Overloaded From Your Garden? Just Can It

Canning — the source of jams, pickles and relishes that can seem tied to the last century — is on the upswing. There is a debate whether the trend stems from the tight economy or the local food movement, but its fans say the results are delicious.

  • Cathy Barrow's crushed tomatoes. "I've learned over the years that to take a jar of your own homemade anything to a house as a hostess gift is much more appreciated than even a bottle of wine," she says.
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    Cathy Barrow's crushed tomatoes. "I've learned over the years that to take a jar of your own homemade anything to a house as a hostess gift is much more appreciated than even a bottle of wine," she says.
  • Barrow's fig confiture recipe includes only figs, fresh thyme, lemons and honey.  "Confiture" is a French style of jam-making in which  the fruit sits very loose in a honey syrup, she says.
    Hide caption
    Barrow's fig confiture recipe includes only figs, fresh thyme, lemons and honey. "Confiture" is a French style of jam-making in which the fruit sits very loose in a honey syrup, she says.
  • Peach salsa (center left) and fig confiture cook while the canner sits nearby, ready for sealing them in jars. Though Barrow uses a pressure canner for her home canning, she teaches her classes using the boiling water bath method.
    Hide caption
    Peach salsa (center left) and fig confiture cook while the canner sits nearby, ready for sealing them in jars. Though Barrow uses a pressure canner for her home canning, she teaches her classes using the boiling water bath method.
  • The sliced figs and lemons make for a colorful pot as they cook down — and they'll also look good in a jar, Barrow says.
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    The sliced figs and lemons make for a colorful pot as they cook down — and they'll also look good in a jar, Barrow says.
  • A jar of pickled green tomatoes. "A lot of times, I'll just make one jar," Barrow says. Anyone heading out of town, she says, can take a ripe vegetable, "cut it up, put it in a jar, pour some brine over it and put it in the refrigerator."
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    A jar of pickled green tomatoes. "A lot of times, I'll just make one jar," Barrow says. Anyone heading out of town, she says, can take a ripe vegetable, "cut it up, put it in a jar, pour some brine over it and put it in the refrigerator."
  • Barrow uses a jar lifter on a batch of her peach salsa. "People now start putting their orders in for Christmas," Barrow says. "You know, you think, 'Oh, I'll just give people a few jars of jam.' And I hear, 'I really like that salsa!'"
    Hide caption
    Barrow uses a jar lifter on a batch of her peach salsa. "People now start putting their orders in for Christmas," Barrow says. "You know, you think, 'Oh, I'll just give people a few jars of jam.' And I hear, 'I really like that salsa!'"
  • Fig confiture can make a snack into something special. "I think it's wonderful with cheese, it's great stirred into yogurt — and sometimes it's just good on a spoon," Barrow says.
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    Fig confiture can make a snack into something special. "I think it's wonderful with cheese, it's great stirred into yogurt — and sometimes it's just good on a spoon," Barrow says.
  • After a full morning of canning, there's plenty of cleaning to be done. "I don't worry too much," Barrow says. "Fortunately, my husband's really good at cleaning the kitchen!"
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    After a full morning of canning, there's plenty of cleaning to be done. "I don't worry too much," Barrow says. "Fortunately, my husband's really good at cleaning the kitchen!"

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Food blogger Cathy Barrow says she cans to enjoy fresh and local food through the winter, and into the next growing season.

"I guess it was four or five years ago, I started going to farmers markets five times a week," Barrow tells Linda Wertheimer. "And I get enamored of the food, I can't help myself. And there are only two of us, but I come home with enough for eight — so I had to learn to do something with it."

The idea of canning 20 pounds of vegetables may seem like a daunting task, but Barrow insists that it's easy to learn. To spread the gospel, she teaches canning classes and blogs about it on her Web site, Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen.

"I want to dispel the notion that it's hard and takes a lot of time to can," she says.

Food blogger Cathy Barrow says she started canning a few years ago. i i

hide captionCanning is a great way to enjoy local produce from the farmer's market year-round, says food blogger Cathy Barrow.

Courtesy of Cathy Barrow
Food blogger Cathy Barrow says she started canning a few years ago.

Canning is a great way to enjoy local produce from the farmer's market year-round, says food blogger Cathy Barrow.

Courtesy of Cathy Barrow

It may not take time, but it does take tools — most of it from the hardware store, and not very expensive: a case of jars, which comes with lids that seal. Barrow boils the lids and rings in a saucepan, and runs the jars through a cycle in the dishwasher to sterilize them.

In addition to cookbooks and recipes, Barrow collects canning equipment. Her favorite tool, she says, is a magnetic lifter, to get lids and rings out of hot water. "It was 99 cents and it stopped me from burning my fingers, so that was a good move," Barrow says.

And then there's the sound that every home canner loves to hear — the little thunk that tells you the lid is airtight, and a morning of hard work has ended with delicious food safely sealed.

"The music of the jars!" Barrow says.

Cathy Barrow shares recipes for Peach Salsa, Pickled Green Tomatoes, Fig Confiture, and Crushed Tomatoes.

Spicy Peach Salsa

This spicy, fruity salsa is wonderful served alongside scrambled eggs, as a dip for tortilla chips or garnishing a quesadilla. Use firm, ripe peaches for a salsa both sweet and tart.

