Hot Pepper Jelly

PepperJelly2I appear to be involved in a canned goods swap with my gramma. I send her and granpa a jar of my favorite preserve of the year every Christmas — strawberry red wine jam one year, lemon-lime marmalade the next. Last year, Gramma must have foreseen that I was sending her another jar, because tucked into the shipping box between my and Dan’s gifts, we found a jar of her hot pepper jelly.

Dan and I loved it. It was excellent on a cheese plate, especially when we put it with some sharp cheddar and crackers. We ate it on grilled cheese, too. I dreamt of using it as a glaze on a ham, but by then the jar was too far gone.

I emailed Gramma last week to ask for the recipe, and Dan’s face lit up when I told him what I was canning this week. I’m anticipating a lot of happy cheese plates this winter — and that glazed ham!

PepperJelly

Hot Pepper Jelly

Yield: 5-6 half pint jars

Hot Pepper Jelly

Adapted from my gramma's recipe. If you want your jelly to be the more traditional bright green color, add a few drops of food coloring to the jelly after you remove it from the heat.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces (about 1/3 cup) chopped jalapeño peppers
  • 4 ounces (about 2/3 cup) chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 cup white vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces liquid pectin

Instructions

  1. Prepare for canning. Wash the jars and flat lids with hot, soapy water. Put the jars in the canning pot and fill the pot with hot water. Heat over medium-high heat to keep the jars hot. Place the lids in a heat-proof bowl.
  2. Puree the jalapeños, bell peppers and 1/4 cup of the vinegar in a food processor or blender. There will still be a few small shreds of peppers, which is fine.
  3. Stir the pepper puree, the rest of the vinegar and the sugar together in a large stockpot. Cover and bring to a boil. Once it is bubbly and foamy, continue boiling, stirring often, for 5 minutes. If it begins to boil over, reduce the heat a bit and stir until the foam subsides a little.
  4. Quickly stir in the liquid pectin and boil for another minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.
  5. Move some of the boiling water from the canning pot into the heat-proof bowl containing the lids. Line the hot jars up on a folded towel, then pour the water out of the heat-proof bowl and off the lids.
  6. Fill the jars with jelly up to 1/4” below the rim.
  7. Use a clean towel to wipe any jelly off the rims, then top each jar with a lid and a tightened ring. Place the jars back in the canning pot and make sure they are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Place the jars on a folded towel and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check the seals of the lids after 1 hour. If a seal has not formed, refrigerate the jar immediately.
http://www.savvyeat.com/hot-pepper-jelly/

Savvy Preserving: Future Canning Plans

FutureCanning jpg

I have a backlog of vegetables in my refrigerator to process, can and freeze.  There is a container of pureed sungold tomatoes, lemon juice, brown sugar and spices on the top shelf of the refrigerator, waiting to be simmered down into preserves. A bag full of cucumbers and a bunch of dill are tucked into the second shelf, destined for dill pickles.  On the bottom shelf, I have a container of peach pit juice to be jellied. And the drawers hold multiple mesh bags of zucchini to be sauteed and frozen. 

All this to say, I don’t have a new canning recipe for you today. I’ve been sick this week, and yesterday was the first day since Sunday evening that I’ve been able to get up from the couch without feeling like I might pass out.  It didn’t seem like a good state in which to try to preserve food.  What I did do this week was flip through my canning books and my favorite preserving sites, bookmarking recipes to make when I was well again.  

So to that end, here’s what everyone else is making that I am inspired by, and my future canning plans:

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Peach Salsa

Peach Salsa

I decided to lessen my peach preserving load, and split my efforts into two parts. One half bushel is destined for salsa and peach rum sauce and some frozen slices this week.  Next week, I have a canning date with friends, and plan to turn another half bushel into honeyed and spiced peaches, as well as some more frozen peaches.  This way, I won’t get as overwhelmed, plus we’ll have fresh peaches for eating two weeks in a row, without having to buy any extra.

