Canning Classes

I’m so excited to tell everyone that I will be working with April Cunningham from North Coast Opportunities to put on a series of canning and cooking classes this year.  The classes will be offered at the Willits Grange Kitchen and the Ukiah Senior Center Kitchen (both of which are really nice commercial kitchens).  We’re working on adding some dates at the Redwood Valley Grange as well.  Workshops will focus on cooking and preserving seasonal produce from local farms.  I’ll show you how to make jam and pickles but we’ll do some fresh cooking too.  After each class, participants will go home with a bag full of goodies that we’ve made that day.  At just $20, the classes are a ridiculously good deal!  There’s no commitment to attend the whole series- feel free to sign up for one class and then sign up for the rest once you see how much fun they’re going to be and how delicious everything we make turns out.  fall preservesSpace is limited, so contact April Cunningham to reserve a space: acunningham@ncoinc.org, or 707-467-3212.  If you’re interested in attending but the dates don’t work for you, e-mail April to stay in touch about future workshops.

Upcoming Workshops:

April 18: Ukiah Senior Center 1:00-4:00 pm. – FULL

April 22: Willits Grange 2:00-5:00

May 6: Ukiah Senior Center 2:00-5:00

May 30: Ukiah Senior Center 2:00-5:00

June 16: Ukiah Senior Center: 2:00-5:00

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Tangerine Jam with Vanilla Bean

It’s a strange time of year.  In November and December I was so tired from the summer that I was happy to sleep in and do not a whole lot for awhile.  Many hours were spent soaking in the bathtub and reading through seed catalogues.  tangerinesBy now, though, garden plans have been laid out, the first round of earliest spring seeds have been ordered and shipped to us and I’m starting to wake up in the morning with manic summer gardening thoughts in the front of my brain.

Before I forget, though, these tangerines! Citrus season in California is very much upon us.  A friend of mine in Ukiah gave me a huge bag of tangerines off of her tree.  They were juicy, sweet and delicious, and while we ate a lot of them fresh I also ended up making a couple different projects with them.

CANNED TANGERINE SEGMENTS IN LIGHT SYRUP

I held back from adding a bunch of flavorings to the syrup.  My goal was to make a fancy version of the canned mandarin oranges that they sell at the grocery store.  They’re basically the same thing, but with local fruit and a light syrup made with organic sugar.  tangerines in syrupI used this recipe here, which worked out just fine. Maybe I’ll tinker with it next time, but I kind of like that these are pretty plain.   They’re lovely straight out of the jar, tossed with salads, in a sauté with chicken, almonds and parsley, and a whole load of other recipes.

TANGERINE & VANILLA BEAN JAM

tangerine and vanilla bean jamI realized a few years ago that any jam that’s heavy on the vanilla makes for the best, most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I think it’s something that ends up kind of being reminiscent of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff? But without the marshmallow? Maybe I’m crazy…  This jam is a good alternative to marmalade if you’re not a fan of the bitter flavor marmalade can have. It tastes like a creamsicle because of the classic orange-vanilla combination. If you want to use it for savory applications, just leave out the vanilla bean. I thought about making another batch with ginger instead of vanilla, which I think would be great on chicken or as a salad dressing base, but…. we ate the rest of the tangerines. Oops.

Cook Time: 45 min.

Makes: 6 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 14 tangerines and 1 lemon, peeled and blended in a food processor, or about 5 c. of fruit puree.
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 box of sure-gel low sugar pectin
  • 2 c. sugar

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Put the fruit puree into a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the fruit puree.  Simmer the fruit-vanilla mixture for 5 minutes on low heat.  In a small bowl, combine the pectin with 1/2 c. sugar.  Once the fruit has simmered, add the pectin-sugar mixture and turn the heat to high.  Once it comes to a boil, add the remaining 1 1/2 c. sugar.  Bring to a full rolling boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until you can see the jam sheeting of a spoon.

Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims clean and attach lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

Note: I only use 1/2 box of pectin because I find that when I use a full box, the set is way too firm for my taste.  If you prefer a firmer set, feel free to add the rest of the pectin.

