Tag Archives | Can Jam

February Can Jam: Pickled Carrots and Daikon

carrots and daikon

I don’t exactly know why I did it, but I waited until the very last minute to complete this February Can Jam challenge. Maybe it was indecision (I did have a hard time deciding what to make, and it didn’t help when other folks started posting all their lovely projects, tempting my attention in many directions). Maybe it was just a series of busy days (although, I’m not sure I can plead busy-ness, since there were multiple snow days this month, that slowed things down and left me with some long, lazy days).

Whatever the reason, I found myself staring down the deadline tonight and needed to make something that would meet the challenge criteria.

prepping the hot pack

I spent awhile skimming through cookbooks, looking to see if I could find a recipe that moved me. I found nothing that matched what I was craving (a slightly sweet, very puckery, mildly spicy garnishing pickle), so I took what I know about pickles and headed for the stove.

Here’s what I know about pickling vegetables. Always use a commercially produced vinegar that has the acidity printed on the label (5% is best). Vinegar can be diluted by half (but no more). Spices can be tweaked and added, depending on your tastebuds. However, the amounts of low-acid vegetables shouldn’t be altered, in order to keep the product safe. If you want to get a bit more product into the jar without compromising your seal, a hot pack (this is the packing method in which you add your vegetable to the brine and let it heat up a bit, instead of packing it raw or briefly blanched and then pouring the brine over top) is the way to go.

completed jars

So here’s what I did. I thinly sliced two daikon radishes and three carrots on a mandolin (I should have used one more carrot, that front jar isn’t as full as I’d like). Setting those aside, I brewed up a brine of white vinegar, water, sugar and a bunch of spices. I sipped the brine from a deep soup spoon three times in the process of making it, trying to find the right balance of sweet, tart and flavor. When I was satisfied with what was in the pot, I dropped in the slivered veg and stirred. Half a minute on the heat and then off. Using my trusty 1-cup measure, I scooped pickles and filled jars.

They taste pretty good now, but they’re fresh, young. Pickles such as these need a little time to mellow, so that the vinegar can smooth out and the sugar can lose its treacly edge. I’m looking forward to trying them again in a few weeks.

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Canned Clementines for the Can Jam

Dear friends, I have an update on this recipe and it’s a bummer. I don’t recommend that you can clementines in this fashion. I was all excited about being able to can clementine segments, but I found that when they sat on the shelf for a while, the membrane imbued both the fruit and the syrup with an impossibly bitter flavor. I’m leaving the post up, so that there’s both background and a helpful warning. 

bowl of clementines

Around the time I hit the fourth grade, I felt certain I’d eaten enough peanut butter sandwiches to last me a lifetime. This was in the days before peanut allergies ran amok and no one could ever imagine a lunchroom in which peanut products would be banned. However, peanut butter and honey on nutty whole grain bread was my mother’s lunchbox staple, so when I announced my resistance to her near-daily offering, she wasn’t sure what else to pack for my lunch (oh, I long for the days when my midday meal was someone else’s worry).

colander of clementines

Happily, we quickly found a couple new items that satisfied my restless palate. For the next three years, I took two little plastic containers to school with me every day in my lunch sack (until I decided that it was time to move onto a new lunch item). They were filled with either vanilla yogurt and maple-sweetened granola (kept separate to prevent soggy oats) or cottage cheese and canned mandarin oranges.

clementine peels

To this day, I still regularly eat both those combinations (sometimes I add a dollop of jam to the yogurt and granola combo, if I’m feeling particularly indulgent that day) and during college, I returned to peanut butter with a hunger I’ve yet to satisfy.

As I pondered recipe options for the Can Jam, the idea struck that I could take a stab at canning my own mandarins instead of opening one of those squat, 9-ounce cans once a week (one of the problems with purchasing conventionally canned fruit at the grocery store is that you then have to transfer the leftover fruit to a different container. When you can it yourself, you can just screw the lid back on and pop it in the fridge).

peeled clementines

I learned a couple things about myself as I stood in my kitchen last night and peeled five pounds of clementines. The first is that despite being right-handed, I’m only able to peel using my left hand. Second was that I have a number of microscopic cuts on the tips of my fingers and that though it’s not quite as acidic as lemon juice, clementine juice is also quite stingy.

pre-processed clementines

For this project, I adapted the recipe for canning orange segments in So Easy to Preserve (my personal canning bible) and was happy to discover that it was one of my easier canning projects to date (possible to undertake at 9 p.m. at night without compromising my 11:30 bedtime). I use the lightest syrup possible, just 3/4 cup of sugar to 6 cups of water, to keep the fruit as virtuous as I could.

I had initially planned to can them whole, but quickly found that if I wanted to maximize my jar space, I needed to pack them in halves and quarters (clementine bits are very springy, so it was possible to cram quite a few into each jar).

canned clementines

After filled the jars with my light syrup, I used a chopstick to get the air bubbles out, wiped the rims, applied the lids and screwed on the rings. I processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (remember that you don’t start tracking the time until the water returns to a boil). The jars did siphon a bit of syrup out into the water as they processed, but that behavior is normal with whole canned fruit.

I haven’t broken into one of the jars yet. I think I’ll wait until there aren’t so many clementines in the markets so that I can treat myself to a burst of lovely citrus when it’s mealy, sad or just generally unavailable. I canned this batch straight, without any additional flavors. However, I do think I might do another batch while clementines are in season and pop a cinnamon stick or a star anise into the jars (oh! or maybe a bit of fennel seed).

Happy Can Jam!