A few week ago I was at a meeting where the host put out some carrots, snap peas, and hummus for some snacks. We ate a bunch of the veggies, but there was still a lot leftover so she asked if I wanted to take home the snap peas. I immediately said yes, knowing that there was a recipe in Preserving by the Pint for Marinated Sugar Snap Peas with Ginger and Mint. This wasn’t a canning recipe, but these extended the life of the peas for about a week.

Marinated Sugar Snap Peas with Ginger and Mint

Marinated Sugar Snap Peas with Ginger and Mint*

Once they were sufficiently rested in the brine, I tried a few and they were quite good. A few days later, I used these as the base for a quinoa salad, which was delicious! Even though both the brine for the peas and the salad dressing had ginger and pint, I did not make any substitutions to the dressing. The peas had a sourness to them from the vinegar in the brine and the dressing gives a creamy/sweet flavour profile, so the whole taste was quite good.

*See that big pile of rhubarb in the background? Bryan brought home a huge bag of rhubarb and some asparagus from the farm. We ate the asparagus and the rhubarb is for another post..


Also while Bryan was away, the Mama Earth Organics box that week also had a big bunch of radishes and probably about 2 lbs of bok choy. I wasn’t going to get to eat any of these before they spoiled, so I searched around to find a way to preserve them.

I recently purchased Preserving by the Pint, which is a recipe book of small batch preserves. Not just canning, the book includes several fermenting recipes and other ways of persevering listed by section. One of the recipes was for Fermented Radish Slices that involves slicing radishes and letting them ferment in a brine on the counter for a few days. Unfortunately, after a week on the counter I took off the cloth covering the top and found that it had moulded.

Fermented radish slices left out to ferment too long.

Fermented radish slices left out to ferment too long.

 

A few days after I started the radishes fermenting, I started searching to figure out what to do with all the bok choy I had that week. One of the first recipes I found was one for Bok Choy Kimchi. This recipe specified to keep the jar in a cool, dark place, which may have been where I went wrong with the radishes. After a week, I took the cloth off the jar and tasted the bok choy and it was delicious! Bryan and I now have a big quart jar of homemade kimchi in our fridge!

This week we received more radishes, so if we don’t eat them in the next few days I may try the fermented radishes again but keep them in a cool, dark place and maybe check in on them a bit more.


A few weeks ago Bryan went away for almost a week. I didn’t cancel our Mama Earth Organics box, so on Monday I got a box full of veggies and fruit and no one to help me eat them all. It was Mid-May aka fiddlehead season, so in the box was 1/2 lb of fiddleheads that I couldn’t let go to waste. Instead of eating them all myself, I googled recipes for pickling fiddleheads and came across one of Marisa’s recipes on Serious Eats. A half pound of fiddleheads exactly filled a pint jar, so this recipe was perfect. Not being a fan of mustard, I reduced the mustard* to 1/4 tsp and increased the black peppercorns to a 1/2 tsp. I want to eat these now, but can’t bring myself to it while it’s still fiddlehead season! Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset *can anyone recommend a good substitute for mustard seed in pickles? Something that would give a similar flavour profile but not the flavour? Or should I just start omitting it entirely?


A few weekends ago I went home to my parents place to visit with my grandma and for my father’s birthday.  I never know what to get my dad for his birthday, but he loves pickles so this year I decided I was going to make him a big batch of pickles.

First I scoured the internet for recipes and found several small batch recipes so he could have a nice assortment of pickles, then mom and I went off to the grocery store and market to get supplies.

Farmers Market CukesLocal BeansLocal Garlic

After getting some spices and salts at the Bulk Barn, I found Ontario rainbow carrots and Ontario beets at the grocery store along with all the vinegar I needed. Then, to the farmer’s market. Woodstock has this really great farmer’s market in the parking lot at Home Hardware. It was quite impressive! They had tonnes of good stuff. I picked up some local white and green beans (the first crop of the season!) and the last bit of pickling cucumbers. After picking  up some jars at Home Hardware, we went home to start the prep.

I spent the afternoon washing, scrubbing, peeling, and cutting veggies. After dinner, I got out my mom’s canning pot and started the water boiling.

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And then I waited. And waited.

Canning in someone else’s kitchen can throw off your flow. At home, I use a stock pot as my canner, while my mom has a standard canning pot with a rack. I was surprised at how much longer it took to come to a boil! My parents also have a gas oven that they got after I moved out, so I didn’t have much experience using it (not that I cooked much when I lived at home..). It was the small things, though, that threw me off: instead of having the knobs that control the elements on back part of the stove, theirs is on the right side of the stovetop. I eventually had to use post-its to label the knobs so I’d know immediately which went to which element.

