Tag Archives: canning

texas peach pickles

at last glimpse, our heroine had just started a preserves company called ‘confituras‘ and she was about to embark on a long, arduous journey that would take her to parts unknown. well, my friends, i am here to tell you about the great beginnings my journey has enjoyed. firstly, my time at the farmer’s market has exceeded expectations so much so that i am pinching myself weekly. it has been a near sell-out every week. and, beginning in a few weeks, i will start at the triangle farmer’s market on wednesday afternoons. secondly, the food community here in austin has been supportive in ways that i would have never imagined, both in coming to buy my confituras at the market and encouraging other like-minded folks to do the same, and in the press i have received thus far: first this lovely blog, then this one, then this other one. then edible austin got a piece of me, then our local newspaper. holy smokes, people! you sure know how to make a girl blush! and lastly-my friends and family, many of whom have been long-standing guinea pigs testers and tasters, volunteers, web designers, label makers, sous chefs and the best cheerleaders a girl could have.

and now on to more interesting things. i first saw this recipe for pickled peaches in the texas monthly in october of last year. ‘texas, our texas’ peaches may be small, but flavor trumps size and fredericksburg offers some good ‘uns. i have waiting patiently for almost a full year to make it. and although i have to admit that i have sneaked some from  the jar, the hardest part is happening now: i am awaiting the marriage of flavors that occurs in a jar full of fruit, vinegar, sugar, ginger, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. and i will wait until thanksgiving. this is southern tradition, folks. the preserving happens at the peak of peach season. the enjoyment happens at a special place at the most special time of the year~the holiday table. it is also tradition to stud the peaches and preserve them whole but i decided on doing it my own way-a more conservative half peach swimming amidst it’s warm holiday spice soak.

texas peach pickles (makes 6-7 pints)

8-10 pounds small texas peaches, peeled, pitted, and halved

lemon juice or crushed vitamin c tablets for aciduation (to prevent browning)

1 quart distilled white vinegar

5 cups organic cane sugar

1 small knob ginger, peeled and left whole

whole cloves-5 for each jar plus a tbsp for the syrup

whole allspice-5 for each jar plus 1 tbsp for the syrup

cinnamon sticks-1 for each jar plus 4-5 for the syrup

place vinegar, sugar and spices in a large stock pot. heat until simmering to dissolve sugar. add peach halves, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. turn off heat, cover and allow to stand overnight where the peaches will plump up and say howdy. sterilize jars and prepare canner and lids while you heat this mixture back up to the boiling point. add 5 or so whole cloves and whole allspice and hot peaches to hot jars. add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar and top with syrup and adjust for 1/2 ” headspace, removing any air bubbles as you go. process for 20 minutes in a hot water bath. wait until thanksgiving or christmas dinner to enjoy them!

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zucchini marmalade

so the main reason i wanted to participate in this year-long canning challenge was to learn a few things not only about canning, jamming, pickling, etc. but also about the personality and behavior of the actors (aka produce) going into the jars. i have gardened for about fifteen years and some of these plant genera are still foreign to me. for instance, i had never heard the term ‘cucurbits’ in my life, although most in this family of plants are very familiar to me and i’m sure to you as well: summer and winter squash, cucumbers, gourds, and a whole mess of melons. this month’s challenge was to get one of these preserved in jars.

i knew immediately what i needed to do when this category was announced: correct that bad feeling i had when i made cucumber pickles last year. they were disgusting. i swore that i would remedy that when the opportunity arose the following summer. but when i went to the market looking for pickling cucumbers, wouldn’t you know it, there were none to be found. so in the meantime, my dearest friend, kathy, gifted me with what she referred to as a ‘steroidal zucchini’ from a garden she had been caring for earlier in the day (along with almost 10 pounds of figs–i know i choose my company well). she wasn’t kidding–look at this thing! it’s not the type of zucchini that tastes good in just a simple saute. this motha needed to be baked in a bread or….made into zucchini marmalade! ever since i came across the idea of making marmalade out of zucchini, i have been intrigued. the resulting concoction is a bright, sunny citrus spread with, yes the color of zucchini flecks but also the nutritional whallop of the squash. i used a full two-thirds of this in the double-batch i prepared using the recipe below. i feel healthier already.

zucchini marmalade (4 half pints)

adapted from dinner with julie and ball complete book of home preserving

2 lemons

1 large orange

1 medium-large zucchini (about 2 cups grated on large holes of a box grater)

