Spiced Cherries

I don’t remember eating a lot of cherries growing up. My parents, who may eventually read this post, may disagree and correct my memory on this, but in my own mind right now I look back and don’t associate eating cherries with growing up in Ontario. I associate cherries with eventually coming to live in BC, and BC summers.

Years ago we rented an apartment in the top floor of a house in Victoria and co-shared a cherry tree in our backyard with our downstairs-living neighbours. I remember that we were mad that they picked the cherry tree clean before we could get many, or at least “our share”! So cherries, for me, have always been something of a precious fruit, something that’s only available at this time of year. Something amazing.

I would say that cherries are right up there with peaches for being my favourite fruits. While in some ways it’s sad that we only eat cherries in the summer here, the year-long waiting period before we have them again makes getting them back into our hands all that much sweeter. Cherries right now are being sold in grocery stores, but they’re also being sold on the roadside. We have a couple that sometimes set up a stand on a highway near our town and sell cherries from the Okanagan. I don’t think cherries are ready here on Vancouver Island yet, but they’re available in the interior. And I’m so glad they are.

Of course Marisa made these spiced cherries first. I have come to love her Facebook Live events and even marked my calendar every other Monday evening so that I could watch them as they happen (so much better than watching after the fact).  She made these cherries just over two weeks ago, and right away I knew I wanted to make them too. (She’s a clever lady, always making things that I’ve never made before…and then I want to add to my repertoire and do them too!)

In order to make these cherries I had to get a cherry pitter. I’ve never needed one before and in fact tend to shy away from buying kitchen tools that have only one purpose, but the spiced cherries recipe called to me so much that I had to go and shell out the $20 at the specialty kitchen store in Broadmead to get the pitter. (The clerk assured me that the more expensive one was the best, and I fell for it, ha!)

What I’ve learned is that using a cherry pitter is amazing. It didn’t take long to pit three pounds of cherries. The hardest part of the task was fending off my daughter who was there with seeking hands to try to take them from me as soon as I pitted them! The pitter leaves the cherry mostly intact and we made short work of eating the little cherry plugs that got shot out along with the unneeded pits.

The photos above really tell the story; these cherries are easy to make and not very time consuming once you put them into the pot. I’m almost embarrassed to show you my ‘pot pics’ because my pot is 15 years old and showing its wear. (This is not the Food Network over here – clearly!) The cherries taste like a little bit of Christmas. Which is probably when I’ll have to wait to open them because I got three jars’ yield and I’ll have to ration them until this time next year!

You’ll see my tea ball in the photos. This is the first time I’ve used it not for tea and it was great to hold the spices and have their flavour leach into the cherries. (You could easily put the spices straight into the jar themselves but I opted for a cleaner look.)

What to use my cherry pitter for next? Perhaps just a round of cherry finger snappers straight into our mouths!

 

 

Tomatillo Green Salsa

Years ago my husband and I were introduced to tomatillos  when we found a recipe from Cooking Light that we wanted to try. These green orbs with green-to-brownish husks were not something we grew up with and probably wouldn’t have been something we picked up in the grocery store if it hadn’t have been for wanting to try the Tangy Pork with Tomatillos, Tomatoes and Cilantro recipe. This recipe has become a “somewhat staple” in our household for at least the last 15 years. And yet until very recently it was the only thing we had ever made with tomatillos. Talk about staying in your comfort zone!

This past weekend changed all that as I started thinking about what I could make for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge this month. July is “hot pack preserving” which basically means anything that you heat up first and then can in a jar using water bath canning. In Marisa’s introduction to July’s challenge over on her blog she gave a few links to some potential recipes to try. The Tomatillo Green Salsa from the (U.S.-based) National Center for Home Food Preservation caught my eye. Here was a chance to finally use tomatillos in a way that we hadn’t before. And who doesn’t love salsa of any kind?

Here are some pics of the steps along the way:


And here is the finished result. The recipe did say it would make about five pints (5-500ml jars) but I found I only yielded three, not sure why:

Incidentally, the recipe tells you to wear rubber gloves to chop up the peppers and I tried this for a while but then took them off. I made sure not to touch my eyes at any time during the whole process and I was fine. You can make up your own mind on whether you need gloves or not though!

Also, since the recipe was written in terms of “cups of” tomatillos and peppers I ended up buying too much as it was hard to gauge with items I don’t buy very often (can’t tell you the last time I bought an Anaheim Pepper – those were the “long green chiles”.) So I had a bunch of leftover tomatillos and peppers.  A couple of days later I used up the extra to make a similar green salsa on the stove top, also throwing in a small leftover bit of chopped up zucchini that I had in the fridge. I layered the salsa with flour tortilla shells, chicken and cheese in a 9 x 13 pan and baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. It was delicious!

