Category: Canning

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning: Preserve Your Food in Jars

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Canning is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables for later use.  When I was growing up my mom made delicious plum jam, but she did not can or pickle any vegetables.  No canning mentor for me.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Several years back, my husband and I decided to rent a community garden space to grow vegetables (check out one of my early posts on our farm plot).  We paid ‘rent’ for a 30’X30′ plot and got to work.  We started planting in late April-early May and by the time late July rolled around we had a bumper crop of vegetables and the bounty continued through early October.  We shared much of the harvest with friends and family, but we still had tons of veggies left-over.

In an effort to save our harvest for later use (think dark, cold winter days; I knew we would want to mentally escape), I scoured the internet and book stores for good canning references, magazines, and guidelines.  I had heard about the dangers of canning (exploding jars and food poisoning) and was honestly quite intimidated.  After reading the basics, it seemed manageable and I decided to give it a try.  I loved the process and the reward.  I hope you will follow the steps I have outlined below to get started on your own canning journey.

Step 1:  Collect recipes and tips

I recommend purchasing a good canning/preserving reference book.  Food safety is extremely important when canning and good quality resources outline critical procedures for produce preparation, processing, and storage.  Books, magazines, and Pinterest are great places for inspiration.  If you are interested in a particular fuit/vegetable, search the internet for recipes.  I highly recommend that you read the reviews.  Many recipes do not follow proper, safe canning procedures (for example, my beloved Blue Ribbon Pickle recipe) and usually this comes up in the comment thread.  If you are not sure, follow recipes in a canning reference book.  The book I got started with is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I do not recommend modifying or tweaking recipes.  They are designed to ensure appropriate conditions for canning and the quality and safety of your final product.

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Drunken Onion Sourdough Baguette Appetizer

I am enjoying lots of parties this holiday season.  I do hope you are too!  Many thanks to friends and family for the wonderful invitations.  I enjoy bringing along food and for a recent party I used Drunken Onions I canned back in September as the star of an appetizer dish.

I purchased the baguette slices and goat cheese from Costco and the London Broil deli meat from a local grocery store.  I have used the baguettes in the past, but didn’t notice they were jalapeno cheddar flavor until I opened them.  I thought the flavors might clash, but the little bite of heat that lingered after eating these tasty treats was quite nice.

Super easy assembly.  Spread baguette slices with a ‘schmear’ of goat cheese, add a nice layer of Drunken Onions, and top off with some roast beef or London Broil.  Voile’.  What a fabulous appetizer.  When it was time to leave the party, the plate was empty.  You’ll notice in the photos below, I made myself a little sample plate.  So important to have a taste test of what you plan to serve.

I wanted to let party guests know some details about the dish.  While I LOVE goat cheese, I realize it’s not for everyone.  I suppose cream cheese would be a good alternative.  Came up with this cute little appetizer label idea while digging through my gift wrap box.  So here I am all wrapped up and ready to head out to the party.  I brought along a couple of gifts for the wonderful hostess, including  a jar of Drunken Onions and a cute little cupcake candy dish.

Loved that the hostess sent me this cute picture the next morning……perfect place to store sugared cranberries.  We certainly enjoyed those sweet little cranberries in our martinis.  Yum.  White cranberry juice, vodka, and a few sugared cranberries.  Beautiful simplicity!  Enjoyable drink!

Cheers!  Laura

Drunken Onions – September onion harvest

When you grow your own vegetables, you begin to understand the seasonal order of produce.  In my farming experience, September is a great time to harvest onions, leeks, and peppers.   I love red onions.  I love them in salad, on sandwiches, and in just about anything I can think of.  One of my most favorite ways to eat red onions is to caramelize them with brown sugar and then simmer them in wine with balsamic vinegar.  Here’s a link for a great ‘drunken onion’ canning recipe.  I don’t stray much on this one.  So simple and delicious.  These onions are fabulous on sandwiches and brats or other sausages.  My favorite way to eat these onions is on top of a baguette slice with goat cheese.  Yum!  Great flavor contrast……slightly sour cheese with the sweet onions.  Patrick doesn’t like goat cheese and sometimes it’s not readily available, so cream cheese is a good alternative.

