Tag Archives | guest post

Guest Post: Five Canning and Preserving Survival Tips by Lynne Curry

Today’s guest post comes to us from cookbook author and seasoned canner Lynne Curry. She’s dropping in to share some of her hard won canning wisdom with those who are just getting started, or who simply need to be reminded how to stay sane during the height of the preserving season. Enjoy! -Marisa

The strawberries and cherries have already come and gone for many of us, and the stone fruit avalanche is well under way. And that’s just the fruits! Before you know it, we’ll all be swimming in green beans and tomatoes, racing to pack them into jars.

As a longtime food preserver, I’ve had moments–even small-batch canning–when things nearly got out of hand. With the washing and sanitizing of jars, the peeling and cutting of fruits and vegetables and timing the steady boil in the canner, it’s a lot to manage!

Happily, I’ve adopted five practices from my professional life as a chef and recipe developer that keep me organized and productive from batch to batch over the entire growing season.

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Quick Pickled Balsamic Strawberries

Today’s guest post comes to us from Erin Urquhart, blogger at Putting Up With Erin. She’s stopped by to share her recipe for Quick Pickled Balsamic Strawberries. Welcome to Food in Jars, Erin! 

baskets of strawberries for quick pickled balsamic strawberries

Strawberries are like gold at my farmers market. I’ve been known to spend as much as twenty minutes in line, waiting to get my hands on some locally-grown strawberries (and I have my suspicions that many of you have done the same).

Like locally grown heirloom tomatoes, strawberries are at their peak for a limited amount of time. It takes time and dedication to wait out the other shoppers in order to get the best pick, particularly if you want to have enough to can. I like to put up at least a dozen jars of various strawberry preserves and pickles to get me through the year. They take time and energy, but they’re always worth it.

fresh thyme for quick pickled balsamic strawberries

In years past I’ve played with canned strawberries, pickled green strawberries, strawberry jam , and strawberry whole grain mustard. With only a week left to get my quick-pickled entry in for the Mastery Challenge, I decided to spice it up a bit and try quick pickled balsamic strawberries.

What I love the most about quick-fridge pickling is that it affords you a bit more adventure in your recipes due to modern refrigeration. Even better, because these berries never take a trip through a boiling water bath canner, they hold their texture and shape nicely.

slivered strawberries for quick pickled balsamic strawberries

A familiar combination for strawberry jam, the acid in the balsamic vinegar is a perfect compliment to the sweet berries. There’s no need to buy an uber fancy balsamic vinegar for this recipe. Get something that you’d buy for making quick vinaigrettes.

mustard, thyme and balsamic brine for quick pickled balsamic strawberries

I used a $7 commercially produced organic balsamic vinegar that I picked up from the local food co-op. And because I wanted the pickles to have even more flavor and interest, I decided to get funky by substituting soy sauce for salt, and adding fresh thyme leaves and whole mustard seed to the mix.

quick pickled balsamic strawberries in their jars

The result: a sweet and tangy pickled strawberry backed by the depth of the balsamic vinegar. Enjoy this balsamic strawberry pickle as a mid-day snack with ricotta cheese, cracked black pepper, and some citrus zest, OR simply add a spoonful of pickles to a light field greens salad.

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Guest Post: Transforming Your Jamming Fails

9-sieve-and-berries

We’ve all been there.

Staring with glazed and uncomprehending eyes at a dozen pints of our favorite “jelly” sitting on the counter: a jelly that never jelled.

How could this have happened?

We followed the recipe to the letter. We didn’t fall into the “a little less sugar won’t hurt” trap. Our choice of pectin was impeccable. We gave up most of a Saturday, standing over a pot of boiling, staining fruit that spattered our bare arms with specks of magma while our friends hit the beach or the bar.

The seal is tight; there’s nothing wrong with the preserves inside. Still, the truth is staring us in the face: our jam or jelly didn’t get the message it wasn’t supposed to turn out like maple syrup. After all, it wasn’t pancakes you wanted to eat it with; it was toast, darn it!