2 cups water

4 cups sugar

wash lemons and orange well and grate using the largest holes on a box grater. place in a large pot or preserving pan with the water. peel some of the white pith from the lemons into large pieces and place in in the same pan (you will be removing these later, so size matters as you will have to fish them out).  simmer for about 30 minutes.

meanwhile, finely chop the flesh of the lemons and oranges (after removing any remaining pith and all seeds). remove the pith from the pot and add in the lemon and orange flesh and the grated zucchini. bring back up to a simmer and allow to slowly cook for about 20 more minutes. add in sugar and bring to a boil, taking care to monitor that the mixture doesn’t foam up and boil over. boil gently, stirring often so it doesn’t stick to the pan, about 30 minutes. check temp with a candy thermometer or, my preferred method is the wrinkle test to test for gel set.

ladle into prepared jars and  process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

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pickled red onions

pickled onions finished

i am a fan of quick. and i’m not talkin’ highly processed or convenience foods. now, i’m not knocking busy folks who need to buy a pre-chopped onion every now and again, but for me chopping the onion is a process that takes me from an over-stimulating day to a place of zen. i’m a strange one that way. so what we’re talking about here is a quick pickles. canned, or water-bath processed pickles are a wonderful thing, but sometimes you lose quality and crunch factor with this method. plus you have to wait days to weeks for the pickles to be ready. if you have never done this, it is virtually impossible to slave over a hot canner, then wait up to two weeks to taste the results.

pickled onions raw

if you are a fan of grilled, smoked, caramelized, braised, broiled or roasted meats or vegetables like we are, you need to make some pickled onions. they are the perfect balance to the char or caramelization that occurs with any of the above cooking methods. i could also see this as the perfect companion to anything warmly-spiced (think cumin or cinnamon scented savory dishes, like the pork carnitas below), or anytime you want to add a brightness to a dish. this is such a simple way to punch up so many foods, i think i’ll keep  a jar of it in my fridge all summer long.

pickled onions on carnitas taco

pickled red onions (makes about 2 cups)

adapted from david lebovitz and simply recipes

1 large red onion, sliced thinly

1 cup white wine vinegar

3-4 tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste

2 bay leaves

1/2 cinnamon stick

5 whole allspice berries

5 whole cloves

5-10 whole black peppercorns

pinch of salt

in a small saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar, and spices to simmering. add sliced onions and simmer gently for 30 seconds. remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. place onions and pickling liquid in a glass jar. will keep and taste freshest in the fridge for up to a month.

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rhubarb jelly with lime and flor de jamaica

another month, another canning challenge. this is my second attempt at jelly-making and my first with pomona pectin. i am in love. talk about product performance-what a concept: this stuff delivers on it’s promise, which is to gel or set your mixture and not to add preservatives, additives or unneeded extra sweeteners. now, on to the jelly itself. this month’s challenge provided a choice between asparagus or rhubarb. since my last two canning choices were more of the savory variety, i decided on rhubarb.

now, i don’t what your experience with rhubarb is, but mine is nil. nada. nuttin’ doin’. never touch the stuff. actually, it kind of freaks me out. i mean, check out this creepy picture and tell me you won’t have haunting dreams tonight. i knew enough about it not to touch it while i was chopping it up; it stains everything it touches. being a nurse is handy as there are always a box of gloves hangin’ around for duties like this. as i was making pictures of it, i softened a bit toward it’s rugged good looks. the deep color and striations and such started to grow on me. i read sweet stories on the internets about fond memories of grandma handing her little ones raw rhubarb stalks dipped in sugar as a special springtime treat. all manner of people were baking it in pies and cobbler, stewing it to serve in a fool or with some delicious grilled or roasted meat product. these people must have known what they were doing, right? and no one was poisoned, once they figured out not to eat the leaves, right? right.

i followed pomona’s instructions for fruit ratio, pectin amounts, and the like. the flavor profile is way more hibiscus than rhubarb, most likely due to the fact that i did not get a whole lotta juice from those stingy stalks. i had to supplement much more with steeped hibiscus than i had initially planned. this beauty will most likely end up on my next cheese tray.

rhubarb jelly with lime and flor de jamaica (makes 7-8 half pint jars)

3 lbs rhubarb

a few large handfuls dried flor de jamaica (hibiscus flowers)