Wondering how you would use up this tomatillo green salsa? I was thinking the same and so I asked the question in the Food in Jars Facebook Community. Members had this to offer up:

  • Add to chili
  • Use in chicken verde enchiladas
  • Good on scrambled eggs
  • Poach eggs in it for green huevos rancheros
  • Layered tortilla casserole with chicken, corn, black beans, cheese
  • Steak fajitas
  • With shredded chicken over baked potatoes
  • With shredded pork tacos
  • Simmer sauce for chicken thighs and make tacos, burritos etc
  • Salsa verde soup: onions, chicken, chicken stock, cannellini beans, salsa
  • Chilequiles
  • With pulled pork in the crockpot
  • With tortilla chips or raw veggies
  • For breakfast with hasbrowns on bottom, salsa, refried beans and fried egg on top
  • In tuna salad
  • With fish
  • In a salad dressing

As you can see they were bursting with ideas! Clearly these people live in more of a Mexican/Spanish-influenced environment than I do, here in Victoria, B.C.!

 

Tomato Jam

I’ve always liked ketchup, but I’m not sure I’m going to eat it ever again now that I’ve discovered tomato jam.

Let me back up.

June is jam month for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge that I’ve been taking part in since January and so I decided to go to the farmer’s market yesterday and see what I could find. I’m sure I have been missing some obvious sales around these parts but I haven’t seen fresh local strawberries at all and it’s supposed to be strawberry season…although I haven’t sought them out either. So I wasn’t sure I was going to make something with strawberries and something with rhubarb (also in season right now, or just ending) just wasn’t piquing my interest.

I had been re-reading Marisa’s Food in Jars book in preparation to make jam this weekend and her Amy’s Tomato Jam was niggling around in the back of my mind. I have never had tomato jam and it both sounded sort of weird and sort of interesting. I didn’t know that I would make it though, I just thought that I would go to the market and see what was to be seen.

There weren’t too many produce vendors at the Goldstream Farmer’s Market in general, and a couple were selling only greens, but one booth had solely tomatoes and so my making of tomato jam was confirmed.

I took home some of these greenhouse-bred lovelies: I gathered them up in a homemade shopping bag that my friend Donna made me and carried them home. (It was only later that I realized I was charged too much for them! Grr, should have used my mental math to check her numbers, which I often do.)

At any rate, after a bunch of fine-dice chopping and adding in the other ingredients back at home, my low, wide pan looked like this:And then after I stirred them together and initially turned on the heat they looked like this: Now here’s where things got a little interesting. The recipe had said that the cooking time would be 1.5 to 2 hours but I got a little confused about the “simmer” and thought I’d leave the lid on for a good chunk of that time. I’m not sure why I’ve learned this lesson a little too late in my cooking career but I eventually realized that the mixture wasn’t cooking down because the liquid was staying in the pan and not escaping – because I’d left the lid on. It took me about three hours of simmering to get the jam to a nice jammy consistency. (OK lesson learned!)I didn’t taste the mixture until right near the end. When I did, I wanted to (and maybe did?) exclaim with glee. It is amazing! I’ve never tasted anything like it. I tried one spoon and then, admittedly, washed it and tried another spoon. So, so good. I later had some on BBQ chicken that I had in the fridge and it was amazing.

After processing it (a long time, this recipe said 20 minutes), I ended up with five full jars even though the recipe said four. More for me! I’m so enthralled with this new-to-me jam, I think it’s going to be a staple in my kitchen for years to come.I can’t wait to try this tomato jam on burgers, hot dogs, or anyplace else where I might normally have ketchup…and then some.

Rhubarb Meyer Lemon Cordial

When we lived in our little 1950s house in Victoria there always came a time in the spring when I realized with a start that the rhubarb was probably ready in the backyard. We had inherited a rhubarb plant when we bought the house, and previous owners had planted it behind the shed on one of the sides of the backyard. I really never went behind the shed except for once a year when I remembered that the rhubarb was ready. It was the perfect plant: it just grew and grew and when I remembered it was there, I went and harvested it.

Now that we are in our new house I am waiting to plant a rhubarb plant of my own. I am waiting until we finish some landscaping in the back and get a fence to keep the deer out etc., so someday rhubarb time will come, but not yet. In the meantime I buy rhubarb at farms stands and sometimes am lucky enough to get it from friends who have an abundance. This year I put some rhubarb in the freezer and bought some especially to make this cordial recipe that Marisa on the Food in Jars site posted about in May.

I have never made a cordial before. Just thinking about cordials reminds me of the scene in the Anne of Green Gables series where Anne gets drunk from the cordial in Marilla’s cabinet and makes a scene. This version is not alcoholic however!

This cordial was very easy to make, it didn’t take that long. I had a Meyer lemon languishing in my fridge that I wanted to use up, so it was the perfect opportunity.

I boiled all the ingredients together…

And strained it with my sieve. I did push it through the sieve, which I now regret and wouldn’t do it again as it made sure that I would have some rhubarb pulp in my glass when drinking the cordial. Not a big deal, but next time I’d just let it sit for a while and drain.

In the end it made a beautiful jar of cordial which I’ve been enjoying with water or club soda when I remember it’s in the fridge. Anne would have liked this recipe, and the ladies of the town would have not been so shocked at the result if she had drank this!

Jalapeno Pickled Eggs

Inspired by my first attempt at making pickled eggs several weeks ago, I thought I’d try it again. My husband had been enjoying them as they make an easy snack to bring for lunches and it was time to replenish my  stock.

