Friday, August 20, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 8/20/10

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

The Can Jam deadline is upon us and there is post after post of canned tomato recipes.

Ketchup seem particularly popular and people are using a variety of recipes and techniques to make it:There are other interesting posts as well.

Such as a tomato jam, which makes a refreshing change of pace in both savory and dessert applications Backyard Farms modifies one recipe with the addition of bay leaf and celery seed (CanJam # 8 Tomato Jam). I like the use of savory spices in jams. Bay leaf is almost always a good call and celery seed pairs very well with tomatoes, so why not?

Barbecue sauce is a great cannable item and Putting By has some good suggestions (Barbecue Sauce).

Local Kitchen makes a classic salsa but uses some time-saving techniques (Can Jam: Roasted Tomato & Chipotle Salsa). In addition to Ketchup, Yes, Another Cooking Blog also made salsa (Salsa-August Can Jam Tigress).

Tomatillos aren't green tomatoes, but they still make amazing salsa, as Put a Lid on It uses them instead of too expensive tomatoes (Roasted Salsa Verde).

I'll end the tomato posts with Well Preserved (Stewed (Canned) Tomatoes). A simple and classic recipe, to be sure, but check out the list of tips for canning. Some are tomato specific, but many are just general good ideas. Especially "Never do it if you don`t want to. It is supposed to be fun and it`s well worth it when you are in the moment." But read them all.

Ok, so maybe you are tomatoe'd out. August is also the best time of year for peaches. Stick a Fork in It, the OC Weekly's food blog, looks at peaches (At the Farmers' Market: Peaches), as does The Atlantic (The Annual Hunt for Perfectly Ripe Peaches):
These are my words of wisdom when it comes to peaches. Never squeeze a peach, as you basically ruin it. Select unbruised peaches with nice color, full shape, and nice weight for their size. Place the peach stem side down on a linen napkin or cotton tea towel—no substitutions. Make sure the fruits don't touch, and keep them in a cool place, not in the sun, then cover them with another linen napkin or cotton tea towel. It may take a few days. They are ripe when they smell like peach and the stem side is pressed down a bit from the weight and softening of the peach. The perfect peach should be quite perfumed, juicy, and soft.
Canning recipes almost always say to remove the peach skin before various types of processing take place. I say, not always. Check the peach first. Biting is the best method. Is the skin too thick, too chewy, too annoying? Then go ahead and skin those peaches. But if the skin is thin and not too chewy, why not leave it on? If you're going to chop finely or purée (as for a peach butter), then the skin is even less of a problem.

With all the August preserving emphasis on tomatoes and stone fruit, it might be easy to forget that pepper season is coming soon, if not already here. Squid Ink looks at a pepper variety now showing up in the farmers' markets (What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Sometimes Spicy Padrons) and The Kitchn provides a recipe for pickling and canning them (Savory Canning: Pickled Peppers).

The Paupered Chef makes homemade pineapple vinegar (How to Make Homemade Vinegar (It Couldn’t Be Easier)). I'm a huge fan of homemade vinegar in all its varieties. What is happening here, of course, is an alcoholic fermentation of the pineapple and brown sugar (the more traditional piloncillo is readily available - and cheap - in Mexican supermarkets), and then a secondary fermentation from an alcoholic beverage into vinegar. I'd probably distinguish the two fermentations myself, and innoculate the alcohol with my own mother, but his method couldn't be simpler.

Emergency Food Storage Pros sing the praises of "Lock & Lock" food storage containers (Food Storage Containers: Lock & Lock). They love them, but there might be a little bias:
One thing that I have not spoken enough about on this food storage website is food storage containers. I have no excuse, now that I have been in South Korea for the past six weeks, and my brother in law is Chief Production Officer of Lock & Lock here.
I've never actually used them myself; I'm more of a Cambro guy (Surf City rulz!), but I've been seeing more and more of them, so they're probably pretty good. They're available on Amazon and at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but if you are here in Southern California, you'll find the best selection and prices at Korean supermarkets or department stores, where they are readily available. When next I need some storage containers, I'll probably give these a try.

