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Dilly Pickled Onion Slices on Punk Domestics

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    I have attempted to share safe preserving methods however you alone are responsible for your health & safety in your own kitchen or location. Be aware of current safety recommendations. Please see "Full Disclaimer" page for suggested preserving resources.

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    International Food Blogger Conference 2011 NOLA

    Saturday
    Oct292011

    Lemony-Ginger Pear Preserves

        Use green unripe (or slightly ripe) Bartlett pears for this recipe. You want the pears to hold their shape not only when they're shredded, but when they're in the preserving pan and in the jar....and later, on your toast!

    These 4 flavors are so intriguing together. The subtle sweetness of pears are exactly what's needed to deliver the sweet-tart spicy delight of lemons & ginger combined.  If you like lemons and love ginger, you're going to absolutely adore these pretty preserves.

        And guess what? As is the case with most of my preserving recipes....no pectin necessary!

    Makes ~ 4 half pints

    • 2 lbs (about 4) green, mostly unripe Bartlett pears
    • 2 lemons, zested & juiced (approx. 1/3 cup of juice)
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 2/3 cup candied/crystallized ginger root, coarsely chopped  (4 ounces)

     Note: Prepare lemons first, because you'll want to be able to pour the lemon juice over the pears (in the preserving pan) as soon as possible after you shred them to prevent oxidation. Oxidation is what causes browning, which isn't harmful, but you still want to prevent it for flavor, texture and esthetic reasons.

    Next prepare canning jars and keep hot until ready to use; prepare lids according to the manufacturer's instructions. 

    1.) Zest lemons, and set aside lemon zest, then squeeze juice from lemons. Tip: Rolling the lemons on the counter firmly before juicing will soften them and enable you to extract the most juice.

    2.) Wash, then quarter and core pears, and run them through the food processor fitted with a shredding blade. (If you are going to double this recipe, either work very quickly or do this in two separate batches to prevent the shredded pears from browning before you can get them into the preserving pan and combined with the lemon juice.)

    3.) Combine pears, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a heavy-bottom non-reactive pan, then add sugar and chopped ginger. Stir together just enough to combine all ingredients.

    4.) While stirring gently, bring to a boil over medium-high heat just until sugar is dissolved, which should only take a few minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer.

    5.) Simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until pears have softened slightly but the syrup has thickened. You want the shredded pears to still be a bit firm so they hold their shape in the preserves.

    6.) Once desired thickness has been achieved, remove the preserving pan from the heat then spoon mixture immediately into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace if you plan to seal them in jars, or 1" headspace if you plan to freeze them instead.

    7.) Look for any air bubbles in the jars and if you see any, use a chopstick or plastic knife to pop them, then wipe rims of jars spotlessly clean.


    8. At this point you can cover jars with tight-fitting lids and either :

    a.) store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months or

     b.) store in the freezer for up to 6 months or

    c.) you can create a shelf-stable preserve that won't need refrigeration by processing. Just follow the next 2 steps:

    11.) Wipe rims clean, place lids atop jars, then screw on bands until they're finger-tight.

    12.) Process for 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath.


    Find more delicious pear recipes at USA Pears!

    Step-by-step photos of the Lemony-Ginger Pear Preserves process

    Sunday
    Oct162011

    Brown Sugar~Pear Butter

        Use perfectly ripe golden Bartlett pears for this recipe, not green ones. This is the perfect opportunity to use up pears that might be getting a bit soft. This rich and complex Brown Sugar~Pear Butter recipe is perfect for spreading on toast, but try it with whipped cream cheese on a bagel, or in recipes, like layering it in the middle of oat bars or  to top off Jam Thumbprint-type cookies.

        Nothing says autumn is in the air like the heady scent of Pear Butter simmering on the stove. When you're making it, keep in mind this recipe is easily doubled or tripled, so if you have a large enough heavy-bottomed preserving pan, I strongly suggest you make a big batch. It'll soon become a family favorite! 

        Some fruit butter recipes call for adding quite a bit more liquid (cider or water) to the fruit, but this one doesn't. This recipe requires a very small amount of water...just enough to keep the fruit from sticking. Adding more water will dilute the fruit butter and require more cooking time as well.

    Variation: If you like vanilla, you'll love the option of adding it to this recipe. Brown Sugar & Vanilla are naturals together!

    Makes approx. 3 half pints
    • 3 lbs ripe Bartlett pears, ~ 5 large pears (no brown spots or bruises)
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1-2 cups brown sugar, more on this in step 7 of the directions
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
    • Optional: 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract if you don't have a vanilla bean)

    Note: Prepare canning jars before starting your preserving project.

    1.) Wash, then quarter and core pears, placing them in a heavy-bottom preserving pan as you work.

    2.) Add 1/4 cup water. Do not add more liquid, the pears will create liquid as they cook!

    3.) Bring to a simmer over low heat, then cover tightly with a lid to keep heat and moisture in.

    4.) Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until pears have softened, then remove pan from heat.

    5.) Mash pears with a potato masher until they are mushy (approximately 15-30 seconds.)

