Things I did well this month:

1) Be a Mommy
2) SCA
3) Keep one step ahead of the Vegetable Garden
4) Knit
5) Crochet

Things that did not go quite as well this month:

1) Updating Blog
2) Can Jam
3) Sleeping
4) Quest for world domination via chickens

I am afraid that canning this month took a back seat to other commitments (and a horrible new obsession called Ravelry). But I did squeeze in a little time for tigress’s can jam theme …erries. And luckily my mother came through with the ‘erries. She trucked down to the Atlanta State Farmer’s Market and picked up a metric butt tonne of strawberries. So many, in fact, that she was unable to process them all and gave a half a flat to me.

This made my choice of ‘errie quite easy because, hey, FREE!!! Now I love strawberries and I really didn’t feel like doing anything creative or fancy – I just wanted to taste Strawberries. So with a complete lack of creativity and originality I followed the instructions in the enclosure for the packages of Sure-Jel low Sugar Pectin.

Mostly.

And I got this:

Strawberry Jam on Ice Cream

Move over chocolate, now there's something 'errier!

Which, frankly, I couldn’t ask for more. I can now make my son’s ubiquitous PB&J’s with home-made jam. Totally HFCS free without a mortgage! And I will be on the lookout for Blackberry season to make some plain ole blackberry jam for the same nefarious purpose.

No recipe for today because I really did use the one in the Sur-Jel packet. The only thing I did slightly different is that I didn’t use a potato masher to “mash” the berries. Really, who does that? I tried it, I laid some berries out in a glass pan and took the masher to them – they laughed heartily at my efforts and I was all “That ain’t gonna fly” and chucked them into the food processor. Other than that, it was jam by the book, er, pamphlet, er, insert.

So in conclusion, strawberries are delicious enough to not need to be mucked about with – do you have anything that falls into that category for you?

ps: I hope that someone is seriously considering cucumbers for next month’s theme because I, um … over-planted a wee bit.

Frankly this has not been the best can jam month for me. Right off the bat, the theme(s) this month are not exactly my cup of tea. I appreciate that there was a choice – but for me it was a presidential election type choice. Which candidate do I dislike less, Asparagus or Rhubarb? I am not a huge vegetable fan and there are a lot of veggies that I just flat refuse to try for various reasons, but of the ones that I have tried asparagus is tied right up at the top with green beans for my most loathed vegetable. Rhubarb I have never actually tried.

But rhubarb usually hangs out with my main man strawberry – so it can’t be all bad can it? Here in the south there really isn’t a rhubarb “tradition”, it doesn’t particularly like our climate and has never really gained the “acquired taste we love from childhood” status that I believe it has in other areas of the country. Other colder, norther areas. Added to that I do not care for things that are sour – so rhubarb has never been on the top of my to try list. But again, it has to beat asparagus.

3 Farmer’s Markets and 2 grocery stores later I determine, as did Bread Making Blog Lady, that rhubarb season here in Atlanta was last month. So I bit the bullet and went to the freezer section.

Bag of frozen rhubarb

Oh the SHAME!

I was ahead of the game. I had all of my ingredients ready to go and was going to can yesterday, but alas – this month’s can jam curse was upon me. Instead of a fun day canning with my mother (who brought me a whole flat of strawberries) we spent the first part of the day tracking down the horrid stench in my kitchen. Once we located the source we spent the rest of the day removing, disposing of and cleaning up after the DEAD RAT that had decided the space under my sink cabinet was a great place to shuffle of the mortal coil!

Which leaves me, once again, sneaking in under the wire.  There will be pictures after the mandatory 24 hour no touchie waiting period. Until then, y’all just have to be happy with the recipe. Took a picture – but really, not terribly exciting. I like shooting clear/semi-clear jams better.

Reluctant Rhubarb Chutney: ganked from tigress herself and a recipe over at Country Living

The Hardware: nothing special, check out the canning thing for equipment – this makes four 1/2 pints.

The Software:
1 lb frozen rhubarb (4 C)
2 C Brown Sugar
1 C Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 C Chopped Onion
1/2 t each ground Coriander and ground Ginger
1/2 t each ground Mustard and Salt
1/3 C each chopped dried Cherries and Apricots
2 T chopped fresh Cilantro

Combine sugar, vinegar and spices in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rhubarb and gently heat until it is no longer frozen. Add dried fruit and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes – stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and stir in cilantro.

Proceed to canning process – 1/2 inch head space. Boiling water bath for 30 minutes sea level, adjust time for your altitude.