After picking up my half bushel of peaches on Tuesday, I came home to start preserving. I pushed my canned cherries and strawberries to the side (er, I should really put those in the basement inventory and take them downstairs) and began weighing out my peaches – 5 pounds for salsa, 3 1/2 pounds for “pirate” peaches, 3 pounds for freezing, to start.

As I went through the motions of peeling, pitting and dicing my peaches, I thought about how long it has been since I’ve spent an entire afternoon in the kitchen by myself. A storm was headed our way, so I had the kitchen windows pushed all the way open to welcome the cool breeze, in that grey it-is-about-to-downpour way. I found myself calmed by the process of dropping peaches in boiling water, then dunking them in an ice bath so that I could peel off the skins. With podcasts playing through my headphones, I focused on cutting first the peaches, then the onion and peppers, into tiny, even pieces.

The whole afternoon felt almost like an indulgence, spending so much time putting up fruit on a Tuesday afternoon, even though I knew I’d be making up for it, work-wise, on the evenings and weekend. Except at the end of this “indulgence,” I had five pint jars of peach salsa, four half-pints of peach rum sauce, two cookie trays of frozen peach slices, and five cups of peach pit juice to be made into jelly in the future.

Today, I’m tackling the rest of the half-bushel.  I’ll freeze most of it, but I’m also planning on making another batch of peach salsa. We can already tell we’re going to go through the first 5 pints way too quickly.

Peach Salsa2

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Fourteen Ways with Peaches

Peaches jpg

I’m thinking of picking up a bushel of peaches at a local farm on Monday. I think I’m ready.

I did it two years ago, but I was wholly unprepared for just how many peaches are in a bushel (hint: it is a LOT more than you’d think). I had no plans going in when I drove out to pick up two gigantic buckets of peaches, thinking I’d eat some fresh and preserve the rest in some way.  In the end, I panicked and just canned pint after pint after pint of peach slices. 

To be honest, it was a bit of a scarring experience, as far as canning experiments go. It took us for-ev-er to eat those peach slices.  In fact, there are still a few jars lurking around on our preserving shelves in the basement, waiting to be eaten until peach season is over.

But I’m ready to try again. This time, though, I’m going in with a plan.  Here are some ways I’m planning on enjoying my peach bounty, both fresh and preserved:

FRESH:

  1. Peach custard bars.  We’re bound to have a potluck coming up to which I can contribute dessert!
  2. Peach maple bundt cake. I want to host a brunch just so I have an excuse to make this cake.
  3. Grilled peach and walnut crumble. We’re loving the grilled fruit lately.
  4. Shrimp burgers with chipotle cream and coconut peach salsa. Because we should enjoy seasonal fruit in savory preparations, too.
  5. Grilled peach salad with jalapeno vinaigrette.  See above.
  6. And of course, eating them fresh and out of hand.

PRESERVED:

  1. Honeyed peaches and peaches in spiced syrup.  Yep, I’m still planning on canning lots of peach slices.  Just not an entire bushel’s worth– I know we won’t eat them all in one year. We tend to eat more canned fruit in the winter, after apple and pear season, and then stop entirely once strawberry season starts rolling in. I’m aiming to keep this to 15-25 pints (rather than the previous total of 53 pint jars…what was I thinking?).
  2. Pirate peaches. Which is basically a super-boozy rum peach sauce. It is apparently delicious with dessert, yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes and even chicken or pork. A batch of this is definitely happening.
  3. Frozen slices and whole peaches. I had no idea that whole peaches would hold up so well to freezing, so I of course need to try it! I’m thinking the frozen peaches will be great for smoothies and oatmeal.
  4. Peach salsa.  I’m working on a recipe for this one, but I think it would be great with chicken, pork or even fish!
  5. Peach vodka. I’ll probably only make 1 quart, since I will also be making…
  6. Peach pit liqueur. I think I’ll make multiple batches of this, and experiment with different alcohol bases (I feel like white rum would be great!).  It is an easy way to use up the many peach pits I’m bound to have. And wouldn’t a little bottle of liqueur make a nice holiday gift?
  7. Peach pit jelly or juice.  I still need to research whether or not it is safe to can straight-up peach juice.  If not, peach pit jelly it is! I want to get the most I can out of my peaches, even the pits!

