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Archive for the ‘Canning’ Category

Are you inspired by all the great handmade gifts our writers have been making? We like to cook things for the ones we love as well! Here’s some handmade recipes for holiday giving!

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Of course, sweets are the mainstay of homemade holidays, but this year I decided to go savory. Every year I grow tomatillos, make pints and pints of salsa verde, and then it sits on the shelf because no one eats it. Naturally, this year I decided I’ll make it in half-pint sizes, and then use it for gifts. I made 20 half-pints. When I went to check for this photo, I was down to 11; I think my husband has been eating it because of the nice small sizes. I used Rick Bayless’ wonderful recipe, and grew everything myself except the limes. By the way, this stuff is great on pizza!Salsa

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Well, Xan has me drooling over her salsa verde.

With the successful zucchini growing season this fall, I (Sincerely, Emily) knew exactly what some people were going to be getting this year for gifts! Zucchini Relish!  I started making this recipe back in the fall of 2009 with a few zucchini from my garden (before the nasty borer got to it!) and more from the farmers market. Now I am thrilled I can use all of my own, homegrown zucchini for the recipe. I have not harvested my horseradish yet, or I would have used that too!) I found the recipe over at Homesteading in Maine and I also have the zucchini relish recipe posted (with permission) over at my blog too.

Zucchini Relish 2We love this relish on sandwiches in place of mayo.

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We welcomed a special guest a few weeks ago for a long weekend of fun and tasty food. I took advantage of the company to make some french toast topped with freshly canned plum jam.

I don’t follow a recipe for my french toast, so i won’t bore you with my notes. Needless to say that local milk, eggs and bread all come together for some fabulous eating!

Do you have brunch plans for this weekend?

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It seems jamming plums is a popular thing to do with us Dabblers. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a heavily laden plum tree at the edge of a neighbor’s yard. Since they weren’t picking the plums, i picked a pretty peck for myself! Over 15 pounds! I dried the first batch, but as we’re out of jam i felt the need to get the canning supplies out and make some jam!

I am not a fastidious person. This laziness makes canning difficult for me. Once i get going, i’m fine – but i’m frequently daunted by all the cleaning and preparing that is necessary for safe canned goods and often end up just freezing my work instead of processing it – which is really lame when you have a small freezer but plenty of cupboard space. I wasn’t a chicken this time, and put up 10 half pints of plum/blackberry (last year’s frozen berries) jam and half a dozen jars of spicy plum sauce which i think will accompany the rabbits i have in the freezer quite nicely.

I got the plum sauce recipe right out of the Ball Blue Book and scrimcoached the jam recipe. As i cooked down the fruit i perchanced to notice that the coupon found in my pectin box was dated 2008…. finding that odd i looked more closely at the expiration date on the pectin itself: April 2010! Woopsy! I only bought this pectin last year, though i did buy it from the bare and no de-funct grocery store here in Philomath……   Note my lack of fastidiousness. Luckily, the jam tastes and jelled just fine- so i think i’m in the clear. I used about 2 cups sugar to 5 pounds chopped plums and berries with a splash of lemon juice and a package of pectin. I can’t wait for toast this Winter spread on homemade bread and raw butter. No baking this time of year, it’s too darned hot!

What’s been filling your canning jars so far this Summer?

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Glass jars are one of those things that I have a hard time parting with. If I do part with them, they go into the recycling bin, but most of the time I keep them… ALL of them. I don’t buy a lot of things in cans or jars anymore, but from time to time a jarred item makes its way to my kitchen and after it is empty, that jar will be put into service in a second life storing something.

It isn’t just my own jars I keep, I have some friends that will give me their empty jars and I also have been known to lean into the recycle dumpster from time to time if I spot a jar I can’t live without. Sometimes those certain jars just call out to me.

I might as well fess up right now; I also save any lids that come my way. Why? For those jars that canning lids won’t fit on and over the years, the originally metal lids will start to rust and your just never know when you might need a new one – well, I have them in all shapes and sizes, metal and plastic. My way of thinking is (and by all means my thoughts aren’t always “normal”) that I am recycling them my way first before they end up at the recycle center later.

Back to the jars. I mentioned a rather large canning jar purchase here this past summer when I brought home a few more boxes (ok 7 boxes) of canning jars from an estate sale. I had told myself that I didn’t “need” any more canning jars and there I was piling more in my truck. Since then I have brought home 4 more boxes of canning jars from a garage sale. I have high high hopes that one day I will have more tomatoes then I know what to do with (or peppers or fruit) and I will be a canning-fool filling all those jars. I will have those jars, ready to use and I won’t have to run to the store for more jars. My jars also cost me less than half of what new jars would cost.

Again, my way of thinking is why not buy them when I see them (used, well-loved and ready for more action at a decent price) and they will happily wait on my shelf to be put into service. I haven’t counted to see how many canning jars I have now (I don’t count on purpose because that would give it a number… numbers aren’t always good to know.)