Since May was “cold pack preserving” month for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge, I thought I could squeeze this new batch under that title. The eggs are cooked so I’m not sure they technically qualify as “cold packed” – even though they were cold when they went in – but whatever. I wanted to try another recipe from what I did before (even though the Turmeric Pickled Eggs received rave reviews at my husband’s work) and I wanted a spicier one. Enter Jalapeno Pickled Eggs.

These eggs are quick to make up and beautifully and easily displayed in the tall Ball jar. I used regular chicken eggs from the supermarket this time as I had accidentally bought an 18-pack of eggs after just buying one a day or two earlier (ahem, it was a busy month I guess!). I just made six eggs as I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the recipe.

I tried an egg a few days after pickling them and the four of us who split one egg, trying it out, (we had guests over at the time) all agreed that there was almost no change in the egg’s flavour. So I let them sit another week and tried them again today. The egg is fine but not amazing. I will let them sit another week or so before trying another one, but if they aren’t spicier I’m not sure this recipe will be made again. There’s nothing wrong with the flavour, they would be great for those of you who like a mild spice or barely flavoured pickled eggs, but I’m looking for more. Maybe I just don’t really love pickled eggs? Hard-boiled eggs with no accoutrements are really good!

P.S. I realized last week that I missed an ingredient when I made the Turmeric Pickled Eggs. I forgot the chili peppers, how crazy is that? I will definitely make those eggs again and use ALL the ingredients and see if I love them more. Always searching for a little spice…

 

 

The beauty of bartering

This is just a quick little story of how I came into some canning through an unusual method a couple of weeks ago.

This month we went to Disneyland on vacation and I came back with a Starbucks Disneyland mug for my morning coffee. We started to realize that we have quite a few mugs in our collection so we chose four mugs to set aside and get rid of. Our town has a “no money exchanged” Facebook group for exchanging items, so I posted a quick ad for the (Denby) mugs to see if anyone wanted them. In exchange I suggested that maybe someone had produce in their garden that they were willing to share.

It didn’t take long before someone replied about the mugs. She wondered if I’d be interested in some canning in exchange? She offered pickled beets, marmalade and peach jam! By now we were chatting over Facebook messenger and so I typed a quick “Sure!” in reply, and noted my husband was voting particularly for the peach jam.

I never saw the woman who came to drop off this beautiful little collection at our front door in exchange for our mugs, but I plan to enjoy her provisions all the same!

Turmeric Pickled Eggs

I had never had a pickled egg. It wasn’t a ‘thing’ in my family, and I never knew anyone that made them or ate them. But the mastery challenge from Food in Jars (which everyone knows I’ve been completing since January) for April was Quick Pickles and after making quick pickled asparagus and carrots I thought I’d try my hand at pickled eggs.

They just seemed like they might be delicious, especially when I saw people posting in the Food in Jars community about pickling them with additional flavourings such as beets and turmeric. Maybe it was because it was right around Easter time and we didn’t colour any other eggs this year, but I had a hankering to make (and eat!) those coloured pickled eggs!

The first step was to get some chicken eggs from my nearest local farm, Cast Iron Farm. Their ‘rainbow eggs’ never fail to delight me as they are varying shapes and colours from the chickens that run happily around their farm. I had read somewhere recently that it’s easier to get the shell off of hard-boiled eggs that are not quite as fresh, so I let these eggs hang out in the fridge for a week and a half or so before I made them. (A couple were hard to peel but most were pretty good.)

I used this recipe from the Food in Jars site, which is actually a guest post from someone named Heather Francis. I wanted to make both the turmeric and beet eggs but we were leaving on holidays a few days after and I just didn’t want to load my schedule up with too many chores before I left, so I just made the turmeric eggs. If you’re like me, turmeric is something that languishes in your cupboard for months and (ahem!) years, so I knew I had some on hand!

I used a different method to hard-boil the eggs as I normally have my whole life, and I think it worked based on eating two of the eggs so far. My method that I traditionally have used ends up sometimes colouring the yolks slightly green and this method didn’t. I used these instructions for How to Boil Eggs Perfectly Every Time from thekitchn.com and it seemed to work.

Making the brine and cold-packing the eggs in the hot brine was very simple. This recipe calls for onions in it as well, that’s what you see in the jars alongside the eggs and other spices. The recipe just said to use one onion and didn’t specify red or yellow, and I only had a red onion on hand, so that’s why I used. (Interesting side fact: The onion slices had a nice red colour when they went in and now two weeks later they are completely yellow with no red remaining.)

A few days after I made the eggs (I packed them in those tall Ball jars which were perfect to use for this project) we went on holidays for about 10 days and I tried one immediately when I got home. They’re pretty good but not amazing, which is always what I’m searching for, so I think I’ll continue my quest to find the perfect recipe for pickled eggs. Maybe apple cider vinegar next time instead for more flavour? Or I’ll try these eggs again in a couple of weeks and beyond, because I think they may get better with age.

This was a nice accompaniment to a dinner last night of grilled chicken with a fresh salsa over it. Love the colour!