Archive for the 'canning' Category

Marsha

Spicy Pickled Green Beans

May is a busy month in my house: all three of us have May birthdays—and Mother’s Day is in the mix, too. Being busy and, well, feeling rather uninspired by this month’s theme (cold-pack canning) meant that my May entry for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge almost didn’t get done. But here I am! (And with one day to spare, even!)

I should clarify my mention of “uninspired” above. I don’t have any objection to cold-pack canning. The problem is that at this time of year, the stuff I’d really like to try this technique on isn’t yet available at local farmers’ markets. And this particular year, with an exceptionally drawn-out cold and wet spring, that problem is even worse. (It’s the second-to-last day of May in the Mid-Atlantic, and it’s 58 degrees right now.)

When scapes appear at my market next month, I plan to try making pickled garlic scapes. I may also try making garlic dill pickles when cucumbers arrive later in the summer. For now, though, I don’t have a lot of work with. So I decided to give green beans (I found some decent ones at the supermarket—not nearly as good as just-picked local ones, but they aren’t bad) a try as Spicy Pickled Green Beans.
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I chose this recipe for several reasons: I like green beans. I could find decent green beans at this time of year. And a good friend of mine is nuts for dilly beans. I quartered the recipe and made only one pint jar of these beans, just to give this a try. I will give this jar to my friend and get her opinion. If she pronounces these beans a success, then I’ll try this again (in larger quantities!) when the local beans are here later this summer!

The February theme for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is salt preserving. This is totally new territory for me. So of course I had to try two different recipes.

First up: preserved Meyer lemons. I first read about these years and years ago in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (my main go-to cookbook). “They’re not hard to make,” she says, and she’s right. But it still took me nearly two decades to get around to it.

Meyer lemons are in season right now, so I wanted to make a recipe that highlighted their charms. I followed the instructions for “Salt-Preserved Meyer Lemons” in Marisa McClellan’s Preserving by the Pint. The recipe calls for one pound of Meyer lemons, and the prepackaged bag of lemons I found at my local store conveniently equalled that amount. Hooray!

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This really is an easy recipe to prepare! All you have to do is wash and slice your lemons and stuff them into a quart jar with salt and spices. Easy peasy. I stowed the jar in a cool dark cabinet. and every few days I shake it to move its contents around (after three weeks or so, I’ll move it to the refrigerator for long-term storage). I am looking forward to trying out this stuff, especially after seeing this list of ideas!

Up next: vegetable stock. I enjoy making homemade vegetable stock, but all the waiting-to-be-turned-into-stock vegetable trimmings and all the containers of already-made stock really take up a lot of real estate in my freezer. So when I saw that Marisa had a recipe for a vegetable stock concentrate, I decided to give it a try.

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This is another easy recipe: all you have to do is run everything through a food processor until it’s a nicely pureed, gross-looking brown paste, and then store it in the fridge. This really couldn’t be easier.

This recipe makes a huge batch—so huge, in fact, that after filling one quart jar for the fridge I decided to put the rest in a box in the freezer. (Yes, I realize that my “put less stuff in the freezer” motivation for making this actually ended up with me putting stuff in the freezer anyway, but it’s a lot less stuff than before, so I’m not complaining!)

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I’ve already used the vegetable stock concentrate once, and with great success. I made the Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade from the cookbook Vedge, which bears the name of the authors’ fabulous restaurant. The concentrate yielded a rich vegetable stock that was a far cry from the anemic stocks that come in aseptic boxes. I’d say it’s right on par with the vegetable stock I usually make—but takes a fraction of the time and effort.

(P.S. Want to try Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade? You can find that recipe—along with a couple others from Vedgehere!)

I’ve been busy since the last time I updated my blog: work (I helped two of my editorial clients publish new books!), travel (camping in May, our annual trip to Vermont in August), and volunteering (in addition to my long-term involvement with Amnesty International, I’m now on the board for my local CISV chapter). I’ve also done a lot of knitting (which I’ll write about another time) and a lot of canning (which I’ll write about now).

I’ve been reading Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars blog for a few years and own her first two books, Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint (which are both excellent!). I met Marisa at my local farmer’s market a couple of years ago, where she did a canning demo while on tour to promote Preserving by the Pint right after its publication. (She was super nice and signed my books—and also took the time to write in corrections for a few errata.) I remember thinking, “Wow, if she can make some great stuff using one skillet, one spatula, and a portable burner set up on a folding table in the middle of park, surely I can do some decent canning in my fully stocked kitchen!”

In the fall of 2015 I scored a few boxes of Roma tomatoes from a local farmer. I turned one-third of them into canned whole tomatoes (the perfect blank slate on which to build during the tomato-deficient winter months), one-third into a salsa from Food in Jars, and one-third into “Mailman Salsa” (so named because our mail carrier, Mark, gave us the recipe). Mailman Salsa was such a hit with my family (my usually tomato-hating kid loved it) that last fall, when I managed to acquire forty pounds of local Roma tomatoes, I turned them all into Mailman Salsa—over five gallons of it.

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I’m pretty comfortable with my salsa-making skills but less confident in other canning domains. So when Marisa announced early this month that she’d be running a “Food in Jars Mastery Challenge” during 2017, I signed up immediately. Here’s my chance, I thought, I push myself out of my canning comfort zone and try something new.

January’s assignment got things off with a bang: marmalade. I have sampled marmalade a few times in my life and haven’t enjoyed it (even though, after reading the Paddington Bear books, I really wanted to). It was always orange marmalade, and it was always yucky (to me, at least). So I wasn’t terribly keen on making marmalade. But I didn’t want to fail the challenge right at the start!

Fortunately, Meyer lemons are in season right now—and very nice ones are available at my grocery store. Marisa has waxed rhapsodic about Meyer lemons both in her blog and in her books, so I decided to see what all the fuss is about. A few days ago, I tackled her Strawberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade in Preserving by the Pint.

First, I prepped the fruit. This took some time (partly because I am the current holder of  the World’s Slowest Knife Skills in the Kitchen award). Putting the lemon’s white core and seeds in cheesecloth and extracting their pectin by adding that bundle to the soaking lemon slices is a really nifty idea. Food chemistry ftw!

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Then I cooked the fruit until it lost a lost of liquid and hit 200 degrees on my cooking thermometer.

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And then I processed the jars in a water bath for ten minutes. The recipe yield is three half pints, and I hit that pretty much right on the head. (I had only two half-pint jars, not three, so I substituted two half-cup jars for the third.) See that nice white powder on my jars? Oh, the joy of living in a place with super-hard water!

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But I am pleased with the results! The marmalade tastes pretty good. The brightness of the strawberry tempers some of the “pointiness” (I don’t really know how else to describe it) of the lemon. My jars all set up nicely (hooray!). I’m not sure if I’ll be making a lot more marmalade in my future (that will depend on how much my family likes this), but I’m glad I’ve finally done it at least once.