Ingredients

6 cups peaches, peeled and diced

1 1/4 cups red onion, chopped 

1-2 jalapeno peppers, chopped — two jalapenos with ribs and seeds makes a very hot salsa

1 cup sweet red pepper, chopped — my preference is Jimmy Nardello

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, loosely packed 

3/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons honey 

2 teaspoons cumin 

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Instructions

In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the peaches for 30-60 seconds, depending on the size of the fruit. Remove to a large bowl of ice water. Slip the peels from the peaches, then remove the pit, and dice.  Continue until you have six cups of diced fruit. Add to a 5 quart nonreactive stockpot. Add the vinegar, honey and spices and stir gently. The vinegar will keep the fruit from discoloring.

Chop the red onion, peppers, garlic and cilantro in a food processor, or by hand, so that the pieces of onion and pepper are no larger than the pieces of peach. Add to the stockpot.

Bring the salsa to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring gently so the peaches do not break down.

Pack into hot pint jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Makes about 4 pints.

Fig, Lemon And Thyme Confiture

This jam was inspired by Christine Ferber’s wonderful book Mes Confitures and came about when a friend dropped off pounds of fresh figs from her tree. My herb garden was overflowing with thyme and I had a jar of exquisite local honey, gathered in the spring and scented with apple and cherry blossoms.

The lemons, cut very thin, candy in the honey syrup and add a brightness to this beautiful purply confiture. Serve alongside cheese — anything from a young fromage blanc to a well-aged cheese, like Stonyman Farmer’s Grayson Reserve. For an exquisite treat, slather in a grilled cheese sandwich with a ripe fontina.

Ingredients

4 pounds fresh figs — brown rurkey are a particularly pretty variety

3 small organic lemons

1 cup light honey

3 cups sugar

6-10 sprigs of thyme, washed and tied together

Instructions

Place the figs in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 10 minutes, then drain and place in a 5 quart preserving or other nonreactive pan.

Wash the lemons well, then slice them paper thin with a mandoline or a very sharp knife, removing the seeds carefully. Add the lemons to the figs, along with the honey, sugar and thyme.

Bring the jam up to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour off into a glass or ceramic bowl, cover with parchment and allow the flavors to develop overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, put the jam back into the preserving pan and bring to a full boil — what the canning books call “a boil that you can’t stir down” — and boil hard for 5 minutes.

I choose to keep this confiture very loose, but if you prefer a firmer jam, add one packet of liquid pectin at this point and bring the mixture back to a hard boil for 1 minute.

Pour hot jam into hot sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Makes 12 4-ounce jars.

Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed tomatoes are the most useful item in my pantry. Where I used to buy commercially canned tomatoes regularly, I now have pints and quarts of my own canned tomatoes available for soups, stews, casseroles and sauces. Having some of each size means less waste.

Ingredients

25 pounds of tomatoes

Bottled lemon juice

Kosher salt

Sterilized jars, lids and rings

I usually process about 25 pounds of tomatoes at a time, resulting in 6 or 7 quarts (or 12-14 pints) of tomatoes. Even our small household uses 30 or more quarts of tomatoes over the winter.

Instructions

Dip the tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then plunge into a large bowl filled with ice water. (I use my sink or a cooler.)

Once all the tomatoes have been blanched, begin peeling and crushing them. Cut out the core and any soft spots, then cut an X in the base of the tomato and slip off the peel.

Squeeze the tomato in your hands, releasing the juice and most of the seeds, then either chop further, or just place the crushed pulp in a deep nonreactive stockpot. Continue to peel and crush until all the tomatoes are in the stockpot.

Bring the tomatoes to a hard boil and boil well for 5 minutes.

Put 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt in each quart jar. (Use 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt for each pint.)

Fill the jar, leaving half an inch of head space. Wipe the rims, place the lid and ring, and finger tighten.

Process in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes (quarts) or 40 minutes (pints.)

Turn off the stove, allow the jars to rest in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then remove them to the counter, where they should remain, undisturbed, for 24 hours.

After a day, test the seals, wipe the jars clean, and store in a cool, dry place for up to one year.

Makes 6-7 quarts of tomatoes.

Pickled Green Tomatoes (Tomolives)

This basic quick recipe can be used to pickle any vegetable. Adjust the seasonings by using other seeds — cumin, fennel, brown mustard, allspice, dill, juniper berries — and altering other flavors — ginger instead of garlic, cinnamon stick. Also try varying the vinegar used; cider, white wine, red wine all provide different flavor profiles absorbed by the tomatoes.

Try pickling jalapenos for a snappy addition to a burrito, bahn mi sandwich or black beans and rice. This is a very flexible recipe inspired by Michael Ruhlman, Michael Symon and David Lebovitz.

Ingredients

4-6 green tomatoes or 2 pints green cherry tomatoes

2 1/2 cups water

2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons sugar

4 peeled garlic cloves, left whole

4 small red cayenne or other chili peppers, optional

4 tablespoons yellow mustard seed

4 tablespoons coriander seed

4 tablespoons black peppercorns

4 bay leaves

Instructions

Wash the tomatoes well.

If using cherry tomatoes, prick each tomato once with a sharp knife, to ensure the brine gets all the way inside. (If pickling jalapenos, make three or four small slits.)

If using large green tomatoes, cut into quarters or sixths.

Pack the tomatoes tightly into sterilized pint or quart jars.

Heat the water, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt and sugar to the boiling point, then boil for 5 minutes.

Into each pint jar, add one chile, if using, and 1 tablespoon each of the seeds and peppercorns. Add one bay leaf to each pint jar. (Double the quantities for quarts.)

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, tuck in the garlic cloves, cover the jars, and cool on the counter.

Refrigerate for a week, at which point, your pickles are ready to be consumed.

Makes 4 pints or 2 quarts.

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