Archive for the ‘preserving’ Category

{Giveaway} Are You Ready for Summer Canning?

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

We take a brief intermission from our FRESHFARM Markets Week to share the news of National Can-It-Forward Day, sponsored by Ball. Today, experts from Ball are sharing canning tips on live WebTV and on Twitter (search: #canitforward). While I’ve averaged just one or two batches of preserves each of the past couple summers, I can assure you that the preparation really is the hardest part. If you’re new to canning, Ball offers a Canning Discovery Kit with the items and instructions you need to safely preserve at home. Once you have your equipment (large pot, sterilized jars and lids, and a jar lifter), find the freshest local produce you can and set aside a block of time — you do need to attend to the jam while it cooks, and will want to avoid distractions while processing the jars.

jars ready for canning

And yes, it is possible to can with kids. You’ll want to keep them away from boiling pots and hot jars, of course, but little helpers are perfect for the preparation phase — rinsing, de-stemming, pitting, etc. I’ve even employed a child-safe-knife-wielding toddler to dice tomatoes for our tomato jam. (Since they’re going into the jam, preciseness of the cut doesn’t matter.) And kids love to see their hard-earned produce (in the case of picking it ourselves, or even better, home grown) turned into something that they can enjoy later in the year.

micro-batch plum vanilla jam

If you don’t have time to pick your own produce, farmers markets of course are the perfect place to source produce at peak flavor — and many farmers will gladly offer a discounted price for a flat of “seconds,” the slightly blemished fruit that is perfect for jam and preserves.

GIVEAWAY: Ball has generously offered a case of jars to one lucky reader. Just comment below with something you have canned (links to posts welcome!), or the first thing you’d like to, and be sure to include a valid email in the comment form (no need to put it in the comment itself). Comments will be open until 11:59pm Eastern on Friday, July 20. Giveaway is open to US residents only.

Additional canning resources:

Disclosure: I received a Canning Discovery Kit from Ball for review purposes, and Ball is providing the giveaway prize to a reader. No other compensation was received and all opinions, as always, are my own. Please always follow safety instructions and professional recipes when canning.

At Market: Two Minute Asparagus (and West End Market Opening Day)

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Yes, I’m still harping on asparagus. For a moment at the market this morning I hesitated, knowing we won’t be in town for the whole week and thinking I might not get to cooking it. And then I caved and bought just one little bunch of perfectly tender little stalks from Black Rock Orchard. What can I say, I’m addicted. And I made a critical discovery to convert the boy from his “I hate asparagus!” conviction one day to, “Actually, I *love* asparagus!” two days later. I recently came across an article suggesting that kids prefer their veggies closer to their natural state — i.e., still crisp. This is certainly true for my son with peas, who still prefers frozen peas over cooked. And we all know that over-cooked mush they call vegetables in school cafeterias are hardly appetizing.

As for my discovery, I was making a potato salad and decided to add asparagus. I didn’t want to use it raw, so I blanched it quickly. The bright green stalks had barely hit my cutting board when the boy snatched one. “Yum!” he exclaimed. I wound up blanching a second batch and serving it straight up for him — and he ate half the plate.

The recipe is below, but first a few highlights from opening weekend at the Alexandria West End Farmers Market:

foodie tots family at the market

Click here to view photos — West End Farmers Market, May ’11

Recipe: Kid-Approved Two-Minute Asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • water
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions: Fill a medium-sized pot about 2/3 full of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling, add a pinch of salt and then drop in the asparagus. Cook thicker stalks for just 2 minutes, skinny stalks need just 1 minute. Drain and quickly plunge into a bowl of ice water to ensure stalks stay crisp-tender. Drain again, and serve as is, with an extra pinch of salt and pepper — or refrigerate to add to salads.

Preserving Asparagus

Blanching is also the method I use to hoard, er, save asparagus for later in the year. I blanch it for just one minute, then chop into 1-inch pieces. Let them dry, then freeze in a ziploc freezer bag or other freezer container. They won’t be quite the same as fresh asparagus, but work just fine for soup or stir-fry.

Cathy, aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow, recently shared a recipe for pickled asparagus. I may have to make a batch of these for the fridge, too.

Just call me Mrs. Asparagus.

This week I shared some of my favorite family-friendly Washington, DC-area farmers markets on the Washington Post‘s new On Parenting blog. What do your kids like about your local market?

{Preserving Summer} Bourbon Peach Jam

Friday, August 27th, 2010

I mentioned we recently went peach picking at Hollin Farms in Fauquier County, Virginia. Unfortunately my preserving aspirations exceeded my hands-free time during the week (one so quickly forgets how time-consuming infants can be) so sadly we lost a few to spoilage before I got a chance to put up a batch of jam. (We did enjoy quite a few out of hand … and in smoothies … and in a pie, as well. Nothing sweetens the end of summer like fresh-picked peaches!)

The husband is a bourbon drinker, so I’d been searching peach and bourbon pairings when I came across this jam. I adapted the recipe to follow the ratios specified by Pomona Universal Pectin — if you’ve never used Pomona before, it allows you to use less sugar than regular pectin.  I didn’t weigh the peaches, but this used about 24 or so of my smaller- sized peaches.  I’d picked mostly white peaches (White Lady), but thankfully the boy had picked a few of the scarlet-tinged Red Haven orange variety — which has this brilliant reddish-orange hue beneath the skin. Aren’t they lovely?

