I am finding that summer is less "cooking with a plan" for me and more "have fun and figure it out as you go". This is due to the fact that I'm a teacher and don't work during the summer (don't hate me). However, the school year is about to commence and I am getting geared up to start planning and cooking ahead. It's really the only way I can handle getting dinner on the table after a tough day at work. And in the beginning of the school year, there are usually a lot of tough days.
I did do something rather special this week. I canned (I don't really like that it's called "canning" because they aren't cans, they're jars...). My neighbor has been doing it for a couple of years and she graciously invited me over to show me how it's done. I did all these!
Actually, I could have done even more but I ran out of jars. It was a really interesting process and I am definitely going to do it again this season and in the summers to come. I know that some people might cringe at the thought of canning and preserving because it seems like this huge ordeal.
I'll be honest that it can be a bit labor intensive, but it's a very simple process. If you are making a lot of things, it can take a while because you have to sterilize the jars for a certain amount of time (for small jars we did about 10 minutes) and then you have to fill them and put them back in the boiling water for a certain amount of time (in our case, 10 minutes). It doesn't seem like that long, but if you have to work in batches it can take a while. If you are doing it with a friend, you can chit chat and work on other things in the meanwhile. I really enjoyed it.
Here are two of the recipes we did. Both recipes can be made without the intention of preserving, but need to be kept in the fridge and used within a few weeks. Both of these recipes come from the great cookbook by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard called The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving.
~This chutney-like salsa is delicious on grilled chicken or fish~
- 2 cups chopped peeled peaches (about 4 medium peaches)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
- 1 tbsp finely chopped jalapeno pepper
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/4 tsp pickling salt (you can use kosher, but pickling salt is sold right next to it)
- the zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
- You can peel the peaches by dropping them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then plunging them in ice water. The peels should come off easily. If you have trouble, it's not that big of a deal for some of the peaches to be chopped with the peel on.
- Combine the peaches, onion, peppers, honey, salt, lime zest and juice in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and boil gently (uncovered) for 5 minutes (stir occasionally).
- Stir in mint and cook for 1 minute.
- Fill sterilized hot jars with salsa, leaving a 1/2 inch of space between the top of the salsa and the rim of the jar (this is called "head space"). Process 10 minutes for half-pint jars ("process" means boil the jars).
- Serve with tortilla chips or use it to top chicken or fish. I'm sure it can be used in other ways, as well!
~This can be made year round with fresh or frozen berries~
- 3 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (unsweetened)
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (unsweetened)
- 1 large orange
- 6 1/2 cups sugar (alot of sugar! but this recipe yields alot of jam)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 pouch liquid fruit pectin (found near canning supplies in grocery stores)
- Mash raspberries and blueberries in a large saucepan. I mashed them the point where the raspberries were pretty mashed up but the blueberries were mostly whole.
- Zest the orange and add the zest to the saucepan. Remove the white rind of the orange and chop the orange by hand or in a food processor.
- Add orange pulp, sugar and lemon juice to the saucepan. Bring to a full boil over high heat and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pectin.
- Ladle into hot sterilized jars and process 10 minutes.
Tomorrow I am attempting to make a Friday Feast: Birthday Edition for my sister's birthday. If it turns out as good as it sounds, I will be sure to share it with you.
*I apologize for the poor quality of my picture...I have trouble taking clear pictures that aren't washed out with my camera's flash. My camera takes great pictures outside...not so great inside.