Canning tomato sauce and okra

 

We’ve been so busy this year that we haven’t done as much canning, but the tomatoes and okra were building up (despite the wretched drought) and I was starting to worry I wouldn’t get to eat pickled okra this year if I didn’t get on it.

 

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When I’m in a hurry, I forego the diced tomatoes, rotel-style tomatoes, and all other options besides tomato sauce, because I can chuck the whole tomatoes into a pot and just run it all through a food mill when it breaks down. This year, everything will become tomato sauce to be turned into soup, chili, pasta sauce, and whatever else we dream up in February.

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My trusty okra pickle recipe from Canning For a New Generation, and the inevitable bit of fruit float I always get. It will still be delicious.

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Attempt number 2 to pickle some cucumbers to my liking

IMG_4417The first batch of cucumber pickles I ever made were water bath canned dill pickles. They lacked any crispness whatsoever when I opened them, and I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t eat a cucumber pickle like that.

Since that first try I’ve just been too nervous about wasting another batch of cucumbers. We don’t really grow them, so I have to hunt down a decent quantity of similarly sized cucumbers if I want to make a batch of pickles.

Enter the Kerosene Pickle- one of the few sweet pickles I’ve ever liked. Continue reading

Suet-Free Mincemeat

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The first time I ever ate mincemeatpie, I was sorely disappointed. All the literature and old English Christmas songs had steered me wrong, I thought. It tasted…a little like potpourri. Then I found this one from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess. It’s suet-free and tastes like everything I imagined it would before I tried it. And it has the added bonus of working without the suet, so you don’t have to source it and the resulting dishes can be vegetarian, which is helpful for a holiday dish.  Continue reading

Chow-Chow

In my Appalachian Foodways class last fall we had a guest speaker, Mark Muzik, who is considered an expert on chow-chow. Don’t you just love knowing that somewhere out there, a human being has dedicated themselves to collecting knowledge about Appalachian relish? Mr. Muzik described many variations on the recipe and gave his own version, a mix of cabbage, green tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, and onions, collected from his childhood schoolteacher in SW Virginia. When we got to sample it, I loved it so much he gave me a jar to take home. So I added it to my canning list, of course. We’ll probably make this every year, because it’s so perfect for hot dogs and soup beans. Which means I need to write down the recipe and all my notes here…just as soon as I remember which cookbook I stuffed them in.
 10/21/13

Hot Cumin-Pickled Summer Squash

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We procrastinated on opening the cumin-pickled squash last year for several months, because we had pickled okra (our favorite) and cucumber pickles to go through, and the squash just didn’t sound as exciting. It was the pickle for a lean month. Except we finally cracked a jar and it’s easily the best (fragrant, perfectly spiced, satisfying) pickle I’ve eaten in forever and I’m going to double the batch this summer and I still can’t believe that there are things like harvesting carrots and eating pickled squash that took me three decades to learn were necessary and good. Want the recipe? Here it is:

Originally from Lianna Krissoff in her book Canning For a New Generation
Makes approximately 6-7 pint jars

Ingredients
4 pounds yellow summer squash (another source suggested zucchini, which I may also try)
8 pounces sweet onion (about 1 medium)
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon pure kosher salt
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
2 tablespoons mild honey
7 cloves garlic
7 small fresh serrano chiles

Scrub the squash and cut it into ¼ inch rounds. Cut the onion in half lengthwise and thinly slice it into half-circles. Put the squash and onion in a large bowl and sprinkle with the ¼ cup salt, tossing to combine. Cover with a layer of ice cubes and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Pick out any remaining ice, and rinse under cold water. Drain well. (The original recipe says at this point to toss the squash with the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, and ground cumin and set aside. I’ve found I lose some spice in the bowl this way because even when I drain it well it’s still wet. I’ve taken to mixing the spices in a separate bowl and dividing them among the sterilized jars before adding the squash and onions.)

Prepare water bath for canning. Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. (Here again, I’ve since begun keeping the lids at a simmer on another eye in a little saucepan, a la Marissa McClellan from Food In Jars.) Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.

Working quickly, pack the squash, onion, garlic, and chiles into the jars (not too tightly). Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving ½ inch head space at the top. Use a chopstick to remove the air bubbles around the inside of each jar. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label the sealed jars and store.

 They improve a good deal with a few weeks’ shelf time.

carrot pickles

From the Saturday farmers market shopping spree we ended up with almost two pounds of beautiful tiny carrots, so I took advantage of the canning pot that was still bubbling after I finished dandelion jelly and blackberry jam to make carrot pickles.
As I have never been to San Francisco, I may be the only person who hasn’t eaten and waxed about Tartine Bakery’s spicy carrot pickles.  I’ll be okay, though. Two of my favorite canning books and many bloggers have jumped to the rescue to offer many variations on the recipe. This blog has reproduced the Liana Krissoff version I used.
I reduced the amount of cinnamon to one stick because the carrots and cider vinegar already impart a certain amount of natural sweetness, and I’m not fond of overly sweet foods. In one jar I also omitted the dried peppers and all but the tiniest pinch of red pepper flakes for H since she’s not a fan of heat. The rest of us will eat the other jars, which are fully loaded.
We sampled the few carrots that didn’t fit into the jars when I packed them, and even without the spices they were already delicious. The brine lends itself to their sweetness, and they became tender-crisp and bright after their quick simmer. The tiniest carrots were left whole, so they retained more carrot flavor. J pronounced them the best pickle recipe we’ve ever had, usurping the okra and cumin squash. I’m excited to crack them open in the fall to see how they are when the brine has mellowed and the carrots have picked up some spiciness.

ramps – pesto and pickles

I went poke picking in Elizabethton hollers with a fellow student from my foodways class and came back with two plastic bags of earwig-riddled leaves to clean and cook down. It was an extremely enjoyable experience and not the focus of this post.