Aside from waiting for the canning water to boil (tip: start it before you start cooking the jam), peeling peaches is probably the most time-consuming part of this process. Blanching the peaches may seem like extra work, but trust me, it does save time — and avoids wasting any of that precious peach flesh that you might lose peeling with a paring knife.

How to Peel Peaches:

Bring a pot of water — deep enough to submerge a peach — to boil. Drop peaches in and boil for 20-30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into an ice water bath, then set on your work surface. Peels will slip right off.

Recipe: Bourbon Peach Jam
adapted from Beantown Baker

Ingredients:

1 box Pomona Universal Pectin (follow package instructions for exact amounts of calcium water and pectin)
8 cups mashed peaches
4 cups organic cane sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (or 1 vanilla bean, split in half)
1/4 cup bourbon

Instructions: (Before you begin, make sure all equipment is clean and ready. Sterilize jars in boiling water or the dishwasher — here are prep instructions from the National Center for Home Preservation.) Prepare calcium water according to pectin package instructions. Peel, pit and mash peaches. Measure into a large, non-reactive stock pot, and stir in lemon juice, vanilla paste (or bean) and calcium water. In a large bowl, combine sugar and pectin.

Bring peach mixture to a boil. Add pectin-sugar mixture, stirring vigorously for 1-2 minutes to dissolve the pectin. Return to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in bourbon, not leaning too closely over the pot as the fumes will be quite potent as the alcohol cooks off. (Remove vanilla bean, if using.)

Fill jars, leaving 1/4-inch headroom at the top. Wipe the rims clean with a damp paper towel and screw on the lids. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from water and set jars on a dry kitchen towel to cool. You should hear the soft “pop” sound as the lids seal — check to make sure the inner lid is depressed, indicating it’s properly sealed. Store jam in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to enjoy. (This made nine half-pints and one full pint.)

Have you joined the Canvolution? What are you preserving for winter?
canning+across+america+logo This was a grown-up-only endeavor — my just-about-4-year-old lacks the attention span for such a time-consuming project — but if you’re looking to include your children in canning, read this article first.

Preserving Summer: Tomato Jam

Monday, August 31st, 2009

field-ripened tomatoesOur Potomac Vegetable Farms CSA bag was full of ripe summer tomatoes last week, after a slow and soggy start to tomato season here in Virginia. Unfortunately, we were leaving town the day after our pick-up. Of course, that was also the day we got the notice that the boxes of surplus canning tomatoes were available, and I was feeling panicked at the thought of not putting up tomatoes this year and faced with a pile of tomatoes we certainly wouldn’t be able to finish before leaving. I had recently seen a recipe for tomato jam and decided that was the perfect project for the night as it mainly involves simmering on the stove for a couple hours, giving me time to pack. A huge thunderstorm kept the boy awake so I put him to work slicing up the excess cherry tomatoes we also needed to use up. (Using a kid-safe knife, of course.)

prep workI made slight alterations, using turbinado sugar and a touch of honey and a splash of Virginia’s North Gate Petit Verdot that was also in need of using up. (Not that I couldn’t have used a glass or two, but it would’ve made it even less likely that I would get all our luggage packed that night.)

For the recipe, see: Tomato Onion Jam by Jennifer Perillo/Tasty Kitchen. My alterations: 1 1/2 cup raw (turbinado sugar) and 1/4 cup raw honey, omit the brown sugar. Add 2 tablespoons red wine in lieu of lemon juice.

This weekend was the Canvolution kick-off — a nationwide effort to restore the art of preserving food, launched by former Washington Post blogger Kim O’Donnel and a host of other food writers and bloggers. Visit the Canning Across America website for a host of canning resources and advice, particularly this great article on canning with kids.

The highlight of my first mother-son canning experiment was seeing the pride in my son’s eyes as he handed his aunt and grandma their jar of jam, declaring, “I made this myself!”

What have you canned lately?

Preserving Summer: Plum Honey Vanilla Jam

Friday, September 12th, 2008

After conquering my fear of canning, the next item on my kitchen project list was making jam. I had recently stumbled across this lovely Green Gage Plum & Vanilla Jam recipe at Chez Pim which sounded simple enough. I had some green Shiro plums and Italian prune plums to work with. I really wanted to use honey, but I’ve read that you can only substitute honey for half of the sugar in a recipe, and didn’t want to stray too far from the original recipe since this was my first jam-making experience. I also had fewer plums than originally purchased, thanks to a toddler who was downing up to 6 a day…

So, my recipe quantities were: 1 lb plums, scant 1 c sugar, 1 T lemon juice, 1 T honey, 1 vanilla bean. I followed the original instructions and got a nice, thick jam, but I wasn’t sure what to do about the peels. I suspect that Pim’s green gage plum skins were thinner and perhaps dissolved? The prune plum skins had not, and were tough when I tried one. I strained the cooked jam then to remove the peels, which thinned my jam a bit so I was pleased to see when I opened a jar that it was a nice, jelly-like consistency. It is quite tasty, sweet and the vanilla adds such a lovely fragrance.

Now, Pim’s recipe is for a small batch to begin with, so guess what happens when you halve that? A meager two mini jam pots…

It probably wasn’t worth processing them since one went straight into the fridge to be eaten soon, but oh well. It was part of the learning experience. I will definitely keep practicing – and reading up on jam techniques over the winter. In the meantime, head over to Lelo in Nopo and check out the yummy jams she’s been making!

Oh, and the little bit left over? Excellent topping for peach ice cream!