Archive for the ‘Canning and Preserving’ Category

Solo lunches can be such deli­cious affairs. You can eat left­overs. (One of my all-time favorite foods.) You can eat stand­ing at the frig. (Not rec­om­mended.) Or you can build a gourmet sand­wich from fix­ins’ and condi­ments you have on-hand, such as these pretty and pink pick­led red onions.

pickled red onions3

The fact is, some of my favorite type of restau­rant menus to peruse are from sand­wich joints. It’s amaz­ing the wild and won­der­ful things hum­ble sand­wich restau­rants can come up with—usually for less than $10.

Years ago, one of my favorite lunchtime breaks from work was at a restau­rant that packed a pita with ched­dar cheese, black and green olives. That’s it. Four ingre­di­ents. But it was packed full and then fired in the wood oven and served with a sim­ple vinai­grette. Think­ing back on it, it’s a good thing my metab­o­lism was fir­ing high in those days because that sand­wich prob­a­bly had about 1,500 calories—before the french fries on the side!

These days I like to keep spe­cialty condi­ments in the frig for days when I have home­made bread and can jus­tify the calo­ries. Favorite ingre­di­ents include pick­les of all types, avo­ca­dos, hum­mus or other bean dip, arugula and any­thing cheese.

In my opin­ion, a food gets extra points if it’s pretty, so I wanted pretty pick­led onions for my condi­ment selec­tion. These onions fit the bill and make a per­fect addi­tion to the toasted Swiss, avo­cado and arugula sand­wich I’m crav­ing a lot these days. Total time is about an hour once you have assem­bled all your sup­plies and ingre­di­ents. You’ll take away about seven or eight lit­tle half-pint jars. You can give some as gifts or just hoard them all for your­self and those sand­wich days.


Pick­led Red Onions
Pick­led Red Onions
  1. Ster­il­ize 7 to 8 half-pint can­ning jars and lids in a water bath can­ner. While jars process, slice onions.
  2. Com­bine vine­gar, sugar and salt in a dutch oven. Bring to a boil and sum­mer until sugar and salt are dis­solved. Add sliced onion to the vine­gar mix­ture and reduce heat. Sim­mer, uncov­ered, for about 5 min­utes. Do not let the onions get soft.
  3. Remove jars from water bath. Place 1/4 tea­spoon all­spice berries, 1/4 tea­spoon mus­tard seeds, one bay leaf and one sprig of thyme into each jar. Trans­fer onions to each jar and top with the hot vine­gar liq­uid, leav­ing 1/2 inch headspace.
  4. Fin­ger tighten lids on the jars to seal and process jars in the water bath can­ner for 10 min­utes. Remove jars from water and let stand, undis­turbed, at room tem­per­a­ture for 24 hours.
  5. Check the jars. Prop­erly sealed jars will make a POP sound as they cool and/or the metal lid will be slightly con­cave. If you can press the lid and make a pop­ping sound, the jar is not sealed. Store unsealed jars in the refrig­er­a­tor and use right away. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place and use within one year.
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I put so much work into my gar­den and enjoy every lit­tle har­vest of cucum­bers, bush beans, toma­toes and other veg­eta­bles and herbs.

I decided that this year I would find ways to extend the har­vest past the warm sum­mer months to enjoy in the rest of the year.


Baby musk mellon

One way of extend­ing har­vest, of course, is to con­tinue plant­ing cool sea­son veg­eta­bles in the fall. Let­tuce and spinach are easy and can be sown from seed. Last year I had excel­lent suc­cess with col­lards, broc­coli and Brus­sels sprouts. In fact, I har­vested col­lards until I cleaned out the gar­den for April planting!

This year I plan to add a cold frame to extend the salad greens sea­son even longer and to move more herbs indoors where a lit­tle snip here and there can liven up a dish.

Another way to extend the har­vest is to preserve.

Frankly, my mem­o­ries of pre­served foods are not par­tic­u­larly positive–mushy straw­ber­ries and over-cooked green beans. But pre­serv­ing foods doesn’t have to be unin­spired. In fact, there are many new books that are valu­able ref­er­ences and idea-starters.


Ridicu­lously easy wine jelly on home­made bread

I recently picked up a copy of Linda J. Amendt’s book Blue Rib­bon Pre­serves. Amendt has an inter­est­ing hook. Beyond the expected can­ning basics, lists of equip­ment and ingre­di­ents, she addresses the com­pet­i­tive aspect of can­ning in her chap­ter “The World of Fair Competitions.”

Does it seem to you that peo­ple will com­pete over anything?

Any­way, it’s truly a fas­ci­nat­ing book that gives some insight into what is expected if you plan to win the pre­serv­ing com­pe­ti­tions at your local or state fairs. She even explains the whole judg­ing system.

Did you know there are two judg­ing systems—the Amer­i­can and the Dan­ish? In the Amer­i­can sys­tem, there is only one first place win­ner, one sec­ond place win­ner, etc. Everyone’s entry is judged against the other entries. In the Dan­ish sys­tem, on the other hand, entries are judged on a point sys­tem that com­pares the entry against an “ideal.” (I’m not sure where the “ideal” is from.) In this way, there can be any num­ber of first place, sec­ond place or third place entries, depend­ing on the points. And the points look very much like my son’s high school grad­ing sys­tem: 90 to 100 is first place, 80 – 89 is sec­ond place, etc.

I made my bread and but­ter pick­les from my over­abun­dance of cucum­bers using her recipe. It was so good and the pick­les so crisp and fla­vor­ful that I decided to try another of her inno­v­a­tive recipes using one of my favorite fruits—RED WINE!

Amendt said that this recipe had gar­nered her the first place All­trista Pre­mium Food Preser­va­tion Award for soft spreads. I share it here because it is so very ridicu­lously easy and the result amaz­ingly good. I used a 2004 J. Lohr caber­net sauvi­gnon (about $12.00/bottle at my local wine shop). She says you can use any full-bodied wine, red or white. You can even use a cham­pagne or sparkling wine to make a cham­pagne jelly.

Wine Jelly

Makes about 7 half-pint jars

4 cups wine (a lit­tle more than one bot­tle)
6 cups sugar
2 (3 ounce) pouches liq­uid pectin

1. In an 8-quart stain­less steel pan, over medium heat, gen­tly heat the wine until slightly warm. Stir in the sugar. Heat, stir­ring con­stantly, until the sugar is com­pletely dis­solved and the wine comes to just below sim­mer­ing. (Tiny bub­bles will form on the bot­tom of the pan.) Do not allow the wine to boil or the jelly may develop an unpleas­ant, tan­nic fla­vor. Remove the pan from the heat.

2. Thor­oughly stir in the entire con­tents of both pectin pouches until com­pletely dis­solved. Quickly skim off any foam.

3. Imme­di­ately ladle the hot jelly into hot jars, leav­ing 1/4 –inch head­space. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings. Process half-pint jars at a 200 degree F water bath for 10 min­utes, pint jars for 15 minutes.

Note: Please con­sult a basic can­ning book for instruc­tions on proper clean­ing and prepa­ra­tion of jars and lids.

Do you have clever ways you keep your gar­den and its rewards going into the cold weather months? If you do, I would love to hear about them!

–Robin (Bum­ble­bee)

P.S. Today was one of those days with lit­tle tri­als and tribu­la­tions. As I was walk­ing out­side and reflect­ing on why I had let the lit­tle things put me into such a funky bad mood, the phrase “Into every life a lit­tle rain must fall” came to mind. But then I remem­bered, OH, WE HAVE HAD NO RAIN FOR ABOUTMONTH!

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Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, will be released later in 2014 from Taunton Press.

Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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