Saturday, January 30, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 1/31/10

Television station WALB in Georgia has an interesting story about a school teacher who has started a canning business with help from the state and whose product is now sold in 16 states (Teacher Gets State Assistance to Start Business). What I found most interesting is not that she is living the dream, but that got her start in the local high school's canning plant. That's right, some Georgia high schools have their own canning plants!
"We're in a global market place but we also have to find out niches, and niches like Lauri Jo's canning business that started in the canning plant of our local high school, it just gives our farmers another market for their produce and vegetable product that they sell," Sunbelt Ag. Expo Exec. Director Chip Blalock.
This is one of my passions - LA County needs a community canning center!

Tigress in a Jam has her roundup for the January Citrus Can Jam (Can Jam January Round Up - Citrus). There was quite a response ... an excellent collection of the various things you can do with citrus. Well worth taking a look at.

Doris and Jilly Cook announce February's can jam ingredient: February Can Jam: CARROTS! This is a water bath can jam, so pressure-canned carrots need not apply.

Membrillo (quince paste) is a wonderful example of the food preservation arts. Serious Eats presents an interesting use of membrillo as a glaze (with rosemary) for lamb (The Secret Ingredient (Membrillo): Membrillo-Roasted Lamb). Sounds delicious, and makes me wonder about infusing membrillo with rosemary. I usually use vanilla, but rosemary would make an interesting addition, I think. It also makes me think of other fruit pastes, since membrillo is only the most famous example of what are more generically called fruit pastes or fruit cheeses.

Preservation Link Roundup 1/30/10

The Jarden Home Canning Kit is available from a number of storefronts on Amazon for $8.95 + $5.95 shipping. Not too bad a deal for some basic canning utensils:
Canning Utensil Set

Vanilla Joy pressure canned chicken for the first time: Canning Chicken. She was using the "hot pack" method which is more work than the simpler raw pack method, which is what I recommend because it is faster and easier. Both methods are detailed by the National Center for Home Food Preservation here: Selecting, Preparing and Canning Meat: Chicken or Rabbit. By coincidence, I'm actually blogging as I listen to the weight jiggle on my pressure canner filled with pints of chicken (raw pack).

This month's "Can Jam", involves citrus (natch) (Welcome to Tigress' Can Jam).

Local Kitchen, a Hudson Valley-based food blog, made lime curd (Can Jam: Lime Curd for Water Bath Canning). It is important to note that curds are an unusual canning recipe in that they contain eggs and a significant amount of butter. The processing is rather unusual, and there are additional steps to take into consideration. Furthermore, canned curds are recommended to be stored for only 3-4 months. If any separation is evident, discard. For more information on canning curds see the National Center for Home Food Preservation (Canned Lemon Curd).

Market Life SF, made clementine marmalade (January Canning Challenge Begins - Clementines). Unfortunately, she tried to waterbath can her marmalade in a bail-and-gasket jar instead of the standard ring-and-lid mason jar. Her rubber gasket jar failed to seal and she ended up refrigerating the result instead. Bail-and-gasket look pretty, but they aren't recommended for canning. Use them for dry storage and refrigerator storage instead.

Keeping Up With K decided to try to do something a little unusual for the citrus can jam and made Honey-Orange Slices and Cranberry-Orange Vinegar (Canning Citrus). Both sound like excellent ideas that I'll have to give a try. That vinegar will certainly come in handy next fall for some lovely salads.

My newsletter this week (if you aren't a member) was about kitchen organization (Taking Stock). By coincidence food storage guru Crystal Godfrey was also talking about a similar sort of kitchen organization on her blog Every Day Food Storage (Are You Organized for 2010?). She even has a nice video. You can also watch a short segment she did as part of a news cast on the hot trend of canning: Studio 5: Hot Trends: Canning.

Hot Water Bath posts a poetic expression of grief that there is little to can in the middle of winter (Mid-Winter Canning Lament):
canning season gone

spring seems so far away now

empty jars stack up
Must not live in California.

Love to Pinch Pennies notes that a canning funnel is useful for more than canning (Kitchen Tip: Canning Funnel). She uses her canning funnel to help get things into freezer bags. Good idea!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Taking Stock - Weekly Email


January is nearly done and I still feel like I'm catching up from the holidays. The rain didn't really help, but I did get some cooking done. Cherry pie from canned cherries anyone? Too late ... it went fast. How pleasant it is to have the taste of spring in the middle of winter.

I can and preserve all year long, but the busy season for canning is spring, summer and fall. I'll come home from the market with a case of produce (got it cheap at the end of the market) and can away. Sometimes a neighbor or friend will drop off a basket of produce - canning time. If it is a bargain I'll can it. I don't really care what it is - I just preserve as much as I can as cheaply as possible. Jams, jellies, pickles, condiments, dried fruit, leathers, it is all good and I know that I'll come up with a way to use it somehow.