DRIED TANGERINE PEEL

As you’re doing these projects, don’t throw away the peels. Save them and dehydrate them to make tangerine peel powder, which you can use as a spice with kinds of different applications.  I mixed some with garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, dried thyme and rosemary to make a savory rub for chicken or pork. You can also use it for sweet things — I find that any time you’re using desserty kinds of spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, a little pinch of the tangerine peel powder just makes it taste even better.  peelsYou can either dry the peels in a dehydrator or the oven; I don’t have a dehydrator so I used the lowest setting on my oven.  They took a couple hours to dry out, and then I ground them in my blender.  The powder felt like it still had a little moisture in it, so I spread it onto a cookie sheet and dried it a little longer to make sure it wouldn’t mold in the pantry. tangerine peel powderThe scent of the peels dehydrating is wonderful and will make your house smell delicious, like you’re baking a tangerine cake.

Happy canning!

Pickled Red Onions & Quattro Stagioni Jars

So, I’ve never bothered doing any giveaways with free stuff or contests or any of that.  I like keeping this page more like a journal that I can use to remember good recipes and gardening ideas, and I don’t feel like spending a bunch of time trying to turn it into something more than that.  BUT…. when a fancy jar company offers to send me some of their jars, that’s a whole different situation.  I will never say no to more jars, whether they’re dusty ones from grandma’s basement or these gorgeous Quattro Staggioni jars that I used this morning.bormioli rocco jarsBormioli Rocco sent me a box of their Quattro Stagioni jars and some canning goodies (opening it was like Christmas in the middle of summer!) and they’re hosting a giveaway on their Facebook page where five winners will receive the same box that I got. All you have to do is go and like their page.

Quattro Stagioni jars have a one piece lid, which I know not everyone has worked with, but is really not much different than a two-piece lid.  Food in Jars has a good instructional over here explaining how to use them, so I won’t completely rewrite it, but the main tip is that you only need to screw on the lids until they’re moderately tight. Food in Jars says: ” When you screw this lids on, you only want to tighten them to the point when you feel the rim of the jar make contact with the sealing compound. Don’t go any tighter or the air won’t be able to escape and you will have compromised your seal.”

(Also, can I say how nice it is that if I am insecure about canning knowledge, all I need to do is go check on the Food In Jars page to confirm it? I don’t know what people did before the internet and food blogs.)floodgate farms torpedo onionsSince these are pretty jars, I wanted to make something pretty to put in them.  I settled on pickled red onions and apricots on in honey syrup.  I’m crazy about the pickled onions. We grilled some venison kebabs the other night, then made sandwiches on french bread with pickled red onions and lots of mustard.  Jason and I drank cold beers and watched the baseball game on tv. and it was pure summer bliss.  You could also put these on burgers, in a wrap with falafel or grilled vegetables, or toss them in a salad.  Once the onions are gone, save the brine and use it for salad dressing.pickled red onions and apricots in honey syrupPICKLED RED ONIONS

Use the freshest onions you can find for a vibrant hot pink color.  I bought these gorgeous onions from Floodgate Farm at the Redwood Valley Farmers Market.

Cook Time: 45 min.

Makes: 7 1/2 pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 5 c. white wine vinegar*
  • 10 c. sliced peeled red onions (1/4″ thick rings)
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • a few sprigs of fresh herbs: I used marjoram today, but sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, etc. are all fine
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the vinegar with the peppercorns and the garlic.  Bring up to a boil and add the sliced onions.  Stir gently and simmer for five minutes, until the onions soften.

Place a small sprig of fresh marjoram in each jar, and then use a slotted spoon to fill up the jar with onions. Ladle  the infused hot vinegar over the onions, leaving a generous 1/2″ of headspace.  Use a chopstick or rubber spatula to remove the air bubbles and adjust the headspace as necessary.  Wipe rims and attach lids, then process for ten minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

*I’ve also used red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and white vinegar.  The recipe comes out fine with all of them.

Strawberry-Peach-Lemon Jam

I just got back from a week in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.  My parents, one of my brothers and I all stayed at my grandma’s house and cooked a lot of pretty amazing food, so I have a several recipes I’ll be sharing this week as I get the time to write them up.

grandma
my grandma Molly in high school, in 1936. she’s the first one on the left, front row.

