preserving

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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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.