Because mom doesn’t use a jar lifter for canning (you don’t really need one when you have a canning rack), I thought it would be easier to sterilize the jars in the oven. I looked on a site online and it said to put them in at 250F for 10 minutes. (**Note: the National Centre for Home Preservation says to boil jars to sterilize them. It doesn’t mention sterilizing them in the oven that I can recall, but I’ve also read in many places that oven sterilization is not recommended because it can lead to thermal shock / jar breakage due to the temperature fluctuation when you open the oven). I was planning on using all 12 jars that I purchased, so I sterilized them in the oven in two batches as needed, ie I’d sterilize six jars, keep them warm in the oven until I needed them, used those jars, sterilize six more etc.). Three out of four of my recipes had processing times of 10 minutes, so on those sterilization isn’t necessary but I do it anyway because, well, why not.

My recipes for the day:
Gingery Pickled Beets – recipe says yield was 3 pints, my yield was 3 pints.
Dilly Carrots – receipe said the yield was 1 pint and a half jar, but I got 2 pints out of it
Dilly Beans – didn’t change the receipe, my yield was 4 pints
Garlic Dill Pickles – the recipes says it yields 8 pints. I halved the recipe, but only had 3 jars left so my yield was 3 processed pints and several random jars of unprocessed refrigerator pickles

It was quite the marathon! I did each recipe separately. The oven had one element for the canner, one pot to heat the lids, and one pot to boil the brine. My key to doing this marathon was to pre-fill large measuring cups with all the brines, which worked quite well.

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The whole thing took about 3 hours. I was hoping to go out that evening, but after that marathon I just wanted to go to bed and fall asleep.

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I took one jar of each pickle, but gave the rest of jars to dad for his birthday. I haven’t tried any yet and am unsure if dad has… I’ll update the post with how they taste.


On my way home from picking Saskatoon berries (there’ll be a post on Col Sam Smith’s Saskatoon & Blueberry Basil jam later), I stopped by a Chinese Grocer in South Etobicoke and bought some wild Ontario blueberries for jamming. I also eyed two quarts of blackberries and couldn’t resist so I bought those too.

Vanilla Rye Blackberry Jam

After scouring the internet for some interesting Blackberry jam recipes, I came across this one: Vanilla Bourbon Blackberry Jam. Living with Bryan, we rarely have Bourbon but ALWAYS have whisky. After reading over the recipe several times, I decided I wanted to double the recipe. The recipe lists the fruit in pounds, so I googled “How many pounds is in one quart of blackberries” and based on the results I went to my corner Chinese market and bought two more pints.

Because I had so much fruit, I needed to use my smaller stock pot to make the jam and my larger stock pot for processing. I sterilized 6 quarter pint jars and one half pint jar and kept them warm while I made the jam.

Vanilla Rye Blackberry Jam

I followed the directions mostly exactly, except for the butter (I don’t add butter to jam… I understand that it’s used to reduce foaming, but I don’t have an issuing with foaming and would rather scrape it off then add dairy to my preserves) and substituted Wisers for Jack Daniels.

Vanilla Rye Blackberry Jam

I bought a candy thermometer to use for jam making. Apparently jam sets at 220F, but I had a really hard time bringing the jam up to 220. After about 45 minutes of boiling, I gave up on getting a “good” set and filled 5 quarter pint jars for the first batch. While the first batch processed, I cooked down the remaining jam (after sloshing in some more whisky) and ladled into the remaining jars for a second processing batch, with enough to fill another non-sterilized (but clean) pint jar to put in the fridge and eat right away.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve made this jam and have finished the pint in the fridge. It’s one of my favourite preserves so far. I don’t care that it’s a bit on the runny side — it’s still gelly enough for toast. The vanilla and blackberry flavour taste so good together!!! Next time I make this I’ll probably reduce the amount of vanilla extract as it is slightly overpowering. Vanilla has a high pH level, so I don’t think there’d be any danger in a reduction. The whisky flavour does not come out at all and I would be more disappointed except the jam tastes so good.

Vanilla Rye Blackberry Jam

LESSONS LEARNED:
1. Jam gelling is a precise science. If you mess with the proportions (even doubling), you mess with the gel.
2. If your jam doesn’t gel, it’ll be runny. It’ll still be delicious.
3. A little vanilla goes a long way.


