Garlic Dill Pickles

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I grew up in a household that appreciated a good garlic dill. As a kid, one of my very favorite after school snacks was a chunky pickle. I would fish one out of the jar with a fork, stabbing until I could get get traction and then drop it into a plastic cereal bowl. I’d slowly nibble away at the pickle over my book of the moment, until all I had left was the stem end of the cucumber and wrinkly, vinegar-scented fingers.

We also believe that no good sandwich is complete without a pickle. My parents take sandwich construction very seriously, and often buy jars of pickles that have been pre-sliced lengthwise just for this purpose (prior to being stacked between the lettuce and the cheese, these pickles are blotted on papertowels, so that the sandwiches aren’t made soggy by too much additional liquid).

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However, up until recently, the idea that a homemade pickle was actually the best kind of pickle didn’t occur to any of us (even taking into account the fact that my father has spent the last 30 years hunting for a pickle to replicate his beloved Polski Wyrob that he hasn’t been able to find since they left Chicago in 1978). I began my pickle enlightenment sometime back in the early spring, when I first started combining asparagus with a vinegar-based brine. I’ve been spreading the pickle gospel out west to my parents in Oregon for sometime now, and it appears that the indoctrination is complete.

My mother and I just spent the last hour on the phone and more than half our conversation revolved around homemade pickles (she now keeps a jar of brine in the fridge, and consistently replenishes the cucumber supply). I can’t tell you how proud I was tonight when she said, “I don’t think I’ll ever buy another jar of pickles again, when making them at home is so easy and so much better.” She’s also got her sights set on making these zucchini pickles (I admit, I sent her the link with a note suggesting they’d be a good way to use up the stampede of garden squash that is coming her way).

And, while I don’t think that my dad will ever find a pickle to compare to the Polski Wyrobs of yore, these garlic dills may just give his taste memory something to get excited about.

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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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Seattle Canning Class + Giveaway

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Thanks to the combined power of good people and cross-country emails, I have a world of good news to share. The first tidbit is that I’m going to be teaching a jam-making class in Seattle on Sunday, August 30th. Here’s the official blurb:

Canning Basics with Marisa McClellan: Fruit Jam
Sunday, August 30, 2009
2:00 to 3:30 PM
Learn just how easy it is to make and can a batch of jam from scratch. If you’ve never done any canning because you think it’s too complicated, this class will change your mind and your pantry forever. Each student will head home with the knowledge they need to make their own jam (as well as a small jar of the jam made in class that day). To sign up, email me at foodinjars@gmail.com.

Cost: $45

The class will be held at Starry Nights Catering & Events, 11200 Kirkland Way, #220, Kirkland, WA.

I haven’t determined what kind of jam we’ll make in the class, I’m planning on waiting to see what looks good when I get into town the day before. I assure you though, whatever we make is certain to be delicious.

The other fun item is that I’ve got another giveaway for you guys, and we’re going to get it going before the current giveaway concludes (you have until the end of today to throw your hat in the ring to win a jar of homemade blueberry jam). You might have noticed that a number of food blogs are giving away a Fresh Preserving Kit from Jarden Home Brands, the folks who make the Ball Brand Fresh Preserving Products. Well, thanks to a partnership between the Canning Across America project and Jarden, I’ve got one to give away as well!

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This is a great item for people who are just getting started canning as well as those of you who can regularly, but could really use some new tools. Included in the kit is the pot you see pictured, along with a rack, wide-mouth funnel, jar lifter, head space/bubbling tool and lid wand. Also included with this giveaway is a copy of the Blue Ball Book of Preserving.

So how to you enter for a chance to win? Leave a comment and tell me why you want it. Do you want to make jam? Are you a fool for pickles? Do you have fond memories of canning with your grandmother? Is your spouse tired of you using your stock pot as a hot water bath? Whatever the reason, I want to hear it. The winner will be randomly selected at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, August 10th and will be notified soon after by email.

Good luck!

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Blueberry Jam

measured blueberries

When it comes to canning, blueberries were my gateway fruit (although they didn’t usher me through the doorway into the realm of canning preoccupation until I reached adulthood). Growing up, I’d often pick them with my family, but I always left the jam-making and canning to my mom, participating only when it came time to squish the berries into jammable shape with my fingers (there’s something so deeply satisfying about crushing those juicy little blue orbs into pulpy bits).

However, one fateful July day during the summer of 2007, my friend Seth and I decided to go blueberry picking and everything changed. That summer, I was in grad school and he was unemployed, so we both had free time on our hands. It was the first time I had gone berry picking without parents, a sibling or babysitting charges that needed to be entertained. We spent at least two hours out in the blueberry field, filling up our buckets and eating until our fingers were stained blue and our stomachs were ready to burst with fruit.

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Later that day, when I was home alone with my berries, I did the thing that was innate. I called my mom for canning advice, ran across the street to the hardware store for some jars and pectin and made my first solo batch of jam. Thinking back on it now, it’s hard to imagine a time when I had so little canning experience, when I hovered anxiously over my filled jars, praying for them to seal (admittedly, there are times when I still check and recheck freshly processed jars, only able to relax when they ring out a ping of sealed success).

Since then, I have made at least 100 batches of jams, marmalades, fruit butters, chutneys and pickles. However, blueberry jam will always feel familiar, foundational and necessary in a way that no other fruit can match. Summer doesn’t feel complete without at least one blueberry picking trip and a batch of homemade blueberry jam cooling on the kitchen counter.

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We’re heading into the end of blueberry picking season here in the mid-Atlantic region, but there are still to be found if you look (as a side note, if you’re interested in the history of cultivated blueberries, check out this interesting little article). You can also get them at the grocery store for relatively cheap prices, if you don’t have any u-pick farms in your area.

And on to the recipe…

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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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