You guys! I missed you! Work has been total madness! I have the emotional constitution of a pubescent pre-teen this week! Fighting off a nervous breakdown at every turn! I don’t know what’s wrong with me…but I missed B&G for sure. It’s the weekend, and I needed one bad. So things are on the mend…
First, some housekeeping…
1. Happy Blogiversary B&G! Bread & Ginger turned two years old on July 21st. I should have posted that day. I didn’t.
2. Happy 100th post B&G! That happened with my previous post on July 20th. Fun coincidence!
3. In which I am over “In which…” it’s too binding. When I started it, it was a nod to something that quite frankly, at this moment I cannot recall…Peace out “in which…!”
4. B&G is on Twitter! Follow me @bandgmeg
5. B&G is also on Facebook, but you may already know that…
6. And lastly, if you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you will see that I added a Widget that allows you to donate to the World Food Programme to aid the crisis in the Horn of Africa. Everyone has their charitable causes that they choose to support, as you can imagine, many of mine involve food or hunger. The pictures of the crisis are devastating, I can’t think about them without tearing up, so I figured I would just offer up the opportunity to donate if you are able. Just 50 cents is a whole meal, or something crazy like that. It doesn’t take much.
It is amazing what I am lucky enough to be able to take for granted.
7. I may have made a grave error. I started watching “Friday Night Lights” on Netflix. What in the name of Gracie Belle Taylor took me so long? I am obsessed, and will probably get nothing accomplished until I finish all five seasons.
I embarked on a project last month. I am hoping to do that more regularly. I already have a good one in the works for this month. In July, I took on canning.
As in: putting stuff in jars, and then sealing them with a water bath, so that they can hang out in the cupboards for awhile, and then in say, February, when you get a hankering for the taste of summer, you can open up a jar of dilly beans, and snack away.
This all came about because my family went up to Portsmouth, NH earlier this year to visit my sisters, and we went to lunch and several people at the table ordered bloody marys. The bloodies at this particular establishment came garnished with a delightful looking green bean that I snatched off of one of my unsuspecting siblings, and I was hooked. It was awesome. A green bean pickle with some spice. I wanted to replicate them immediately. As you can imagine, immediately turned into several months, and I decided that my July project would be canning. I had never done it before, so I called in an expert. My aunt and I picked a Saturday (the hottest in creation) and four recipes.
I planned on making dilly beans and my Aunt El’s (by way of my Aunt Col) sweet hot mustard that is to.die.for. My aunt picked plum jam and the my grandmother’s zucchini relish, which is a favorite in our fam.
Canning is not difficult by any stretch, but it requires a fair amount of time, and it has to be done correctly, because there is some risk involved. But as long as you pay attention, it really is quite simple. The jars must be sterilized, and the contents must be hot enough to create a seal as it cools. The pop of the top sealing as it cools is a delight after all the hard (and hot) work of canning. If you are going to give this a whirl, I recommend grabbing a book and doing a little reading. The Ball Blue Book is a classic authority, but there are tons of good ones out there. There are some little important steps in the process that you want to make sure you check off the list. Botulism would blow, I suspect.
We started with the zucchini as it has to sit for a couple of hours at two different points during the process. The zucchini, onion and red pepper are sliced thin, tossed with salt, covered with water and left to sit for two hours.
And beans were prepped. Lots of them.
The beans were the easiest to prepare actually. Once I trimmed them, I stood them upright in the jars…
and then added garlic, dill seeds and cayenne (lots of cayenne. These are SPICY. I might add a bit less next time.)
The liquid is boiled (vinegar, water, salt) and poured over the beans, the lids are put on the jars and the jars are processed in a boiling water bath for five minutes. And voila! I just opened these up the other day after letting them sit and develop flavor for a couple of weeks. Delicious! And quite spicy.
Back to the zucchini…the process is similar to the dilly beans. We drained the water off the zucchini and boiled the pickling liquid, poured it over the vegetables and let it sit again for two more hours.
And now the plum jam, which I don’t have very many pictures of. The jam had the fewest steps. Boil the fruit, add a bonkers amount of sugar, boil some more, and voila! Jam! The recipe we were following did not call for pectin. In hindsight, we probably would have used it, because this is not super thick, but it is super delicious.
The interesting thing about the jam is that they get wax tops. Paraffin is melted and poured over the top of the jam, and that is what seals it. It’s very cool.
The last of the day was my Aunt Col’s (or apparently Aunt El’s…unsure) sweet hot mustard. This stuff is SOO good. It is perfect with kielbasa. It is hot and sweet at the same time, and in a bizarre twist, it has eggs and butter in it. I was very surprised to find that out.
Dry mustard powder, horseradish, vinegar, water combined, boiled up, and then eggs and butter are added and then, because of the eggs, we processed this in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes to make sure the eggs were cooked. (Eggs are pasturized at 140 degrees for five minutes.)
Overall, the canning project was awesome. I will absolutely be doing this again. Yes, there is work involved, and you do have to pay attention, but it is so worth it. Look at all the good stuff…
The jam is perfect in the mornings, the zucchini relish is awesome with a sandwich or on a hot dog, the mustard is amazing with sausage, a ham or turkey sandwich, pretty much anything you can imagine, and the dilly beans are a fantastic snack. Success! And there is something very satisfying about canning. It’s so pioneer-like. And like I said, it’s not hard, exactly, but it is precise, and you want to leave yourself some time to do it, to make sure you do all the steps. The jars have to be sterilized by boiling, they have to be clean when they get sealed, and the water bath has to be at a rolling boil. The alternative is botulism, so this is one you definitely want to do correctly. But sally forth and can stuff! It is very satisfying, and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor for months! And your friends will be so impressed when you hand them a homemade hostess gift! I think I am going to give it another try in September…I need to start planning my recipes.
