In the time between my last post and today, summer has come to the Bay Area, I have begun my search for a HOUSE (!), and I’ve discovered canning.
Summer: It’s gorgeous and warm, I wake up to sun instead of fog, and the bells peppers are ripening red. Unfortunately, it also means strawberry leaves and soy bean pods have burned and all the plants dry out too quickly to keep up! The corn is almost ready though…
HOUSE: Somewhere in Oakland is a potential urban farm with my name on it. Gardening space is a must. Twenty foot setbacks for a possible (legal) chicken coop is a plus. Wood floors, gas stove, bathtub, etc. are icing. Oh, and the neighborhood can’t be too rough. Gotta think about that in Oakland — though the first few pages of Novella Carpenter’s Farm City have me thinking I could maybe trade security for the space for bees, chickens, and a 300 pound pig. Maybe.
I hate to credit a big box store, but… thank you, Albany, CA, Target for putting canning supplies on an end cap, including mason jars, a set of blue plastic canning tools, and a little basket to turn any old (deep) pot into a canner.
The first weekend of canning, I made spaghetti sauce — a LONG process that ended with just 3 jars of sauce. And I spent so much time squeezing 10 pounds of fresh tomatoes that I didn’t get any photos, either. The juice did yield a pretty awesome batch of gazpacho though, so not all was lost.
The second weekend was far more successful — I picked raspberries from the garden, found heaps of wild blackberries along an Oakland hills road, sliced up a lemon from an acquaintance’s Vallejo yard, and bought 3 pounds of peaches from the farmers market. A dishwasher load of mason jars and a couple hours of slicing, stirring, boiling, and pouring later, I have 5 jars of the best goshdarn jam I’ve ever tasted!
Peach Berry Marmalade
3 pounds firm, ripe peaches
1 small lemon
1 quart fresh raspberries
2 quarts fresh blackberries
5 cups sugar
1 packet pectin
Blanch and peel the peaches. To do this, put the peaches into a large pot of boiling water for about one minute each, then transfer them to a bowl full of ice water (to stop the cooking process). This makes the fruit wicked easy to peel!
Pit the peaches and chop them up into small pieces — whatever size you want in your jam. I chopped mine pretty finely. Put the chopped peaches in a large pot with all the berries.
Squeeze the lemon, mix the juice (should be about a quarter cup) in with the peaches and berries , then cut the lemon peel into quarters. Slice each quarter into VERY thin pieces (Think marmalade. Those guys gotta be skinny!). Put the slices and a quarter cup of water into a small saucepan, and simmer for about 20 minutes to soften the lemon peel.
In the meantime, sterilize your jars — if you time it right, you can run them through the dishwasher so they’re clean and warm when you’re ready to fill them with hot jam. Otherwise, boil them, using tongs to pull them out hot.
After the jam mixture has come to a boil, pour it immediately into your warm jars, and cover each with a sterilized lid and ring (make sure there’s no jam on the jar’s lip, or you won’t get a good seal). You don’t need to put the ring on really tightly — you want to be able to get at your jam later!
A minute or two after you lid the jars and they’ve started to cool, you’ll hear a pop as the lid seals (remember high school physics class? As the jam cools, the air inside shrinks, popping the lid down!! Cool!!). I can tell you from experience — this is the most satisfying part of the process!! (Other than eating the jam, of course.) If it pops down, ya done good! If not… put your jam in the fridge and use it soon, since it’s not totally protected from bacteria.
Let the jars cool — overnight is a good time frame — then pop them in the cupboard or fridge and enjoy! You may need a bottle opener to pop the lid off because of the seal — the dent it makes is also a good reminder later to never use the same lid twice to can!
OK, I have to add another more thing — one potential use for the jam. Sure, use it on toast or smeared over peanut butter. I’ve enjoyed it in plain yogurt as well — but the following recipe takes the cake.
Jam and Ginger Pork or Chicken
2 servings of Pork or Chicken (adjust accordingly)
3 tablespoons jam or fruit (fresh chopped apricots, plums, peaches, etc. are also yummy — add a little sugar to bring the juices out of the fruit).
1 teaspoon ginger (nutmeg makes a great alternative if you use a purely berry jam, but the ginger is awesome with the peach and raspberry)
Splash red wine vinegar ( 1-2 tablespoons)
In a skillet, cook the pork or chicken in your fat of choice (I prefer butter or olive oil) for about 4 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, mix the jam, ginger, and red wine vinegar in a small bowl.
After the meat has cooked on each side, pour the fruit mixture over it in the pan, cover, and simmer for 8 minutes.
Remove the meat from the pan — you can either pour the fruit over it as a juicy sauce, or reduce it for a few more minutes for a thicker sauce. Both ways are excellent!