Bonus: Wine-spiked peach jam. We still have some of this (again, what was I thinking when I made 30 half-pints of peach jam?), so I’m not making it this year, but I absolutely recommend it.  

DIY Maraschino Cocktail Cherries with Amaretto

Maraschino Cherries 2

Some friends and I tried to go blueberry picking on Friday, just before the heat wave hit.  The farm’s newsletter said that blueberries would be ready last Wednesday, so we figured that there would be plenty of ripe, plump berries for us to brush into our buckets. I should have thought to call ahead, but instead we drove for 35 minutes only to find that….the blueberries weren’t ready yet.  Cue the sad trombones.

But we had driven all that way, with our containers packed into the back seat.  We were slathered in sunscreen and had quickly-melting ice water at the ready to rehydrate. So we asked if they had any fruit that was ready for U-Pick.

“Some sour cherries and red raspberries,” they told us.  Sour cherries it was.

Side note: I don’t know why, but I have it in my head that only black raspberries are June/July fruits, and that the reds and goldens are only in late summer/early fall.  So I almost never pick raspberries this early in the season, other than the black ones in our backyard. I have no idea why.

Because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with the cherries, I left two of my three containers behind, bringing only the largest with me to collect the fruit. Still, I ended up with 5.5 pounds of juicy sour cherries, destined to become amaretto cherry preserves and a crumble…or so I thought at the time.

Another note: Oxo sent me a cherry pitter to try, and it is a lifesaver. It is so much quicker and cleaner than my “pit the cherries with a straw” method!

Maraschino Cherries

While I was soaking the cherries in amaretto and sugar for the preserves, I checked my canning inventory and saw that I still had a few jars of the preserves left from last year. And while I love those preserves, I decided to do something a little different, and turn them into cocktail cherries instead.

As it turns out, when you make my amaretto cherry preserves into cocktail cherries, they come out tasting just like maraschino cherries. Except they are a little more tart and a lot more real (no corn syrup or food coloring here!). Win!

Maraschino Cherries 3

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16 Summer Preserves to Try Now

SummerPreservestitle

Summer fruit season is in full swing.  I’ve already collected plenty of strawberries (about 22 pounds), loads of sweet cherries (14.4 pounds) and am planning on picking the first round of blueberries later today.  Plus, we’ve gotten about 12 cups of black raspberries out of the backyard already!

So I’m all about the summer preserves. I’m freezing the bulk of my fruit for smoothies and other wintertime uses, but want to can about 1/3 of them for gifts and our own usage.  Here are 16 recipes I’m eyeing.

First things first, be sure you have the proper tools for canning and that you follow well-tested recipes. It is super-important for your health and safety (follow the link to see why and how it works)! 

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Finishing the Limoncello

Limoncello

I have apparently taken on the philosophy that I must “Infuse all the things!” In the past week, I’ve started big batches of both limoncello and a clementine spice liqueur. I’m already daydreaming about the next batches of strawberry vodka and new summer fruit infusions.

It is just so easy: Put fruit in jar. Cover with alcohol and shake once a day for a week or so.  Strain. Maybe add a simple syrup for a liqueur. Boom, done.

And it is just so satisfying, making even the cheapest (okay, close to the cheapest. I have this thing about not buying the absolutely cheapest alcohol) vodka or rum not only palatable, but a thing of beauty, in both color and taste.