Well, numbers are good to know if you are already canning and preserving and you know exactly how many jars of tomato sauce or green beans it takes to keep your family in food throughout the winter and until your next harvest. I am lucky to live in a climate where I can have a spring, fall and winter garden, but I still want to be able to preserve some of the wonderful things like tomatoes, peppers or fruit,

Yesterday I did it again…. I came home with more jars. These are special jars though (they all are, right?) I went to an estate sale at a farm. Oh, it was a neat place. The back roads call out to me. The farm calls to me. The jars called to me. There was a small outbuilding that looked like it was used for making wine and storing canned things. There were several crocks and old wooden wine kegs (might not be the right term for them) and an entire wall made into a storage cupboard that was filled with old old canning jars with the wire bails on them. Most of them were out of my price range, but I managed to poke around and find 6 half-gallon canning jars for $1 each and a few gallon jars for $2 each. MINE!

As I left this cute farm and drove out the driveway I pulled over and just took it all in. I just filled up my soul with the scene. It stirs something in me. I gazed down at my “new” jars and smiled.

Am I the only one out there that has an obsession with jars?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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silos

Computers and modern transportation have made this world of ours seem a lot smaller. It makes luxuries that many of us might afford seem commonplace. I can order shea butter made from nuts handpicked by African locals, wool from the “Highlands of Peru”, and water bottled all the way in Fiji and have them shipped to me here in the midwest. But do I need them… especially when I can get a comparable item from somewhere closer to home?

It’s a mixed blessing. Modernization and change can be good thing, but I wonder, “At what cost?”. Not just the cost to my pocket book, but the cost to our surroundings – the local industries and businesses, job rates, fuel prices, and the impact on the environment.

Just like I have doubts about processed foods, I have some issues with purchasing food online. Some of these “must have” herbs, oils, seasonings, and out of season vegetables can hardly be better for the environment with all their fossil fuels and packing than all the pesticides and fertilizer a conventionally grown product may have. I have some concerns with purchasing food from places like Amazon, for example, simply because the items are organic, or they fall under the latest diet fad, or are the latest craze in grains. How can it be any better than picking up packaged processed organic convenience foods at your local grocery store?

olive oil

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that these goods are available to those that would otherwise have no access to local organic products or allergen-free foods. I love that my sister, with her gluten- and lactose-intolerances, can easily find alternatives for her diet. But for a majority of us it shouldn’t be an issue. One of my biggest fears is that globalization (in the sense of marketing and shipping) of the organic industry will hinder the local food movements. When we choose to order food and goods online, I feel like we’re cheating our neighboring farmers even the chance to decide if they want to go organic, or sell at the market or even direct to stores.

With all that said, I admit I’m no saint. I have my coffee and teas; I’ve ordered bags of flour and even Meyer lemons; nuts and avocados from the States and Mexican mangoes frequent my kitchen when they’re in season. I keep balsamic vinegar. And wine… I have not given up my wine (hic!). Let’s not even talk about Peppadews. It’s been said many times before, “Moderation is key”.  If you want to splurge on something, choose wisely and limit your purchases and usage. For example, I try to choose Californian olive oil instead of those imported from Italy, Argentina, and Tunisia. I also purchase in bulk any items that need to be shipped – like flour. But I do purchase a majority of my vegetables and fruits from local farmers – and I buy lots at a time to can, freeze, and store*. Doing so is an investment in future meal. Yes, it requires some time and very minimal equipment, but it sure is an improvement in value and taste. I also try to forage when I can, and I’m not shy about asking family and friends if I can pick extras from their gardens and trees. Those Peppadews I love so much? I limit the amount I purchase and keep them as a special treat: a luxury.

Canning SessionSet your own limits. What is acceptable to you? Would you be willing to spend a couple of Saturdays  at the end of summer to put up the products of a good harvest? Can you fit an hour a week into your plans to go to the farm stand or market instead of the grocery store? Is it really okay to purchase organic garlic from Argentina, when you can wait until fall and pick it up locally? Can you get by with eating foods grown strictly in your own country? Would you be willing to eat seasonally and regionally instead of buying out of season fruits and vegetables from California? What ingredients would you be willing to give up, grow yourself, or purchase locally instead of having them imported? Would you be willing to be an activist and get the ball rolling on a local farmers market?

I think it’s phenomenal that so many more small businesses are cropping up and offering organic goods where they weren’t previously available. I love that there are so many alternatives available for people that have food challenges, like allergies and intolerances. I also think it’s important to stay educated and keep questioning how we can make things better for our families, the environment, and our local businesses. Food quality is very important to me, and I frequently find myself researching what I can do to improve it while reducing my footprint. My time and pocket book is also important to me, and I always have to work on consolidating my projects and errands. So while I may purchase a few key items online, you won’t find me getting box-loads of organic meals delivered to my door. Instead you’ll find me bringing box-loads of organic veggies home from the market to put up for those long, cold winter days and searching for ways to advocate local resources.