10-jelly-sheeting-spoon

Well, buck up, canners! Here’s what to do next:

  1. File this one under the “A rose by any other name smells as sweet” category! Did you think you were making marmalade? Surely you meant ‘marinade’! Through bitter experience, I’ve discovered that runny preserves work marvelously well as meaty accompanists. Use the old standbys as your guide: citrus and cranberry paired with poultry, for instance, or apple or rhubarb with pork. One of my family’s favorite recipes, the cheekily-titled “Becky’s Breasts” is basically runny cranberry sauce whisked up in equal parts with bottled Italian dressing. Souse your chicken with the above, leave in the fridge a few hours, bake, and serve!

2. Skip the sugar! Planning on whipping up the weekly apple crisp for supper? Be my guest, but why not sub in some of that failed jam or jelly as a sweetener? Some favorite failures: strawberry-rhubarb, raspberry un-jelly, and the blueberry-peach jam experiment that wound up tasting like cough syrup, but was vastly improved in its fruit crisp setting. Mix and match!

3. Your favorite neighborhood watering hole. Didn’t think that’s where you worked, did you? Now look at all of that black currant syrup you just put up. Are you going to throw out all that work, or are you going to go out shopping for some vodka and soda water and throw yourself a party? Doesn’t that feel better?

Life is a lot like canning, friends. Some relationships are going to jell beautifully, while others may require some serious adjustments in outlook. Canning pros like Marisa will tell you that it’s those willing to be flexible who enjoy the most delicious success.

Elizabeth Peirce writes books about how busy people can grow, prepare and preserve their own food. Exhausted parents get extra empathy and free pep talks at her blog, C.O.O.K. (creativeorganiconlinekitchen.com), along with recipes, how-to’s, and book links.

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Guest Post: Aged Persian Garlic Pickles from Stefanie Kulhanek

Ingredients 1

Today’s guest post comes to us from Stefanie Kulhanek. She is an ecologist and science educator living in Montreal, Canada who currently works at the Montreal botanical gardens and Biodome. She has done extensive work with local non-profit organisations promoting urban agriculture and community composting in both Montreal and Toronto.

Stefanie first began canning and preserving 8 years ago as a way to deal with surplus from her garden. Since then she had attended various courses and workshops on the topic and loves to experiment with new recipes. Her other hobbies include winemaking, foraging for wild edibles, growing mushrooms and even cultivating Bonsai trees from native species.

Garlic bulbs

Last fall I was first introduced to the fascinating food item know as Seer Torshi; a unique garlic pickle of Persian origin, which is often aged for seven years or more. I was attending a workshop given by a friend on the topic of unusual foods that she’d discovered while traveling. Amongst the various goodies I sampled at the event, Seer Torshi impressed me the most!

When raw garlic cloves are immersed in plain white vinegar for a very long time, a rather magical transformation occurs. The cloves turn from crisp white to ivory, sometimes with hints of blue-green (see the note at the end of the post), eventually fading to a light brown that deepens with age. After several years the cloves become very tender, mild and almost fruity, while both the garlic and its brine take on a deep mahogany colour – reminiscent of balsamic vinegar.

ingredients 2

Seer Torshi is mainly served as an appetizer, much like olives or a fine cheese and is rarely added to recipes. In fact, given its lengthy aging time and supposed medicinal qualities, this pickled garlic is considered a real delicacy and it’s definitely quite addictive.

I was lucky enough to leave the workshop with what remained of an 8-year old jar and a determination to make a batch myself. After doing some research I learned that, while traditional Seer Torshi requires only minimal preparation but lots of patience, there are also several short-cuts that can be taken to reduce aging time substantially. I decided to try my hand at both methods, based on the recipes below.

