By Brooke Marshall
You may have noticed my recipe posts have been few and far between in the last month or so. It’s certainly not because I’ve been away from my kitchen. In fact, I’ve spent so much time there that my right hand has been swollen from chopping. You might wonder what could cause this type of trauma? Well, the answer is … Canning! Mid-July through mid-August is always one of my busiest times in the kitchen because it’s what I like to call “canning season”. Tomatoes are everywhere and there is so much fresh produce at the market, I buy it in cases or flats and preserve it for the winter. Some have accused me that I’m stocking up for a zombie apocalypse and soon I’ll be constructing an underground bunker. I’m happy to report that’s not the case, but if it were true, I’d be building an underground lair and reenacting Austin Powers for entertainment. “We hold the world ransom for one billion dilly beans.” Isn’t that how the movie went? Anyway, the real reason I can is because homemade canned goods simply taste a bit fresher than the canned goods in the grocery store, and I really enjoy opening up a jar to be reminded of the fresh fruits and vegetables of summer when there’s snow on the ground.
I’ve been canning for about three years now. There’s been a resurgence in canning, much like the resurgence in knitting that was brought on by Debbie Stoller in 2004 when she published her first book on knitting, Stitch ‘n Bitch. (I’m a knitter too, by the way.) She got a whole new generation interested in knitting with funky patterns and easy-to-follow, light-hearted instructions. A pioneer of the canning resurgence is Marisa McClellan, who writes the blog Food in Jars. She lives in our very own Philadelphia and teaches canning classes in the area, as well as nationally. I learned how to can by taking one of her courses, which was coordinated by Pennypack Farm, on her first cookbook tour. Marisa’s enthusiasm for canning and the unique flavor combinations in her recipes got me hooked. At this point, the binding of my copy of her first book, Food in Jars, is breaking from overuse. I definitely recommend you check out her blog and cookbooks. She’s just released her third book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, which I picked up a couple of weeks ago at Headhouse Farmers’ Market where Marisa was doing a book signing. I haven’t had a chance to make anything out of it yet though.
Canning might be a little intimidating at first if you’ve never done it. If that’s the case, there are other ways to preserve your summer produce. Using the freezer is a great way to stock up for the winter. Plus, there are many things you simply can’t can because they wouldn’t be safe to consume later on. Anything that’s canned using the water-bath canning technique must be highly acidic. Things like green beans, corn, and peas are not high-acid foods. The only way you could can these safely is to add vinegar, essentially making a pickle. While I’m a huge fan of pickled green beans, a.k.a. dilly beans, I’m not sure how I’d feel about pickled corn. Some sauces are also better preserved in the freezer. Tomatoes are acidic, but when you make a sauce with garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms, or oil, the acidity can drop to unsafe levels quickly. So if you have a sauce recipe you love, it may not be right for canning anyway. I personally don’t freeze a lot of pasta sauce, but I do freeze Mexican red and green sauces and I also freeze a lot of pesto. There’s also nothing wrong with freezing plain old fruits and veggies. A quick google search can give you tips on how to freeze any number of fruits and vegetables. For example, it’s best not to wash blueberries before you freeze them because it can make their skin tough and broccoli should be blanched before freezing.
Whatever method you choose for preserving, it’s always a joy to have market produce well beyond the farm-market season. So happy canning and freezing … or fermenting! Oh, yes, fermenting. Maybe a topic for another time.
MY MARKET STASH
The photographs in this post show a sampling of what I’ve preserved this season. If you’re interested, I’ve listed everything I’ve made so far this summer and provided the reference and link to the recipe if available online. A couple of jams I made never made it through the water-bath canning process, either because the batch was so small that it didn’t seem worth processing or it was not safe for canning. I’ve made notes in those cases below. I did process a lone half-pint of pickled garlic scapes, which you can see in the photo below. I had some leftover garlic scapes from making a pesto and wanted to see how these tasted. I’ll see when I open the jar!
- Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter – Food in Jars
- Oven-Roasted Peach Butter – Food in Jars
- Black Raspberry Preserves – Preserving by the Pint (Refrigerated because this made a small amount.)
- Candied Onion and Fennel Jam – Adapted from Local Kitchen’s Candied Ramp & Fennel Jam recipe (I just replaced the ramps with a comparable amount of diced onion. Then refrigerated because it’s not acidic enough to can.)
- Nectarine-Lime Jam – Food in Jars
- Amy’s Tomato Jam – Food in Jars
- Pickled Garlic Scape Segments – Preserving by the Pint
- Dilly Beans – Food in Jars
- Zucchini and Pepper Relish – Food in Jars
- Basic Tomato Salsa – Food in Jars
- Roasted Corn Salsa – Food in Jars
- Tomato Ketchup – Food in Jars
- Basic Tomato Sauce – Food in Jars (I don’t reduce this much and treat it as a soup rather than a sauce.)
- Family Secret Tomato Sauce – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
In the Freezer:
- Garlic Scape and Arugula Pesto – Preserving by the Pint
- The Best Pesto Recipe – Serious Eats (Don’t add the cheese until you thaw and use the pesto.)
- Slow Oven-Roasted Roma Tomatoes – Food in Jars (blog only)
- Shelled Peas (Blanched)
- Broccoli Florets (Blanched)
- Blueberries (Not rinsed)
Brooke Marshall is a market volunteer, Ambler socialite and overall good egg. This season she will be the market’s resident locavore, turning market proceeds into culinary delights. If you see her at market, say hello. And if you make one of her recipes, bring it to market for her approval. Only kidding about the last part.