Supplies are the same way, if I see a bargain, I'll take it - canning jars and lids, pectin, sugar, etc., etc.

Come the holidays, I don't really have a spare minute between my job and family, and if I do, I'm making last minute gifts and putting together gift baskets - filling them from my stock of delicious preserved goodness - making sure everyone gets their favorites as well as something new and different.

So, after all of this ... I'm honestly not sure what the heck I have in my various storage places. How many jars of nectarine jam do I have left? Beats me. My precious 4oz jars of pomegranate jelly are definitely running low, but do I have 1, 2 or none left? Not sure. I haven't used up all the stock yet, have I? (Canned or frozen)

In all honesty, a couple of days ago I was searching for some pickled carrots and came across some jalapeno escabeche I made last year that I had completely forgotten about. Didn't remember I had them. Well, now I remember, and I've got a great condiment for the Super Bowl - homemade and ready to go.

Which must mean it is time for taking stock ... not making stock, but taking stock. Time to go through the kitchen, pantry and other storage areas to assess what I have left and what I need. January is a great time to organize my larder, get rid of some things and put other things on the "use soon" list. It is a good time for some deep cleaning as well.

First, I like to figure out what I have - divided into a few categories. Canned goods, of course, not only my homemade but the commercially canned goods as well. I need to know what I have and rotate the stock. I'll organize it and make sure the older stuff is in front of the newer stuff. Canned goods last a long time, but eventually time takes a toll and the quality degrades. Those jars aren't just there to look pretty (though many of them do). Eat them. If you've been saving for an indeterminate "special occasion" - make one up - make it special by using those precious canned "drunken" figs.

Also, cook from your pantry whenever you get the chance. Instead of deciding what you're going to make ahead of time ... just check your pantry (hey, that can of beans has been there awhile) and make something using what you already have. A few fresh ingredients and what is in your pantry often make the best and most satisfying home meals. All part of taking stock.

Restocking is also part of the drill - especially for some of my "go to" basic ingredients, such as tomato paste, pineapple juice (surprisingly versatile), canned tomatoes (I don't can enough myself), and a few others.

The freezer is my next category. I've got two ... the refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen and a stand alone chest freezer. Needless to say, the contents are in worse organizational shape then my shelves and cabinets. I have to face it, I don't open the freezer that often ... and digging things out of the back is a bit of a pain. Stuff has a tendency to linger in the freezer longer than it should.

Time to pull everything out, toss what is no longer any good (hopefully very little) and remind myself what is there and what I should probably be using in the near future (damn, I have a lot of pork bones - time for some hearty soups - and those walnuts aren't going to eat themselves - pesto?). This is also a reminder why proper labeling is critical for frozen goods - they can be virtually unrecognizable months later. You'll have to open the packaging to figure out what they are - or when they were frozen. I can't emphasize proper labeling enough. It will save you a great deal of effort later on.

Finally, my spices and similar small dry goods. Spices don't last forever. Whole spices I generally keep for a year, ground spices for six months. This is a good time of year to clean out your spice cabinet and remind yourself why you spent so much on that one spice you only used that one time. Here, I'm not very reticent about tossing out old spices. I get rid of the stuff I haven't used and restock. The flavor is worth it. Also, don't forget to label your spices with the date purchased. This way, when you buy some spices in a few months, you'll know next year what is still good and what isn't.

Taking stock might not sound like much of a food preservation technique, but it is actually a very important aspect of a food preservation program.

In other news, my friend Kevin West of Saving the Season ( is doing a marmalade demo at Surfas in Culver City this Saturday at 11am!:

Don't be afraid of marmalade any longer! Come see how it's done! Delicious results in one hour or less! FREE tasting to follow! Step right up!

Come join Bettina Birch and me [Kevin West] for a FREE marmalade demonstration at Surfas in Culver City.

This Saturday, January 30, at 11:00 a.m.

Bust the recession and save the season by learning to make this innovative, time-saving, labor-efficient, one-step, no-soak TIME TO KILL CITRUS MARMALADE. As an added bonus, we'll stir up a batch of VIN DE PAMPLEMOUSSE, a zingy aperitif of winter citrus.

Now tell me, how could you let such an offer pass you by?

In Kevin's words: "Be there or be square."

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me anytime. One note, I've been having some problems with my email filters recently, causing messages to go away before I see them. Hopefully I've fixed the problem, so if you've sent me anything in the last couple of weeks and didn't get a response, please try again.

See you at the HFM this Sunday and Santa Monica on the third Wednesday of the month!