When produce is at its peak in the summer, why not preserve the flavor and stretch out the time a little on the season’s goodness? But what do you do with those abundant fruits and vegetables?
A lot of people love homemade put-up goods but are too intimidated by the procedure to can them by the traditional water-bath method. I, too, love to stock up goodies, but like many of you I’m too crunched on time.
Though I love to can jams, preserves and chutneys, a lot of time I will make things that I can dry, freeze or refrigerate. Refrigerated items may not last as long as something processed but you can still enjoy the fruits of your labor for at least a couple of months past the season. At work we do mass-production jamming—making a few hundred jars in a day—but at home often it’s just easier for preserves, jams, purees and fruit syrups to be frozen and pickled goods refrigerated.
I also love to dry things. Years ago, I started playing around with flavored sugars, such as the recipe for Fragrant Rose Sugar. I’ve always had old rose varieties in our yard, which we never spray. No, they aren’t the most perfect roses—but do they ever smell beautiful, rich, sweet and perfumey… and TASTE luscious! So I tried drying the petals in sugar then blending the mixture to an aromatic powdered sugar. Wow! It worked like a charm and the sugar tastes heavenly sprinkled on fresh berries or, in the winter when you need a bit of summer, put in sugar cookies that call for powdered sugar. I also love to make fragrant sugar with lavender, lemon verbena and rosemary (All pretty tasty in cocktails or to rim glasses with!).
You can also use this method with fresh herbs and salt. Try making a basil and thyme salt, or how about one with thinly sliced, tiny fresh hot peppers and a bit of oregano for a spicy Mexican version.
And the best part is … flavored sugars and salts don’t even heat up the kitchen!
Fruit vinegars are also super-easy to make, and they last for a LONG time. The Berry Delicious Vinegar—sweet ripe berries infused in white wine vinegar—makes the most beautiful vinaigrette. Just whisk together 1 part vinegar to 3 parts light olive oil, add a little finely chopped shallot and some salt and pepper, and there you have it—the perfect foil for tender garden greens.
My recipe for quick and easy, slightly hot, Sweet, Sour & Spicy Melon Balls—with their hint of mint and basil—pairs with some thinly sliced prosciutto and a great loaf of bread. Presto! A nice light supper or d’lish appetizer for a hot day.
And who doesn’t love homemade pickles? My recipe for Quick Summer Garden Pickles is fast and easy. Clean, quart jars are packed with a mixture of vegetables, then a brine is boiled and quickly poured into the veggie-packed jars. Just quickly screw on the lid, let sit until cooled to room temperature then refrigerate. In just two days you have delicious pickles to bring to a picnic or enjoy at a backyard BBQ. The only tears you will shed when making these are the ones that may form if you get too big a whiff of the boiling vinegar brine. Be forewarned: the pungent, wafting aroma may cause the neighbors to come begging for some of your pickles.
And, no, I didn’t forget about jam. I’ll be writing a whole story on that, but I did whip up a recipe for no-peel Spiced Nectarine Jam. Made with a bit of brown sugar, cinnamon and allspice, this is great on morning toast or bagels. You can even toss it with a few fresh, sliced peaches, nectarines or cherries, add a dash of dark rum and serve over vanilla ice cream for a quickie dessert.
So try to take a little time to preserve the flavors of summer. It’s not that hard … you’ll be glad you did when the skies turn gray.
© Kathy Casey – blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey
Follow me on Twitter @kathycaseychef
For a great book to help you get started, check out Canning & Preserving Your Own Harvest: An Encyclopedia of Country Living Guide by Carla Emery & Lorene Edwards Forkner, Sasquatch Books.
QUICK SUMMER GARDEN PICKLES
Makes 4 quarts
These quick and easy refrigerator pickles are a great way to use up your garden’s bounty. Cauliflower is also a tasty addition.