Homemade Limoncello

Yield: About 4 cups

Homemade Limoncello

Making limoncello is a long, but easy, process. If I waited to share the recipe with you until it was done, Meyer lemons would be long out of season. So start it now, while Meyer lemons are still in the markets. I promise you won't regret it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Meyer lemons
  • 2 cups vodka or white rum
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water

Instructions

  1. Zest all lemons, and reserve 2 teaspoons of zest for Meyer Lemon & Ginger Scones (recipe above).
  2. Put the rest of the zest in a quart-sized Mason jar. Pour the vodka or white rum over the zest and seal the jar. Shake well, then allow to infuse for 10-14 days, gently swirling the jar every day.
  3. Create the simple syrup: combine the sugar and water and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to simmer for another minute or two to truly make sure everything is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before adding to the alcohol.
  4. In the meantime, line a colander with two or three layers of cheesecloth. Strain the alcohol through the cheesecloth, squeezing the zest to get all the alcohol out.
  5. Measure out 2 1/4 cups of the simple syrup and stir into the strained alcohol. You may choose to add a little more or less of syrup according to how sweet you want it.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for 45-60 days before serving. You can drink it earlier, but the time allows the alcohol to mellow out.
http://www.savvyeat.com/finishing-the-limoncello/

DIY Gift: Lemon-Lime Marmalade

I may have overdone it on the homemade food gifts front this year.  Even after the popcorn seasonings, hot cocoa, maple cream and cranberry mustard, I couldn’t resist making one more thing.  I wanted something else canned, something my giftees could hang on to and open when the sweet cookies-crazed month of December was over.  Marmalade seemed like the answer.

I decided to veer away from the typical orange-based marmalade, and went with a lemon-lime combination, studded with bits of crystallized ginger. The result is a sweet-tart spread with a flavor reminiscent of a grown-up version of a fruity kid’s cereal.  If it weren’t the season of giving, I may be tempted to keep all these jars for myself.

Lemon-Lime Marmalade

Yield: Makes about 4 half-pint jars

Lemon-Lime Marmalade

I decided to veer away from the typical orange-based marmalade, and went with a lemon-lime combination, studded with bits of crystallized ginger. The result is a sweet-tart spread with a flavor reminiscent of a grown-up version of a fruity kid's cereal. If it weren't the season of giving, I may be tempted to keep all these jars for myself.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds limes and lemons (I used about 6 limes and 4 lemons)
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

Instructions

  1. Score the peels of the lemons and limes in quarters and remove the peels. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil the peels for 10 minutes and drain off the water. Cover the peels with fresh water and boil for an additional 10 minutes. Drain and allow the peels to cool enough so that you can comfortably handle them.
  2. Scoop the white pith out of the inside of the peels and discard. Thinly slice the peels.
  3. Meanwhile, segment the fruit and discard the membranes and seeds.
  4. Prepare for canning. Wash the jars and flat lids with hot, soapy water. Put the jars in the canning pot and fill the pot with hot water. Heat over medium-high heat to keep the jars hot. Place the lids in a heat-proof bowl.
  5. Add the cooked peel and four cups of water to the fruit. Bring to a boil until the peel is soft, about 25 minutes.
  6. Add the sugar and ginger, and boil until the temperature of the marmalade reads 220F.
  7. Move some of the boiling water from the canning pot into the heat-proof bowl containing the lids. Line the hot jars up on a folded towel, then pour the water out of the heat-proof bowl and off the lids.
  8. Fill the jars up to 1/4” below the rim. Use a clean towel to wipe any preserves off the rims, then top each jar with a lid and a tightened ring. Place the jars back in the canning pot and make sure they are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Place the jars on a folded towel and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check the seals of the lids after 1 hour. If a seal has not formed, refrigerate the jar immediately.
http://www.savvyeat.com/diy-gift-lemon-lime-marmalade/

DIY Gift: Cranberry Mustard

MUSTARD

This year, I’m all about the food gifts, interspersed with small handmade or store-bought gifts. Simple little gifts that I am fairly certain they will all love. One family member (I’m not telling who!) is getting a box of cookies and a 2013 calendar from their favorite artist.  Another will receive a box of popcorn seasonings and a cute little zip bag I’ve sewn. And someone’s going to get some homemade mustard with a book.

