Skills for the August Mastery Challenge

It’s August and that means that for those of you participating in the Mastery Challenge (and remember, you can opt in or out each month), it’s time to try out a new skill. This time around, we’ve got two skill options to choose from. You can either try Low Temperature Pasteurization or Steam Canning (or both). Let’s split them apart and dig into each technique individually.

What is Low Temperature Pasteurization?

Low Temperature Pasteurization (LTP) is a process in which you simmer jars of pickles in water that’s between 180 and 185 degrees F rather than process them in a boiling water bath. You do this for a longer period of time (typically 25-30 minutes). The longer, lower temperature allows you to kill off bacteria while retaining a firmer finished texture.

This technique is used primarily for pickles, as a way to retain a crunchier, firmer texture (though don’t get too excited. They still soften a little. But it’s better than pickles from a boiling water bath canner). The pickles are prepared just as you would for a boiling water bath process and are fully submerged in water for best heat penetration.

The trickiest bit of LTP is maintaining the proper temperature. I like to use an immersion circulator (as described in this post from last fall), but a reliable stovetop or portable induction burner will also do the trick. Just make sure to have a good digital candy thermometer that can clip onto the pot on hand to keep tabs on the temperature.

Currently, this process has only been tested on cucumber pickles, but adventurous canners might also try it on hot peppers (similar pH to cucumbers) or green tomatoes (lower pH) to create more textural finished pickles.

For more on this process, I recommend reading this piece on Healthy Canning and this one on The Babbling Botanist.

What is Steam Canning?

Before we dig in, let’s address the elephant in the room. Some of you might be thinking, “hey, isn’t steam canning a prohibited technique?” Well, for the longest time, steam canning wasn’t a process that was recommended by canning experts. This wasn’t because it was necessarily unsafe, but instead because there wasn’t funding available to do the research necessary to determine its safety. However, thanks to research done at the University of Wisconsin, it has been determined that it is now safe to use under certain circumstances.

Steam canning (also sometimes known as atmospheric steam canning so as to differentiate it from pressure canning, which also uses steam), is a process in which jars are enclosed in a large pot that contains a few inches of water and is in possession of a tight-fitting lid. The water is brought to a boil, which produces steam. The steam reaches 212 degrees F (same as the water would), and the jars are duly processed.

You typically see two different kinds of steam canners. There are those that look like old-fashioned cake tins, with a shallow base and a large domed lid. The second type looks like a traditional boiling water bath, but has a rack designed to elevate the jars and a thermometer in the handle, allowing you to see when the interior of the pot has achieved the proper temperature.

The benefits of steam canning are that you don’t need to use as much water (great for drought-stricken areas), you don’t need to keep your burner at full blast (once you’ve built up a head of steam, you don’t need as much heat to maintain it), and because you’re working with less water, it takes less time and energy to reach the proper temperature.

Steam canning can be used for any high acid preserve, provided it is processed for 45 minutes or less. Any longer and you run the risk of boiling the water reservoir dry, which isn’t good for your preserve or your cookware.

For more on steam canning, read this piece from the University of Wisconsin Extension, this article from Healthy Canning, and this one from canning doyenne Linda Ziedrich.

Recipes

I’m not going to recommend recipes this month, because the field is pretty wide open. You can do a small assortment of pickles with LTP and an almost endless array of recipes with steam canning. Try applying one of these techniques to an old favorite, or test drive them with something new and delicious. The choice is yours!

To be included in the monthly stats and round-up, please submit your finished project by Wednesday, August 30 using this form.

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July Mastery Challenge Round-up: Hot Pack Preserving

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We closed the books on July a few days ago and so it’s time finish up another skill in our Mastery Challenge. This month, we focused on hot pack preserving and more than 130 of you reported in that you’d tried preserving something using this method.

Starring ingredients included apricots, apriums, artichokes, beets, black currants, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, carrots, cherries (both sweet and tart), corn, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, figs, gooseberries, green beans, jalapeños, kohlrabi, mangos, mushrooms, onions, peaches, plums, raspberries, rhubarb, shishito peppers, sour cherries, strawberries, watermelon rind, wineberries, and zucchini.

People made all sorts of products, including chutneys, fruit packed in syrup, jams, pickles, salsas, and tomato products.

According to the survey, a lot of you made more than one batch, which is always delightful. I’m happy that so many of you were inspired to dig in more deeply.

As far as satisfaction with skill goes, the results made me giggle. Most of you felt pretty friendly towards hot packed at the start of the month.

But, at the end of the month, those of you who participated were all in. Such happy, positive reactions!

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Jams, Chutneys, and Mostardas

Pickles, Relish, and Salsa

Tomatoes and Whole Fruit/Veg Preserves

And finally, a few comments from the submission form:

Lisa from Aurora, Ontario said, “Interesting to see how the hot pack played out in practice, not just theory. Peaches are a lot more work than I thought they’d be!” So true! Peaches are a beast, but so worth the work!