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This year we also had a harvest of Mexican Gherkins.  They are about the size of a grape and are great for just poppin’ in your mouth for a snack, but we had so many I thought I would can them using my Blue Ribbon pickle recipe.  I will use these as part of the garnish for bloody Mary’s.  I also made another batch of Taqueria Carrots and used the leftover vinegar-herb solution to can jalapeno slices.  These always come in handy when serving nachos during the fall and winter.

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Beautiful fall day.  Busy day of canning.

Take care.  Laura

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August Remembered – Taqueria Carrots

When visiting southern California, I love the pickled vegetables that are served alongside the chips and salsa in Mexican restaurants.  Nice crunch, with a spicy bite.  I hope you have had the chance to sample these veggies during your culinary adventures.  If not, make them yourself and share with your family and friends.

Seems to me that carrots are more of a late spring/early summer harvest.  However, we kept sprinkling new seeds in the ground at our farm plot and ended up with an abundance of ‘carnival carrots’ in August.  I love the mix of colors: orange, yellow, and even red.  Timing worked out perfectly with a good harvest of jalapenos, onions, and garlic.  Last year this recipe was new to my canning rotation, but Taqueria Carrots are now part of my canning repertoire.

 

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Here’s my favorite recipe for Taqueria Pickled Carrots.  The ingredient list is short and simple.  However, I do highly recommend Mexican oregano.  The flavor is unique.  I had no problem finding this at local grocery stores.  You really don’t need too many canning supplies or special techniques, so this is a great recipe for beginners.  Another bonus – clear canning instructions.  I like to serve these pickled veggies in a small bowl with toothpicks for stabbing and eating.  It’s fun to tailor the toothpick holder for the occasion.  Didn’t know what to do with all those souvenir shot glasses?!?!?!  They have a purpose!  I found the cute mermaid ‘garnish’ at World Market.  I have seen all kinds of fun cocktail glass garnishes, but without a doubt the mermaids are my favorite.

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I was pretty impressed with my carrots until a friend from Finland shared a Facebook post with this…….I am definitely up to the challenge.  Think I might need a new set of kitchen gadgets!

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Photo from: Avantgardens

Thanks for checking in!

Laura

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A visit to ‘our’ Farm

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When I met Patrick just after arriving at college,  I never would have imagined we would have so many common interests after nearly 30-years together.  It turns out that we both come from a long lineage of farmers on our maternal side.  Looks like we can’t escape the farming instinct.  Must run deep in our genes.

Our yard at home is shaded, so we don’t have a lot of space to grow vegetables.  We do have a beautiful garden filled with native perennials.  This will certainly be the topic of a future post.  Three years ago, we decided to rent a community garden plot (30′ x 30′) at a nearby living history farm operated by the park district.  Each year, we experiment with new plants and growing strategies.  Last year was rough.  It was cold, then it was dry, the weeds grew better than the vegetables, and after a measly reward of just a few cucumbers and tomatoes (I might be exaggerating a little bit) following a lot of hard, sweaty, summer work (NOT exaggerating) we almost packed up the farming tools and tomato cages for good.

So happy we didn’t!  This year has been perfect with just the right amount of sunshine and rain.  This winter, I’m thinking I might actually check into ‘The Farmers’ Almanac’ to see what that’s all about.

We are growing carrots, beets, radishes, onions, leeks, lettuce and spinach on raised rows.   In the flat area, we are growing broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, eggplant, and herbs.  I’m sure I missed something!  This year, we filled all of the open space with a thick layer of hay.  This seems to be helping with the weeds.  Fewer weeds and those that do manage to grow are weak and easy to pluck.  The hay also helps retain moisture.  This is important in minimizing watering trips to the farm during the crazy work week.

With so many fresh veggies, it’s hard not to eat healthy.  After working at the farm Sunday, we enjoyed a nice BBQ on the patio with sausage from a local market, delicious olives with rosemary and lemon from Costco, cherries, and a wonderful salad prepared using lettuce and early cucumbers from the farm.  I also threw in some fresh mozzarella and tossed it all with a little lemon olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Al Fresco dining at it’s best!  What a great way to end a nice weekend.  Can’t wait to see what we find at the farm next weekend.

take care!

Laura

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