Last but not least, Little Homestead in the City does their weekly roundup of what is happening at their urban farm (Homestead Happenings). Their canning shelf is absolutely fantastic!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is Jarden Home Brands Working On?

Once again I hope that, because I was out of touch for a few months, that this isn't too much old news.

Today I participated in a survey for Jarden Home Brands, the folks who bring us Ball, Kerr and other canning-related brands. Along with general questions about how frequently and what type of preserving I do, they wanted my opinion on specific new products that, I assume, they may be introducing soon.


Here they are, in the order that I considered most important:
  1. BPA Free Lids

    About time, I say. Unfortunately, they might cost as much as $0.20 more a lid. Although I'm not terribly worried about the BPA in lids, I would really prefer not to have to worry at all.

  2. UV Protected Jar

    These jars provide 99% UV protection, reducing color change and extending the shelf life of canned goods. The coating wouldn't wash off and the jars are reusable. I really like the extended shelf life and that I could display my jars without reducing shelf life.

  3. Thermal-Guard Jar

    Thermal shock resistant jars that do not have to be preheated before being filled. Saves time in canning.

  4. Non-slip Jar.

    Jars with a coating that will make them easier to grip when wet. The coating will also cool down quicker so that you can handle the jars quicker after processing. Non-stick is nice, but not all that necessary in my experience. The coating will also likely mar the appearance of the jars and I don't really like moving my jars very much after processing anyway; I prefer to allow the jars to cool for several hours (at least) before moving them.
There was also some questions about combinations of the jar improvements, such as Thermal-Guard Jars with non-stick coating.

In any case, I'm glad that Jarden is working on improving the quality of the their products, especially the BPA-free lids.

Preservation Link Roundup 8/19/10

The Kitchn features a beverage I thought was only homemade: sauerkraut juice (Kraut Juice: A Tasty Can Full Of Stink!). I've always been a fan of pickle juices and sauerkraut juice, I just didn't know it was sold on its own. Apparently it is fairly common in Europe and those places in the US where German immigrants settled. It is full of vitamins and, bonus if you make your own, you get the probiotic benefits as well. The Kitchn also has a recipe (Try This! A Tomato Tang With Kraut Juice). Try some in soups or salads as well, as a substitute for vinegar.

Patrick Costello is matching peaches with lavender both for preserves and syrup (More Canning and Whoa Lavender Peach Syrup!).

Sometimes when preparing stone fruit, you might have bits and pieces of fruit that you can't really use, such as the parts that cling to the stones in clingstone fruit (especially likely

Sake + Cheese fell in love with giardiniera and when the supply she bought ran out, decided to make her own (The Canning Continues: Hot Giardiniera). Good call. This is one of the most satisfying pickles to make. The flavor is rich, has plenty of depth and is texturally eclectic. Not too mention it looks spectacular.

Moo Said the Mama has an excellent photo essay on making and canning ketchup, well worth checking out if you're thinking of making some (Ketchup Canning Tutorial). MStM does note that the recipe they used ended up tasting more like cocktail sauce than ketchup. That is a problem with ketchup recipes, they do vary a lot in terms of flavor. As I've noted before, we're used to that commercial flavor. Don't be surprised if your ketchup tastes different. (Although I look for clove and celery seed in recipes ... they are definitely two flavor keys to ketchup, as far as I am concerned) Keep trying recipes until you find one you like. And know also that the sweetness of homemade ketchup can vary a great deal depending on the sweetness of your tomatoes. The golden cherry tomatoes from my garden are crazy sweet, while my Romas are sweet, but not like the cherry tomatoes.

The National Post also provides a recipe and description of making homemade ketchup (Field Trip: Canning Tomatoes).

