Saturday, July 20, 2013

Canning Fever: it begins....

Is it just me, or did June fly by REAL fast? Not to mention, we're halfway through July already! What's up with that? June has been hectic, and July is only going to be more hectic-er (it's a real word if I say it is).

I've been bit by the canning bug. It started innocent enough... I noticed that blueberries were on sale for a dollar a pint, and of course that means it's time to make jam! If you remember, thanks to the evils of corn, I can't touch any of my precious jams from last year.So, armed with a corn-free pectin and 24 (yes, that's twenty four) pints of blueberries, I started canning. Then I made strawberry jam. But I have to give it away because I started reacting to the strawberries. They must have been sprayed with something corn-based. All 16 pounds... Well, at least Christmas gifts are already figured out!

This year, I'm testing out two new-to-me canning products: Pomona's pectin and Tattler reusable lids. I've worked with Pomona's a few times so far, and there seems to be a learning curve to it. I'm not always getting a full set, and I'm not quite sure why. I don't mind too much. It's still the best damn fruit syrup you can find! I'm going to keep fiddling with Pomona's until I get it right.

The Tattlers I will probably test out tonight on some pickles and peaches. Fingers crossed!

Last year I dipped my toe into this canning business for the first time. This year I have a pretty extensive plan for canning. Jams and pickles are nice, but I want to be able to put up at least a portion of our meals for the coming year. Easier said than done, when you don't have a pressure canner. I'm strictly relegated (officially speaking) to high-acid foods. It has taken some ceativity to not only find recipes I can make, but ones we will happily use on a regular basis.

Enter: Harvard beets. What are Harvard beets? A  lovely sweet/sour side dish that is a breeze to make. I made them last year using store bought canned beets and making the sauce from scratch. But, as I looked at the recipe, I realized it was remarkably similar to the recipes for canned pickled beets, but with minor changes and on a smaller scale.

Well, thought I, why couldn't I do this with pickled beets I make myself? Imagine taking a jar of pickled beets, draining the liquid, adding it to a saucepan with some spices (if your beets weren't spiced to begin with) and flour/cornstarch/what have you. Cook til thick, add the beets back in, warm them up, and ta da! Your veggie side dish is done!This was an exciting revelation, because it allowed me to take "pickled" foods and make them palatable enough to eat in larger, side-dish portions.

I currently have a 25 pound bag of carrots that will pickled up the same ways as the beets. Think that sounds weird? Look up recipes for carrot "copper pennies." It's an old dish made very much like Harvard beets. Again, I tried this dish with the family to make sure they liked sweet/sour carrots. The dish was received with rave reviews. Woohoo!

Many, many things on my canning wishlist for this year:
Pickled beets
Pickled carrots
Blueberry jam DONE
Strawberry-kiwi jam DONE :(
Sliced peaches in honey syrup
Whole blueberries in syrup
Plum halves in honey syrup
Zucchini in pineapple juice (supposed to taste like and be used just like pineapple!)
Candied jalapenos
Tomato sauce
Whole tomatoes
Garlic-dill pickles
Apples in syrup
Apple peel jelly
Beet jelly
Chow chow
Plus more that I either can't remember or I haven't  made up my mind on...

And this is just the canning list! I also plan to start utilizing my chest freezer better. I have five basil plants that need to become a boatload of pesto. Yum.

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