5 tbsp lime juice

2 1/2 c sugar

5 tsp calcium water

5 tsp pomona pectin

clean and chop rhubarb into 1/2 inch chunks, discarding any browned or leafy portions. (yes folks, the leaves are poisonous). place in a large pot with a cup or two of water and simmer until softened. add a large handful of hibiscus flowers during the last minute or so of cooking. the longer they steep, the darker the jelly will be. at this point, i whirled the mixture in the food processor but i wish i hadn’t. it became almost too thick to strain and i only got about a cup and a half of liquid through it. strain through multiple dampened layers of cheesecloth for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.resist the temptation to press on or push the liquid out. rumor has it that this will cause the jelly to become cloudy because, inevitably, some solids will end up getting through as well.

measure the amount of liquid strained and bring an amount of water that would bring this to a  total 5 cups. for example: my 1 1/2 cups of strained juice had me bringing 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil. add another large handful of hibiscus flowers to the boiling water for just about 30 seconds or so and strain through another few layers of cheesecloth. add this hot liquid to your juice. rinse out your pot, add the liquid, lime juice, and calcium water and bring to a boil. measure out your sugar into a bowl and add the pomona pectin, stirring well to combine. add the sugar and pectin to the boiling mixture all at once and stir for a minute or two until the pectin is well dissolved. bring mixture back to a boil and add additional sweetener if desired. if i had it to do all over again, i would have added some honey at this point to round out the sweetness.

ladle into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

i floated a few flowers on top  but most did not stay cenetered. i am ok with this.

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texas two-step jelly

i found this month’s canning assignment a bit challenging. sometimes i think the wider the range from which to choose, the more difficult. this month’s assignment was herbs. herbs! how many hundreds, thousands of herbs are there anyway? i considered most of them. i find i have most difficulty with decision-making when i am a bit over-stimulated by other facets of life. it’s time to admit that my day job is really getting in the way of my blogging, cooking, and social engagements. and something must be done about it.

and so to that end, this writing is so close to the deadline that i will have to keep it short. and sweet! this is a delicious jelly made from a texas viognier and a very special ingredient: mexican mint marigold, aka texas tarragon. this is a lovely herb indigenous to texas and mexico. it is also known as the ‘poor man’s tarragon’. all i know is that it’s a perennial herb that i’ve had it my garden for years and i use it in all kinds of sauces and preparations. the apple pectin stock is a wonderful way to add natural pectin to jellies and jams. the apple flavor is a bit stronger than i’d like it to be, but the jury is still out. i will taste again this week before i make adjustments.

both of these recipes are adapted from gourmet preserves: chez madelaine by madelaine bullwinkel.

apple pectin stock:

this is a neutral pectin stock that works well with most jelly flavors. keep a store of it in the fridge or freezer so you always have some on hand.

4 lbs granny smith apples

8 c water

stem the apples and coarsely chop. place pieces in a heavy non-reactive 5-quart pot: include seeds, skins, and cores. bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes. stir once or twice during this time, turning the apples from top to bottom..

strain mixture through  a damp cheesecloth-lined sieve for 1 hour. there will be about 8 cups of juice. begin to reduce this juice while continuing the straining process for another hour. the last strained juice has a higher pectin level than the juices previously strained. add this juice to the pan and reduce juices to 3 cups total.

stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or frozen up to a few months.

wine jelly:

be sure to use a wine you  really enjoy drinking because the final product will be a concentrated version of this flavor.

1 bottle of your favorite wine (i used a driftwood vineyards texas viognier)

3 cups apple pectin stock

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2-3 small sprigs of tarragon (i used mexican mint marigold, aka texas tarragon)

2 cups granulated sugar

reduce the wine to 1 cup in a heavy, non-reactive 4-quart pan. reserve wine and rinse out the pan. combine pectin stock, wine,  lemon juice and tarragon in the pan and bring to a simmer, reducing by half to about 2  1/2 cups. remove tarragon. add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing liquid to return to a boil before adding more. continue to boil until mixture reaches jell-point, about 5-10 minutes.

off heat, skim the jelly and ladle into hot, sterilized jelly jars to within 1/4″ of the top. if desired, add a small sprig of tarragon to suspend in jell. process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

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pickled pearls of wisdom

when i first heard that alliums were the produce of choice for this month’s can jam, i couldn’t have been more excited. i am a savory girl, for sure. i’ll take leek confit over a square of chocolate any day. roasted garlic over cheesecake. and i’d choose caramelized onions before selecting a big bowl of ice cream. i soon learned however that my dreams of canning all of my favorite onion and garlic preparations were being shot down at every turn for one very good reason. alliums are low-acid vegetables and they don’t care who knows it. because of this fact, and because i am fairly new to canning, i was having difficulty finding a way to safely can any of my beloved lily family favorites. by the looks of some of the chatter on twitter about this month’s challenge, i am not the only one who was having difficulty.

