Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preservation Perseverance

Mid-August in our neck of the woods translates: sticky floor, aching back, home as hot as Hades, and a stark reminder why we spend so much time tending to the garden.

I love canning.

Love it.

Did I mention I really love canning?

Here's a wrap up of the projects we've been working on lately...


I get my dill pickle recipe from one of the greatest books ever written. Carla Emery, a brilliant woman to say the least, has since passed on, but her book - The Encyclopedia of Country Living - is ageless. Seriously, if you don't have a copy of this massive piece of literature, do yourself a favor and get one. The lady really floats my boat.

I like crunchy pickles, so I soak my cucumbers in culinary lime for about 12-18 hours before processing. Before we could get our hands on culinary lime last year, we crushed up a bunch of calcium pills and soaked them in a solution of calcium and water. It helped with the pickles' soggy nature, but not a ton. Wilco (owned by True Value) wound up ordering us a bunch of bags of lime, so now we're set!




My green bean "recipe" comes straight from another of my favorite books... The Ball Blue Book of Preserving (don't laugh at the name - it's right there! I didn't make it up!!)

We add very little to our beans. They're canned in water and a tiny bit of salt - 1 teaspoon per quart jar to be exact. They process in the pressure canner for 25 minutes, and voila! You have GLORIOUS green beans. Holy moly no matter how many bean rows we plant, and no matter how many quarts we put up, we always seem to run out by December. We just can't help ourselves.

SIDE NOTE: Thank you, thank you, thank you Lindsay Surface and mommy for helping me snap beans this year! D was working and we had a great girls get-together. Woah. So many G's.


My mom is famous in our family for her strawberry-rhubarb jam. I. love. it. My brother Chris has morphed his diet and nutrition into something I would never be able to tolerate, so this is the first year she hasn't shipped him some. I think I heard him cry a little on the phone when she told him what we were doing. Excellent. ; P

The recipe she uses comes right off the back of the MCP (pectin) box. One of the greatest lessons I have learned from my mother in the kitchen is this: always, always try the recipe on the box. So I confess... many of my best recipes come right off the boxes of the ingredients I'm using. I, too often, go searching for the best recipe online when, in fact, it's right there... right under my nose. Who knew?!?! Especially when you're making jam or jelly, the recipes on the table in the box are simply the best in my opinion, so we stick to 'em... sort of. ; )

We're apparently very thorough when using up the last of the batch... *ahem*

Hello love...

AND PLUM JAM... kind of.

I'm sure you all remember these gems from last year... my beloved plums. *sigh* I love plums. This year, the pear and plum trees blossomed right at the wrong time. It rained. It hailed. The bees never made it to them, and so, no plums. : (

Thank goodness, D had the sense to bring up the fact that we had 30 quarts of halved plums in the food storage room!! We didn't plan on turning these into jam, but we haven't used any of them - canning them semi-whole was more of an experiment than anything - so we got busy! The plums, though canned for a year, made GREAT jam and the juice that the plums were packed in made ever better jelly!! Score!!

D and I have one trick when it comes to plum jam... you may call it our best mistake in the world. We do. Last year, when we were making plum jam, and we were so googly-eyed about each other, giggling in the kitchen, dreaming of being husband and wife and the hundred babies we would have, we stopped paying attention to the recipe (*ahem* - I stopped paying attention to the recipe) and told D to add DOUBLE the lemon juice that it called for.

Yes. Double.

As it hit the pot I realized what I had done. We had not the slightest idea whether or not it would turn out. As it cooled in jars we watched, and we waited... And when it was all said and done, we had the best darn plum jam we'd ever tasted! It was lighter (in color and texture) than regular plum jam - our plums are dark in color and extremely firm and meaty. They make "man jam" so to speak... and the lemon juice added a tart tinge of flavor that was to die for.

So to make a long story longer, "our" recipe will call for double the lemon juice for the rest of our lives.

This is what happens when you have a bad ring. Yup. This bad boy exploded TWICE! I thought I had just lined up the seal wrong after it exploded all over the counter the first time, but when I tried it a second, we wound up with the same result. Bad, bad ring. : (

All in all we're happy with how things are going this year in the garden, though they may be slow...

Up next, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes... tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!!

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