It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It really is, Jean. It’s the time of year when all my hard gardening work (and hard work shopping at the farmers’ market) gets rewarded with more hard work. However, all the hard work I put into preserving summer fruits and vegetables is enjoyed all year. I was going to take it easy this weekend because I have been away so much this summer, but when I saw the beautiful bag of cucumbers at the farmers market I just had to buy it and make pickles. I made bread and butter pickles, which have always been my favourite. I called my mom tonight and told her I made 7 pints of them and she replied Me too. Well actually she replied she had made several ice-cream buckets full of them. She also told me she canned 60 pints of sockeye salmon. I guess it looks like I will have to step up my canning if I want to even reach par with my mom. Do you like bread and butter pickles? If so I made a jar for you and I will bring it by sometime this week. Here is a sampler to tide you over until then.

Aside from the Nanking jelly, I also canned some peaches with a friend a week or so ago. We canned peaches in syrup and we also tried a new recipe where we canned the peaches in a honey syrup with a cinnamon stick and whole allspice. I have not tried either yet, but they are guaranteed to be delicious. The only thing I didn’t like about the latter was that the cinnamon stick tore some of the peaches when I put it in the jar. I will have to come up with a better strategy next time.

Boyfriend and I harvested all the onions from the garden and we laid them out to dry so we can store them for the winter. One more thing about harvest – I pretty much lose all access to my kitchen table. Presently it has onions and pickles on it and soon they will have hundreds of potatoes joining them.

Next weekend it’s time to pickle beets and the weekend after that it’s time to can the stewed tomatoes.

On a side note, people are always asking me what canning/preserving books are any good. I think this is because I am the only person they know who cans, aside from their grandma. My five favourites at the moment are:

Put ’em Up

Bernardin’s Complete Book of Home Preserving

jam it, pickle it and cure it and other cooking projects

Well Preserved: Small Batch Preserving for the New Cook

The Beginner’s Guide to Preserving Food at Home

Posted by King Crabby


Nanking Jelly

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at canning for some time but I’ve been intimidated by all the vaguely surgical-looking equipment you need, and the risk of killing someone. When my dad gave me two ice cream pails of Nanking cherries a few weeks back, I called on King Crabby to help me make jelly because she has all the necessary gear, years of canning experience, and has never (to my knowledge) killed anyone with food.

Now apparently botulism is not such a big concern with jam and jelly since most fruit is high in acid and you use lots of sugar, both of which inhibit the growth of botulism spores (low acid foods like vegetables, fish and meat are more of a risk).

Inspired by Just A Splash at the Strathcona Farmer’s Market, I wanted to make Nanking jelly with wine. I couldn’t find a recipe online that had both fruit and wine, so I synthesized the information from two recipes – one for wine jelly and one for Nanking cherry jelly. Since both recipes are pretty similar (essentially 1 part liquid to 1 part sugar, boil with lemon juice and pectin), I thought we could sub some of the cherry juice for an equal amount of wine.

To get the juice, I boiled the cherries with a small amount of water. Crabby put them through her fancy hand-cranked food mill to take out the pits, then used a jelly bag to strain the pulp. There was a lot more juice than I was expecting – about 9 1/2 cups all told. We made a small batch of wine and cherry jelly, using two cups of cherry juice and one and a half cups of wine (or was it the other way around?), an equal amount of sugar (3 1/2 cups), plus a half cup of lemon juice, and half a package of pectin crystals. We used the remainder of the juice to make plain old boozeless jelly.

Unfortunately, the jelly didn’t “set up” (I’m learning jelly making terminology). It’s more like syrup than jelly. We may not have followed the recipes scrupulously, but I don’t think we strayed very far from the measurements or times, so I’m not sure why it’s so thin. Not enough pectin maybe, maybe the fruit was overly ripe (there’s less natural pectin in ripe fruit than unripe fruit), didn’t boil it long enough, boiled it too long – who knows? In any case, it tastes great and the colour is gorgeous. Guess I’ll be using it on pancakes and ice cream. Crabby wants to know if you have any other suggested uses for thin jelly.

I haven’t opened any of the jars (Crabby says it should sit for a week to let the flavours develop), but there was a little bit extra from each batch that I saved in a cup. I liked the jelly with wine better than without. I thought the cherry flavour was improved by the wine and also the reverse (it was a cheap dry white wine I bought blind – kinda nasty).

We ended up with more than 20 jars of jelly/syrup which we shared. I can’t eat that much on my own, so if you know me, you’re probably getting a jar.

Scene from The Nanking Jelly Massacre

Thanks for the help, Crabby. I’d be willing to give jelly making another go, maybe in a year or so when this batch is dispatched.

Posted by Jean Poutine