7 cups (about 2 lb.) 3/4″-sliced pickling cucumbers
2 1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) 1/2″-thick-slant-cut carrots
2 medium jalapeño peppers, sliced in rings
1 1/2 cups (6 oz. wt.) 1 1/2″ chunks yellow or white onion
1 1/2 cups (6 oz. wt.) 1 1/2″ chunks red onion
2 cups (8 oz. wt.) 1″ chunks red bell peppers (substitute some hot peppers or some of your other favorite peppers if desired)
2 cups (3/4 lb.) 1/2″- to 3/4″-sliced yellow zucchini or yellow squash
2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups water
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons pickling spice
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Place all vegetables in a large bowl and toss together to mix colors. Divide vegetables among four clean, regular-mouth, 1-quart canning jars, packing vegetables in tight. Set jars on a dish towel in a draft-free place in the kitchen.
Place the pickling brine ingredients in a non-aluminum saucepan over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil and then immediately ladle pickling brine into filled jars, filling to 1/2″ from the top. Be sure to cover the vegetables with liquid and distribute spices evenly. Using a nonmetallic tool, such as a wooden chopstick, quickly but carefully release air bubbles, then add more brine if needed. Wipe the jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Immediately cover jar with lid and tighten. Let cool to room temperature, about 1 – 2 hours, then refrigerate. Let pickle for at least 2 days before eating. Pickles will last for up to 2 months, refrigerated. © Kathy Casey – blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey
SWEET, SOUR & SPICY MELON BALLS
Makes 3 pints
These are great with prosciutto, pates or grilled meats or poultry. Also excellent as an accompaniment to spicy Indian food or vegetarian curry dishes.
3 cups cantaloupe balls or other orange-fleshed melons (see Chef’s Notes)
3 cups honeydew melon balls
3 large sprigs fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Toss melon balls together. Fill three 1-pint, wide-mouth jars with the melon balls, tucking a basil sprig into each jar.
In a non-aluminum saucepan, combine all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
When mixture is cool, evenly pour over the jars of melon balls, filling to top and being sure to cover the fruit completely. Using a nonmetallic tool, such as a wooden chopstick, carefully release air bubbles, then add more liquid if needed. Wipe the jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with lids and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. The melon balls will keep for about 2 – 3 weeks, refrigerated.
Chef’s Notes: Use ripe but firm melons. To make melon balls: Cut melon in half and scoop out seeds. With a melon-ball gadget, scoop out balls. (I use a large-size baller.) © Kathy Casey – blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey
BERRY DELICIOUS VINEGAR
Makes about 3 cups
Vinegar will keep about 1 year at room temperature, or you can store it refrigerated if you want the color to stay red longer. If stored at room temperature, the red color will “brown out” a bit—but the flavor will still be d’lish. You can also use other seasonal fruits with this recipe and/or add herbs or spices. The sugar and salt can be omitted for just a straight fruit vinegar. Some flavor combinations that I have enjoyed are peach-tarragon, cherry-star anise (you don’t need to pit the cherries, just squish them) and pear-cardamom.
1 1/2 cups marionberries, blackberries or raspberries (or use a combination of any fresh berries)
3 cups white wine vinegar or white distilled vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Place berries in a stainless steel bowl or pot or a glass cooking pot. Give them a little mash to break them up slightly with a potato masher. (Or you can make the recipe in large glass canning jars that will take the heat.)
In a stainless steel saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar and salt until just boiling. Remove from heat and pour over berries.
Let cool. Cover and allow to stand for at least 48 hours unrefrigerated or up to 7 days in refrigerator. Then strain through a cheesecloth or coffee filter-lined strainer. (If straining through coffee filters, strain first through a mesh strainer then through the coffee filter-lined strainer.) With a ladle or wooden spoon, lightly push through any extra juice. Discard the solids. Bring strained vinegar to a boil again and then fill clean wine bottles or decorative bottles with HOT vinegar. Cap and cool.