    6.) Place food mill over a bowl, then scoop pear mush into the food mill. Crank away until all that remains in the food mill is a small amount of pear skins/peels. Discard or compost the skins. 

    7.) Measure the pear puree back into the preserving pan, keeping track of the amount of pear puree you end up with because you'll want to add half that much brown sugar to the pear puree mixture. (For example, for 2 cups of pear puree, you'll add 1 cup of brown sugar.)

     8.) If using a vanilla bean, add it now, then add the remaining spices into the pear puree mixture. Stir well to combine.

    9.) Cook approximately one hour over low heat, simmering constantly. It will be more of a burble than a simmer, because of the  thickening nature of the pear butter.

    10.) Once desired thickness has been achieved, remove the preserving pan from the heat and, if using the vanilla bean, remove it and split the bean down the middle with a sharp knife. Using the edge of the knife, scrape the tiny seeds back into the pear butter, and stir well.

    Helpful tip: If you are using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, add it at the end of the cooking process, when you would normally be removing the vanilla bean. If you add the vanilla extract before cooking, much of the vanilla flavor will be diminished.

     11.) Using a wide-mouth funnel, spoon pear butter immediately into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.

    12.) Look for any air bubbles in the jars and if you see any, use a chopstick or plastic knife to pop them before wiping rims clean. 

     At this point you can either  cover jars with tight-fitting lids (and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, or in the freezer for up to 6 months) or you can process by following these steps:

    13.) Place a sealing lid on the jar, screw on a band until finger-tight then wipe jar rims spotlessly clean with a dry paper towel.

    14.) Process for 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath. (If needed, add extra hot water to be sure jars are completely submerged before covering Boling Water Bath Canner with the lid.)

    15.) Remove jars with a jar-lifter and place on a towel on the counter in a draft-free place. Let rest for 24 hours, then check for proper seal before storing.

    16.) If jars lids seal, store them in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

    Note: Check lids for a proper seal by pressing the middle of the lid with a finger or thumb. If the lid stays down, it is sealed and will easily keep for up to one year in a cool dark place. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed. Place unsealed jars in your refrigerator and eat within 3 months, or within one month after opening.

    Find more delicious pear recipes at USA Pears!

    Step-by-step photos of Brown Sugar~Pear Butter process

    Friday
    Sep302011

    Plum Jelly (with added pectin)

        This version of Plum Jelly contains added pectin. One of the benefits of using pectin, whether commercial or homemade from green (unripe) apples, is usually a firmer jelly and a shorter cooking time. Some people believe this shorter cooking time guarantees a fresher-tasting jelly, while others think the added pectin dilutes the pure fruit flavors, or changes the taste in general.

    I prefer to use a Steam Juice Extractor to get the maximum amount of tasty juice from the plums. It processes a large amount of fruit with a minimum amount of hassle, and the resulting pure fruit juice is rich and thick with a luscious viscosity that makes it perfect for jelly.

    If you prefer a more natural jelly and don't mind spending the extra time it takes to watch for the jelly to reach the jelling stage, try my recipe for "Perfect Plum Jelly (without using pectin)".

    Btw, this is considered a reduced-sugar recipe. 

    Makes ~6 half-pints 

    •         cups fresh plum juice 
    •         8 Tbs powdered pectin* 
    •         4 cups sugar 

    Note: Prepare canning jars before starting your preserving project.

    1.) Pour juice into a heavy-bottomed preserving pan. Gradually stir in pectin with a whisk.

    2.) Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.

    3.) Add sugar, stirring to dissolve.

    4.) Return mixture to a full rolling boil, then boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.

    5.) Remove from heat. Skim foam from the jelly of neccesary and ladle the jelly into clean warm jars, leaving 1/4" headspace

    6.) Wipe rims, then place lids on jars. Screw bands onto jars until finger-tight and process for 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath

    7.) After processing, set jars aside to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Check seal, and it it's concave, store in a cool dark place for one year. If seals didn't take (or if they pop back up when you press down on them) just stick the jar in the fridge.

    *Pectins vary by brand. All commercial pectins will come with instructions for making jelly. Please refer to them. For this recipe I used Ball "Classic" Pectin.

    Friday
    Sep302011

    Perfect Plum Jelly (without using pectin)

         This Perfect Plum Jelly doesn't need added pectin. There is natural pectin in the plum pits & skins, and in the fresh lemon juice that I add while cooking. I prefer to use a Steam Juice Extractor to get the maximum amount of tasty juice from the plums. It processes a large amount of fruit with a minimum amount of hassle, and the resulting pure fruit juice is rich and thick with a luscious viscosity that makes it perfect for jelly.

    If you prefer very firm jelly, you might want to check out my recipe for "Plum Jelly (with added pectin)". If you prefer not to use a commerically-produced pectin, you can make your own pectin with green (unripe) apples, but that's a whole 'nother blog post. One I haven't had the time to write yet.

    Makes ~8 half-pints 

    •           8 cups fresh plum juice 
    •           6 cups sugar 
    •           4 TBS lemon juice (strained) 

    Note: Prepare canning jars before starting your preserving project.