If you're a canning beginner, this first time canning experiment by Frugal and Focused would be a useful experience to read about (Learning the Art of Home Canning: Experiment #1 - Blueberry Syrup). Yep, fruit syrups can boil over very easily. Use a big pot. Syrups might seem a bit thinner than you're used to. Don't thicken them before canning, but thicken just before use, if you choose to thicken them at all.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel interviews a local canner, Anna Cameron of Ladysmith Jams, who uses many foraged fruits in her preserves (The new can-do spirit: Santa Cruz jam maker savors the fruits of her foraging).
"It's something to see that little piece of heritage," she said. "But foraging goes back to an even deeper genetic history. Even before we were hunters, we were gatherers. Picking fruit calms me, it makes me feel human in this world of business and to-do lists and screen time. Go pick blueberries down an alley and you'll feel better!"
The article also has a brief history of canning.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Occasional Gardening Roundup 8/19/10

While this blog will continue to focus primarily on food preservation, as a Master Gardener Intern, I will blog about gardening from time to time. And be more than happy to answer any questions you have (or pass them on to someone who can answer them).

Vertical gardens have become quite popular in Southern California recently, with a number of high profile installations. Although visually attractive, there has been a backlash focusing on their sustainability, especially in our dry climate Homegrown Evolution has been skeptical (Vertical Vegetables). And this past week the LA Times turned a jaundiced eye on the trend (The Dry Garden: A skeptic's view of vertical gardens):
Succulents such as sedum and senecio that are so hardy in the ground need constant irrigation to cope with heat and wind after being suspended in felt pockets against SmogShoppe’s hot walls. The concrete wall behind the bagged-and-hung garden is wet with runoff from an automated drip system. The sacks are calcified with irrigation scale. Even in an open-air setting, get close and there is a whiff of mold. It’s hard to imagine a less savory or more whimsically destructive system for a region in a water crisis.
The critics make some good points. Vertical gardens aren't always a good idea.

I do like that Homegrown Evolution makes some suggestions for old-school vertical gardening with trellises and training plants.
But growing vertically does not have to mean attaching roots to a wall. I can think of two simple vertical vegetable garden strategies where that $1,000 would go a lot further. How about simply favoring fruits and vegetables that either grow vertically naturally, say pole beans, grapes, peas or kiwi or that can be convinced with a bit of pruning to go vertical, such as tomatoes, melons and winter squash? Mel Bartholomew has some nice vertical gardening tips in his classic book Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!. Build some raised beds next to a wall or saw cut out the concrete, plant in the ground and you're in business.With some slings for the fruit, you can even grow watermelons vertically.
Fruit tree hedges might be a better idea for vertical gardening than some of the systems out there.

Nevertheless, though vertical gardening is probably being overdone at present, we shouldn't dismiss it entirely, even in dry Southern California. Moreover, it is still a young technique and better technical solutions for some of its drawbacks will probably be developed in time.

LA Eastside takes a tour of artist's gardens in East LA. First, local muralist Raul Baltazar's garden (How Does Your Garden Grow? Eastside Style!), open to the community. Then a garden from ceramicist Jose Ramirez which features homemade ceramic pots and art that harmonizes quite well with the environment. Next up Leslie Gutierrez Saiz's home in Eagle Rock is quite impressive. And Rigo Maldonado's garden in Santa Ana sports one of my favorite things, a pergola.

Very impressive stuff. Definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in Southwestern gardens.

The Daily Green lists the top ten US cities with the most urban gardens and Long Beach represents SoCal at #3! (Which 10 Cities Have the Most Urban Gardens?)

Props to my friends in Long Beach!

War Era Food Posters Exhibit

Okay, so having been out of touch with blogosphere for a few months, I'm probably the last one to know about this, but I still think it is pretty darn cool. Apparently, the US Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Library has an exhibit, When Beans Were Bullets, of war era food and agriculture posters. Many of the posters feature ideas that are very topical today, stuff I didn't realize was part of the culture back then.

Early Michael Pollan perhaps?

We all have heard of victory gardens, but what about the "School Garden Army"? Maybe we should bring that back.