Ann from Vashon, Washington said, “My time was limited and produce was lagging – but the Walla Walla sweets were in so I tried the onion relish. Definitely worth while! So glad I’m learning more about hot pack. Hope to do some tomatoes soon as they are now arriving in our local markets.” Onion relish is delicious!

Tesla from Memphis, Tennessee said, “I had already done a lot of hot pack preserving, but until this month I had no idea that’s what I was doing – or the reasons why you’d use a hot pack with a particular fruit or to get a particular result. This month was an example of how the Mastery Challenges are educational for me, even when I’m not making something new!” So glad it was useful!

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Can-It Forward Day 2017

It’s August, and that means it’s time for the 7th annual #canitforward celebration with the folks at Ball Canning! Tune in tomorrow, Saturday, August 5 at 12 noon (eastern time) on the Ball Canning Facebook page for a live Can-It Forward canning demo with canning expert Jessica Piper and Kathryne Taylor of Cookie and Kate.

Then, tune in every Wednesday in August at 12 noon for the Ball Canning Preserving Summer Canning Series.  You’ll see both experienced canners and newbies join Jessica in the Ball Test Kitchen to preserve peak summer flavors to enjoy throughout the year (my video will air on August 23, so mark your calendars).

Finally, make sure to head over to the Ball Canning Facebook page tomorrow, because they’ll be launching a fabulous giveaway. All you have to do to enter is share a picture of yourself holding or interacting with one of the new jars (Spiral, Smooth, or Sharing*).

*For every package of Ball Sharing Jars purchased, Newell Brands will donate four meals to Feeding America.

And for more canning inspiration and weekly sales (check back every Sunday for a new discount), head over to FreshPreserving.com.

Disclosure: I am a paid partner for Ball Brand. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

 

 

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Sweet Cherry Ketchup

Last month, the folks from the Northwest Cherry Growers sent me 18 pounds of sweet cherries (it’s my 8th year participating in their Sweet Preservation Canbassador program). After eating a couple pounds in a single sitting, I got down to the work of preserving. I made some whole fruit preserves, cherry and Meyer lemon marmalade, a batch of cherry and black raspberry jam, some cherry ketchup, and used up the rest in a mixed fruit jam.

I managed to share the recipe for the Spiced Cherry Preserves and then totally lost my blogging mojo. So this week, I’m going to try and make up for lost time while fresh cherries can still be had. I’ll link up this post as I get the recipes published. Here’s the first one.

A few notes. The recipe calls for pitted cherries, but you can also use the technique described here if you want an easier route to getting those pits out. If you’re not sure what you would do with cherry ketchup, know that it’s delicious on burgers and with roasted sweet potatoes. And if you’ve got them, feel free to use fancy sauce bottles, as described in this post.

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How to Make Your Own Tonic Water

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here to with a how-to post designed to help you make tonic water syrup! A fun DIY project for an August weekend. – Marisa

When hot weather comes to Philadelphia, that’s my cue to pick up a bottle of gin — because there’s no better quencher at the end of a long, hot bike commute or gardening session than a bright, herbaceous gin and tonic.

In recent years, I’ve started investing in better, locally produced gins to make my favorite summertime cocktail: bottles of Philadelphia Distilling’s Bluecoat and Palmer Distilling’s Liberty Gin are made in the city; Manatawny Still Works’ Odd Fellows Gin is produced about an hour outside Philly in Pottstown. All three are delicious in a crisp G&T.

With quality craft gin, homemade seltzer (thanks to my secondhand SodaStream), and fresh-squeezed lime juice, I found myself just one ingredient away from a truly bespoke cocktail: homemade tonic water.

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Cookbooks: The Joys of Jewish Preserving

I met Emily Paster on Twitter sometime in the summer of 2010. In those days, she was a part-time law professor and full-time mom, just starting her canning and preserving journey. She would frequently reach out to ask a question or simply engage around our shared interest.

In the intervening years, our online conversations led to real-life friendship and it has been a treat to watch (and offer a little help when possible) as she has transitioned into a career as a food writer and cookbook author.

Earlier this summer, Emily published her second cookbook, called The Joys of Jewish Preserving was published (her first was last summer’s Food Swap!) and it is gorgeous, accessible, and perfect for preservers of all stripes.

This lovely book celebrates the many aspects of traditional Jewish jams, pickles, fruit butters, and spreads. From your classic fermented deli pickle to lemon curd designed to use up extra egg yolks (common around Passover!), there’s a wealth of goodness here.

The other thing Emily does really beautifully in this book is that she gives you lots of ways to use up the preserves you’ve made. I’m hoping to make her Sweet Potato Latkes (page 132), the Chocolate Babka with Jam (page 139), and her Cream Cheese Rugelach.

For those of you who have enjoyed cooking from Plenty, Jerusalem, or Zahav, you’ll find much to love in this book. Make sure to check it out before the summer ends!

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