A couple more things, since it has been so long since we’ve talked…
I have a very funny friend with a very funny new blog…you should def check it out.
I know I mentioned it already, but seriously, Friday Night Lights? Oh. Ma. Gah. For real, how did I miss this the first go round? This show is amazing. And perfect (except for the slightly creepy feeling I get when I realize that I am totally gaga for Tim Riggins, a character that is supposed to be in high school. Granted, the most age inappropriate high schooler in the history of high school, and also, the actor is actually like 28, but still, squicky.)
Dilly Beans (makes four pints)
Adapted from Food In Jars
2 pounds green beans, trimmed to fit your jars
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (you can use more, but know that I used a generous 1/4 teaspoon for each jar of beans, and they are quite spicy, so you may want to restrain yourself.)
4 tsp dill seed (not dill weed)
4 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity – it says this on the label, and is the standard for white vinegar, but you want to confirm, since the acidity of the vinegar is what helps keep canned relishes preservable and safe.)
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup plus 1 tbl kosher salt
Place your jars on a rack or a towel on the bottom of a large stock pot or canning pot, and fill it with water. Bring to a boil to sterilize the jars while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Wash and trim your beans so that they fit in your jar.
Combine vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. As you wait for the brine to boil, pack your beans into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (distance between the tops of the beans and the rim of the jar). Add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon dill seeds to each jar with the beans.
Pour the boiling brine over the beans, making sure to leave that 1/2 inch headspace. Use a plastic knife to remove air bubbles from jar by running it around the interior of the jar. Wipe the rims and apply the lids (which have been sitting in a small saucepan of water at a mere simmer for at least ten minutes in order to soften the sealing compound) and rings.
Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (timing doesn’t start until the pot has come back to a roiling boil).
Let the beans develop flavor for a couple of weeks, then enjoy!
Zucchini Relish (makes four pints)
Recipe from my Gram
2 lbs zucchini sliced thin
1 medium onion (about 1/2 lb), sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1/4 cup salt
2 cups white vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp mustard powder
2 tbl mustard seed
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Toss the vegetables with the salt, cover with water and let sit for two hours or overnight.
Boil vinegar, sugar and spices. Drain salted vegetables well, and pour hot brine over the top. Let vegetables stand in the brine for two hours.
When the two hours is up, sterilize the jars, boil the vegetable mixture again, and pour hot mixture into the clean jars. Make sure the edges of the jars are wiped and clean, and cover with lids that have been simmered in hot water to soften the seal for 1o minutes. Twist rings in place and process in a boiling water bath for five minutes (timing starts when water returns to a rolling boil.) Voila!
Plum Jam (makes about 4 pints, but I would use half pint jars for this, a pint is a lot of jam)
Adapted from a book that I can’t remember the name of right now…I’ll get back to you
3 1/2 lbs ripe but firm plums
2 cups water
3 1/2 cups sugar (this is REALLY sweet, super crazy delicious, but quite sweet, if you like your jam a bit more tart, feel free to cut this down a little.)
1 tsp butter (apparently reduces the foaming that jams like to get in to)
Cut plums in half and remove the pits. Crack some of the pits (you will need a hammer), remove the kernels inside, and set aside (ok, so this step seems a little suspect and unnecessary…though, I would recommend it if only to smell the kernels. No joke, they smell so good and so purely of plum, it really is crazy. If you are going to do this, wrap the kernels in cheese cloth so they don’t get lost in the jam, and then fish them out when the jam is cooked.)
Put the plums, water and kernels in a large pot. Bring to a boil, the reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the sugar and heat gently, stirring frequently, until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the butter and boil rapidly for 15 minutes until the setting point is reached, skimming any foam off the top. Pour into the sterilized jars and let cool for 10 minutes. Seal with wax tops, or process in a boiling water bath with regular lids and rings, for 10 minutes.
Sweet Hot Mustard (makes 2 quarts)
recipe from my fabulous Aunts, El and Col.
3-4 tbl prepared horseradish
1 2/3 cups dry mustard powder (Coleman’s)
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
Combine horseradish, mustard powder and peppers in a large pot. Whisk in the water to make a paste (break up any lumps of mustard powder.) Add the sugar and salt and stir, then whisk in the vinegar (the mustard powder does, in fact, want to lump up, whisk vigorously.)
Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, and slowly, while whisking, add about one cup of the hot mustard mixture to the eggs to temper them and prevent curdling (I was only mildly successful at this part.) Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the hot mustard mixture, add the butter and stir until the butter melts. Pour the mustard into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (I couldn’t be too careful here, what with the raw eggs, and all – though the hot mustard cooks them. I am a nervous person.) Note, my mustard seemed a little runny, and did separate once in the jars. Don’t fret! It firms right up in the fridge and if it separates just shake shake shake before serving! This is best served cold anyway, so stick it in the fridge before you are going to use it. That should keep it from separating as well.
So there you go! Can away! I will totally be doing this again…there are pretty limitless options!