And, of course, a nice selection of canning posters:

Be sure to check out the whole online exhibit, When Beans Were Bullets, or the Smithsonian Magazine's online gallery of highlights: American Food Posters from World War I and II.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 8/18/10

I really appreciate that Well Preserved discusses in some depth the acidity problem in canning tomatoes (Well Preserved Tomato Sauce Recipe). Yes, the USDA is pretty conservative and you can get away with fudging their safety guidelines quite often. After all, your grandmother probably violated a number of their current rules and you're reading this, right? But,
The spoilage risk is very real. The family who taught ours lost an entire batch (around 200 jars) due to low acid and things began to ferment in bottle. They lost an entire weekend of work, a virtual crop of tomatoes and sauce for the year.
The Atlantic Food Channel has an excellent article on various ways to preserve venison, from curing to corning and, of course, making sausage (both fresh and fermented) (Venison Sausage: A Whole Different Animal). Bonus for Southern California readers, the deer was shot on Catalina Island.

Another cured meat (and a favorite of mine) is pâté. The Kitchn provides a few links on the subject (Do You Have a Good Recipe for Homemade Pâté?). Be sure to check out the comment section for additional links. If you've never made pâté or a rillette or similar, I highly suggest giving it a try. They can be surprisingly easy to make and are a wonderful side dish or appetizer. And you can play with flavors quite a bit. I make my own teriyaki-flavored "spam" for use in homemade musubi.

Food in Jars has a good post on substituting other salts for pickling salt (if you can't easily find it) (Canning 101: On Substituting Salt in Pickling). At the end of the day, there are only a few things you need to know:
  1. Substitute by weight. 3/4 of an ounce per tablespoon for pickling salt. Simply weigh out the other salt.
  2. Make sure the salt is pure. No iodine or free flow agents. The only ingredient listed should be salt.
  3. Take into account that other salts won't dissolve as quickly as pickling salt.
If you can't find pickling salt, popcorn salt makes an excellent substitution. You can also process kosher salt into something resembling pickling salt by pulsing it in a food processor a few times.

The Blueberry Files goes through the steps of pressure canning beets (Pressure Canning Beats). Beets are an excellent candidate for pressure canning, since they generally survive the process quite well. Of course, if you don't have a pressure canner you can pickle beets and can them with a boiling water bath. There are plenty of recipes out there.

A Nutritionist Eats is getting into canning and has a Ball Canning Discovery Kit to giveaway (Canning with Lucia). Visit her blog for information on winning the kit.

I can't emphasize enough how canning works best as a social event. Feast After Famine learns canning from some neighbors at a canning party, "replete with wine and cheese and good cheer... "(Canning Party). Why not invite some neighbors over to learn canning from you?

Tigress in a Jam takes advantage of the fantastic stone fruit out there to make a lovely preserve using summer savory (an inspired choice) and white pepper (Nectarine Preserves with Summer Savory & White Pepper).

I've got mixed feelings about white pepper. It is generally used in dishes as a substitute for black pepper when you don't want little black flecks in your dish, such as in white sauces, lightly colored soups or mashed potatoes. However, there are distinct flavor differences. To me, black pepper is fruitier and more well-rounded, while white pepper is a little more directly spicy with less depth of flavor. More importantly, however, I think that white pepper suffers more from being pre-ground than black pepper. Frankly, I hate pre-ground white pepper. I dislike pre-ground black pepper, but can't stand the white pepper version. So, please, use freshly ground white pepper when you do use it.

Canning seems to get all the press, but sometimes it is important to remember that freezing is an important aspect of food preservation. Putting By freezes their bell peppers (they don't can well by themselves) (Bell Peppers). I like everything they did, except place the pepper strips into gallon ziploc bags. You should usually freeze in quantities that you would use. That way you don't have defrost/refreeze what you haven't used. So, instead of gallon ziplocs, why not quart or pint bags? And I can't emphasize this enough when freezing: label, label, label! When you freeze a lot of stuff, it will save many headaches months later.

Freezing is great, but they seem to fill up quite quickly, so back to canning it is. Putting By also has a post on canning pasta sauce (Pasta Sauce). They use those commercial square-ish pasta jars that I know many people have around the house. I know many people who use them for canning successfully, but I do have to point to the FAQ from the companies page:
Can I reuse the Classico® jar for home canning?
No. A coating is applied at the glass plant to reduce scratching and scuffing. If scratched, the jar becomes weaker at this point and can more easily break. This would increase the risk of the jar breaking when used for canning. Also, the lighter weight of our current jar could make it unsafe for home canning.
Do as you will, just passing on the information.