Farmers Market

(*A note on purchasing and preparing foods in bulk: It’s amazing how much cabinet space is left when you get rid of all those factory processed and packaged foods. Cans and jars of goods stack easily and don’t have as much empty space thanks to settling. Freezer space is nice if you have it, I’m currently storing a lot in my parents’ deep freeze since ours is long gone. I keep 20 pounds worth of flour in air-tight storage bins and have kept long-storing items like winter squash under my bed.

It may be intimidating to spend the little extra cash up front, but the investment of a little money and time up front will save you money and time later down the road. Less grocery shopping, means more time and more money in your pocket. Start small and add more projects as you feel more comfortable and can afford to add more to your project list. Share projects with someone else to save money and time, find canning jars and storage containers at garage sales or look for end of season sales. Over time you will notice a difference in the amount of money you spend on food, but it may take a while depending on how much you actually prepare and store.)

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- Jennifer is also at Unearthing this Life, is on Twitter, and has written for Rhythm of the Home.

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It wasn’t until this past week that I tried sour montmorency cherries for the first time. The name sour cherries really turned me off, so I’d never even considered them before. I always thought “Sure! I’ve tasted sour cherries… I always get at least one bad, cheek suckingly, stomach turningly sour cherry a season.”

Except that’s where I was mistaken. Sour cherries aren’t those cherries at all, in fact I wouldn’t really say they’re very sour at all. They’re certainly not sour like the bitey, over processed commercial pie fillings can be, and they’re not sour like sour cherry candies. They’re not sour like anything I’d ever tasted before.

During a recent trip up to Traverse City (and Mission Point), Michigan I had the opportunity to try Jolly Pumpkin’s Cherry Cream Pie. Jolly Pumpkin is a fantastic brewery and restaurant that uses local foods, many of which are artfully pickled and prepared, to create fantastically subtle and down-to-earth dishes. Their Cherry Cream Pie was unlike anything I’d ever tasted. It screamed “butter” with every bite, but not in an obnoxious way. In the way that cream had been pushed right to it’s very limits, making the cream base of the pie begin to take on a butter texture. The pie was topped with stewed sour cherries and a rhubarb drizzle. Oh. My. Gosh. It was heaven.


This was my first introduction to real  sour cherries. A few days later I found myself at a farmer’s market, buying a pint to try to reproduce the cream pie we’d had. Tentatively I popped one into my mouth and paused. This wasn’t what I’d thought it’d be like at all. This was sour like a perfectly sweet/tart currant jam, or a rhubarb compote. It was the way I had always wanted cherries to taste. I’ve decided folks should start putting disclaimers on their cherries. They should call them “Perfect-balance-of-sweet-and-sour Cherries”.

Of course, if you’re a cherry connoisseur you already know the joys that are sour cherries. I grew up with a Queen Anne cherry tree, which is a blush cherry that has very subtle, polite flavor compared to the black and sour varieties. Of course with those as my base reference point, you can imagine I was startled to discovered the montmorency cherry in all of it’s flavorful glory.

So now I’m a montmorency cherry convert. I bought six quarts at the market on Wednesday and spent last night pitting them with my mother who is visiting from New Hampshire. I will be making cherry preserves like a mad woman this morning, just as soon as I get up from my computer. I can’t believe how amazingly addicted I am to this stuff!

I just used a simple recipe but now I’m left wondering… are there cherry preserves (jams, compotes, chutneys) that I should be making other than just the simple stuff?

Do you have a favorite sour cherry recipe, or do you prefer the blush or black cherries?


Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens, her livestock and her leased historical home in SE Michigan.


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It used to be all that I’d preserve was tomatoes. After a few years of that I started freezing apples and peaches that I’d purchased by the bushel. When we moved to our current property we were loaded with wild blackberries, so preserves and jams obviously had to go on the list.

Now, after almost 10 years of canning, freezing, and putting by for the winter, we have a pretty good stash of goodies that help us get through until it’s time to start harvesting wild and gardened foods again. This year we put up tomatoes, chow chow, several types of fruit preserves, honey & pecans, chutney, pear and lemon preserves. We froze roasted red peppers, squash, and pumpkins, as well as a half of a pig we processed ourselves. We have onions, potatoes, winter squash, and sugar pumpkins in dry storage, and we recently joined a meat CSA. We also have dried herbs for seasonings and teas – things like sumac berries, lemon balm, and mints. And finally, I managed to save some of those wines that I brewed (hic). 

I almost feel like we’ll be cheating for this year’s Real Food Challenge (Don’t forget to sign up if you’ll be joining us)!

So, of those of you that will be playing along this next month – what will you be falling back on that you “put by” this past year? Do you mainly can, freeze, use a dry storage system like a cellar? Or will you have to start from scratch and pick up your supplies from stores and growers?

You can also find Jennifer blarging away at Unearthing This Life. There she rambles on about chickens, organic food, gardening, and living in rural Tennessee.

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