Monday, August 31, 2009

Adventures in food preservation

Some of you know, others of you are not going to be surprised to learn, that I am one of a slightly contrary personality. Thus, I am prone to making decisions based on 'bucking the system' rather than any other reason. Some of the decisions have landed me in hot water....... Others have blessed me beyond comprehension. Those of you that know my hubby, know that marrying him turned out to be a decision falling in this second category. Another of these decisions was to run as fast as I could from that freakishly happy yellow smiling bouncy ball......

A couple of years ago I decided to start transitioning towards being two things: being much more self-reliant in feeding my family and to eat more seasonably/locally. After all, I reasoned, I'm a college educated idiot, errr I mean horticulturist, and I can grow anything. Right?!?! Hee hee hee.... I realized quickly, that the latter was not going to be possible without learning A LOT of the former!!! And so I set out to learn the art of food preservation.

And let's be clear about one thing; It is an art form. It is not for the faint of heart. I have not had anything spoil or make anybody sick, but I have made a couple of things that, as my mother would say "Taste like butt"!! I have also made a very impressive disaster of my kitchen on a fairly regular basis, as I am not an organized nor a neat cook by nature.

My food drying experiences have not just haven't been good experiences. Someday I'll revisit that. But not in the near future, as my ego just can't take that.

However, canning did come to me fairly easily and I LOVE IT!!!! Although to be honest I come from 'Mormon stock' (as someone once put it) and spent many a hot summer and fall day with my depression-era British grandmother, canning everything she saw fit to consume. On that same note, though, I should tell you that like every bratty (insert ungrateful) child, I did NOT pay attention..... Thus my canning 'adventures' as a grown-up!!!

This year, as the season progresses I will post some of my favorite and/or new recipes for you to contemplate. I have also decided, I think, that this will be my last year using store-bought pectin. I believe that making your own jams and stuff, using this pectin, is better than buying commercial. However, through some research I think I've decided to go the agar route in the future. If any of you out there have tried this and have tips that you'd be willing to share I would be an incredibly thankful Manic Girlie Farmer! Thanks in advance!!!!

Your favorite farmer,

Raspberry Jalapeno Jam

It's berry season. I LOVE berry season!!!! Ok, so strawberry season is over, but Raspberries, Blackberries and Huckleberries, etc. are all in season. Berry season in my house means one thing: JAM. And boy, do we go through a lot. I have a 13 year old son who eats a PB&J sandwich (along with everything else he can get his hands on) every single day!! It's my mom's fault, I'm sure of it. She hooked him on freezer jam when he was 7 or 8 and he's eaten a sandwich a day since then.

This year I decided to make a couple of new jams, along with my old stand-bys..... I don't really care for spicy food, but the following recipe caught me by surprise. It's wonderful!!!

4 3/4 C. crushed Red Raspberries
1/4 C. finely chopped deribbed, seeded, jalapeno peppers
1 T. lemon juice
1 pkg. regular powdered fruit pectin
7 C. granulated sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. unsalted butter (optional)

*Combine raspberries, peppers and lemon juice in stockpot.
*Combine pectin and 1/4 C. sugar is separate bowl, stir into berry/pepper mixture, add butter.
*Stirring constantly, bring to boil, add remaining sugar, return to full rolling boil & boil for 1 continuous minute.
*Remove from heat, skim foam, let set for 5 minutes.
*Pour into hot jars with 1/4" head space. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim & threads clean. Put on lids and bands.
*Put jars in water bath canner, cover with at least 1" water, process at gentle boil: 4-8 oz jars for 10 minutes, pint jars for 15 minutes. Adjust for altitude if needed.
*Cool jars on wire rack or cloth towel for 24 hours, check seals, identify & store.

Viola! Wonderfully sweet and spicy jam. I have made this recipe exactly like this and the flavor is excellent with very little heat. I have also made this recipe, seeding the peppers but careful to leave as much ribbing as possible. This results in a MUCH spicier jam, good for giving to hot-headed friends for Christmas... As always, remember to wear protective gloves while preparing your peppers. or OUCH!!

I have also made this recipe by substituting blackberries for the raspberries and cutting the sugar slightly. If you like blackberries, it is wonderful!!