exactly enough for the three half-pints (I promise, this exactitude rarely happens to me). I processed them in my handy asparagus pot for ten minutes and had pinging lids very soon after that.

Less than an hour of time invested (over the course of two nights) yielded three half pints of truly tasty jam, as well as the satisfaction of rescuing good food from a certain, moldy fate.

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Put ‘Em Up Winners

I think I’ve held you all in suspense long enough. The winners of the Put ‘em Up! giveaway are Sharon W. (commenter #141) and Tammy (commenter #468). Sharon and Tammy, I’ll be in touch soon.

So many thanks to all of you who left comments on that post, it was a record number for this site. For all of you who didn’t win, I do still recommend you take a moment to look at Put ‘em Up! at your local bookstore or library. It’s one of the best all-purpose canning books I’ve seen in a while.

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July Can Jam: Cucumber Pepper Relish

relish going into the canner

This month’s Can Jam recipe is a direct result of an abundance of green peppers in my CSA share and a hot night at a ball game. I like a nice crunchy green pepper as much as the next girl, but when you come into the possession of ten of them in the course of two weeks, even the hungriest green pepper lover can’t keep up.

hunks of peppers

When I was growing up, my mom often made stuffed green peppers. She’d cook up a combination of ground beef, brown rice, onions and raisins. They’d get baked until everything was bubbly. In the last five minutes of cooking, a slice of muenster cheese would be draped across the top of each pepper half, to help bind it all together. I love these peppers, but they’re sort of heavy for the heat we’ve been having lately (and Scott doesn’t cotton to cooked raisins).

chopped/grated veg in pot

A few weeks ago, we went to a Phillies game. It had been years since I’d been to a live sporting event of any kind, but when Scott got the tickets from work, I was excited to go, mostly because I love a good stadium hot dog. To me, the perfect hot dog is served in a squishy bun and dressed with mustard, sweet relish and chopped onions (preferrably dispensed in bulk from a stainless steel container with a rotary handle that controls the output).

stirring the relish

So, when it came time to make something for this cucurbits challenge, I had sweet pickle relish on the brain and peppers to use. What I did was mash up this Garden Relish recipe (because it used a lot of bell peppers) with the Sweet Pickle Relish in the Ball Book (page 52 of the 2008 edition). I skipped the green tomatoes called for in the Garden Relish, and instead made my main players peppers and kirby cucumbers, with some shredded onion for kick.

bubbling the relish

I made a point of increasing the vinegar a bit since I omitted the one ingredient (green tomatoes) that could have lent some additional acid to the party and added a pinch of red chili flakes to the array of spices, to help balance the sweet and tart flavors. I very much look forward to eating a scoop of this on a hot dog in the very near future. I’m also delighted to have cleared out all those peppers from my fridge. The other nice part of this recipe is that it gave me the opportunity to pull out the shredding disc for my food processor. It made incredibly quick work of the cucumber and onion.

cucumber pepper onion relish

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