First up: this strawberry-peach-lemon jam.  It turned out really nice, with a gorgeous color, a good set and texture and lovely complex flavor.  (But… It’s also a bit of an abomination, since I used a bunch of sketchy fruit from a tiny local grocery store right down the road from us: conventionally grown, underripe, out of season peaches, some mediocre strawberries and a lemon to try and add some flavor.)  I’ve deemed it totally acceptable to break the usual rules about local fruit in our situation, when you’re staying at a house with several family members who all know how to make and can preserves, somehow there’s no jam in the house and all the local fruit is out of season.  The decisive moment was when I found an open jar of smucker’s strawberry jam in the fridge.  I don’t know who in my family bought that, but SHAME! strawberry-peach-lemon jamRecently, I’ve been trying to make really simple preserves, with just one kind of fruit, sugar and sometimes lemon juice.  I’m kind of obsessed with finding the best-of-the-best-most-delicious-you’ve-ever-tasted apricots/blackberries/whatever and doing the bare minimum that I need to do to get them into jars. Whoever grew the fruit is really doing most of the complicated work.  As far as my part goes, tracking down the perfect fruit is actually way more complicated than getting it into jars.

With boring grocery store fruit, though, I figured there’s no harm in playing around with some new flavor combinations to try and make the jam a little bit more vibrant.  And it worked! It’s kind of ridiculous that homemade jam is still so much better than the grocery store counterpart even when you’re not using very high quality fruit.  I’m really curious to see how this recipe turns out if I made it during the summer with some really sweet, ripe strawberries and peaches from our own peach trees.IMG_5388STRAWBERRY-PEACH-LEMON JAM

Makes: 4 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart of strawberries, stems removed and sliced in half
  • 3 peaches, blanched, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 large lemon, sliced for marmalade*
  • 1 tbs. vanilla
  • 3 c. sugar

Day 1: Prepare the fruit and macerate

Combine the sliced strawberries, peeled diced peaches, sliced lemons and sugar in a nonreactive container. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Day 2: Cook off the jam

Bring boiling water canner to a boil, prepare jars and lids.

Transfer the fruit to a heavy bottomed, nonreactive pot and cook on high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  After about 10 minutes, when the fruit is cooked through but the jam isn’t gelled yet, remove the pot from the stove and use a potato masher to mash the fruit to a consistency that you like.  (At this point it will really start to look like jam).  Put the pot back onto the stove and continue cooking until the jam reaches the gel point.  Ladle into hot half pint jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Attach lids and rings and process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.

Note: Strawberry jam can be challenging to get to set properly, but since this has a bunch of lemon slices in it, it should set pretty easily. It did for me, atleast.

Another Note: When you make marmalade, the sliced citrus fruit is often parcooked in some water before the sugar is added to make sure that the rinds are cooked all the way through and don’t end up chewy at the end.  Since this recipe skips that step, it is very important to slice the lemon extra super thin, otherwise I’m pretty sure it won’t cook thoroughly with the strawberries and peaches.

*To slice lemons for marmalade: read this instructions from Hitchhiking to Heaven. I’m too lazy to write them out.

And, don’t forget that if you don’t have your boiling water canner with you, all you really need is a pot with some jar rings laid in the bottom and you’re good to go. canning rack

Small Batch Meyer Lemon Marmalade

meyer lemon marmaladeI usually make monster batches of preserves.  I like preserving by the bushel when fruits are in peak season.  During the winter, I usually end up going down to San Francisco once or twice and getting some citrus fruit from the farmers down there who are coming over from the central valley.  I haven’t made it down there this winter, though, and a girl needs lemon marmalade, so when I was in Whole Foods the other day (I can’t believe I’m saying that; I never shop at Whole Foods and I think the stores are super pretentious, but I was trying to kill time in Santa Rosa, so I kind of just ended up there) I ended up buying six precious little meyer lemons. Apart from feeling like a loser for buying fruit at the grocery store, this little batch of marmalade was quite a success.  It only takes a few minutes to slice up six lemons for marmalade (the last time I made lemon marmalade I did fifty pounds of lemonswhich took hours and hours).  The cooking time is also really short, which is nice.  Also, I’d forgotten just how lovely a kitchen smells when it’s filled with the aroma of fresh lemons.  The most important part: a piece of toast with butter and marmalade is one of the best things in the universe. IMG_5064MEYER LEMON MARMALADE Makes: almost 4 half pint jars Cook Time: 1 1/2 hrs. Ingredients:

