You know, canning doesn’t have to just mean putting up beans and making marinara sauce. It doesn’t have to be a chore that takes all darned day and leaves you hating the sight of the produce you just preserved. I love doing small batch canning because a) it doesn’t take that long, b) you don’t have to buy as much produce, and c) it generally seems way more creative! Last year I bought Tart and Sweet: 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen, and it has been my guide to fun-filled canning projects ever since! For Christmas I made maple apple butter and mango chili butter as gifts for my family. My taste buds were astonished! The maple apple butter was just sweet enough, with a warm hint of maple that makes regular old apple butter just a little more special. And the mango chili butter brings the heat! A perfect toast topping for a cold morning and a cup of tea. Nicely sweet, but with a belly warming hit of chili. There is also a recipe for banana butter that the boyfriend loved (so awesome on peanut butter sandwiches!), but didn’t have the right consistency for canning (too lumpy, couldn’t get out all the air bubbles).
Anyhow, I was watching an episode of The Victory Garden last week and they were pickling fruit and it dawned on me that I hadn’t done any canning yet this year because my summer has been so incredibly busy! So I busted out the book and had a look to see what I could get done in an afternoon that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg to put up. Because I am a fairly experienced canner (not that it’s difficult at all!) and a sadist, I undertook three projects. Luckily, I still have lots of jars from last year, so I really only had to buy produce and vinegar. Following is a little photo diary of my canning day! Enjoy!
These are some lovely pink cherry tomatoes (they look darker there than they really are) that I had picked up at the farmers market. I found a recipe in the book for soy garlic cherry tomatoes that is just a quick refrigerator pickle, so I made that one first.
It just made one quart, so that was especially easy. The bottoms are packed with lots of minced garlic and fresh ginger, and then the halved tomatoes are packed in on top. Meanwhile, soy sauce and rice vinegar came to a boil on the stove.
I just poured the hot soy/vinegar mixture over the produce (the jar is hot too, so it doesn’t break!), wiped the rim and applied the lid. After it came down to room temperature, I popped it in the fridge. Then I have to wait a week to eat them! It’s been the longest week ever! Naturally, I have no idea about how to eat these, except maybe just straight from the jar. What do you think? As a garnish for some sort of Asian cuisine?
Next up I decided on curried carrot coins. This is a canned pickle recipe, but pickles are so stupid easy that it came together right quickly. These are just grocery store carrots because my garden didn’t produce the right poundage, but that just goes to show you that you can make an awesome, homemade pickle any time of the year!
I am so freaking pumped about these. But I have to wait two weeks for these to pickle. Gah! I already know that I’m for sure going to eat them alongside some sort of really delicious curry. I know that pickles are a big part of Indian food culture, but I’ve never tried to combine them in my own kitchen!
I’m not sure why I chose the most time-consuming recipe for last, but I did. By the time this lavender peach jam was finished, I had been standing and sweating in my kitchen for around 5 hours, and I was exhausted. Still, it was worth it! In order to do any canning with peaches (these were half from the farmers market, half from the grocery store), you first need to peel them, which is easily achieved by blanching them for just 30 seconds. The skins slip right off.
Meanwhile, I was steeping some lavender buds in hot water. This was strained and then added while the peaches were cooking down. It gave it just a very slight floral hint. I love all things lavender, so I might have liked it a bit more strong, but I know it can get overpowering and intense really easily, so less is probably more in this situation.
This is a low sugar recipe, so I had to order some fancy schmancy pectin that the authors recommend. It was $8 a box, and I had to order it from Amazon, but then I saw some low sugar pectin in the grocery store, so next time I’m going to use that. A lot of the recipes call for this stuff, but I don’t feel like ordering it all the time, so it’s worth trying it out with the store-bought kind. And if it doesn’t gel, then whatever. It still tastes good. That’s one thing about this particular canning, book – it does call for some ingredients that I can’t find. Like maple sugar (for the maple apple butter…I ended up making my own maple sugar using maple extract, but it’s not technically the same) or blood orange juice (good luck even finding blood oranges around here for juicing) or that pectin. Accessibility of ingredients is a major factor for me when I’m cooking from cookbooks, and I tend to get highly irritated when a recipe looks awesome but calls for something I have to order off the internet.
Meh, but anyway, this jam is yummy. Since it’s low sugar, it’s just barely sweet and has a lovely mouth puckering tartness (tart and sweet, heh). You can really taste the peaches, as opposed to a lot of jams and jellies where there is so much sugar that it could really taste like almost anything.
That’s all the canning I’ve done so far! I plan on doing more this weekend if I get the chance. Peach butter needs making, and if I can ever get out to the local blueberry picking farm before the season is over (soon), blueberry lime jam! And I will update once I try the pickles out and think of a creative way to eat them. What are you canning this year?
Local: tomatoes, (some) peaches.