Cranberry Pepper Jelly

This is a spectacular, seasonal rendition of traditional pepper jelly. Instead of bell peppers I used cranberries and rather than jalapenos to bring out flavor with a touch of heat I upped the anti with Serrano peppers-almost twice as warm. So the red color of cranberry came through as bright red I used plain grain vinegar instead of the cider vinegar my books call for when making hot pepper jelly. The result was better than I could have imagined. I have presented this at two farmers’ markets sampling it over cream cheese.. Just one of about sixty hand made specialty products I offer the jars of this jelly flew off the table for the number one selling product two weeks running. Here’s the recipe:

CRANBERRY PEPPER JELLY
4 cups cranberries, washed and rough chopped
3/4 cup (shy)serrano peppers, chopped fine (seeds and veins left in)
3 cups white vinegar
13 cups white sugar
2 pouches liquid pectin (Certo)
Add all to pot except the pectin. On high heat, stirring often, bring to a strong boil. Hold for 1 minute. Add the pectin, return to a boil and time for exactly 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour into sterile 8 oz. canning jars using new, sterile lids. Invert for two minutes and then shake periodically to disperse particles throughout each jar until jelling occurs. Makes 12 jars.

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NEW IDEA

Tomorrow I’ll be working on a Thanksgiving Cranberry Pepper Jelly. If it works I’ll report along with the recipe but today I’d like to tell a story. A few years ago a senior in our local college would, every weekend, watch me sell. Over the spring she bought both my books and asked me a bunch of questions. Finally at graduation she asked me if she could use my recipes to make products to sell. I told her I’d give her all the help she needed.
SKIP-SKIP ahead two years. She returned to visit just to thank me. Seems she did create a business, seems the business did grow and-get this-her income the second year exceeded her fathers who is a doctor!!!! Commercial canning works! To be successful make only small batches. Use the very best -local if possible- produce available. Sell it yourself locally. Distribution to stores leaves you with pennies while they make dollars. Take advanage of farmers’ markets in yor area. More and more people are not trusting big stores with chemically filled products. This is your advantage plus locals will always support locals. If not get the h…out of the area. If you have a good recipe, use quality produce you’ll do just fine. My recipe books are a good way to start. You will need to get approved by the FDA to become a commercial canner. It is not hard and only takes a long weekend. Some states allow one to use their own kitchen if it is approved. That sure beats the $100,000 facility I had to use in South Carolina. The point is, a lot of people are un or under employed but from my experience eating is the last thing to get cut from the budget. Capitalize on food processing in these hard times to make your life just a little bit easier. -steve

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Home Canning-A New Craze (again)

In the depths of the Great Depression home food preservation (canning) became a most popular family enterprise.  Not only did it gather a family together in a project working side by side it stored inexpensive seasonal foods in the pantry for later use.  The Depression officially ended with Pearl Harbor while home canning diminished slowly as modern techniques like flash freezing and high speed transportation brought fresh foods to all American markets.  But history repeats not just in economics and as reported by Fox News recently canning is experiencing a major renaissance.  And why should it not?  Home preserving today is safe when utilizing the four simple tests provided in both of my canning books,Putting Up and Putting Up More.  When canning our own we use the best and freshest ingredients available not the cheapest and we know exactly what’s in the jar leaving out preservatives, food coloring, chemicals and dried herbs and spices when fresh is available.  The taste is the test.  Even the simplest home canned products are far and beyond better than anything available commercially.   This coming year give the once again new hot pastime a try.  The whole family will want to be a part of the process and there is a chore for nearly all ages  You’ll be glad you did and most satisfied at meal time.  

     Where in the thirties one might can string beans today, off season, we can receive at markets freshly picked string beans from far away places such as Chile, so the modern concept is to make, as a family project, relishes, sauces, soups and additives to enhance at home family dining.  As Putting Up More states, “

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New Kid on the Block

There is a little known about this delicious cut of beef called short ribs.  Few partake because of long preparation and the fattiness of the cut scares others.  But enter grass fed, now available at many stores, and arterial clogging becomes a thing of the past while flavor comes front and center.  Making the sauce in which braised short ribs are cooked is a time consuming labor.  But an hour and a half in the kitchen makes enough of this jewel for 6 quarts (serves 6-8) or 12 pints (serves 2-5) of put away Braised Short Rib Sauce.  Total preparation for a meal (not counting rib cooking time) becomes less than 15 minutes for a dinner that will be cherished and requested over and over.

