Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Canner Weekend

Here it is, nearly the end of September, and I really thought I'd be done with canning by now. Silly me!

Instead, I'm taking advantage of the abundance of produce lingering in my refrigerator and on my counters to try several new things on the food preservation front:

I've gotten pears in our CSA basket for a couple of weeks, and since I've already started pear liqueur and made pear butter (sort of) this year, I decided to try making pickled spiced pears. I followed a low-sugar recipe (using white grape juice) and spiced the juice-vinegar brine with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and ginger. As you can see, I only got one pint made, but that's just fine considering I don't even know yet if I'll like them! (I did save a few pears for roasting or baking, so perhaps you'll hear more about those soon.)

I also had plenty of plums left from last week's farmers' market, and I decided just to can them (again, low-sugar, using white grape juice) in the hopes that maybe later I could dump them into a plum crisp. I'm sorry to admit that I got a little distracted while simmering the plums (between filling the jar with pears and talking on the phone), so instead of simmering them for two minutes, they bubbled for nearly eight, and they collapsed when I spooned them into the jar. Oh well, they're not pretty, but I bet they'll still taste good!

I decided to try making spiced crabapples with the tiny fruit I picked at the Archivist's "farm" yesterday. I simmered them in a vinegar-sugar syrup with cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, and then I let them sit in the syrup overnight to finish softening.

This morning, I heated them back up to boiling while the canner got up to speed, and after ten minutes in a boiling water bath, two jars of spiced crabapples came out, ready for storage.

I've been gathering tomatillos from the CSA shares for a couple of weeks, but since I've already got enough salsa for the next year, I wanted to try something different. And as I browsed one of my cookbooks, I spotted a recipe for green tomato mincemeat.

Now, I remember the Chef Mother making green tomato mincemeat, and I remember my reaction to it: wrinkled nose, tongue stuck out, a distinct "Yuck!", and a quick exit from the room. (I was not the most adventurous kid in culinary matters, and I'd sometimes like to go back and shake up that little girl a bit.)

But, well, times change, and I'm more willing to give things a try now. So this morning I chopped the tomatillos, shredded my three remaining apples, added vinegar and sugar and spices and such, and set the pot on the stove to simmer for a good long time.

And gradually I started to realize, hey, that smells pretty good! The spices, mingled with vinegar and butter, brought out the sweetness of the fruits (including some of my home-dried raisins), and it set my mouth to watering.

After a couple of hours, it had simmered long enough, turning it brown and a little thicker and altogether fragrant. So I turned up the heat under the canner and got ready to process the batch.

I ended up with two and a half pints of tomatillo mincemeat, and surely that will be enough to let me know if I actually do like it or not this winter!

I switched gears temporarily in the afternoon, making a fresh batch of vegetable stock, frying up a pan full of nettle fritters, and making a zucchini "surprise" casserole for lunches this week.

But I finished by using up the nasturtium blossoms I had picked in the Victory Garden on Friday, putting them in a sterilized jar with fresh dill from the Archivist's garden and covering it all with boiling hot white vinegar. The vinegar immediately started to draw color and flavor from the blossoms, and in a couple of weeks, I can strain the flavored vinegar and bottle it for salad dressings and other culinary dreams.

It's been a busy weekend -- but wow! Look at the results!

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At 9/29/2008 2:20 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

I'll have to mention the green-tomato mincemeat to my sister the first-time gardener. A great idea, that!

At 9/29/2008 2:22 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Prior to this "what the heck!" moment, I wouldn't have thought so myself -- but now I'd say go for it! :-)

At 9/30/2008 9:32 AM, Blogger Tara said...

The vinegar looks wonderful! Do you have to can it, or do you just seal it up in a bottle for storage?

At 9/30/2008 9:52 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

There's no need to can it. Just pour it into a sterilized bottle, be it a vintage glass bottle with stopper or a recycled glass drink bottle, and cap it. It stores well in the cupboard -- I've had herbal vinegar last a couple of years.


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