Preserve that is. Sorry I couldn’t resist… :)
As demonstrated by the jars and jars of pickles and preserves gracing the chefs’ tables at the Picnic at the Brick Works, canning appears to be make a comeback in a big way. Even Bernardin had a table at the Picnic where they were giving out jars of their “Light Mom’s Apple Pie” preserves along with the recipe.
Possibly fueled by the growing popularity of local food and needing to find creative ways to use all the veggies that come in one’s CSA box or maybe the need for creative, inexpensive hobbies that serve double-duty (entertainment and sustenance!) during tough economic times, I don’t recall canning ever being so popular during my adult life. Even my friend L remarked on a recent visit that her 20-something sister had joined a “canning club” where her and her friends preserve different things and then exchange their goods.
My foray into canning began in perhaps a bit of an untraditional way. It started when I was looking at the exposed brick wall in my kitchen and trying to decide what to display on the empty glass shelves. I’ve always loved and admired the displays of preserved local food that have graced the walls of chef Jamie Kennedy’s restaurants over the years and decided my own set of such jars would be the perfect decorative touch for my own kitchen.
Armed with a canning recipe magazine from Better Home and Gardens and recipes from the websites of preserving enthusiasts like Dana and Joel at wellpreserved.ca, I got to work. This project, much like the harvest table project, was time-consuming but yielded results I’m quite pleased with.
For my display wall to have impact, I selected recipes that used bright, colourful fruits and vegetables, left either whole or in cut into large chunks and processed in large 1L (quart) jars.
First I tackled Garlic Dill Pickles:
I followed this recipe closely, although made a few minor modifications: I added some slivered ginger when packing the jars, used small whole carrots, and processed the carrots in quart jars instead of pints (meaning two large jars instead of the 4 smaller ones specified in the recipe and slightly longer processing time).
I actually had the pleasure of meeting Joel of wellpreserved.ca at the Picnic and sampled his tasty pickled garlic. This is something I’d like to try next year once the garlic in our garden is a little more mature.
Despite aggressive pricking of the crab apple skins, I still experienced some burst fruit. Anyone know of any other tricks to avoid this problem?
Next up: Lemon, Pepper and Bay Leaf Green and Yellow Bean Pickles based on a recipe from the BHG canning magazine.
To keep costs down (these jars were mainly to be used for decorative purposes after all), I used a combination of rice vinegar and white vinegar in place of the white wine vinegar called for in the recipe (NB: do not make this substitution unless you are sure your rice vinegar has acidity of at least 5%. Not all kinds do.).
Next: Spiced Vanilla-Rum Peaches
I made these based on a recipe from the canning mag, with of course, a few modifications: I used cinnamon, cloves, whole vanilla bean (split and simmered in the syrup then seeds scraped from pod left in prior to canning) and a splash of dark rum.
I don’t yet have my packing technique worked out, thus the floating / dead space below the food. Though it doesn’t impact the food quality and is generally a matter of aesthetics, I’m hoping with practice this defect will go away.
These were the easiest of all and were a joy to make after all that hot water bath canning (as I mentioned earlier, I found it very time consuming!). All it took was washing and slicing into a bunch of lemons, liberal amounts of kosher salt, some pushing/squishing with a wooden spoon and topping up with fresh lemon juice. Easy peasy.
And here they all are on display on my exposed brick wall. It would probably look better with a few more jars but I didn’t want repeat items, which would mean more canning…maybe a task for a rainy day.