     Adhering to the good canning practices outlined in previous articles prepare the recipe below to make six quarts:

  • 4 Bottles rich, red wine
  • 4 cups tomato juice (canned or bottled)
  • 2 cups honey
  • 24 oz. tomato paste
  • 12 cloves garlic minced
  • 6 cups yellow onion chopped
  • 4 cups celery diced
  • 6 cups carrots cross sliced
  • 2 orange peels in small strips
  • 24 pepper corns, whole
  • 8 sprigs thyme

     Prepare and measure placing all in a non reactive (like stainless-see previous blogs) pot.  On high heat and stirring often bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cook for ten minutes before returning to a boil.  Test pH of mix insuring it is below the maximum safe level of 4.3.  If above add addition tomato paste and wine in equal quantities until pH is safe.  Stirring to get equal distribution of solids into each jar, fill sterile canning jars and seal with sterile, new, canning lids.  Invert for two minutes.  Store in cool, dark pantry.

To make braised short ribs salt and pepper the meat-all sides and place in a very hot skillet braising all sides for about 15-30 seconds per side, remove.  In a non reactive oven pan-glass works well- that fits the ribs without a lot of excess space, place the ribs and pour in the jar of short rib sauce. If the liquid does not cover the ribs add some water (it will steam off).  Cover the pan with a lid or foil and place in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for 4 hours.  Remove, carefully remove the tender ribs.  Strain and pour the sauce into a non reactive pan and reduce (about ten minutes) while removing the bone and grizzle near the bone off each rib (optional).  Divide the ribs among the plates, I like serving on top of brown rice, and add some thickened sauce.  It will be a meal not soon forgotten.

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The Season Begins

Around here the fist big canning crop is strawberries but before this comes asparagus.  Unless one grows her own, these spears are an expensive canning proposition simply because the spears are expensive and there is so much waste.  Once the asparagus is sized to the canning jar there still remains 3 or 4 inches of quality, eatable vegetable.  Commercially, most pickled asparagus is canned in foreign countries where the crop is cheap and the labor cheaper.  The problem is that all the bad pesticides that are harmful to us are in those foreign pickles so it is best to leave them on the shelve.  If you demand spears then use the leftover sections to make cream of asparagus soup.  But a way to make the whole spear go into the jar is to cut the spears into “bullets”-little 1 & 2 inch sections that fit in easily(even a half pint).  These bullets work wonderfully in salads, to color as well as flavor such main course accompaniments such as potatoes or rice, and work exquisitely as an hors d’oeuvre with the bullet balanced on top of the likes of chicken salad on toast points.

PICKLED ASPARAGUS

Place in each pint jar (half this amount for 1/2 pints):

  • 1 to 2 inch snippets of blanched asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon chopped white onion
  • 1 teaspoon whole celery seed
  • 1 slice of lemon, peel on
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic

To make the pickling solution:

  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 7 tablespoons pure salt.

Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for one minute.  Allow to cool before cutting into bullets. discarding tough end sections.  Load jars in accordance with recipe and bring pickling solution to a boil.  Fill jars to canning line, loosely lid following water bath instructions in previous blogs, and waterbath to 182 deg, F.  Wait two minutes, remove, tighten lids, replace thermometer lid, and invert all jars for two minutes.  Perform tests as required-see previous blogs.

Enjoy this gourmet treat year-round.  I often put a few in salads, put a bullet on top of deviled eggs, I’ve even been caught helping myself straight out of the jar! Enjoy!

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Canning Tip

     I spent the morning emptying my refrigerator of partial jars of my home canned delectables.  I took stock. Many were still about half or a little less full,.  They were all still perfectly good but 30 or 40 jars!  Come on, everyone needs his space!  Then I thought wouldn’t it have been nicer to break a fresh seal instead of using a three month old jar if I even remembered it was there.  So I went to work.  With the canning season just around the corner I have gone through my recipes deciding which will work in smaller, like 1/2 pint jars.  Some canned items just don’t make sense for the small jars, like soups, but a mixture of pints and quarts when canning soups will allow one to enjoy their soup alone without having half a quart left over.  And while on the subject, not just quarts to pints and pints to half, many stores carry the Ball 1/4 pint (4 oz.) jelly jars.  These are ideal for making preserves.  With these a family can enjoy a few different preserves without having open jars in the frig for a month.  