The LA Weekly's Squid Ink blog reviews yet another new canning book, Canning for a New Generation (Cookbook Review: Canning For A New Generation).
The book might as well be called Canning and Preserving For An Eager But Sometimes Lazy (Or Just Plain Busy) Generation. And that's exactly why we think it's pretty great.

Gotta Beef with Lunch?

Food for Lunch is a new group looking to reform the school lunch program in the Los Angeles Unified School District:
FOOD FOR LUNCH is a group of concerned LAUSD parents, residents, grassroots and community organizations from across Los Angeles who have joined together to affect positive change in the LAUSD lunchroom.

In response to what even the USDA is calling “the single greatest threat to public health in this century,” the obesity epidemic, and to combat health trends in this epidemic which will put 1 in 2 of America’s children at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime, we propose the following changes be made immediately for food served to children at breakfast and lunch:
  • More whole foods, fruits and vegetables served. We advocate for California-sourced, unprocessed foods served daily for breakfast and lunch.
  • Less processed foods: no chicken nuggets or other such highly processed animal protein foods.
  • Less sugar: Reduce sugar to no more than 20 grams per meal and remove foods made with high fructose corn syrup.
  • Water: We want filtered, non-bottled water as a beverage option school-wide.
  • Sustainability: We want food that is sustainably sourced and minimally packaged as well as a reduction of individually wrapped and packaged foods.
In addition, we want transparency from LAUSD Food Services in menu choices and food selection and a willingness from the School Board and Food Services to go through the challenge of transition as healthier changes are implemented in LAUSD breakfasts and lunches.
They're meeting on Wednesday, August 18th and Tuesday August 31st. I plan on being at both meetings and helping as much as I can.
On Wednesday, August 18 at 6:30 PM at Manual Arts High School located at 4131 Vermont Avenue next to USC, all interested parties are invited to make their opinions known about LAUSD school food. Mud Baron, school garden guru and LAUSD’s Green Policy Director, will be co-facilitating with Laura Benevidez of LAUSD Food Services. This is the official listening session of the School Food Parent/Student/Teacher/Community Taskforce before the first LAUSD Board meeting of 2010-11 school year. Speakers will have the opportunity to hear & discuss options.

Then, on Tuesday, August 31 at 1:30 PM is the LAUSD school board meeting where school lunch and this halted Tyson contract will be discussed again. WE NEED A BIG SHOW of people to come and let the School Board meeting to let board members know we want them to start making healthier food a reality NOW! The meeting is held at the LAUSD School Board offices, located at 333 South Beaudry Ave in downtown Los Angeles, just north of the 110 freeway. Park in the Visconti parking lot on Miramar St. and get free parking for 2 hours!
If you're in LA and care about school food policy, you're invited. If you can't make it, I encourage you to sign the petition and join their mailing list: contact Jennie Cook at or Rebecca Crane at r.h.crane@gmail. And check them out on Facebook.

Preservation Link Roundup 8/17/10

Yes, Another Cooking Blog cans tomato halves for the Can Jam (Tomato halves for Can Jam-August). Why halves? Much less floating. Floating doesn't affect flavor, but isn't an aesthetically pleasing.

But that's not all - how about a basic tomato sauce? Basic Tomato Sauce for August Can Jam

Bread Experience makes a non-basic tomato sauce (Roasted Vegetable Pasta Sauce: Tigress Can Jam).

Plate to Plate goes through some tomato canning basics (Canning Tomatoes). For more advanced tomato canning you can check out this post from Well Preserved (A Guide to our best Tomato Preserving (Canning) Posts).

If you need more hands on information, how about a class from my fellow Master Food Preserver Delilah Snell and the famous Evan Kleinman? The class is $100 and takes place September 11th (Tomato Canning Class: Mucho Mas with Evan Kleinman). I'll be doing a demo on the 29th.

