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Canning 2013--what's on your to-do list?

it's the beginning of March, so thoughts start turning to the bounty of local produce awaiting me in a couple of months. I start looking at my canning books and start thinking about what I'd like to can this year. Besides the usual sweet and sour hot Hungarian peppers from my garden (peppers are the one thing I can grow grow consistently, as my green thumb must be a pastel shade), I think I'll do some Italian flavored pickled zucchini, roasted red pepper spread, pickled beets, pickled green beans, and peach salsa. If we don't have the same weather issues as last year (very warm March, followed by a very cold April with a few frosts), I'd like to make more peach jams. My peach farmer at my local market lost almost 90% of the crop last year, so I didn't can as much peach stuff. But I'm hoping to do more vanilla-almond-peach jam, peach BBQ sauce, plain peach preserves, and low-sugar ginger-peach jam. I've also got traditional blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry jams/sauces on the list. Perhaps some more strawberry-vanilla jam. Maybe pickled curried cauliflower, tto. I'll double the pickled beets this year, because I really liked them and so did my dad. In fact, I'm planning on sending him a package with the remaining jars in my pantry (along with some jams--I love canning them, but I don't actually eat much jam because of the sugar).

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  1. I just cracked my last jar of spicy pickled carrots. They are so delicious that I'm not sure I could ever make enough, but I will at least double those this year. Most of my carrot crop was so gigantic by the time I harvested them that they weren't really suitable. I need to try another variety of carrot in the garden that grows longer and skinnier and plan to harvest them sooner. On the bright side, I have been cooking and eating from my stored crop all fall and winter and STILL have some left. They taste better than ever, and will make an outstanding carrot soup as a goodbye to winter meal.

    I have made Italian zucchini pickle, both spears and relish, for two years now. It's good, but not a favorite. The texture is not as alluring as the harder root veg pickles. I'll only make this if I have too much zucchini. As if that's a question!

    Spicy pickled green beans are another favorite. Between my own garden and our CSA share, I make as many jars as I have beans.
    I could never have enough cornichon. They are another super favorite, but yikes-- a supply of those tiny cukes at a fast enough rate to pickle even a jar a day is a surprisingly complex garden undertaking.

    Peach-rosemary jam--I am down to my last couple of jars, and it's another one I just can't make enough of.

    I did two jars of watermelon rind that we have not tried yet. I need to make a point of getting into that soon.

    For new items, I'd like to make a few batches of chutneys, beets, Maraschino/cocktail cherries.

    Two winters ago I did blood orange and meyer lemon-thyme marmalades, which I did not manage to get to this yet this year. Too bad.

    1. I have been giving away everything I have in stock, getting ready for the new season. Over the winter, I finally made a chestnut rum vanilla jam that I got here in like 2005, I subbed passionfruit juice for plain water so can't say if it's right. Edible but not what you think when you think jam. But I called it Passionate Chestnut Jam and gave it away around Valentines; might cross it off my list for the future though.

      Last year I made an Amaretto Peach jam with fruit from the local peach farm and it was just perfect. Also a blueberrry rhubarb jam that I added some blackberry brandy. Both fantastic successes and will be done again. Strawberry jam is so good with no embellishments, I really have to make more than a quart this year.

      I also did dilly beans but used thyme or something instead of dill, since I had a bunch of whatever it was in the garden, it just wasn't the same.

      I always do chutneys and mostardos with figs or quince too, later in the season. Haven't hit the sweet spot on those. But I found a recipe online for Persian quince jam that just might be my favorite of all, the taste is perfect and the pink color just takes it over the top.

      9 Replies
      1. re: coll

        I was the one that posted that recipe. If you really used passionfruit juice, then I can promise you it wasn't right. With all due respect, that's just plain demented.

        1. re: GG Mora

          Yeah, passionfruit and chestnut aren't what I'd call a natural pairing...

          1. re: piccola

            I have been a little demented lately, now that you mention it. I used passionfruit in my quince jam and it is heavenly; had some in the fridge so tossed it in. I am a mad scientist in the kitchen, sometimes it works and sometimes it blows up in my face.

            1. re: coll

              "mad scientist in the kitchen"--what fun! Much more rewarding than always following recipes slavishly. Brings to mind a headline I saw in the NYTimes months ago (about education, not cooking or dining)--" what if failure is the key to success?". I truly do think that kitchen "failures" are necessary to spur our culinary creativity and innovation.

              BTW, that's how I created my vanilla almond peach jam!

              1. re: nofunlatte

                Vanilla. Almond. Peach.

                That sounds devine. Will you share your recipe? Pardon me if you already have. I'm reading on my phone and making dinner.

