Tag Archives | tigress can jam

April Can Jam: Rosemary Rhubarb Jam

rhubarb/sugar/rosemary

Despite having known about the April Can Jam challenge for more than a month (I helped pick the topic, after all), I still waited until the VERY last minute to make my jam. What can I say, I’m motivated by deadlines (although I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a bit of daylight with which to take my photos).

rhubarb stalks

Happily, all the time I invested in delaying the actual making paid off, because when I finally went to the kitchen, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Rhubarb. Rosemary. Sugar. A bit of lemon. Oh yes.

I’ve been smitten with the flavor of rosemary since I was in high school. We had several large bushes in our front yard and I would often grasp one of the fragrant fronds as I walked down the driveway on my way out of the house, to carry the scent with me. I’ve often wished that I had followed the lead of our neighbor, who would snip an armful to float in her bathwater.

squeezing lemon

I know that a lot of people struggled with this particular challenge, because it was at once very specific and yet totally open. However, I’ve loved seeing all the ways that people have applied herbs to their pickles and preserves. I do hope this will lead to further herbal experimentation (pure thoughts, kids) as we move into the heart of the canning season.

jarred jam

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April Can Jam: Herbs!

Wedding favors

T.S. Elliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month.” I believe him to be correct, particularly when it comes to seasonal fruits and vegetables. It’s the month in which we (particularly the more northerly ones of us) plant and hope, dreaming of asparagus, strawberries, peaches and corn, but without any measurable (or at least, edible) yield.

And so, as the Tigress and I considered our April Can Jam options, we settled on herbs as the month’s ingredient. They’re widely available even in this time of seasonal anticipation, work in both sweet and savory applications and will be particularly terrific for those of you in warmer climates who already have some lovely fruits and spring vegetables to play with.

Do remember that whatever you make has to be suitable for water bath processing. This means no infused oils or pestos, as they can’t be processed and have a fairly limited refrigerator life.

April posts must go live between Sunday, April 18th and midnight on Friday, April 23rd.

I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

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Can Jam: Sweet and Sour Pickled Red Onions

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Once again, I’ve waited until the last possible moment to post my Tigress Can Jam recipe. Motivated by deadlines? Yes, that would be me.

Despite my lack of action, I actually have been thinking about what to make for weeks. I initially wanted to do a red onion and rhubarb chutney. I even had a few stalks of ruby red forced rhubarb (purchased for my April Grid contribution). However, I left it waiting a few days too long and the rhubarb puddled in the bottom of the crisper. I took it as a sign that fate wanted me to do a solo red onion condiment.

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Last weekend, I bought several hefty red onions and have been gazing at them for the last seven days waiting to be moved. Wednesday (or thereabouts), I decided that I wanted to make something akin to a bread and butter pickle (I’m a sucker for the combination of sweet and puckery). Tonight I settled down on the floor in front of the stretch of bookshelves that hold the canning volumes, in order to cobble a recipe together.

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I stole inspiration from Linda Ziedrich’s favorite bread and butter pickle recipe (did you see that Linda left a comment on Rurally Screwed recently? I am star struck!), while using the proportions and cooking guidelines for pickled onions from So Easy to Preserve. What I got was a gently hued, softly cooked, slightly sweet pickle that I cannot wait to heap on a burger or suck down with a mild, soft cheese.

Updated June 29, 2010: These pickles are amazing on salads, particularly one built on a base of spicy arugula. Just thought you should know.

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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!

Preserving Resolutions

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Happy New Year, all you canners and jar lovers!I hope you’ve all had a lovely holiday season and that you were on the receiving end of a few lovely edibles in jars (I got two separate jars of peach jam, one spicy and the other scented with rosemary. I’m looking forward to opening them both in due time).

It’s that time of year when bloggers all across the nation announce the ways in which they’re going to grab hold of the shiny, fresh new year and achieve! great! things! I’ve written up a few more personal resolutions over on my other blog but I figured this blog needed a few goals of its own. So here we go…

1. Offer up one new recipe a week. Be it a jam, pickle, preserve, chutney or more, it’s going to be a wonderful year of delicious foods in jars.

2. Participate (without fail) in the Tigress Can Jam. I admit, this is more of a pleasure than a hardship, but still, I wanted to publicly declare my participation.

3. Make sure to eat and enjoy all the wonderful things I put into jars last summer and fall. I sometimes get so wrapped up in the pleasure of having those colorful jars tucked away, that I forget that I need to be pulling them back out and enjoying them. To that end, I promise to do a better job of sharing how I integrate all those preserves into my cooking routine.

4. Teach more classes. Well-meaning friends often ask me why I don’t get into the business of selling my jams and pickles. My reason, I tell them, is that I don’t want to become a producer of artisanal foods (it’s a wonderful thing for lots of people, it’s just not for me). My goal is to teach people how to make all these lovely things for themselves, so that more and more folks can have a hand in the things they eat on a daily basis. It’s not about paying $8 for a jar of dilly beans, it’s about making a dozen jars for that price and then feeling a deep sense of accomplishment for having produced something delicious and tangible.

I already have two classes on the books for 2010. The first is a Homemade Condiments Class on January 16 and the second is a Marmalade Class on February 13. Both are at Foster’s Homewares (their new location, at 33 N. 3rd Street). However, I’m up for more. If you want me to come and teach a class in your area this spring or summer, let’s talk. All I need is a venue (community centers and churches/synagogues often have usable spaces) and enough people to cover the cost of time/travel/supplies. If you’re interested setting something up for the coming year, shoot me an email at foodinjars@gmail.com.

Since we’re talking preserving goals, I’d love to hear what the rest of you are planning for 2010!

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