Last week Diann mentioned that she had just gone to a u-pick strawberry patch and came back with a flat of strawberries. I told her that she had to tell me next time she was going so that I could get her to pick me up some. She texted me the next day saying that she was going to a farm outside of Guelph and asked if I wanted a basket of strawberries. Of course I said yes. Yesterday I biked up to Diann’s to pick up the basket and visit with her two adorable kittens.

I had saw this recipe for Strawberry Chipotle jam and really wanted to try it:

http://www.aspicyperspective.com/2011/05/strawberry-chipotle-jam.html

I was a little apprehensive as I knew I would have to process it in two batches, which didn’t work out the best last time. I couldn’t get the sugar to dissolve in the lemon as the recipe said, so I added the berries and peppers anyway and hoped for the best.

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It worked out. This jam recipe doesn’t use pectin, so it said to use some unripe berries because that makes it gel better or something. Diann picked me ripe berries, so I crossed my fingers and hoped it would set.

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After boiling for 10 minutes, I checked to see if it was ready. Then I checked again after 5 more minutes. And 5 more minutes. And 5 more minutes. Then I remembered this post from Marisa’s Food In Jars about setting jam:

http://foodinjars.com/2010/07/canning-101-how-to-ensure-that-your-jam-sets/

After 25-30 minutes of boiling jam, I interpreted the first paragraph of that blog entry as “if it doesn’t set, can it anyway and call it a jelly.” So that’s what I did. I also used a fairly large pot, but not gigantic, that had tall sides so perhaps there wasn’t enough surface area for the quantity of jam that I was making to get a good set.

Luckily, though, I had to process this jam in two batches. I filled four 125mL jars of what I had just deemed Strawberry Chipotle jelly and processed for 10 minutes. While they were processing, I continued to cook what remained in the pot to what I thought was nicely gelled jam. I ended up with one 125mL jar and one full 250mL squat half pint jar to process, and about half of another squat 250mL pint jar that I stuck in the fridge.

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This jam is so, so good. 

When Bryan got home I made him try some too. He got the jar out of the fridge and tried to spread the jam and it was super thick. Perhaps my jelly HAD gelled into jam after all. Ah well. I learn something new with every batch of jam.


A few weeks ago, my friend Laura posted on Facebook that she had a Rainer cherry tree in her backyard and wondered if anyone wanted any cherries. I quickly googled “canning sweet cherries” to find something interesting to make and found another Food In Jars recipe for pickled sweet cherries:

http://foodinjars.com/2010/08/pickled-sweet-cherries/

I actually used the recipe from Marisa’s book, which adds salt. Thankfully Diann has the book (it’s on my birthday wish list.. hint hint) so I could get the recipe with the salt. I told Laura that I wanted at least 3 lbs and she could have a jar. 

We made arrangements to meet up and I ended up biking over to her place this past Sunday. The bike ride was mostly up the railpath, which is a super fun and fast place to bike. I got to Laura’s house and we started picking cherries. We used a hoe to bring down some branches and then climbed the tree and climbed up to the roof of her shed to get even more cherries. Climbing the tree brought back some great memories of being a kid.

I grew up with two of the same type of cherry trees in my backyard. They were gigantic trees, probably more than twice the size of the one in Laura’s backyard. I LOVED those trees so much. They were my favourite climbing trees and would spend most of my outdoor time in July up in the tree munching on cherries and spitting out the pits. The trees were so large that it was never feasible to really pick them because the cherries were so high up and ended up being eaten by birds. I also remember that they were ripe usually around the time that we went up north, which was mid July so Laura’s cherry tree must be early in the season.

Laura and I almost picked every single cherry on her tree. The only branch that was left was out of reach. Laura said that she had a bunch of cherries inside, so she gave me all the ones we picked that day. Yay!

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Yesterday was Canada Day, so I had the day off work and spent most of it canning. Pickles are super easy to can, so I started with the cherries and then moved on to jam later (see next post).

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I haven’t had a chance to taste these yet, as they have to sit for 48 hours. I’m so excited!!

I’m hoping the weather is nice this weekend so I can take another bike ride up the railpath to give Laura her jar.

Also, if anyone has any extra fruit or vegetables or is going to a farm or fruitstand out in the country, please let me know because I may want you to pick me up something! I have no car and can’t get out their myself, so if you pick me up some I’ll give you a jar of what I can!!