With a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables hitting gardens and farmers markets, now is the time to think of ways to preserve the taste of high summer for the colder seasons ahead.
Nothing beats pulling out a jar of great home-canned tomatoes in the middle of winter for a soup, or brightening a snowy morning with your own jelly on hot biscuits.
Canning and freezing are the most popular methods, and both are easy to get into. If you’re not sure you’re ready for the challenge of water-bath or pressure canning, try a batch of freezer or refrigerator jam. This kind of fruit preserve typically will keep for two months in the refrigerator and as long as a year in the freezer. Here are some new cookbooks that should help you get started.
America’s Test Kitchen
If you’re looking for great recipes and tips on how to can almost anything, try Foolproof Preserving, A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More from America’s Test Kitchen. The book has step-by-step instructions for several techniques.
The recipes are specifically for small batches and cover everything from fruit jam to onion jam, to pickles and relishes, and even mostarda and fermented items.
Classic strawberry and raspberry jams are in there, but so are variations, including raspberry-chocolate jam and peach-bourbon jam, which caught my eye because the authors recognized a common problem with peach-bourbon jam: not enough bourbon.
America’s Test Kitchen tinkered with the recipe to figure out the best point to add the bourbon to get the taste without the alcoholic harshness. And they upped it: “Trying varying amounts, we found that a whole cup of bourbon finally gave us the deep bourbon flavor we were after,” they wrote.
They also include a quick-and-easy recipe for pickle chips that doesn’t require any canning expertise. The recipe promises a crunchy pickle chip, a little like an old-fashioned bread-and-butter pickle, with a hint of sweetness and spice.
If you’re more adventurous, try the quick-pickled radishes, with the tang of lime that makes them perfect for topping tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas, or just in a salad.
A great item to make with all those tomatoes: ketchup. The America’s Test Kitchen book has a no-can recipe for chipotle ketchup that will give you two jars of complex tasty tomatoey goodness.
Ball, the canning bible
Another classic canning guidebook has been reissued: The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving has more than 350 recipes covering canning, freezing, fermenting, dehydrating and curing and smoking. Yes, you could make your own bacon and ham.
Long considered the “bible” of preserving, the Ball book covers great preserves and gives you recipes for what to do with them. You can make pickled peppers and onions and then use them on Cuban sandwiches. Both recipes are in the book.
If you’re looking to can your own tomato sauce, Ball gives you various seasoning blends beyond the basic Italian. (Curry tomato sauce sounds perfect in Indian dishes.)
And they include a recipe for one of my childhood favorites: tomato juice. Their version includes a red beet for extra sweetness, which is a bit of a new twist.
Another delicious-sounding option: Ball’s end-of-summer pasta sauce, a pressure-canning recipe that promises to put to good use all those tomatoes, peppers, green beans, corn and more.
Sharing your goodies
Friends and family are always glad to get canned goodies. But here’s another option that might expand your food universe: the food swap, a chance for sharing and trading your best stuff for somebody else’s creative cookery. A new book, Food Swap, Specialty Recipes for Bartering, Sharing & Giving, can get you started. It includes detailed information on this food trend sweeping the country, including how a swap works (no money changes hands) and what kinds of things to swap.
Author Emily Paster throws in a recipe for what she calls “the world’s best salted caramel sauce” that sounds so good it could start a riot.
There are also plenty of savory treats, too, including spicy green tomato salsa and a tomato jam that also promise to draw a crowd.
From Foolproof Preserving from America’s Test Kitchen
1/2 vanilla bean
1 pound ripe but firm yellow (not white) peaches, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces (3 cups)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup peeled and grated Granny Smith apple ( 1/2 apple)
1 cup bourbon
1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice
Place 2 small plates in freezer to chill. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using tip of paring knife, scrape out seeds. Stir vanilla bean and seeds, peaches, sugar, apple, bourbon and lemon juice together in large saucepan, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes.
Bring mixture to boil, stirring often, over medium-high heat. Once sugar is completely dissolved, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until peaches are softened, about 10 minutes.
Off heat, crush fruit with potato masher until mostly smooth. Return mixture to boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring and adjusting heat as needed, until mixture registers 217 to 220 degrees, about 6 minutes. (Temperature will be lower at higher elevations.) Remove pot from heat and discard vanilla bean.
To test consistency, place 1 teaspoon jam on chilled plate and freeze for 2 minutes. Drag your finger through jam on plate; jam has correct consistency when your finger leaves a distinct trail. If runny, return pot to heat and simmer for 1 to 3 minutes longer before retesting. Skim any foam from surface of jam using spoon.
Meanwhile, place two 1-cup jars in bowl and place under hot running water until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes; shake dry.
Using funnel and ladle, portion hot jam into hot jars. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until jam is set, 12 to 24 hours. (Jam can be refrigerated for 2 months.)
Prep time: 20 Minutes
Cooking time: 55 Minutes
Yields two 1-cup jars