But it isn’t just any mustard.  I’ve holiday-fied it with some cranberries, allspice and cloves.  It is super simple to make, regardless of whether you can it or not.

MUSTARD JAR

Cranberry Mustard

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: About 5 4-ounce jars

Cranberry Mustard

This mustard is a perfect gift for the holiday season, especially with its festive additions of cranberries and warm spices. I packed this mustard in little four-ounce jars for gifting, but you may also choose to use half-pint jars.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 3/4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the vinegar from the heat and add the mustard seeds. Allow to sit, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours.
  2. Prepare for canning. Wash the jars and flat lids with hot, soapy water. Put the jars in the canning pot and fill the pot with hot water. Heat over medium-high heat to keep the jars hot. Place the lids in a heat-proof bowl.
  3. Pulse the mustard seeds in a food processor with the water and Worcestershire sauce. Add the cranberries and pulse again until the cranberries are mostly pureed.
  4. Return the mustard seeds and cranberries to the saucepan and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Whisk in the sugar, mustard powder, allspice and cloves. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the mustard is reduced by 1/3, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  6. Move some of the boiling water from the canning pot into the heat-proof bowl containing the lids. Line the hot jars up on a folded towel, then pour the water out of the heat-proof bowl and off the lids.
  7. Fill the jars with mustards up to 1/4” below the rim, then top with the liquid from the pot.
  8. Use a clean towel to wipe any mustard off the rims, then top each jar with a lid and a tightened ring. Place the jars back in the canning pot and make sure they are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Place the jars on a folded towel and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check the seals of the lids after 1 hour. If a seal has not formed, refrigerate the jar immediately.

Make Ahead and Storage

If you are hand-delivering the mustard, you can skip the canning step. Just fill the jars with hot mustard and put the lids on. Allow them to sit on a dish towel at room temperature until they are cooled, then refrigerate. The mustard will stay good in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.

http://www.savvyeat.com/diy-gift-cranberry-mustard/

Cocktails for the Holidays

I spent the weekend finalizing our Thanksgiving menu.  My long list of 30 or so dishes was slowly whittled down as I made notes, crossed items out and subbed some new ones in.  I turned to Dan for opinions, and when we got stuck, I texted Heather:

“Finalizing Thanksgiving menu. Opinion: carrots or collard greens? We already have brussels sprouts.”  (The winner on that one was the carrots.)

“Okay. How do you feel about handheld pies of various flavors v a regular pie?” (Mini pies it is.)

I’m sure I’m still making way too much food for 4 people.  But honestly, the leftovers are almost as important as the meal.  To my  thinking, if I’m going to put so many hours into creating a single feast anyways, we might as well get a few more meals out of it, right?

One thing is for sure, though. As we cook and eat our Thanksgiving feast, we’ll be sipping on some holiday cocktails.   After all, it is a holiday and a party!

Holiday Infused Rum

Yield: 1 liter

Holiday Infused Rum

Use this infusion in any recipe for which you would usually use rum. Our favorite is a Holiday Dark and Stormy: 1 part rum, 3 parts ginger beer and a few squeezes of lime juice per glass.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 liter rum

Instructions

  1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the cranberries. You want to make sure that at least half the fruit is crushed so that they more easily release their flavor and color to the rum. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, pulse the cranberries in a food processor 4-5 times instead.
  2. Divide the cranberries and spices evenly between two quart-sized Mason jars.
  3. Pour the rum over the fruit, dividing it evenly between the jars.
  4. Cover tightly and allow to infuse for 1 week, shaking the jars once a day.
  5. Strain the alcohol and discard the solid pieces. Rinse out the jars and return the rum to them. Cover and refrigerate.
http://www.savvyeat.com/cocktails-for-the-holidays/