Yes, the start-up cost is more and the lid discs are twice as many but the convenience, the saved space, the less forgotten products way in the back of the refrigerator might actually mean savings, too.  And remember it’s a one time investment.  The jars are still good for next year…and the next!  Bottom line this year each product I put away will be in multiple sized jars with the preponderance of each being canned in the size I’ll most use on one or two occasions.

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Computer Malfunctions

     We cannot imagine how much we rely on computers.  They have become our pens, pencils, paper, libraries, address books, primary mail, newspapers, magazines, bill paying method, and I could go on and on.  I know because the day after Christmas mine crashed.  I have spent the better part of a month piecing back together my life, my work and my contacts.  I am nearly complete but who is to know what I have forgotten.

This is a big month for canning, not because the roadside stands are burgeoning with ripe picked produce but because this is the best time to take inventory, decide what equipment one might want to add or replace and then set out to find it at discount.  Lots of retailers are still trying to clear last years  stock.

If one plans on making a lot of jams and preserves there is no better time than now to order bulk pectin.  A single pack of pectin costs on average $1.25 at discount where bulk pectin is closer to $.60.  I like Pacific Pectin.  They have chemists and scientists available to help the individual canner with any challenges.  It is a valuable resource.

     Start keeping an eye out for the first shipments of jars into the big discounters like Big Lots.  Often stores like these offer canning supplies far less expensively than others, even Walmart.

Make plans, if one had a good canning year last year then you know what got depleted the quickest.  Plan now to increase the family’s popular jars and reduce the ones still hanging around in the pantry.

Lastly, there are some new recipes coming on the block soon that will take simple dinners to 5 star dining experiences without ever leaving home.  These are featured in my new canning book due on bookstore shelves within the month.  Shortly, I will have advance copies available on this site signed and personalized along with personal access to me for guidance in you canning adventures.

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Putting Up Tomatoes

     There has been a lot coming down the pike about canning, especially tomatoes.  I have received reports off the web and it was personally reported to me that even Dr. Oz had a negative comment about canned tomatoes.  Now these are not home canned, theses reports are about store bought. 

     Cans used to be called tin cans because they had a very thin tin coating on the inside to protect the product from reacting with the metal of the can.  Tin is expensive and so over time tin got replaced with other metals, cheaper but equally effective-THEN CAME TEFLON.  This product when exposed to high heat-the heat used in preserving-has all sorts of problems which could well lead to health issues later on.  Most cans today are Teflon lined.

     The other caveat that I have been reading about is with the tomatoes, themselves.  I have always wondered how companies get such perfectly red tomatoes.  I go straight to the fields and still cannot achieve what big factory canning facilities pull off.  And you know what they don’t use the best grade and commercially tomatoes are not picked ripe so go figure!  Now the cat is coming out of the hat.  It seems there is a loophole in Federal disclosure requirements as to what is and is not required to be listed as ingredients.  In other words just for starters the red might not be natural.  I have found that if something is not natural and in its natural state it can be harmful.  I continue to investigate but once again this Teflon lining-alone is reason enough to learn the art of canning.  My next door neighbors put up very little but every year they can 160 quart jars of tomatoes.  As Linda says “what don’t you use tomatoes in.”

     Among the early blogs on this site I have detailed the step by step procedures for canning safely and with confidence.  My first volume Putting Up (available nationally at book sellers, at Amazon.com or though this site autographed and personalized) gives an in depth discussion on the science and all measures necessary to insure a successful canning experience.  The second volume Putting Up More is due for release in February.  This book specifically addresses the safe canning of tomatoes.

     In the meantime while you wait for the local tomato crop to ripen buy only tomato products sealed in glass.

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Turning out a Christmas Gift

     I call this Christmas Morning Marmalade for two reasons: It is time consuming to make so only once a year is just fine with me; and, the colors of the preserve are red and green.  It doesn’t get more seasonal that this.