On the way there I made an impulse buy of six bundles of ramps from the farmers market, mud and decaying leaves in their tangled root-tresses, that I made into pickles and pesto and ate raw with J rolling up everything we could find in the green leaves and chasing them with the fiery tight red bud stems.

There are a wealth of ramp pesto recipes out there. Many of them use the whole ramp, and some supplement with parsley or basil and use pine nuts or walnuts. I decided to start with Ramp Pesto from Food 52 as a guide, which was also the inspiration for a beautiful spread on ramp pesto from The Tart Tart. I used mostly the green part of the ramp with a few bulbs thrown in to round it out since I wanted to pickle the rest of the bulbs. I did some batches with pine nuts, some with walnuts, and some with pecans. The result in every case was neon green and insanely addictive. I froze the pesto in ice cube trays to pop out rampsicles in manageable amounts when I needed them.

It was much more difficult finding a pickle recipe. I hadn’t realized that few people canned their ramp pickles. I found plenty of beautiful refrigerator pickles, but since I’m still developing skill and confidence as a canner, I didn’t really trust myself to adapt one of those recipes. Most of the water bath canner recipes I found were reposts or variations on Tom Colicchio’s sweet and sour pickled ramps. The recipe looks sound, but I’m picky about sweet and sour foods. Maybe I’ll experiment with it one day if I can keep all the wild rabbits off my ramp patch long enough to have a larger abundance. For now, I finally went with this recipe from ehow. I’ve never used this site for food information before, but the recipe was sound and similar to other pickling methods I’ve used, and the simplicity of it meant that I would have an unadulterated perspective of the pickled ramp to start with. The end result was too salty, but crunchy and alluring in the way raw ramps are. I would love to find something similar with less saltiness.

January Update from Fall Garden

Okay, so we ended up planting black kale, collards, Swiss chard, radishes, carrots, beets, arugula, and lettuce in containers (washtub, planters, Home Depot buckets…) about the third week of August.

We were in the middle of moving, so this allowed me to take my vegetable garden with me without too many losses and transplant kale and collards into raised beds. The seed was purchased from the good people at Sow True Seed in Asheville, and we got to stop in at 5th Season Gardening nearby to check them out (and buy organic fertilizer, winemaking tools, and other great impulse purchases).
The beets were a bit of a disappointment. I’m pretty sure they didn’t get enough water because they were fibrous at the core. They grew great greens, so we just left them in the ground and cut from them when we collected chard. The rest of the greens and lettuces turned out great. Of course, between container planting and my overeagerness to grow, they were a little overcrowded, but we have been able to cut from them continuously – in fact, I had some with dinner tonight. I’m very impressed with how well the arugula, kale, and collards withstood the intense winter rain, ice, and snow we’ve had so far.
My favorite thing about the fall planting was harvesting carrots. This is the first time I’ve ever grown them myself. It seems like I watched them constantly waiting for one to be ready, and like any metaphorical boiling pot, it wasn’t until I gave up and ignored them that anything happened. Obviously if I’d paid attention to the seed packet and recorded projected harvests, this wouldn’t happen, but I’m learning. Slowly.
Anyway I went out in the snow Christmas Day to take the compost out and came back with these. Pulling that extra-long carrot out of the dirt was such a hold-it-up-and-yell triumphant sensation. It’s the little things, you know.

One of these things is not like the others.

This year I am trying to expand my repertoire of preserving techniques, starting now. I’ve got freezing down, but outside of that I’ve only tried a few batches of jam. The list of canning gear can get expensive if you want all the bells and whistles, but I really wanted to keep costs down. I found a tip somewhere that said “water bath canner or stockpot with old canning rings on the bottom” and figured I was set.
Armed with this information I set out to pickle some yellow squash using Canning For a New Generation’s “Hot Cumin Pickled Squash” recipe with my stockpot, some Ball jars, and a huge heap of squash. The recipe makes 7 pint jars of pickles and my stock pot fits 4, so I had visiting friends bring along another pot (as I was in the middle of the recipe and hadn’t thought things through well.) The pot was too short so I improvised by sterilizing more half pint jars to use in the other pot at the last minute. No biggie, right?
We filled, wiped, and sealed the jars. I was just peering contentedly into the pot when I noticed cumin seeds floating gracefully up around the jars. As we pulled out a jar to check the seal, the bottom stayed in the pot. It didn’t make any cracking noises or turn any colors, it just sort of fell off. Almost like it had melted, but the two halves were solid, smooth, and a perfect fit to each other.
I panicked and retrieved all the jars from the pot, but I wasn’t fast enough. The last one came apart the same way and all the pickles poured back into the boiling water as it emerged.
I had forgotten to put the canning rings on the bottom of the second pot as I improvised. Apparently it’s called thermal shock breakage. Oops.
This was a pretty cheap lesson, though, because I’m still up to my eyeteeth in pickled squash.