Fermentation

Method 1: Old school Seer Torshi (makes 1 pint)

4-6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 1 pint mason jar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey

  • Split garlic heads into individual cloves but don’t peel them, otherwise they’ll turn to mush as they age. Try to choose similar sized cloves and pack them tightly into a pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar.
  • Add the honey and salt to the vinegar and stir to dissolve. Then fill the jar with the vinegar mixture leaving about 1 inch of headspace. You may need to put something sterile on top of the garlic to ensure it stays immersed.
  • Place the lid on the jar but don’t seal it too tightly. The garlic should actually undergo a short fermentation and the gas will need to be released by loosening the cap about twice a day for the first week or so. Alternatively use a jar fitted with an airlock.
  • After the fermentation subsides, the garlic should have softened and no longer float. You can then remove the weight, top up with vinegar and re-seal the jar. It should be stored in a cool, dark spot for a minimum of 1 year but ideally for 7!

blue garlic

Method 2: “Quick and dirty” Seer Torshi (1 pint batch)

4-6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 1 pint mason jar
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • Split garlic heads into individual cloves but do not peel them.
  • Add garlic and white vinegar to a stainless steel pot and heat uncovered on medium-high until simmering. Add salt and honey and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool. The garlic cloves will have soften somewhat but should still be fairly firm with their skins intact.
  • Pack the garlic cloves into pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar. Add 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and then fill the jar with the cooled white vinegar mixture, leaving about an inch of headspace.
  • Unlike the traditional method, this garlic pickle should not ferment. Also as that garlic is pre-cooked, it tends to sink in the brine and shouldn’t need to be weighed down. I imagine you could process the jar at this point to seal it – I didn’t bother. Store in a cool, dark spot for a minimum or 3 months or up to 1 year.

garlic in different states

A note on garlic turning blue-green

Under certain conditions, garlic may develop a blue-green hue especially when exposed to certain acids or fats. This is the result of various reactions between the sulphur compounds and enzymes than naturally occur in garlic and the fat or acid it’s exposed to. It doesn’t effect the safety or even the flavour of the food but can be a bit unappealing to some.

When making Seer Torshi using the traditional methods, some degree of blueing is likely. The extent however, will depend on anything from the age of the garlic to the chemistry of the soil in which it was grown. In any case there’s no need for alarm, as the colour will eventually fade to brown. If using the quick method the garlic shouldn’t turn blue as boiling destroys the enzymes responsible for the colour change.

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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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Guest Post: Honey-Vanilla Bean Quince Preserves from Camille Storch

filling jars with quince preserves by Camille Storch

I have a big treat today! A guest post from Camille Storch! Camille is a writer, runner, and canner living with her family in rural Western Oregon. Her blog, Wayward Spark, focuses on small agriculture and sustainable living. Camille’s husband Henry is a commercial beekeeper who manages nearly 300 hives in the Willamette Valley and remote areas of the Oregon Coast Range. Through their business, Old Blue Raw Honey, Camille and Henry sell their unique varietal honeys at local events and online (I’ve tasted this honey and it is spectacular).

bag of quince by Camille Storch

I got turned on to quince a couple years ago when I overheard my friend Ana, a pastry chef, ranting and raving about the fruit’s flavor, texture, and rosy metamorphosis in the cooking process. After getting my hands on some, they quickly became one of my fall favorites, and I’ve since tried out a number recipes including quince jelly and spiced quince leather.

peeled and halved quince by Camille Storch

Quince may seem exotic, and the fruits take a little more work to prepare than an apple or a pear, but the flavor of sweetened (perhaps spiced) quince is unrivaled and almost universally appealing.

simmering quince and lemon by Camille Storch

Starting in late September, quince aren’t too hard to come by at farmers’ markets or even grocery stores ‘round these parts. For the last three years, I’ve had the privilege of visiting and harvesting from the quince orchard at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, OR where more than 200 different quince cultivars from all over the world are planted.

reducing quince by Camille Storch

This year, I put off my orchard trip until almost too late in the season, so only a few stragglers were left on the trees for me to pluck down. Luckily, I made off with just enough fruit for two batches of honey-vanilla bean quince preserves and one quince-boysenberry pie.

jars of quince preserves by Camille Storch

The following recipe was inspired by my friend Lisa who sometimes brings me fresh butter from her dairy cows but on one occasion brought me a jar of homemade quince preserves instead. I popped open the jar immediately, and then we sat around the kitchen table chatting and eating through a stack of pancakes smothered in chunky, rosy, quince-y goodness. Later when I asked for her recipe, I got only a few vague instructions, so I had to recreate her genius more or less on my own. Thankfully, the task wasn’t difficult at all.

half pint of quince preserves by Camille Storch

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