Rhubarb Chutney on the Deck

Rhubarb al Fresco

In Conclusion:

I have no idea how this tastes. I wouldn’t even know what to eat it with, maybe pork? I have a feeling it will sit in my cabinet until I find some unsuspecting victim to foist it off upon. Or maybe I can con my hubby into eating it, I don’t know. I have a friend who is really into Indian food, maybe she will want it?

Hey, if you think this sounds good – and you promise to give me feedback maybe I can foist it off on you? Drop me a line if you got the cojones.

Also known as Confetti Jelly in my house. Why? Because I can only write so much on the top of a canning jar lid. It is a quite tasty version of the traditional pepper jelly which has had onions and garlic added to the mix.

Garlic, Onion and Pepper Jelly

A different angle on Pepper Jelly

I decided to start a category of “Using It” because after you have put up jar after jar of various food stuffs – at some point  you need to consume them. There are always obvious ways of eating things: tomato sauce into spaghetti, jelly on toast, salsa on chips yadda, yadda, yadda … But sometimes you get bored.

And sometimes you are sick of the same-ole, same-ole.

And sometimes you run out of blackberry jam.

Then you start thinking to yourself – I have an entire shelf in my cabinet with various jams and jellies. You consider the peach, fig and orange-thyme-coriander. And then you have a crazy thought – Thai peanut sauce. Thai peanut sauce has peanuts, garlic, onions and peppers in it, the flavors meld well.

I know, crazy. But I am willing to throw myself off this particular cliff for y’all.

Peanut Butter and Pepper Jelly Sandwich

Just to prove I did it!

You know what? It was delicious. It was a savory PB&J with a little spicy kick in every other bite. It was an adult PB&J. I let my husband have a bite just to make sure that I wasn’t completely crazy. He was quite skeptical, but with one bite I won him over. I don’t know if I will be able to go back to regular jelly. Luckily I have about 4 more pints of this stuff.

Peanut Butter & Pepper Jelly Sandwich

I tried to take an interesting picture of it, really I did.

This delicious jelly is not a creation of my own, but from a recipe I found on the GardenWeb forums when I had two sacks full of banana peppers in my ‘fridge. Luckily GardenWeb has a wonderful archive and you can find it for yourself: Gina’s Onion, Garlic & Pepper Jelly. I personally used a combination of Banana Peppers and Jalapeno’s for the 1 1/2 C of chopped peppers. Another substitution I made was using red onions.

The jar of jelly that my hubster had opened was labeled “mild” which meant that there was 1/4 C of jalapenos in the mix. You can up the spicy pepper quotient to your heart’s desire. In the original post Gina suggests using the jelly as a glaze when roasting chicken and I must tell you that works great as does glazing pork loin. I canned it in pints – but in retrospect should have done 1/2 pints so that it was easier to give some away. Somehow only having 6 pints made me stingy, where if I had 12  1/2 pints I would have distributed them like mad.

Do y’all have any other ideas what I could do with this jelly?

There has been quite a bit of canning going on around here if you hadn’t noticed, and we have been consuming the canned products. Because that is why we can correct? One of the challenges with canning is that the product is sealed away and it is tough to know if it went well. There is the urge to crack it right back open to see how it turned out, but then there is an equal but oppisite urge to let it sit in the cupboard for as long as possible – because that is the whole point of canning right?

Quite the conundrum.

But we have been eating, and I want to share my thoughts on my results. First off, the citrus fest! The Orange Coriander and Thyme Jelly is delicious, but putting the sprig of thyme in there turned out to be kinda annoying. Sure it looked nice, but it is woody and you just have to pick it out. Next time I will stick with leaves and skip the sticks. And the Kiwi Lemon Marmalade – verrah tasty. Wouldn’t change a thing.

The Thai Basil Pickled Carrots were a big hit – for both of the people who sampled them. I know that a critique of only 2 people isn’t that great, but they each ate an entire jar. I only had 2 jars so I wasn’t able to get any additional opinions. Both tasters said that the carrots had a nice heat to them, but not so much that they were “fiery”. The hubby liked pulling out 3 or 4 and put them on his plate next to his lunchtime sandwich. He ate them straight like a side-dish. He has an order if for me to make more – I am debating trying different sizes and shapes. Spears are one possibility, but I have been thinking about using shredded carrots and making a hot slaw. The possibilities are manifold.

And finally, the B&B Pickled Onions.  It is really nice when something comes out exactly as envisioned.  They work beautifully as a sandwich topper and I cannot wait until grill season gets fire up and we can try them on hot-dogs and hamburgers.  Unlike the cucumber version, with these little puppies a little goes a long way. Next time I make them I believe I will pack and process them in 1/2 pints instead of full pints. You can get so many more onions in a jar when you don’t have those awkwardly shaped cucumbers to wrastle with.

