canning

Figs Preserved in Honey Syrup

Last summer, I made fig jam for the first time, and it’s been a highlight of my picnic spreads and cheese trays ever since. This summer, I was lucky enough to score large batches of figs two weekends in a row. I love fresh figs, but their shelf life is painfully short. I restocked my jam supply, and then turned my attention to other preservation methods.

I liked the idea of keeping the fruits whole, and serving them with yogurt, hot cereal, cheese, or just alone. Fall project: find (or create) a cocktail recipe featuring the syrup! I used black mission figs, the variety I typically see in my area, but green figs would look beautiful for this recipe. Try wide-mouth pint jars for easy access to the fruits.

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Figs Preserved in Honey Syrup

From Put ’em Up, by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 9 pints

10 pounds figs, stemmed
6 cups water
2 cups honey
1 cup sugar
9 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (1 tablespoon per jar)

In a large saucepan, cover the figs with water by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes to soften the fruit. Drain.

Combine 6 cups water, honey, and sugar in another large saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the figs and gently boil them in the syrup for 5 minutes.

Pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into each clean, hot pint jar. Pack the jars gently but firmly with figs. Ladle hot syrup over the figs to cover by 1/2 inch, leaving 1/ inch headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Screw lids on the jars temporarily. Gently swirl each jar to release trapped air bubbles. Remove the lids and add syrup, if necessary, to achieve the proper headspace.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 45 minutes. turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

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Charred Chili Barbecue Sauce

A jar of charred chili barbecue sauce

I finally had the chance to check out the Del Ray Farmers’ market this weekend, and came home with a large haul of locally-grown vegetables and fruit.

The corn turned out to be a dud, but the rest was great. I was most excited about the chili peppers. After the great luck I’d had canning corn salsa, I was hoping for a repeat performance. My canning book included what sounded like a delicious homemade barbecue sauce.

The sauce turned out perfectly; I soon found myself hovering over the pot, eating it by the spoonful.

The canning? Not so much. A few days after canning, I noticed that the jars were filled with bubbles. Uh oh.

A telltale sign of a canning project gone wrong is when the food starts to look carbonated (unless, of course, you’re making homemade sparkling wine or cider — but that’s for another blog). Canning is completely safe as long as you’re smart about it, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work. This is one of those times, and I would certainly try again.

Regardless, the sauce itself is fantastic, and keeps for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

Charred Chili Barbecue Sauce

Adapted from Put ’em Up! cookbook, by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Yield: about 4 pints

1 lb red chili peppers
Olive, canola or grapeseed oil
5 lbs tomatoes (I used a variety of red heirlooms)
1 lb yellow onions, chopped
2 c brown sugar, lightly packed1 1/2 c cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, inced
1 T ground allspice
1 T salt

Preheat a grill or broiler. Lightly brush clean, dry chilies with oil. Place the chilies 3-4 inches under the broiler or over the hottest part of the fire. Allow the peppers to char to black in spots, turning as necessary to char all surfaces. Remove and place in a heatproof bowl. Cover with a plate or lid for 5 minutes. (Do not leave covered for longer, or the peppers will continue to cook in their own steam.) Remove the bowl cover and allow the peppers to cool to room temperature. Slip off the skins and remove seeds and stems. Roughly chop the peppers.

Peel, core and chop the tomatoes. Combine all ingredients in a large nonreactive saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Remove the cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 60-90 minutes, until sauce is thickened. Puree with a stick blender.

If refrigerating, ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

For canning, use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Summer Corn Salsa

Although I grew up baking and cooking, and watching both my grandmother and mother canning everything from beans to tomatoes, I’d never attempted canning until last summer. Ball sells a great starter kit and accompanying tool kit for the canning novice (I’ve also seen them at Walmart and Target during the peak summer months). My first adventure in canning was blackberry preserves, and I was in love.

This summer, I decided to be a bit more adventurous. When I got my hands on some great corn and tomatoes, I knew the perfect follow-up: corn salsa.

The bright colors and flavors make a great addition to any Mexican spread, an accompaniment for grilled summer steak, chicken breast or vegetables, or my personal favorite: scooped straight out of the jar with tortilla chips.

Canning is optional, and the salsa will keep up to three weeks without it — although as fast as I’ve watched my friends devour this stuff, I don’t think you’ll need to worry about it going bad. The flavors will be even better the day after it’s made.

Corn Salsa

From Put ’em Up, by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Yield: about 8 pints (Note: I cut the recipe in half)

12 ears corn, shucked

3 cups distilled white vinegar

1 c sugar

1 T ground cumin

1 T salt

5 lb tomatoes, diced

1-2 jalapenos, diced, seeds removed (leave the seeds for a spicy salsa)

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 large onion, diced

2 garlic gloves, mincd

1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro

Bring a large nonreactive stockpot of water to a boil. Add the corn and boil for 4 minutes. Drain. When the corn is cool enough to handle, stand the cobs on end and slice vertically to cut off the kernels, being careful not to cut into the cobs. (I use an electric knife.) Empty and wipe out the stockpot.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, cumin, and salt int he stockpot, and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, jalapenos, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and corn kernels. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, allowing flavors to blend. Stir in the cilantro and return to a boil. Remove from the heat.

If refrigerating, ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

If canning, use boiling water method. Ladle into hot half-pint or pint canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Release trapped air. Wipe rims clean; center lids on jars on screw on jar bands. Process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.