CSA Cooking: Zucchini, Fennel, and Green Pepper Relish

fennel zucchini pepper relish

Relish is one of those condiments that doesn’t get as much love as it should. Most people associate it with hot dogs and not much else. However, I find that a mixed relish like this one has much to offer.

During the glut of the summer growing season, it can be pressed into service as a catch-all for produce that would otherwise go unloved. And once in jars, it brings welcome crunch and pucker to cheese boards, sandwiches, burgers, and salmon cakes.

This particular batch absorbed the green peppers and onion from my July Philly Foodworks share, along with two heft zucchini and some young, sweet fennel bulbs. It left our apartment smelling like the most delicious sandwich shop ever for at least 24 hours, and while I’ve not yet cracked open a jar, I have grand plans for it once the weather starts to cool.

I’m curious. How many of you out there are relish lovers? If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopping you?

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Sweet Cherry and Yellow Peach Preserves

finished cherry peach preserves

A couple of weeks ago, just before I left on my trip to Portland, I hit a familiar preserving wall (I bash into it at least once a summer. And sometimes more than once). I had a fridge full of fresh produce, stonefruit ripening on the counter, and I had just a day and a half before I was leaving town.

peeling peaches

There was no time for careful preserving, with long maceration times. I needed to prep as quickly as possible and fling everything into the pot. I peeled the three pounds of peaches that my friend Audra had given me from her tree by cutting them into halves and quarters, lining them up in a baking dish and pouring boiling water over them.

cherries in a pot

I pitted the cherries (these were from my July Philly Foodworks share) by heaping them into a pan, adding a tiny bit water, and simmering them for 10 minutes. Once they were cool enough to handle, I plunged my hands into the warm fruit and pinched the pits out. My fingernails were stained for days, but the cherries took less than 8 minutes of active work.

simmered cherries

I combined the peaches, the pitted cherries, and any juice left in the cherry pan in a large measuring cup to see how much I had and found that I had exactly 8 cups of fruit. I poured the fruit in my beloved maslin pan and spent a moment thinking about sugar.

peaches and cherries in measuring cup

As you may have noticed, I’ve been making lower and lower sugar preserves, mostly because I want to be able to eat what I make and I don’t always want to be eating fruit with an equal measure of sugar. I’ll often use Pomona’s Pectin in order to get a good set with minimal sugar, but this time, I just didn’t feel like bothering with pectin at all. Instead, I decided to add 2 1/2 cups of sugar, boil the heck out of it, and be happy with whatever set it ended up with.

prepped cherries and peaches

After about 40 minutes of vigorous cooking, I ended up with 6 half pints of deep red preserves. It has a very soft set, but isn’t so loose that it can’t wear the catch-all preserves handle. It’ll be a good one for eating with yogurt, cottage cheese, or oatmeal come fall and winter, and I wouldn’t be at all ashamed to tuck a jar or two into gift baskets.

cherry peach preserves two jars

Note: Because the peaches I used in this preserve were a tiny bit tangy, I didn’t use any lemon juice in this preserve. However, if your peaches are quite sweet, a drop or two wouldn’t go amiss. Additionally, you could easily spice this one up with a touch of ginger or cinnamon.

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Upcoming Classes: Online! Collingswood! DC! Carlisle!

class image revised

We are heading into the home stretch of summer. If you haven’t yet pulled out your canning pot this season, consider taking a class to help boost your preservation mojo. I’ve got a handful of in-person classes on the schedule, as well as a pair of live online classes.

These online classes have been a total delight. Three times now, I’ve hosted them from my kitchen and a happy crowd of 20-25 people have tuned in. The conversation in the chat room has been consistently lively and I so enjoy the sense of community that builds over the course of an hour. If you haven’t joined one yet, I highly encourage you to do so!

Tuesday, August 4 – Live online class via Concert Window! This time, I’ll be talking about pickling (quick, processed, and fermented) starting at 8 pm eastern time. Class is pay what you wish. Sign up here.

Wednesday, August 5 – Small batch canning demo and book signing at the Collingswood library. 6:30-8 pm. Free!

Saturday, August 8 – Canning classes at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, DC. The morning session is Pickled Carrots Two Ways (10 am to 12 noon) and the focus of the afternoon session An Introduction to Preserving Beets. That afternoon session will include a pressure canning demonstration.

Tuesday, August 11 – Jam making class through the Cumberland County Society of Farm Women in Carlisle, PA. Class is from 6:30 – 8:30 pm and costs $15. Contact Deb Yorlets at 717-574-2217 to sign up.