I talked about pesto and basil yesterday, and today Road to the Farm has a lovely photo of some pesto she has put in canning jars for freezing (Oh, Pesto!).

Simply Daily Recipes reviews one of the newer canning books, Put 'Em Up (Put 'Em Up Book Review). As a beginning canner, she liked it. I've got a copy myself and will provide my opinion when I have time to play with it a bit.

Speaking of new preserving books, Doris and Jilly Cook are doing a giveaway of another new one (Giveaway: The Fresh Girl's Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving).

And, speaking of giveaways, Food in Jars is giving away vanilla beans to three lucky winners, but everyone gets her recipe for peach sauce with vanilla - or follow the alternative directions to make peach butter (better than apple butter in my book) (White Peach Sauce with Vanilla (+ giveaway!)). There are some really great notes on acidification of white peaches, since they have borderline acidity.

Of course, vanilla is good, but why not some rum in that peach sauce? Local Kitchen makes a peach sauce with Kraken Rum (Pirate Peaches). Love the labels too. Wish she'd post the file.

Simply Recipes is on a frozen yogurt kick (Blackberry Frozen Yogurt). And why not? If you make yogurt on a regular basis (which you should) why not toss some of that yogurt (along with some flavorings and some sweetener) into an ice cream churn? It's a lot easier than making a French-style ice cream and the sweet/tart flavor is fantastic. Doesn't have to be dessert either, why not frozen yogurt as an intermezzo?

For more information on frozen yogurt, The Kitchn collects a number of recipes in an attempt at answering a question about making creamy frozen yogurt (How Do I Make Creamy, Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt at Home?).

Since I make my own kombucha at home I didn't realize that they've stopped carrying it many stores. The Kitchn asks whether you're getting your fix of kombucha now (The Great Kombucha Freakout: Are You Getting Your Fix?). My answer is yes, of course. Couldn't afford that store bought stuff in the first place. Even if I could, I'm not sure I'd want to pay so much for something that is simply tea and sugar and culture and some time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 8/16/10

Sometimes I'm so jealous of Georgia. Seems like nearly every high school there boasts a community canning center. How come we don't have any in Los Angeles? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that there will be tours of these canning centers (Georgia Organics Plans Special Tour on Canning).
The canneries, Croom said, are a unique public resource.

"We really want people to use them," said Croom, Georgia Organics' Farm to School program coordinator. "What can take eight hours in your kitchen can take two-and-a-half hours there; you can do huge amounts at once."
We need one of these centers in LA.

Doris and Jilly Cook answer a question about non-sealing jars of stock when pressure canning (Ask the Goats: Bad Seals in the Pressure Canner). There is some good advice on getting a firm seal, such as removing as much of the fat from the stock as possible. I like to chill my stock overnight in the refrigerator and remove the fat that has solidified on the top. It is easy to remove the fat in this way and I also get a better idea how fortified my stock is - does it seem just like a thick liquid or have I gotten a jelly-like flavor bomb?

And don't forget to save the fat. The fat from beef stock makes a nice frying medium, especially for potatoes. Or use it (instead of butter) to caramelize onions. Chicken fat is even better, I think, because what you now have is a flavorful schmaltz. I wouldn't make Matzah balls without it.

In any case, the main recommendation was to let the pressure canner cool down for at least an hour after turning off the heat. This is good advice for any pressure canning. Just be careful that with some models of canners, excessive cooling may create a vacuum seal making opening more difficult.

Speaking of pressure canning, Frugal Canning did what everyone with a pressure gauge canner should do every year: get that gauge checked (Pressure Canning Gauge Check). Unfortunately, we don't have a testing setup in LA County, but will see if we can't get that changed in the next couple of months. Of course, even if you don't need to get the gauge checked, don't forget to replace any rubber gaskets on an annual basis as well.

The Jam and Jelly Lady provides a little background on how she left office worker and became tJ&JL (My Journey to Becoming a Canning Mom).