So, there’s the skinny on some canning results. My big problem now is to figure out what to do for this month’s can jam. Citrus and Alliums inspired me, carrots challenged me – but in a good way. This month, well this month we have the choice between a vegetable that I categorically despise and a fruit that I loathe only slightly less than the vegetable. It really isn’t looking good for me.

You know how when you need to juice citrus it is recommended that you microwave it briefly so that you can extract more juice?

When utilizing this technique on Limes, 45 seconds is too long.

Just a little tip I learned today, don’t ask me how.

For this month’s can jam the theme is Herbs! tigress and the awesome food in jars lady picked this out for us, and yet again it is a challenge. Challenge narrowing down the choices that is. I adore herbs, I would be hard pressed to select my favorite, but my favorite(s) usually involve tomato sauce, it is the Italian in me that screams for the red. And it is so not tomato season yet – so I will have to wait.

Once again I find myself turning to my hubster for inspiration. Out of nowhere I ask him “What’s your favorite herb?”. Accustomed to these sort of non sequiturs  from me he takes it in stride. After some thought he says “Mint”.

Spring is Green, Green is Spring!

Mint it is!

I went through a phase last fall where I was obsessed with the idea of herb jellies. Where most canning recipes are adamant about following them exactly or oh my GOD you are going to kill your friends and family with the BOTULISM and they will put you in canning JAIL, the herb jelly recipes actually encourage playing a little fast and loose with the ingredients.

Woo Hoo.

And what encourages more fastness and looseness than RUM*?

Mojito Jelly: adapted from Herb Jelly recipe in the Complete Book of Small-batch Preserving

The Hardware: see The Canning Thing, makes 4 half pints with a little left over – so if you have a 1/4 pint jar it would be a good thing, strainer & coffee filter.

The Software:
3/4 C Water
1/2 C Light Rum
Bunch of Fresh Mint
3 1/2 C Sugar (I think I might have goofed up here but more on that later)
1 C Fresh Squoozed Lime Juice (10 limes – which weighed in @ 2 lbs total weight)
2 T Lemon Juice
1 T Additional Rum
1 Pouch Liquid Pectin

Combine3/4 C water with 1/2 C rum in a large saucepan. Add in mint. The original recipe called for 2 T of mint – and really who the heck are they kidding? I bought a big bunch and pulled the leaves off and threw them in the pot until it looked like enough. And for me “enough” was so that I pretty much couldn’t see the liquid any more, I figure it was probably a loosely packed 1/2 C or tightly packed 1/4 C. Put in enough to get your mojo working.

Bring to a boil and then turn the heat off. Cover and allow to steep for awhile. The original recipe said 5 minutes – I am guessing I gave it 20. Put your strainer over a liquid measure and line with your coffee filter, pour in mixture and allow to drain. Pick up the filter and squeeze gently to get all of the liquid out and discard the filter. Measure out 1 C of the mint infused liquid and put in a large non-reactive cooking pot on the stove.

I am going to assume that you already squoozed your limes – I nuked mine for 30 seconds to get more juice out of them. Add all of the other ingredients except the liquid pectin to the pot and crank up the heat. Stir pretty much constantly until you reach a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. That is totally “jamming” speak and what it means is the stuff is going to foam up like boiling lava and unless you stir it like the bejeebus it is going to overflow your pot and turn your range into a disaster area. That is why you need a big pot. Way bigger than you ever think you could possibly need.

Once you have reached the “full rolling boil” dump in the entire pack of liquid pectin. If you haven’t used liquid pectin before – here is a trick. Have a short glass that the pouch fits in sitting beside the stove. Cut the top all the way off before you get started and set it in the glass so it doesn’t tump over. Now you can just pick it up and squeeze it in without fiddling with anything because hey, molten lava sugar is not the time go dinking around with your pectin packet. The pectin will knock back your boil, but keep on stirring – it will revive shortly and shut down European air space.

Once you have regained FRB set a timer for 1 minute and maintain FRB while stirring for 1 full minute. Then turn off the heat. Do the canning thing and fill your jars with the goodness. Leave 1/4 inch headspace and BWB for 10 minutes – adjusted for your altitude. It takes 15 at my house, your house may vary.

