Friday, August 3, 2012

Preserving the Summer Bounty-Food In Jars

The month of August (depending on the weather) often marks an incredibly bountiful time in our gardens and orchards.  The ancient Celts celebrated the this time of year with Lammas or Lughnasadh, also known as the "Feast of the First Fruits."  Here at the farm, the start of August marks the beginning of the delicious North Star Orchard Fruit CSA.  North Star is a staple at the West Chester Farmers Market and I highly recommend their delicious peaches, plums, apples and Asian pears (perhaps some FIG readers are already members and are now enjoy the first bag of delicious fruit).

As the tomatoes and peaches start piling up on our kitchen counters, I know many start contemplating ways to preserve these tastes of summer for the months ahead.  Food preservation can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to canning.  I used to shy away from canning especially when freezing was an option.  The glass, the hot water baths, and the potential for botulism all scared me.  That all changed when I discovered the informative and delicious Philly based food blog Food In Jars. Food in Jars is dedicated to the art of "putting up" food in jars, not all of it necessarily canned.  Blog creator Marisa McClellan often features granola, herb flavored salts, drink mixes, as well as frozen fruits,vegetables, stocks, etc...This concept of storing in glass has become doubling appealing as the dangers of plastic have started to emerge.   Check out this very timely post dedicated to preserving small tomatoes--as you can see the preservation techniques are quite varied--freezing, drying, roasting, canning and pickling.

In May of this year Marisa released her first book Food in Jars Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round. In June my sister ran into Marisa doing a demo and book signing at the Whole Foods in Philadelphia.  She brought the book back to the farm and immediately felt compelled to can something--beets where the produce of choice at that point.  Below are a series of photos from my sisters beet canning process (all photos by Hillary Murray).
The recipe of choice-Gingery Pickled Beets

Hot water bath, heating jars and lids

The ingredients of the Gingery Pickled Beet Recipe

The finished product
Marisa truly makes the art of food preservation easy.  All of her recipes are high-acid, thus eliminating the worry of botulism.  The great photos and step by step instructions takes the mystery out of canning. The recipe I am looking forward to trying is "Boozy Canned Peaches."  Marisa writes:  Canned peaches generally get a bad rap.  The ones you buy at the grocery store typically manage to be both flavorless and slightly metallic.  And often, home-canned peaches can look a little like a creature that has spent is life underwater.  The thing, is however homely, a ripe peach canned in a slightly sweet syrup is just wonderful, particularly in March or April, when stone fruit is sill months away.  Add a slug of bourbon to each jar and prepare to be transported.
So get yourself 6 pound of yellow peaches, 1 lemon, a little sugar, a bottle of bourbon and a copy of Food in Jars.  Happy canning. 

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