  • 6 meyer lemons
  • 3 c. water
  • 3 c. sugar

The first step is to wash and slice the lemons for marmalade.  If you’ve never done this before, check out this set of instructions from Hitchhiking to Heaven for an explanation.  (It seems redundant to take another set of pictures of virtually the exact same thing).   Save the seeds and wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth. Tie the top closed with string. Next, measure the prepared lemons.  The six lemons I had came out to almost exactly 3 cups of prepared sliced lemons.   The ratio of lemons to water to sugar should be 1:1:1, so adjust the rest of the recipe accordingly. Combine the lemons and water in a large, nonreactive pot.  Add the cheesecloth bag with the seeds and bring the mixture to a low simmer to cook the lemons.  Cook for about 20 minutes, until the peels are tender.  Using a pair of tongs, remove the cheesecloth and give it a squeeze to release the juice that’s inside (it’s homemade pectin, which will help the marmalade set). Discard the seed bag. At this point, prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids. Add the sugar to the pot and stir to combine.  Turn the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use the frozen plate method.  The marmalade will come up to a full, rolling boil and you’ll see that the liquid will start to thicken and runs off a spoon in sheets instead of a thin stream (click here for a picture).  At this point, you can put a teaspoon of the liquid on a plate that’s been in the freezer.  Put the plate back in the freezer and wait for a minute. Pull it back out and run your finger through the liquid. If it wrinkles, it’s done.  If it’s still thin and syrupy, it needs to cook for another few minutes). Ladle the hot marmalade into hot, clean jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims clean and attach lids.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.  lemon slices

Quince Slices in White Wine Syrup

Last month, I came to grips with the fact that I really just don’t like quince.  I think they taste like eating roses, and not in a good way.  The problem is that I still have two bushels of quince sitting in the pantry looking a little worse for wear and I really hate wasting food. I’m going to need to do a couple projects to use them all up, but this is attempt #1 at creating something we might enjoy.  (That last project I did was membrillo, and I thought it was foul). quince slices in white wine syrupMy original inspiration was this recipe for roasted pears and quince in white wine with tangerine zest which looked like it would be lovely adapted into a shelf-stable canned recipe. I ended up making quince slices white wine syrup infused with rosemary and tangerine zest that I’m hoping to use for some savory applications instead of just dessert. I feel like I might love them with some moroccan-spiced roast chicken and homemade flatbread or in a tagine with slow cooked lamb.  I’m going to let the jars sit for a week or two for the flavors to come together and then give it a try. peeling quinceQUINCE SLICES IN WHITE WINE SYRUP

Makes: 4 quart jars

Cook Time: awhile. peeling quince is kind of a pain.

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs. quince
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 4 c. water
  • 4 c. dry white wine
  • 4 c. sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 tangerine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Prepare the quince:
Rinse them under running water to remove the grey fuzz on the outside, then peel off the skin.  Remove the core and cut into 1/2″ thick wedges. As you’re working, put the wedges into a large, nonreactive pot with water to cover them (about 12 cups.) and 2 tbs. of lemon juice to prevent the fruit from browning. Once all of the fruit is cut into wedges, put the pot on the stove and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

While the quince are poaching, fill the boiling water canner and bring to a boil and prepare 4 quart jars and lids.

When the quince are fully cooked, drain them in a colander* and set aside for a minute.  Put the pot back on the stove and add the ingredients for the syrup: water, wine, sugar, tangerine zest and juice, lemon juice and a sprig of rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook for a couple minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Transfer the cooked quince slices from the colander back into the pot with the syrup and simmer everything for a few more minutes.  Ladle the quince slices and syrup into hot, clean jars leaving 1/2″ headspace. Remove air bubbles with a chopstick or plastic spatula and adjust headspace. Wipe rims, attach lids and process for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

*You can save the cores, peels and poaching liquid to make quince pectin stock if you want.

canning quinceP.S. See that little green spatula? My mother in law gave it to me for Christmas. At the time, it seemed like a random little stocking stuffer, but I’m obsessed with it and have been using it for everything.  It’s perfect for removing air bubbles from jars!

P.P.S. You may notice in the top picture that I actually totally failed on removing the air bubbles from one of the jars and the headspace isn’t right at all. We’ll be using that jar first since it won’t have the shelf life that the others will.

Queensland Blue Pumpkin Butter

I’m not always a fan of using the freezer for food preservation.  Maybe one day, if I have a chest freezer and some more space, but for now there’s just not enough room to really make much use of it.  Right now I use it for meat and fish, frozen bags of cooked greens, a few jars of pie filling and this pumpkin butter.

Pumpkin butter is epic.

