Friday, July 29, 2011

Free Sample of Ball Fruit Pectin

Click here to receive your free sample of Ball Fruit Pectin

What better way to give you a kick in the pants to learn to can? And, if you're already in the know, then you know it never hurts to have an extra packet of pectin laying around, especially when the word "free" is involved. And, just a reminder, The National Can-It-Forward Day is fast approaching. Grab some garden goodies and your besties and get canning! I'll be visiting my hometown that week, but am itching to teach a class. Any locals from North Alabama interested in getting hot and sticky? Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking about jamming! Shoot me a message and we'll work it out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So, What's The Difference?

I recently had a Facebook fan ask the question, "So what's the difference in jams, preserves, marmalade's....and all the other names they have for jelly like substances?"
What a great question. And, up until a few years ago, I'd have answered, "beats me". Fortunately, I've passed many a sticky season since then. After washing, hulling, mashing, straining, pureeing, stirring, and ladling acre after acra of produce I feel confident in answering the often confusing, but always tasty conundrum of, "what's the difference".

Jams are what I like to refer to as the gateway drug of canning. They are great for beginners. The work is minimal and the results are extraordinary to the virginal canner as they cautiously and nervously begin their descent down that slippery slope of addiction. Once the almost finished product has reached its gel stage they can't believe that they did it! They really, really did it!
And, the high one gets at hearing the pinging of those jars sealing just can't be beat! They begin looking around the kitchen with eyes glossy to see what else they can have a go at. Pretty soon they're making excuses when Saturday brunch invites go out just to hit up the local farmer's market. I know. I've been there.
Mirriam Webster defines jam as "a food made by boiling fruit and sugar to a thick consistency". Obviously, being a word smith didn't allow for much time in the kitchen so the definition isn't entirely true. Aside from fruit and sugar, you'll need pectin. Pectin is naturally occurring in the cell walls of fruits and veggies. That's where lemon juice comes into play. For making jams all you really need is mashed fruit, fresh lemon juice or a bit of Granny Smith apple, and sugar. And, sometimes water. Basically, jam is thick, gooey, and has noticeable bits of fruit suspended in it.
Jellies are a little more work. My Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving refers to jelly as "a preserver's jewel". By cooking down the fruit of your choice, then transferring fruit and juices to a jelly bag and letting set over a bowl over night you get a beautiful, elegant spread of gelled juice. Homemade jellies are far superior to store bought jellies. If done properly they are not only eye catching, but full of flavor.
Once more consulting my good buddy Webster, I find he has marmalades listed as "a clear sweetened jelly in which pieces of fruit and fruit rind are suspended". That makes sense. I always use thin, half moon slices of lemons for my strawberry lemon marmalade and my orange marmalade. I even used lime rinds in my strawberry limeade marmalade.
Preserves are kind of the show offs of the jam world. They contain whole fruit or large pieces of fruit suspended in jellies. In my arsenal of canned goods, I'd be hard pressed to part with my preserves. There is nothing that makes an evening of entertaining look more elegant or time consuming than a dessert with glistening preserves draped across. And, nothing could be farther from the truth. A hastily bought cake can be dressed up in seconds with a jar of preserves with none the wiser. Trust me, preserves will never let you down.
So, what's the difference? Well, there are subtle differences in each, but also a kindred spirit amongst them all. There's fruit, sugar, and pectin. But, most of all there's a desire to create. There's a desire to see something from its most primitive stage step into something a bit more elegant, if you will. It's taking the raw and refining it, all by yourself.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pickled Hot Peppers

I've not had the chance to pickle any peppers this summer so far. A travesty I hope to remedy this weekend. I've received several emails from first timers who are interested in what they can do with their bumper crops of peppers. There are many paths one could take with that. But, for today I'm going to focus on the recipe for pickled hot peppers given in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, what I consider to be my "Bible" of canning.
The recipe calls for a varying amount of assorted peppers. Don't fret if your garden didn't render the exact measurements. I"ve played fast and loose with the pepper selection in previous batches. And, it can easily be halved if your pepper population is on the scant side.
Remember kids, always wear gloves when handling peppers. It's all fun and games till someone gets a third degree capsaicin burn. And, as I mentioned in the Pineapple Habanero Jelly post, if you're plastic glove supply has been exhausted by your four old constantly using them as rooster balloons, then wrap your hands in several layers of plastic wrap with a final layer of sammie bags. And, while I'm tossing out helpful hints, freezing peppers before slicing seems to reduce the toxic fumes.

Yield: About 5 pints
6 cups hot banana peppers (about 1 1/2 lbs) sliced into rings
4 cups jalapeno peppers (about 1lb) sliced into rings
1 cup serrano peppers (about 4 oz) sliced into rings
6 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups filtered water
3 cloves garlic crushed

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
I really hope that this is the week I can manage to get video tutorials on water bath canning up and running. But, till I do, Ball's Fresh Preserving site has excellent and easy to follow step by step instructions.
2. In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine peppers. Mix well and set aside.
3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water, and garlic. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, until garlic flavor has infused the liquid. Discard garlic.
4. Pack peppers into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover peppers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles by running a chopstick around the sides of jar and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe rim with wet paper towel. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
5. Place jars into canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 min. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
I like to can my pickled hot peppers in pint jars because my hubby and I don't sit down to the supper table without a jar between us....ever. If, however, you won't partake of them as frequently, you might consider canning them in half pint jars. It would be a shame to have to throw out a half eaten jar of your hard work.
Feel free to comment any questions you might have. And, I'll get back with you as quickly as possible.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What to do when your raspberries look like the morning after "walk of shame"