Christmas Morning Marmalade   

3 1/2       Grapefruits, Ruby Red type

2              Oranges, thin skinned

1              Lemon

4              Limes

1 cup       Grapefruit juice, Ruby Red, fresh squeezed

3 cups     Boiling water (for softening the rind)

1/8 teas. Baking soda (used with the boiling water)

1/2 TBL  Butter (optional-used as a natural anti-foaming agent)

2 packs    Powdered pectin

13 cups    Sugar

Instructions-Peel all the fruit and reserve the rind but only reserve half the grapefruit rind.  Cut the peeled grapefruit in half and remove the plugs separating and removing the tough membranes in between each.  Thin slice, seed and quarter the remainder of the peeled fruit.  Remove the white pulp from the rinds and cut the rinds into 1 inch strips 1/16 to 1/4 inch wide.  In the sauce pan of boiling water with baking soda add the lime rind, reduce heat and simmer for 17 minutes and then add the remainder of the rinds and continue to simmer for three additional minutes.  Remove the rinds from the pan, rinse and place in the non reactive canning pot.  Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the sugar.  Stirring often bring to a strong boil and hold for 30 seconds.  Add half the sugar and return to the beginning of a boil before adding the balance of the sugar.  Bring the pot to another strong boil before beginning a two minute timed sequence while stirring.  Check for strong signs of jelling.  Remove from heat and fill sterile canning jars and seal with sterile lids in accordance with previous blog instructions.  This recipe make about 14 1/2 pint jars.

     I use two piece lids.  I find a thin holiday fabric and cut pieces to go over the lids about 4 inch square.  When the jars are cool and well sealed (after 24 hours) I remove the ring, place the fabric over the top and replace the ring.  There, a festive holiday gift from the heart.   

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Holiday Canning

     Canning can take some of the pressure off of holiday entertaining because the jars can be prepared and stored at a convenient time until needed.  There is little easier than opening a jar of Christmas Pepper Jelly, pouring it over a block of cream cheese and surrounding the treat with water crackers.  Two minutes later and most of the crowd will be there not at the shrimp pile or the duck canapes.  But holiday canning doesn’t stop with entertaining.  These little jars are coveted prizes when given as gifts.  Anyone can purchase a bouquet of flowers or buy a bottle of wine but very few can offer the fresh tastes of home preserved goodness.  And it speaks volumes since the maker’s heart and soul are part of the little jar.

Let’s start this season with a Christmas Pepper Jelly.  I don’t use hot peppers in this recipe but they can be added with an equal portion of the bells removed.  This will keep the ingredients in proper proportion to insure good and fast jelling.  I do not use red and green food dyes.  Daily there is more written about these dangerous chemicals and it is just a matter of time before the FDA orders removed the ones they have not already from grocer shelves.  They are always the last to act because of food conglomerate lobbies but be safe not a holiday statistic.   I use white 5% acidity vinegar so the colors of the red and green bells come through.  Since the pepper chunks shrink when heated I make the diced squares a bit larger than for regular pepper jelly because color here is as important as flavor.

CHRISTMAS PEPPER JELLY

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/2  cups   Red Bell peppers 1/4 to 3/8 inch diced
  • 1  1/2  cups   Green Bell peppers-same dicing
  • 1  1/2  cups  Vinegar, clear (grain, distilled 5%)
  • 6  1/2  cups  Sugar, white-granulated
  • 2 TBLS         Red Pepper flakes-brings out the flavors of the peppers
  • 1 Package     Certo liquid Pectin (or equivalent)

Place all in a non reactive (stainless) pot, bring to a strong boil on high heat and hold for 30 seconds.  Add the pectin, return to a strong boil and hold for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Pour into 1/2 or 1/4 pint sterile jelly jars, seal with sterilized lids (for sterilizing tips see previous blog or reference Putting Up, the authoritative volume on safe canning practices, available at bookstores everywhere) and invert for two minutes only.  Turn right side up and watch for jelling.  The peppers will continue to float to the top until the liquid begins to solidify.  Shake to disperse particulates as jelling begins.  Allow to cool without moving for about 4 hours.

To give as a gift, I like to get thin calico seasonal fabrics and cut into circles about 4 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter.  I carefully remove the canning ring taking care not to unseal the lid.  I place the fabric over the jar top and replace the ring; a perfect greeting gift and not available in stores. 

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