Category Archives: canning

Adventures in canning: Cherry Bounce!

Ever since a conversation I had with a lady at the farmers’ market last spring, I’ve been wanting to make cherry bounce.

Bounce for the uninitiated, is a type of liqueur made by taking fruit and/or herbs, a lot of sugar, and some kind of alcohol base and macerating it all for a long time.

cherry bounce 1

I used the Washington Post recipe which was pretty easy. Other than piercing the cherries, the most difficult part was making sure to shake it well to dissolve the sugar.

So now I have this, which will be living on my counter for a week or so before going into the basement for 40 something days.

cherry bounce 2

Green Tomato Goodness

I’m going to take a break from the usual “What I ate today” posts for the moment to talk about my adventures in canning.

green tomato goodness

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Flying Blind with KonMari: Part 2

About two or three years ago, I started small-batch canning. I was strapped for cash and it was a great way to make my CSA produce last and to create comparatively inexpensive holiday gifts. Plus, the product is so much tastier than what you get at the store. But there is a downside.

As you can see:

canning before

My mom has this nice built in shelving in her basement where she puts all her pantry items. I do not have such a thing. I have a section in a basement that the Blair Witch would probably be at home in. Basically, I have this table. In the winter, it also needs to hold the window a/c unit.

So usually what happens is that I force my brother to come over to help me move the a/c unit downstairs, and I do a panicked amount of tidying and then we get it on there. At Christmas time, I make multiple trips downstairs, trying to distinguish the jars meant for gifts from the jars for home consumption. Also when I am putting up preserves, there is usually a lot of rummaging around trying to find empty jars.

The other big problem with canning: rings. See when you can something, you’re supposed to remove the rings because they can rust and then you can’t open the jar. Only when you give a jar to someone or open it, do you put the ring back around. So they usually have to hang out somewhere.

Okay. The container drawer was a success. Rather than attempt to sort everything out in the nasty Blair Witch basement, I thought about doing it KonMari style.

Please understand there is no joy to be sparked with this stuff. I mean one Ball canning jar is exactly the same as another Ball canning jar. But if I understand her correctly, it’s important to see what you have and to handle everything you have.

canning staging

I saw a few reviews and a few blog posts of people critical of this kind of process. I get that. At the same time, sometimes it helps to see just how much you have and moving it to another space allows you to do that.

By going through everything, I was able to put all the holiday gifts together. I now know how much I have of everything else; that next summer I will need to go through the hell of making green tomato relish; that I have more than enough apple butter for the winter; and that I have three jars of stuff I should probably use because they are approaching the 3-year mark.

9 empty cardboard boxes got broke down and tossed–even if half of the people I gave jam to gives me the jars back, I won’t be able to fill 9. They’re in the recycling bin.

The lids are now in one of my plastic containers and in one of the few empty cardboard boxes I kept.

I also came to terms with the fact that if I haven’t used quart jars in 3 years, it’s unlikely I will ever do so. They’re going to a friend.

And maybe if I didn’t verbally say goodbye to those quart jars, I was able to acknowledge internally that having them taught me I don’t need to waste my money on them in the future.

canning after

Sauerkraut without tears

Sometimes I am far too confident for my own good. Like last summer when one Saturday I attempted to can three things. Yes, that’s right. I basically lost my mind and decided I would make jam, green tomato relish, and sauerkraut.

sauerkraut ingredients

The green tomato relish was a success, but it nearly killed me. I’ve been doing small-batch canning and this recipe was like the canning I remember from my childhood: unbelievable amounts of food and massive yields–I used the largest bowls and pots I had and they were too small.

The sauerkraut came out beautifully, but the brine was watered with my own tears. It was such a miserable experience that I vowed never again.

But like women who swear they are never going through childbirth after the agonies of labor, only to find themselves doing it two or three more times, tonight I decided to make another batch of sauerkraut.

It’s deceptively simple. This is all you need (see the Food in Jars blog for specifics):

  • a 2.5 – 3 lb green cabbage
  • 1 tbsp of kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1-3 tbsp of distilled water

Have you ever chopped up an entire head of cabbage? Or seen someone do it? This is what it looks like. See that jar? All of that has to go in there.

how will this work

This is where annotating a recipe comes in handy.

So first thing I noted from last time was “need a block of time.” The second was “use big stock pot.” This is key, because basically you’re going to sprinkle the salt and caraway seeds into that mass of cabbage and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes and then you’re going to mash the hell out of it. Or you’re going to do the third thing I wrote which was, “use your hands.” For about five minutes you’re going to work that salt and caraway in there.

Then the fun begins.

You start taking spoonfuls of the cabbage mixture and using a one-quart, wide-mouthed jar (this is important), you begin packing it in. It’s kind of like trying to pack a zillion people into a Ford Escort. This is what takes time. For every spoonful, you send a lot of time with the handle of wooden spoon trying to jab it in as far as possible and then you repeat. And eventually, somehow you get all that cabbage into the jar.

sauerkraut

You cover it with a couple of tablespoons of the distilled water and you put it in a cool, dark place to ferment for about a month, opening the jar periodically and skimming off the top foam that forms. And then you have sauerkraut!

Look I made pop tarts!

No seriously, I made homemade pop tarts.

 Homemade poptarts

This is like an actual thing that some people I work with have made in the past. I was intrigued enough to want to try it. The recipe they use comes from Smitten Kitchen.

I am considering the dough to be a major victory, because I have issues with pie crust type doughs. Frankly I had issues with this dough. you can see from the photos that they’re not terribly pretty.

Jammy goodness

I even made the jam. It’s blueberry – recipe courtesy of Food in Jars. I achieved set in this jam to an extreme extent, but when I heated it up per the pop tart recipe instructions, it came out just fine.

And then there was jam

I’ve been experimenting with home canning over the past month. I have meant to post, truly I have, but well, these things happen. Anyhow, I present to you one of my successes, Apricot Rosemary Jam from Food in Jars:

apricot rosemary jam

There have been some interesting um, failures. Okay, everything tastes great, but when you set out to make sour cherry jam and you end up with sour cherry ice cream topping, it rankles.

Then there was the blueberry jam, which again tastes great but is now so solid it’s a bit scary. Pectin seems to be my bête noire. I note that my most successful jams a sweet apricot jam and the apricot rosemary jam above did not require it.

So okay, the apricot rosemary goodness. Like a lot of the Food in Jars recipes it wasn’t too complicated to make. I used it as a glaze on a chicken breast for my supper and it was fantastic.

The actual canning process isn’t that hard. It’s hot and it makes for sweaty work, but so far I have refrained from injuring myself. I guess the test results for whether I was successful in avoiding creating vile botulism strains  won’t be in for a few months, but we can but hope.