Sunday, July 5, 2009

We Can More Food

A veritable flurry of canning.

First the bread and butter pickles. But not from cucumbers: from summer squash. A neighbor thought this was weird, but I did it because an old Gourmet magazine told me to. And, it turned out very pretty, with yellow squash, green zucchini, red peppers, and purple onions. Pretty is important in canning, where the jars are clear glass.

The basic modus operandi was to slice the squashes and onions, sprinkle the slices with salt, add some crushed ice (weird, I know, but I think the purpose was to keep the slices crisp), and put all that in a crock with a plate and weight on it for four hours. This made a kind of brine that rose up and covered the vegetables. After four hours, you drain the vegetables and pack them in sterile jars. Then you were to make a vinegar and maple syrup brine with various pickling spices in it, boil that down a bit, and pour it over the vegetables. Then the jars go in the boiling water bath for twenty minutes.

Another project was pickled beans. At first I thought my beans weren't pretty enough to be seen through the clear jars and then eaten. They had brown spots on them. But those disappeared when I blanched them. At that point they looked incredibly beautiful. I packed them in my very cutest jars and poured another brine over them--about half vinegar and half water--and added sliced garlic and basil to the jars. Then I processed them for fifteen minutes. Alas, the beans didn't stay that beautiful bright green color. But they still look pretty good and I'm sure they'll be tasty, after the requisite four weeks of waiting have passed before they can be sampled.

Finally, the piece de resistance was the blueberry marmalade I'd been dreaming about, ever since I got my zeroxed copy of Preserving the Taste. The blueberries came from Hidden Springs Nursery via the farmer's market in Cookeville. I got a lot of them. The recipe had you make a kind of sugarless marmalade at first with lemon peel and orange peel (I used tangerines, just to be contrary) and juices and pulp from both the lemons and tangerines. Then you add the blueberries, sugar, and a tiny bit of cinnamon! Boil that down till it's kind of thick when you test it in the freezer (a move that's always fraught with anxiety for me: I couldn't tell if the blob of jam on the plate "wrinkled" exactly the way the book demanded it to wrinkle). Put it in jars and process a mere five minutes. The color is wonderful. The taste is sprightly. And it's thick enough!

On to corn relish. I know a patch of corn in the 'hood that I was told I could take some ears from, before the raccoons get them...

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