Guest Post: Sailboat Canning and Mango Chutney from Heather Francis

Galley

Today’s guest post comes from Heather Francis. For the last six years, she and her partner Steve have been sailing around the world. They document their travels and their edible DIY projects on their blog, Yacht Kate. Enjoy! 

I didn’t start canning until I moved into my smallest kitchen ever; the galley on Kate, our Newport 41’ sailboat.
The galley (boat speak for kitchen) is a typical U shape. It would politely be described as compact but I often just say that there is only room for one bum.

When I stand at the stove it feels like I am getting a hug from the countertops. It is designed this way so there are lots of places to hold onto and lean against while we are sailing. The sink, stove, pots, pans, dishes, utensils and ingredients are all within arms-reach, literally. When I cook organization is of the utmost importance and chaos occurs after a few dirty dishes are in the sink.

Teeny Tiny Stove

The first preserve I ever made was Strawberry Jam. Six months after we bought Kate in board in Southern California strawberries went on sale; $10 for 10 pints. The plan was to sail south to Panama and then across the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean to Australia. I knew we wouldn’t be seeing strawberries for a long, long time. I lugged 10 boxes of berries, a bag of sugar and a new case of mason jars across town on the trolley and set to work.

I read a couple recipes, followed the directions loosely (I have a tendency to fiddle with recipes) and in no time had a pot of jam bubbling away on the stovetop. To take my mind off of obsessively checking to see if the jam had set I turned on the oven and made a batch of bread. The cabin became unbearably hot but I didn’t leave the stove. I couldn’t. I was mesmerized by that pot and the sticky, sweetness that filled the air.

Strawberry Jam

By the time I had ladled the jam it into jars and taken the bread out of the oven it was almost dark. I sat in the cockpit with few slices of warm bread and the small bowl of froth I had skimmed off the surface of the jam and watched the sun set.

Before I knew it I had eaten half a loaf of bread and most of the bottle of still warm strawberry jam. It tasted like summer. It tasted like childhood. It tasted just like the jam my Grampy used to make, well almost. That it came out of my little galley was nothing short of amazing.

Preserves

Since then I have made Lemon Lime Marmalade in Costa Rica, Pineapple Passion Fruit Jam in Bora Bora, Mango Chutney in the Marquesas Islands, Sweet Pepper Jelly in the Kingdom of Tonga and recently Tomato Relish and Sweet Mustard Pickles in Fiji. Whenever there is an excess of fruit and some empty bottles you’ll find me sweating next to my little stove.

Sometimes I have to be creative as the standard canning cookbooks don’t usually have recipes that include passion fruit or mangos. Out of necessity I often have to use what I have on hand or what is available in local shops; substituting a bitter orange for a lemon, or using raw sugar instead of the near impossible to find white sugar (in the South Pacific anyway). The results may not look picture perfect but they are always pretty tasty.

Fiji Preserves

I do a lot of cooking and every piece of equipment in my galley does double duty as space on a boat is at a premium. I use my pressure cooker with a standard glass lid for boiling bottles and a stainless steel or well-loved enamel cast iron pot I bought at Goodwill for cooking the preserves.

I do all the chopping, dicing and grating by hand, no matter how tedious. We depend on solar and wind power so except for a small immersion blender I don’t own any electrical appliances. If I have a really big bunch of fruit to use up I either make several small batches or borrow a large pot from another boat in the anchorage. But no one seems to mind me asking when I offer to repay the favor with a jar of homemade chutney.

Mango Prep

I don’t remember what island we were anchored at when I opened the last jar of strawberry jam. Chances are we had been on the move for the last few months and hadn’t seen anything resembling a traditional super market in several weeks. Most likely we were getting bored of eating bananas and pineapples.

I know that it was a Sunday and Steve had made us pancakes as a special treat. And I recall searching deep in the bilge for the jar and feeling like I stuck gold when I found it. We had breakfast in the cockpit and dabbed tiny spoons of strawberry jam onto our pancakes, hoping that the little bottle would last forever. The flavours were bright and sweet and familiar. It tasted like home.

Mango Chutney

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Hopes and Goals for Food in Jars in 2015

January 7

Next month, this blog turns six. When I first started, I had no inkling of where a little idea to write about canning, preserving, and my personal obsession with mason jars might take me. Turns out, the answer is pretty darn far (literally, in fact. I did 113 events in 2014 and put 12,000 miles on my car in the process).

Before get I swept up in the momentum of 2015, I want to take a moment to articulate some of the things I hope to do this year. A couple are tangible things to do, while others are lofty concepts.

  • Higher quality content, a little less often – In recent years, I feel like I’ve fallen into a trap in which I post fairly frequently, but the value of what I’m posting is low. While I can’t stop writing about my classes and events, I want to make sure that the bulk of what I share is of value.
  • More personality – Fear not. I don’t plan on turning this into a vanity lifestyle blog. But I do feel like I don’t always bring a whole lot of myself to this space and I don’t like that feeling.
  • Make some video – Years ago, Scott and I used to make an online cooking show called Fork You. But then, other projects cropped up and we just stopped doing it. I’ve wanted to get back to video for a while, but in the intervening years, the quality of web video exploded and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to produce something that would measure up. This year, I plan on throwing off the weight of my own expectations and just do it.
  • More pantry basics – I love a good batch of jam as much as the next girl (probably more), but this year, I want to focus on those practical, pantry building projects that make it easier to make a quick, healthy meal.
  • Tee-shirts and bumper stickers – Before I went on my book tour last spring, I had some stickers printed up that I gave away at my classes and signings. They were a hit and I want to make some more fun Food in Jars logo-ed gear this year.