Chef’s Notes: This recipe can be multiplied several times. © Kathy Casey – blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey
FRAGRANT ROSE SUGAR
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 cup tightly packed UNSPRAYED fragrant rose petals
1 1/2 cups sugar
A few drops rose water (optional)
In a large glass baking pan (13”x9”) or large bowl, mix together the sugar and rose petals. Cover bowl half-way with plastic wrap. Let sit in a dry place for 2 days, stirring every day. Then toss, remove plastic, cover with paper towels, and let sit for about 4 – 5 more days or until petals and sugar are dry, stirring every day or so. If sugar has stuck to bottom of bowl, gently tap bowl on counter to loosen.
In a blender or very clean-of-smells coffee grinder or food processor, process petals and sugar in small batches till sugar is powdered and no bits or lumps remain. (If using a blender, process the sugar in about 3 batches. If sugar has a hard time getting going in blender, shake blender cup with lid on and blend on high. You may need to shake it a couple of times before it gets going.)
Place sugar in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep in a cool dry place for up to a year. This is a lovely gift to package in smaller jars with beautiful handmade labels.
Chef’s Notes: This sugar is delicious sprinkled on fresh berries, or used in shortbread cookies that call for powdered sugar. It is also terrific in homemade lemonade. Be sure to use unsprayed rose petals. © Kathy Casey – blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey
Makes 1 cup
2 – 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup superfine or baker’s sugar
Mix the rosemary and sugar together, and spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet. Set in a warm dry place for about 4 days, until the rosemary is completely dried. Process in a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground. Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 months at room temperature. © Kathy Casey – blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey
RIBBONS OF ROASTED PEPPERS IN HERB OIL
Makes 5 half-pint jars
When ready to serve, just mix in chopped, pitted kalamata olives and top with shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty, rustic Italian bread. The peppers are also delicious tossed with pasta.
3 lb. assorted, colorful sweet and hot peppers
1 1/2 cups olive oil
6 tablespoons balsamic, red wine or sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons minced, mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Roast peppers over a hot grill or coals, over a gas flame, under a broiler, or in a 500-degree oven, turning often until skin is totally blistered and charred black. Immediately place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam skins loose. Let cool until peppers can be handled, about 15 – 20 minutes. Slip skin off, seed and slice peppers into long, 1/4”-wide strips.
Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Toss in peppers, coating well. Divide peppers evenly into 5 half-pint jars or plastic freezer containers, topping each one with the extra herb oil. Label and freeze for up to 1 year or store refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. © Kathy Casey – blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey
SPICED NECTARINE JAM
Makes 6 1/2 – 7 half-pint jars
Select ripe, juicy nectarines for this recipe. For variety, you can also add other interesting things to this jam, such as 1 teaspoon rose water and a big pinch of ground cardamom for a more “exotic” preserve.
5 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed, light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
6 cups chopped, skin-on, ripe nectarines (Purchase about 3 lb.)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 box MCP pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter
Sterilize 7 half-pint jars and keep them in hot water until ready to drain and fill. Prepare lids and rings according to manufacturer’s instructions. Place a dish towel in a non-drafty area.
Measure out sugars and spices and mix together in a large bowl.
In a 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed, stainless steel or enameled pot, combine fruit, lemon juice, pectin and butter. Stir thoroughly. Place over medium-high to high heat and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
When at a rolling boil, add sugar mixture and stir in well. Stirring constantly, return mixture to a full rolling boil and boil 6 minutes while continuing to stir. Reduce heat if necessary but be sure to maintain a full rolling boil.
Remove from heat and quickly ladle boiling jam into drained jars allowing for 1/4” headspace. Wipe top edges and threads of jars with clean, damp cloth. Follow water-bath canning instructions (load jars into a jar rack using the handles and be sure water comes up over the tops of jars at least by 1 inch. Water must be rapidly boiling. Start the timer when water returns to a full rolling boil – cover with lid and process for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool on towels. Check to see that all lids are sealed – and refrigerate any that are not.
© Kathy Casey – blogging at Dishing with Kathy Casey