Well Preserved is getting ready for some major tomato canning (The Tomatoes are Here – One of My Favourite Weeks of the Year). Sounds like a good time with family!
We`ve got our system down pretty good and the four of us can run through 6-8 bushels with a solid day of work. Even after 5+ years of doing this as a team we find there`s a few kinks that we can work out (last year we had 200 liters of sauce but no large pots left for the hot water bath) and will continue to learn from the process. One of the great joys has been learning to work as a team and having fun together with it. We now complete the entire task in less than half the time than what we took 5 years ago (with most of the same equipment).
The Kitchn laments that they haven't done enough preserving this summer (something I can relate to), but there is still plenty of time for tomatoes (Weekend Meditation: That Time of the Year ... or counting the jars in my pantry). Of course, while you are canning those tomatoes with friends or family, you might want to take a break for a refreshing beverage. Luckily, the Kitchn also provides a simple recipe for Ginger Ale, with bread yeast providing the fermentation for the bubbly (Try This! Easy Homemade Ginger Ale).

There is more to canning tomatoes than sauce and whole tomatoes, however. Mother's Kitchen makes a tomato salsa for the August Can Jam (Can Jam August: Salsa #5). This recipe features tomato paste and tomato sauce for a thicker consistency (Mother makes her own from scratch). Looks really good to me.

The Washington Post looks at whether you can make a good homemade ketchup with those excess tomatoes (Could Homemade Ketchup Beat Heinz?). It might seem that is an obvious win for homemade, but we expect certain things from out ketchups, and some homemade versions (including some I've made) just don't seem what we're used to. Good, yes, but not quite the ketchup you've grown up with. On the other hand, maybe we shouldn't expect so much consistency in our flavors. We're not five year olds afraid of everything different. So, let one thousand ketchups bloom. More later, but I will demoing homemade ketchup Aug. 29 at the Hollywood Farmers' Market.

Know Whey makes "spiced peaches," which I call "pickled peaches" (Spiced Peaches). This year I've made both pickled peaches and plums. Love 'em. So sweet and tart. Although it is wonderful to have these pickles in the winter or for Thanksgiving as Know Whey does, I really enjoy them in the summer as well. They go great with barbecue and taste like summer to me; they are very refreshing on a hot day.

Tartelette does something a little more traditional with her peaches, she makes several jams (French Word a Week - Confiture de Peche). What I particularly liked is that she varies the flavor with different spices and a bit of alcohol. Why not try the same with pickled peaches as well?

Putting By makes a favorite preserve of mine: Razzleberry Jam). Sometimes you don't have enough berries for a single berry jam, or you just like to add layers of flavor. Razzleberry jam it is then.

In My Kitchen provides some excellent lessons learned on storing fresh basil (Garden Journal 8/15/10: How to and, More Importantly, How Not to Store Fresh Basil). Of course, sometimes you have more fresh basil than you can use over a few days. Freezing is the best method of preserving basil, though you can dry it as well. You can chiffonade the basil and freeze it in ice cubes, freeze it on sheet trays and then bag it, chop it and mix with oil to freeze as a preliminary pesto, or freeze as an actual pesto (my favorite).

And feel free to play around with the pesto. Cold Cereal and Toast not only makes a nice mention of a recent report on food policy (Planting the Seeds for Public Health: How the Farm Bill Can Help Farmers to Produce and Distribute Healthy Foods) but describes making pesto from a CSA excess of basil - but without the traditional pinenuts, substituted peanuts (The Thing About Surplus: Easy Peanut Pesto).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm Back

I'm back.

It is a beautiful Sunday at the Hollywood Farmers' Market. There is so much to be excited about in the markets right now. I'll be here most Sundays for the near future to answer questions about food preservation.

And gardening - I am now a Master Gardener intern as well as a Master Food Preserver. So, as I resume this blog and my newsletter, you can expect to see a little bit more information about growing your own, or about the plants themselves.

For example, I just finished eating a beautiful fig, which are returning to the market after a brief absence from the Spring season. Figs have two seasons each year, the first season on last year's growth and the second season on the new growth branches. Something you find out when learning to prune fig trees.

As for preserving figs ... I haven't done any yet this year, but a nice thick fig spread and some fig cheese are something I'm planning on.

Looking forward to blogging again! Thanks!