|Toki Oshima drawing|
By Roberta Bailey
Every spring, along with the usual house cleaning, I sort out the freezers and the canned goods in the pantry, making room for the first bags of spinach and fiddleheads, and for the new jars of strawberry jam and pickled snap peas. Nothing makes last year’s canned goods look faded like a bright new batch of just about anything sitting right next to them.
Frozen goods lose their brilliance as well. Some things get fed to the chickens in spring, some get sorted for quick use.
A chest freezer is tricky to organize. When filling it, there is a tendency to layer the bottom with the early summer peas and spinach and strawberries. Then life gets busy, and the green beans, raspberries, meat birds and broccoli bury those bottom layers. Come December, you have to really be craving peas to dig all the way back to spring time.
I finally developed a system using heavy waxed cardboard as dividers, making columns for each type of food. It isn’t perfect but it’s closer. Spring cleaning is just a matter of moving all the veggies to the use-up-first column or to the bucket for chicken food.
Sorting the canned goods is tricky as well. I have a policy of dumping everything after three years – some things earlier, some a bit longer. This fall, when I moved all my canned goods into a new pantry, I was surprised to find some 5 and 6-year-old jars of plums and blueberry applesauce – and a collection of experiments I had hoped would improve with time. I found 20 jars of plum dipping sauce, never used because I discovered too late that I had added cider vinegar that was as harsh as rubbing alcohol, but I was reluctant to waste all those plums. Into the chicken bucket. The dozen jars of sweet pickle chips that were too soft … I never did make them into relish. The chickens would surely relish them though. Ginger hot pepper sauce … a good idea, but my first attempt should never have been canned. The pickled jalapenos from the year they weren’t hot … out they go! And finally, the black currant butter with orange zest … good at first, but after we’d had enough, it sat. The jar lid said 2009. The seal was good. Time for the chicken bucket.
The shelves are wiped down, jars all clean. This year’s fruit is ripening and so are my ideas for new canning experiments. Here is a collection of recipes for my favorites and a few new ones for all of us to try.
Tart Pie-Cherry Lemon Marmalade
3 organic lemons
2 c. water
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 c. tart pie cherries, pitted
2 c. evaporated cane juice
Wash the lemons. Use a grater or peeler to remove the thin outer rind. Chop pieces into fine strips. Use a paring knife to remove the inner white rind in big pieces. Place the rind in a stainless pot with the 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Remove and discard the white rind pieces. Finely chop the lemon pulp in a food processor or by hand, removing seeds first. Halve or quarter the cherries. Add to the rind and water. Add the 2 cups of evaporated cane juice. Bring all to a boil and cook gently for 20 minutes. To gel test, put a small plate in the freezer. When ready to test, remove the plate and place a few teaspoons of marmalade on the plate. Chill it in the freezer for 2 minutes. Remove and tilt the plate. Thick marmalade will run very slowly. If too thin, boil for 5 minutes and test again. Ladle into hot, sterile jars, seal, and boiling water bath process for 10 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.
Fire Roasted Pickled Peppers
14 to 16 sweet peppers (or a mix of hot and sweet)
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 c. dry white wine
1 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. sugar or honey
1 c. coarsely chopped yellow or white onion
2 tsp. dried or 4 tsp. fresh oregano
2 tsp. pickling or sea salt
Roast the peppers and garlic over a barbeque grill or under the broiler. Let the skins blister and start to blacken on all sides. Place the peppers in a covered glass bowl or paper bag. Set the garlic aside. When cool, remove the skin from garlic cloves and peppers. Remove the pepper core and seeds and cut the peppers into strips about 1/2 to 1 inch wide.
Combine the vinegar, wine, sugar, onion and oregano in a stainless saucepan. Squeeze two garlic cloves through a press and add to the vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Heat eight half-pint jars to sterilize. Add 1/2 clove or so to each jar. Loosely pack peppers into the jars, leaving 3/4-inch head space. Avoid packing too tightly. Pour boiling vinegar and onion mixture to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar rim. Seal jars and boiling water bath process for 15 minutes. Makes about eight half pint jars.
Plum Dipping Sauce
2 lbs. ripe plums, washed and pitted, then chopped
1 c. brown sugar or mild honey
1 c. rice vinegar
2 to 3 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. each ground ginger, cloves, cinnamon, allspice
Place all ingredients in a stainless saucepan and bring to a boil. If using honey, wait until the end to add it. Simmer until plums are very soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Add honey if using. Puree. Adjust spices and sweetness. Ladle sauce into hot sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims, place lids, then boiling water bath can for 15 minutes.
Seven Tree Salsa Verde
5 lbs. tomatillos, hulled and rinsed
3 large green sweet peppers
5 Hungarian Hot Wax or mild hot peppers
3 large red sweet peppers
4 whole jalapeno peppers
2 to 4 small hot peppers (optional)
2 large onions
8 cloves garlic
2 to 3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 to 1 c. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. salt or to taste
Steam the tomatillos. Let cool enough to put through a sieve or food mill to remove the seeds. (It is okay to leave seeds in). Return to pot and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to desired thickness of salsa.
Meanwhile chop very finely all the garlic, peppers and onions. All or some can be chopped in a food processor.
Add the cilantro, lime juice and salt. Taste. Bear in mind that the pepper heat will dissipate into the tomatillo blend.
Place in hot, sterile, half-pint or pint jars. Pressure can at 5 pounds pressure for 10 minutes.
Makes about 10 to 12 cups.
A great use for thinned carrots
4 lbs. young carrots, washed and trimmed
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper per jar (optional)
1/2 tsp. mustard seed per jar
1/2 tsp. dill seed per jar
1 peeled clove garlic per jar
5 c. cider vinegar
5 c. water
1/3 c. pickling or sea salt
Pack cleaned, trimmed carrots into seven clean, hot, wide-mouth canning jars. Leave 1 inch of room at the top of the jar. Add spices to each jar.
Combine the vinegar, water and salt and bring to a boil. Pour boiling liquid into each jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Make sure carrots are not sticking above the vinegar. Seal the jars. Boiling water bath process for 5 minutes. Makes 7 pints.