I've never had much luck in preserving raspberries in the past. That's mostly because I can't stop shoving them in my mouth long enough to do any actually preserving. Several, several summers ago I was especially lucky to have a "raspberry hook up". But all that really came of that were many afternoons sitting by the pool sipping raspberry margaritas and any other libation my girlfriends and I could think to concoct.
I vowed that this summer would be different and I would find a way to work with raspberry preserves. But, with our move, multiple canning projects, and playing mommy to the two wild things tearing through our house at breakneck speed, I've almost missed out on the June season for raspberries. I'll have to be much more vigilant once the August season rolls around.
While at the market yesterday, I snagged three of the best looking 6oz containers I could find. It was no easy task. Most boxes looked a lot like the morning after "walk of shame". And, even though they looked about as fresh as a couple of dorm mates meeting for a greasy breakfast on Sunday, I had big plans.
By the time I had settled the natives down for a nap this afternoon, it was apparent that some of the raspberries just weren't quite up for the after party, further reducing my numbers. But, that was okay. I could still make it work. I didn't necessarily need firm berries for what I had in mind. I just needed ripe and juicy ones. I planned on making a raspberry infused white wine vinegar, the perfect beginning for vinaigrettes and dressings.
It was simple and quick. Well, the work on my part for this evening was quick. But, you will need to let the mix sit for one to four weeks depending upon your tastes, occasionally giving it a stir every few days.

1 cup raspberries, washed.......What? I should have had 2 cups 2oz? I said some had met their dimise. The others simply met my belly. I know. I'm weak. I'm not to be trusted around fruit.

1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar

In a medium sized glass bowl add your berries and 1/4 cup of the vinegar. Give the berries a slight crush with a potato masher. Add the remaining vinegar and stir. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and then tuck the mix away in a dark and cool place. Leave for 1 to 4 weeks until your desired strength is reached. The longer the better in my book.
I will finish the recipe and results in a few weeks when I feel that the berries have had plenty of time to think about their actions.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Canning Crazed, Reblogged

This is a post I wrote last year in my other blog, . I thought I would repost it on this site since it's applicable. That, and I have no recipes for today while I play catchup on housework and Mommyhood.

Canning Crazed
Hi. My name is Mommy, and I have a canning addiction. At least that's what my husband tells me. He says I need to get some help. He suggested therapy and possibly some step programs. But he doesn't mean it. Not really anyway.
In truth, I know he's secretly pleased with his wife's mad home ec skills. He's appreciative of how little money I've invested in this endeavor, yet how much it will save us in the long run. He openly brags on how good everything has tasted. He's particularly fond of the salsa. So much so, that I've had to make numerous follow up batches to replenish our diminishing supply. Fortunately, I found a vendor in my hometown willing to sell tomatoes for $.50 a pound.
I grew up in a family that canned, dried, froze, pickled, and preserved food. To this day any time I smell fresh dill I am immediately brought back to my parents' divorce because my granny was canning dill pickles at that time.
To "put up", as they called it, was a necessity from days past, but they continued on because it's what you did. It saved countless pennies and tasted far better than anything you could find on the grocer's shelves. These are the same reasons I enjoy doing these same rituals. I like knowing what's in my family's food. I like knowing where my food comes from.
Some have told me I'm crazy for doing this. I probably am, but not for that reason. Many have been extremely supportive. I think they're just paving the way to a few handouts. And that's okay. Partly why I've canned so much this year is to give away as Christmas gifts. Then there have been a small number that have made comments predicting that we'll never eat all that we've made based upon their own canning experiences. To that I say, "Don't rain on my parade."
And, then there's my grandmother who's proud. She's so proud that her ways have made such a huge impact upon my life and the way I'm raising our family. It makes me happy to see her so pleased with my efforts. It made me down right giddy to see how she thoroughly enjoyed the jar of Apple Pie In A Jar. She had half the jar finished by the time I left her house.
As is the case in any addiction, I'm not alone. I've a friend who loves canning just as much as I do. She too grew up in the canning culture. So, for the past month she's loaded up her two year old daughter, supplies, produce from her garden and her CSA box, and headed to my house for all day canning sessions. Fortunately, her daughter is Firstborn's girlfriend. While we're ladling hot spoonfuls of homemade goodness into Ball jars they're having the time of their short lived lives. It usually ends up with both of them pants-less. But, that's another story for another day.
We've been quite successful in our endeavors. Between the both of our gardens, her CSA box, my father's neighbor and their apple trees, we've not had to purchase much produce. We've pickled peppers and squash. We've made marmalades, preserves, pie fillings, two different types of pepper jelly, fruit jellies, salsa, and even more salsa. We've frozen peaches, squash, and zucchini. We've dried peppers. We've even made a spicy peach barbecue sauce and a spicy/sweet Thai dipping sauce. We were just showing out at that point.
We've no plans of slowing down either. We've plans to visit the local farmer's market this weekend to see what we can come up with. We're gearing up for phase two of our canning craze and that involves our pressure cookers. Soups, broths, and anything else we can come up with are all fair game. Our preserving cookbooks haven't steered us wrong yet.
Hubby can continue to claim that I have an illness, an addiction if you will. I don't mind just as long as he doesn't get in my way in the kitchen. Besides, I can stop any time I want.