                1. re: ItalianNana

                  It's just the peach jam recipe from the Ball book (with pectin). I'd added some almond extract right before placing in jars and, when I tasted it, found it to be overly almondy. So, I added some vanilla extract to balance the flavors and loved the result. I dont have exact measurements, so I just taste for flavor before water bathing the jars. I think it's important for the peaches to be ripe for best flavor.

                  FYI, I used homemade vanilla-brandy extract. Three beans, sliced and scraped for seeds, covered with some not-your-best brandy, steeped for a few months. And I'd post the recipe, but my chair is borrowing the book!

              2. re: coll

                Some time you should try the Chestnut Jam recipe exactly as written. It's delicious.

                1. re: GG Mora

                  I might just do that. Now that you can buy chestnut peeled it's not as scary as far as effort. I had some jarred from France, but also used the cheapies. Do you think that's important? And should I have roasted them I wonder. Or did I?

                2. re: coll

                  Hey, more power to you -- sometimes that's how the best discoveries come about. I'm just too lazy to experiment with canning. For that amount of effort, I want something tested and true!

          2. I'm still a very new canner, having done my first batch this past July in the 100-degree wave that included the big derecho storm. That was water bath canning of peach butter and peach jam, followed by a few more pickles later in the season. Among the satisfactions was the realization that I needed no new equipment: the 8-qt stock pot and pasta insert worked perfectly for my small scale.

            But what I really want to do is put up tomatoes, to cut way down on the number of cans of Muir Glen I have to buy in 2013-14. I got an excellent deal on a 10-qt pressure canner that will do four wide-mouth pint jars at a go -- productive without being overwhelming, and a quantity I should be able to get from my own garden several times during the season.

            I'd be more interested in canning pickled green beans and carrots if I hadn't done outstanding lacto-fermented batches this season (another first).

            1. Next week re-covering the 43'x12' greenhouse with new clear UV resistant 4-year plastic. In recent months set up a separate canning kitchen in my barn (stove and workspace). Tilled most of garden open ground this winter three times so far for early weed control and to mix in: lime, bath salts, fertilizer, and good compost. Dirt will be ready for warm weather crops when no chance of freeze about early May here - many plants already started inside to be ready for outside. Have already planted part of garden with cool-weather crops including dill, onions, chives, garlic, and beets. In addition to canning I typically try to eat fresh spinach, dill, and broccoli most of the year (attempt to grow them year round with many 'crops' of each to always have some in different stages depending on weather). My neighbor's spinach and dill re-seeds itself and we save seed from both for additional crops on our timeline (those older and wiser are an inspiration showing what is possible).

              Pickles are the priority here. We love garlic-dill-hot pickled cucumbers, green beans, beets, and carrots. I add a grind 11 kinds of chili peppers some smoked dry.

              Canning related on my to-do list in 2013 are:

              1) Asparagus. Will plant and attempt to get it growing this year for harvest in future years. To eat and pickle down the road as plants mature in a dedicated space. Will probably cover the area with extra plastic. Asparagus is a favorite food. Often combine with chicken.

              2) Salsa, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and sun dried tomatoes. Have a few hundred plants already started inside mostly paste (Roma), slicing, and lots of cherry (yellow pear with red in various sizes, shapes, and kinds). Plan to pressure can because in a good year can never eat all in Fall.

              3) Sour kraut. If cabbage does well. Need kraut supply for Rubens, brats, sausage, and the occasional hot dog (feel weird to desire cheap mystery meat, but sometimes crave sliced bite size, browned, doctored, then covered in homemade chili). Also plan to make some kimchi.

              4) Concord grape jelly. Hope to get to the grapes this year before the birds do. They always are tasty and have a steamer that separates the juice from seeds and skins.

              5) Plum jam if enough on the trees for it. Some years are better than others especially for plums and Italian prunes. Production depends on how spring goes and especially if there is a late freeze or not when in bloom (also true for apples and apricots).

              6) Apricot jam. Last year a bumper crop went to the birds.

              7) Apple sauce. In good years for my Granny Smith and Gravenstein trees. Maybe some sort of apple jam or butter.

              8) Tuna. If can get a good deal, will drive to coast to buy fresh off the boat. Some years are better than others. Basic in-water is very tasty. Want to attempt cold-smoked canned tuna for variety to see if like it better or not.

              Will can what able to grow (or find cheap) to eat all year. Every year in the garden and canning area is a learning experience experiment.

              4 Replies
              1. re: smaki

                That is so impressive Smaki! I'm in awe!

                I haven't canned (yet) but am lurking on this thread as I want to. My mother canned and it was a big staple. So I'll continue to lurk until I get the cajones to try.

                1. re: JerryMe

                  Let's can togehter. What end results do you want?

                2. Always pickled beets and some tomato chow chow.