Wednesday, August 26 – Live online class via Concert Window! This class will be all about canning tomatoes. I’ll demonstrate how to cold pack and process whole tomatoes starting at 8 pm eastern time. Class is pay what you wish. Sign up here.

Friday, August 28 through Sunday, August 30 – Canning workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. More details here.

Wednesday, September 2 – Low Sugar Plum Jam with Weaver’s Way. I’ll show you how to make a lower sugar jam using late summer plums and Pomona’s Pectin in the kitchen at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House. 7-9 pm. Click here to register.

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Giveaway: Mrs. Wages Tomato Basket

Mrs. Wages mixes

Friends, the true start of tomato season is upon us. And what better way to get ready for tomato season than with a Mrs. Wages Tomato Mix giveaway.

You combine your fresh tomatoes with these mixes (they all have instructions on the back of the packet) and suddenly you’re a salsa, pasta sauce, and Bloody Mary mix master. I’ve used several of these mixes in the past to great success. They’re particularly helpful in that moment when you’re overwhelmed by tomatoes and need to do something that doesn’t require a great deal of thought.

The basket will contain an assortment of mixes, including pizza sauce, classic salsa, Bloody Mary, ketchup, and much more. If you’re interested in a chance to win this giant package of tomato canning goodness, here’s what you do.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your favorite way to preserve tomatoes. Are you a whole peeled person? Or perhaps all your tomatoes are dedicated to batches of tomato jam. There is no wrong answer.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, August 1, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, August 2, 2015.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents only (and is void where prohibited).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Mrs. Wages regularly sends out newsletters and posts useful canning info on Facebook, so make sure subscribe and like to stay in the know.

Disclosure: Mrs. Wages is a Food in Jars sponsor and so kick in a bit of money to help support the work of this site. However, all opinions expressed are my own. 

Links: Berry Jams, Pickles, and Winners

my books at Powell's

I am so very behind in both sharing links and announcing recent giveaway winners. Without any further fanfare, here are some of the tasty thinks I’ve noticed recently.

strainer lid on jar

Now it’s time for winners. First up is winner in the Primo preserves giveaway from two weeks ago. That lucky person is #123/Megan Kiedrowski.

Next are our ten winners in the strainer lid giveaway. They are:

Thanks to everyone who has entered a giveaway recently. I’ll be in touch with all the winners in the next couple days and I’ll have a fresh giveaway up tomorrow morning.

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International Can-It-Forward Day and Onion Pickles from the Ball Blue Book

finished pickled onions four jars

This year’s International Can-It-Forward Day is now just a week away! In seven days, I’ll be at the Jarden Home Brands headquarters in Fishers, Indiana with some other fine folks. We’ll be demonstrating recipes and sharing jar tricks on the livestream, along with delightful people from the Ball Canning team.

frozen pearl onions

I’ll have the day’s livestream running right here on the blog on Saturday, so make sure to tune in starting at 11 am eastern time to see all the interesting and useful programming we will have for you. Oh, and for those of you who asked, this is an online-only event. Unlike in years past, there’s no way to participate if you live close by (so sorry!).

pearl onions in colander

Now, for my next recipe from the Ball Blue Book, I bring you a half batch of Onion Pickles from the latest edition. I confess that I employed a cheat with this one. The recipe calls for fresh pearl onions, but I had neither the time to hunt them down nor the desire to spend hours peeling and prepping them.

So instead, I used frozen pearl onions. The produce a finished texture that is somewhat softer than a fresh onion, but not so much that you’d be displeased.

prepared horseradish

One of the reasons that this recipe spoke to me was the inclusion of prepared horseradish in the brine. I very much enjoy the sinus-clearing flavor of horseradish and loved the idea incorporating its zippy heat in a pickle. This is going to be a trick I’ll carry over to future pickles.

jars for pickled onions

These are a sweet pickle and so may not be the cocktail onion that so many of you seek. However, there’s a note in the recipe that mentions that one can omit the sugar and bay leaf in order to turn these into a sour pickle. So with that alteration, home cocktail lovers may well find that these satisfy their mixology needs.

pickled onions tops

I’m including the recipe in its entirety. If you want to make a half batch (okay, so it’s just slightly more than a half batch) with frozen pearl onions, rinse 3 pounds of frozen onions under warm water until defrosted. Skip the salting of the onions, add 2 tablespoons pickling salt to brine and reduce brine ingredients by half.

finished pickled onions tight

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