then i sat down and reminded myself that this was precisely reason that i wanted to join the can jam: to stretch my canning muscles. honestly, if it was gonna be so effortless that i would be able to whip up something without any thought process whatsoever, then what’s the point, right? and isn’t that what life’s all about? setting out to do one thing, then quickly realizing it ain’t happening according to expectations and adjusting as necessary? since i usually choose to make quick, refrigerator-style pickles, i decided that canning a pickle would the most logical next step. i settled on pickled cocktail onions more because they are adorable and i love the taste of anything pickled, than for their obvious practical application of fulfilling a gimlet-lover’s dream. i do plan on giving away a jar or two to the few friends that are known to have cocktail hour, but mostly i will keep them on hand for grilling season, as i imagine their briny little selves will shine next to a pork tenderloin with a nice char or as cooling antipasti. hell, i may even throw them in my next bloody mary.

pickled pearls (makes 1 1/2 pints)

adapted from saving the season

1 heaping pint cocktail onions (just over a pound)

3 cups champagne or white wine vinegar

4-5 tbsp granulated sugar

a few dried chilies de arbol

6 whole allspice

4 whole cloves

10-12 whole black peppercorns

10-12 coriander seeds

2 bay leaves

1- 3″ cinnamon stick

a few grains of cardamom (you can bust the pods open with a rolling pin)

make a brine from 1/4 coarse sea salt (regular iodized salt may turn the brine dark and cloudy and flaky kosher salt may not give the proper proportions for the brine) and 4 cups water, heat gently until salt dissolves, then cool to room temperature.

trim the root and stem ends of each onion and peel away a layer or two ‘to reveal the pristine and glassy interior’ (love that description). this may take awhile, so just slow down and revel in the zen of the activity.

place onions and brine in plastic bags (i used a separate bag for the purple and white onion as to discourage any bleeding of colors) and set in a large bowl to catch any accidental leakage. it was also very easy to keep the onions submerged in the brine this way. brine for a minimum of 12 hours, maximum of 48.

when ready, place vinegar, sugar and aromatics in a saucepan and bring to a boil. simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove from heat. meanwhile drain onions from brine and pack them tightly into sterilized jars. pour brine over onions, leaving 1/2″ headspace, and divide aromatics among jars, adding more if desired. if you are squeamish about heat on the palate, be careful with the hot chiles. breaking them open or adding them to a 4 ounce jar could render the onions rather spicy. process 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

the instructions say to allow flavors to marry for at least 2 weeks before using.

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carrot cake jam, wha?

my goodness, whoever heard of such a thing as carrot cake jam? not me. i think it’s it’s just ridiculous. and delicious. i really thought i was not going to like it but i do. i’m imagining a whole mess of this on top of another whole mess of cream cheese on top of…well, you get the idea. i needed to preserve something with carrots as per the can jam assignment for this month. i really thought about canning my mexican hot carrots and eventually i will. but i managed to intimidate myself out of it as the last time i made pickles and water bath canned them, they went as limp and colorless as an old rag doll.

i know what you’re asking yourself : does it really taste like carrot cake? the answer is yes. and no. i might’ve made a few changes if i was on top of it before i even put it all together. i would have left out the cloves. unnecessary and i don’t believe carrot cake generally includes cloves. the addition doesn’t seem out of place but it was confusing on the palate in this application. i also would have added some some coconut. yes, that would’ve made it perfect. as it stands, it almost reminds me more of morning glory muffins than carrot cake.

not that i’m complaining.

carrot cake jam (makes about 5-6 half pint jars)

adapted from ball complete book of home preserving

1 1/2 c  carrots, grated or matchstick-cut

1 1/2 c  pears, peeled, cored , cut into tiny dice

1 3/4 cup finely chopped pineapple with any collected juice

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

4 c granulated sugar*

put all ingredients into a heavy bottomed pan, bring to a boil and allow to simmer rapidly until mixture resembles molten sugared lava and mixture reaches about 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer. took me about 20-30 minutes. place a small amount on a plate that has been in the freezer for a bit, put back in freezer for 1 minute. it should be firm and wrinkle some when you touch it.

ladle mixture into sterilized jars and process in water bath for 10 minutes. allow to cool completely on counter, checking to be sure all jars have sealed properly.

* original recipe called for 6 1/2 cups of sugar (4 seemed sweet enough to my taste) and pectin, which i opted not to use.


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