Pumpkin butter deserves as much space in the freezer as it needs.  It is totally worth it.  If you’ve made pumpkin butter before, I’m probably preaching to the choir, but if you haven’t ….  you need to go get a pumpkin.  It’s like pumpkin pie in a jar.  I usually use it instead of plain pumpkin puree to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin lattes that are about a million times better than anything from Starbucks. (Did you know that most “pumpkin spice lattes” are just lattes with nutmeg and cinnamon? There’s really no pumpkin involved in most of them.  Try something like this instead.)queensland blue pumpkinMaking this made me really think about how ridiculous it is to measure out  specific amounts of ingredients for recipes since no two vegetables taste exactly the same.  With the wide range of varieties available from seed catalogues and at farmers markets, it makes so much more sense to learn the general method for a recipe, taste it as you go and adjust accordingly.   Last fall, I made pumpkin butter with sugar pie pumpkins and it took about four times as long to reduce down to the correct thickness and had a stringy, mushy texture that needed a lot of pureeing and reducing.   Not only did this year’s batch cook much faster since the flesh of this variety is very firm and dry, but the pumpkins also had so much flavor on their own that I really didn’t need to do much of anything to get the rich, luscious pumpkin taste that the finished product should have.

My favorite winter squash varieties have very firm, dry flesh that is dark yellow or orange, very flavorful and great for both savory and sweet recipes.  Buttercup, kabocha, jarradhale, and queensland blue are my current standbys, but if you look at winter squash section of the Baker Creek Seed catalogue, you’ll see there are about another ninety varieties and by no means have I tried them all. pumpkin butterHere’s the deal:  this is an easy recipe because it’s just going in the freezer.  You might find some pumpkin butter recipes in older cookbooks that say it’s safe for water bath canning, but it’s a lies.  I guess the USDA used to say it was okay but changed their minds.  The current guidelines say that pumpkin butter isn’t safe for water bath canning OR pressure canning.   (Did you really catch that if you’re skimming this?)

PUMPKIN BUTTER IS NEVER SAFE FOR CANNING. NOT IN A WATER BATH AND NOT IN A PRESSURE CANNER EITHER.

As much as I love to question authority, I’m not a scientist so I’m just going to follow the rules.  Marisa from Food In Jars has a thorough explanation over on her website here.  If you don’t have a freezer and are desperate for something that can go in a jar, SB Canning has a recipe for faux pumpkin butter that’s safe for water bath canning.

Step 1: Roast a pumpkin

To do this, poke a couple holes in it with a knife or a toothpick.  Put it on a cookie sheet. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees.  (You’ll know it’s cooked when a knife slides into the flesh easily – OR- if you press on the skin with your finger and it feels soft and gives to pressure – OR – you see little bubbles of caramelized sugar coming out of those holes you poked earlier.  Or all of those things. Maybe that’s obvious, but at my first kitchen job, it took me about three months to get the hang of properly baking potatoes.  Just so they were cooked through, like a normal baked potato, and not raw in the middle. Don’t make fun of me, it’s true.)

Step 2:

Wait for the pumpkin to cool off.  Then cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and set them aside for other projects.  The cooked flesh should come apart from the skin pretty easily at this point.  Put the flesh into a large, nonreactive pot and discard the skin.

Step 3:

Add the seasonings, puree, and cook on low heat until the mixture has thickened.  This variety of pumpkin is going to make a puree that’s already quite thick, so it won’t take all that long, about 45 minutes. Since this flesh is so dry, I found that it worked well to use a cup or two of apple juice as part of the sweetener.  It enhances the flavor and adds enough liquid to make it possible to puree everything with an immersion blender.

Ingredients to add:

  • apple or pear juice
  • brown sugar, honey or molasses
  • white sugar to taste
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, fresh, powdered or candied ginger, cardamom, whatever you want really…

I added apple juice, molasses, white sugar and some cinnamon and cooked the puree for another hour on very low heat, stirring it more often as it got really thick.   It ended up tasting perfect, just like eating pumpkin pie.  If you’re unsure about the seasonings, just add a little at a time and keep tasting it.  I added more white sugar than I originally thought I’d need, but if you just keep adding a little and tasting it eventually the flavors will lock in just right and really sing.  At this point, you should step away and stop messing with it or the everything can get muddled and weird.

Step 4:

Transfer the pumpkin butter to tupperware or jars and store in the freezer. Remember to leave about 3/4″ headspace on your jars and not to screw the lids down too tight or they’ll crack as they freeze solid.  pumpkin pieDON’T FORGET: Now that you have pumpkin butter made, you can whip up a pumpkin pie in about three minutes. The instructions are in this post from last year.