    1.) Bring all ingredients to a boil in a preserving pan, stirring constantly while the sugar is dissolving.

    2.) Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the jelly to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. It could take anywhere from 10-30 minutes of boiling to make jelly, depending on the consistency of the plum juice you use and the amount of natural pectin found in the fruit. Note: Slightly unripe fruit has more pectin than fruit that is too ripe.

    3.) Dip a spoon into the boiling jelly. As it nears the jellying point it will drop from the sides of the spoon in 2 drops. When the drops run together and slide off in a solid sheet form the sides of the spoon, the jelly is finished and should be removed form the heat at once. (If you have a candy thermometer, the jelly will need to be about 220 degrees, sea level.)

    4.) Remove foam from the jelly and ladle the jelly into clean warm jars, leaving 1/4" of headspace. 

    5.) Wipe rims clean with a damp paper towel, then place lids on jars. Screw bands onto jars until finger-tight.

    6.) Place jars on rack in Boiling Water Bath Canner. If needed, add extra hot water to be sure jars are completely submerged with at least 1" of water before covering Boiling Water Bath Canner with the lid, bringing back to a boil, and processing for 10 minutes in Boiling Water Bath.

    7.) When processing time is up, remove from the Boiling Water Bath Canner using jar-lifter tongs and place on a towel, preferably in a draft-free place, for 24 hours. 

    8.) Test lids for a proper seal: press down on the center of the lid. If it stays down, it is sealed. If it flexes up & down, it is not sealed.

    > If jars lids are properly sealed the contents will keep for one year in a cool, dark place. If jar lid failed to seal during processing, place it in your refrigerator and eat within 3 months, or within one month of opening.

    Step-by-step photos of the process

     

    Sunday
    Sep252011

    Best-ever Bread & Butter Pickle Slices

          When some people think of their grandmother's refrigerator crock pickles, these sweet, crunchy and tangy pickles are the ones that come to mind. The onions and sweet peppers give these Bread & Butter Pickle Slices a great depth of flavor. Really, these aren't just cucumber pickles...they're more like the most irresistible assortment of pickled mixed vegetables you've ever had.

    Yummy on burgers & sandwiches, and lovely on a relish tray too. 

    Like most pickles, you might want to let these sit for a few weeks for the flavors to blend, but we've been known to eat them within hours of making them!

    Makes 8 pints - use wide-mouth jars for easy packing.

    • 3-4 dozen medium pickling cucumbers
    • 4 medium white onions, peeled and sliced
    • 1 green bell pepper, sliced in narrow strips
    • 1 red bell pepper, sliced in narrow strips
    • 1/2 cup pickling salt
    • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 3 cups white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar, or a combination)
    • 5 cups white sugar
    • 2 TBS mustard seed (yellow or brown, or a combination)
    • 2 tsp celery seed
    • 1 tsp ground turmeric*
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 3 TBS pickling spices (in a muslin bag) 

    Note: Prepare canning jars before starting your preserving project.

    1.) Wash cucumbers and slice thin. Combine cukes, onions, and peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the pickling salt, and mix all ingredients together with your hands. 

    2.) Add approximately one trayful of ice and mix the ice cubes in with the pickle mixture. Add another tray of ice over the top. Let sit for 3 hours, adding more ice as ice melts. This is an important step, so do not skip it! 

    3.) While the pickles are soaking in their ice water bath, make the sweet-syrupy brine mixture by combining vinegar, sugar and remaining spices in a very large stockpot or preserving kettle. Bring to simmer, heating and stirring only long enough to dissolve sugar, then drop muslin bag full of pickling spices into hot brine, remove pot from heat and set aside.

    4.) After the 3 hour "ice & salt treatment", drain the vegetables and discard the salty water. Add the cuke-vegetable mixture to the brine in the large kettle, and bring to a boil. Once the entire mixture has come to a boil, stir to combine everything and the mixture is ready to ladle into jars. (You're not cooking the vegetables, just bringing the brine to a boil.) 

    5.) Before spooning the mixture into jars, sprinkle some of the coarsley chopped garlic into each jar. Then using a slotted spoon, and a wide-mouth funnel, spoon the cuke-vegetable mixture into jars and pack well. After ALL of jars have been packed, use a ladle and fill the jars with brine, leaving 1/2" of headspace

    IMPORTANT: Brine will be sticky and because of the turmeric, it might stain. Protect work surfaces if you are worried about staining. 

    6.) Using a chopstick or a plastic knife blade, remove any trapped air bubbles. Wipe rims, then place lids on jars. Screw bands onto jars until finger-tight and process for 10 minutes in Boiling Water Bath

    7.) After processing, set jars aside to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Check seal, and it it's concave, store in a cool dark place for one year. If seals didn't take (or if they pop back up when you press down on them) just stick the jar in the fridge. The vinegar will keep them preserved as long as you keep them refrigerated.

    *Sometimes using ground spices in brine can cause cloudiness. I haven't had issues with the ground turmeric in this recipe, but I still thought I should mention it.

    Step-by-step process with photos

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