The Good, the Bad and the … there was no Ugly I guess

I am pretty sure I left out 1/2 C of sugar in my measuring. I was lazy and measured directly into the pot, which is like measuring salt over your mixing bowl while baking. DON’T DO IT, IT’S STUPID! I think I lost count and missed a 1/2 cup somewheres. We will see how well the jellies set and that might let me know. The thing that makes me really think I whoopsed it is that I ended up with 4 half pints plus about 3/8 of an inch in a 5th jar. The recipe said it would make 4 half pints and a quarter pint – and this book is usually spot on the mark with quantities.

Regardless of the renegade sugar, since I had the small amount left I was able to taste the jelly straight away. And it was tasty, refreshing even. I think the rum played a background part and the balance of the mint and lime is really nice. When I make this again I might swap the quantities of water and rum and see what happens (btw, I checked and rum has a ph level considerably lower than water so I didn’t hose anything with the substitution), it might even be possible to leave the water out altogether. But I am not sure that would be a good idea – who knows? After I finished canning I took the leftover jar down to the hubster with a little tasting spoon, he said he liked it. I had to run out the door and pick up my little man from pre-school and when I returned the leftover jar was in the sink with the spoon – empty. Which I will take to imply he wasn’t lying. He ate it all, with a spoon.

For full disclosure – I am not much of a drinker and have never tasted a Mojito. I have no idea if this jelly tastes anything like a Mojito – one of you boozers will have try it and tell me how they compare. So, do you have a favorite cocktail that we could jellyfy?

*Arguably one could say Tequilia, but we do not keep that in the house.

This theme got me all riled up when it was revealed. Allium is  one of my favorite food families – I love most every member of the clan. The possibilities stretched out before me as an endless plain. Why then am I posting just under the wire?

I was stuck in bad thinking.

Brainstorming, I kept trying to come up with something special. Trying to second guess what other can jammers might be doing. Attempting to come up with something that would really wow everyone. Then I realized how monumentally stupid I was being.

That isn’t what can jam is about.

Can Jam is about learning. About challenging ourselves to simply get into the kitchen once a month and can something. About devoting this time to our kitchens, our blogs and therefore ourselves. Once I figured this out I knew what I was going to make. Something that would be a valuable addition to my pantry. Something that I would actually EAT.

There is no actual relevance of the towel

My husband and I love my mother’s Bread & Butter Pickles. But one of the observations we invariably make to one another as we are fishing the golden little coins out of the jar is that we like the onions in there as much if not more than the cucumbers. And then I tell my Hubby that some day I will make a batch with no Cucumbers at all.

Today was that day!

Garlicky Bread & Butter Onion Pickles

The Hardware: canning stuff, this makes 4 pints of pickles – so get your jars on!

The Software:
16 C Sliced onions (’bout 1/4 in thick)
1/4 C Coarse Salt
4 C Ice
7 Cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
2 1/2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
2 1/2 C Sugar
3/4 t Tumeric
1/2 t Celery Seeds
1 T Mustard Seeds

Combine Onions, Salt and Ice in a large bowl; or you could simply use the non-reactive cooking vessel that you will eventually cook the pickle in, your choice really. Simply ask yourself how many dishes you want to wash? Stir well and then cover and weight down. If you are like me this will involve dirtying half of the plates in your kitchen trying to find one that fits down in your pot. That time you saved not dirtying that bowl? Wasted. I used a giant can of pumpkin for weight – because I stocked up during the great Pumpkin Shortage Scare of ’09.

Allow the sqooshed onions to sit for 3 hours and then drain well. Pick out any remaining pieces of ice. DO NOT RINSE.

Combine everything else in the dirty pot and stir together. Add onions back into pot. On medium heat, bring almost to a boil – stirring frequently. And by almost to a boil I mean until you start to get all of those simmery bubbles coming up around the edges but not the middle. Of course you are gonna have to stop stirring to see this happen – so don’t stir too much.

Turn off heat and use a slotted spoon to pack the onions into your hot canning jars. You are gonna have to moosh the onions down lightly and then ladle the pickling brine into the jars up to about 1/2 inch head-space. Use a chopstick to poke around the edges and center to make sure you get all the bubbles out and top off with more brine if necessary.

Boiling Water Bath for 25 minutes for 1K altitude. Adjust for your height!

Conclusion:

For only the second time in my canning career (of almost a year now woo hoo!) I had a jar fail to seal. I don’t think I left enough head-room, which is why I said 1/2 inch. I left 1/4 inch and I don’t think that was enough.

My hubby was very consoling. He said that we will just have to put them in the ‘fridge and eat them sooner rather than later. He was willing to make that sacrifice for me and I am appreciative. Of course he made this offer as he was fishing out the straggler onions from the brine with chopsticks and stuffing them in his face.

I cannot wait to eat these on Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Pastrami Sandwiches … can you think of anything else I can put them on?

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