So those are my hopes for this year. I’m also determined to get the next book written with a minimum of stress and anxiety. I’ve also declared some more personal goals for myself, that I posted a few days ago over at my little personal blog (I’m trying to carve out some time to write about things beyond food and when I do, I post them over there).

Now let the new year come!

 

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Giveaway: Fresh & Fermented

Fresh & Fermented cover | Food in Jars

Over the last year or so, I’ve been getting more and more into making my own fermented foods. I’ve dabbled in sauerkraut for years, but more recently have added kimchi, kombucha, brined radishes, and other little batches of brined vegetables to my repertory.

One of the things that has been encouraging me along this path has been the wave of new books devoted to fermentation (as well as Amanda’s fabulous blog, Phickle).

Fresh & Fermented spine | Food in Jars

One such book that has been providing much inspiration in recent days has been Fresh & Fermented by Julie O’Brien and Richard J. Climenhage of Firefly Kitchens (I mentioned this one in my Class of 2014 round-up, but thought it deserved a little more attention).

What makes this book stand apart is that it’s not just about basic ferments. It focuses on drinks, dips, salads, casseroles, burgers, and desserts all made with a goodly portion of one of the eight basic krauts and kimchis featured in the first chapter. As someone who is always looking for ways to use up a cup or two of sauerkraut, it is proving invaluable.

Thanks to the nice folks at Sasquatch Books, I have a copy of Fresh & Fermented to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post. This time, I’m curious to hear if you made any preserving-related resolutions this year.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, January 10, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, January 11, 2015.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry!).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: Sasquatch Books sent me the review copy of this book I now have in my library and they are also providing the giveaway unit. However, my thoughts remain my own. It’s a good book. I think you’ll like it. 

Links: Marmalade, Kimchi, and a Winner

January 1

Oh friends, what a nice holiday it’s been. I spent a week in Austin over Christmas, and then came home to a husband who was off from work until January 5. We’ve slept late, gone for some long, wandering city hikes, and did a little cleaning up and clearing out (six big bags went to Goodwill today!). Now it’s time to get my brain back into work and this blog. Let’s start with some links!

NewWest paring knife

I also realized that I never managed to select a winner in the New West Knife Works giveaway I hosted a few weeks ago (so long ago!). Random.com declares it to be #201/Michelle.

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January Sponsors: Cuppow, Fillmore Container, Spice Ratchet, New West Knife Works, and Fermentools!

NewWest handle

It’s the beginning of the month (and the year, for that matter), which makes it time again to thank the companies that make it possible to for me to devote so many of my waking hours to this blog!

First up is jar accessory maker Cuppow! They are the creator of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box.

Our friends at Fillmore Container are back this month as well. They’re a family-owned business based in Lancaster, PA and sells all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear.  Make sure to check out all the fun programming they’ve lined up for their booth in the Pennsylvania Farm Show next week.

Next up is Spice Ratchet. They make the blossom trivet that I use as a canning rack, and just recently, they released a line of silicone Blossom uCaps for mason jars. They are available as a storage cap, a sipping cap, and a flower frog.

I’m happy to welcome the nice folks at New West KnifeWorks back again! Based in Wyoming, they are makers of gorgeous, sturdy, crafted in the US kitchen knives that are a joy to use.

Last up is Fermentools. They make a brilliant fermentation starter kit that involves a heavy-duty glass pickling weight, an airlock, a lid with a reusable rubber seal, and mineral-rich salt. The pickles I made using their kit turned out deliciously!

If your company or small business is interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more details here. I offer discounts for multiple month purchases and am always happy to work with your budget.

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Canning Demos with Fillmore Container at the Pennsylvania Farm Show

Food in Jars at the Farm Show

Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season! I spent a week in Austin with my family and came back with a cold (darn pre-schoolers!) and so have been slow to get back into the blogging game. I’ve got a post in the works with some of my hopes for this fresh, new year, but while I gather my thoughts, I wanted to drop in with a quick reminder.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show kicks off next week and I’ll be there offering canning demos on Saturday and Sunday, January 10 and 11! Fillmore Container is hosting a demo station at their booth (like they did last year), and they’ll be having a variety of demonstrations and tutorials throughout the show (don’t miss Amanda from Phickle on Monday and Tuesday). The full schedule of happenings at their booth can be found here (there’s also a fabulous giveaway at the end of that post, so don’t miss it).

My schedule is as follows:

Saturday, January 10

  • 10:30 am: Pear Cranberry Chutney at the Fillmore Container booth
  • 1:30 pm: Dilled Carrot Spears at the Fillmore Container booth
  • 4:30 pm: Pear Chocolate Jam at the Fillmore Container booth

Sunday, January 11

  • 10 am: Strawberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade at the Family Living Stage
  • 1 pm: Dilled Carrot Spears at the Fillmore Container booth
  • 4 pm: Pear Chocolate Jam at the Fillmore Container booth

You can find the complete schedule of presenters over at the Fillmore Container blog. And, of course, I’ll have books available for sale and signature throughout the weekend.

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