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!

Quick Pickled Carrots and Asparagus

Filled with possibility

I grew up eating “Aunt Dianne’s Icicle Pickles” which my mother used to make and keep in the basement cold room. We actually called it a “fruit room”, where pickles and jams lined the shelves and cobwebs gleefully grew in the corners until every now and then we cleaned them all away.

I haven’t made icicle pickles since 2014 (I know, because I had labelled the jars and just gave away the last of them) because our pickle consumption in this house is actually fairly low. Dianne’s recipe is made in a large stone crock, which I have, and large stone crocks make lots of pickles. Say about 12-500 ml jars large, which is hard for a family of three to use up when frankly we just don’t eat a lot of pickles.

The only other time I’ve pickled something is when I made spicy green beans years ago and, oh, those were good. I think I’ve just made them once but I should make them again. I would probably eat more spicy green beans at this point than cucumber pickles, because I could pair them with spicy Bloody Caesars and garnish with a semi-dried landjaeger sausage or some other meaty delight. Or just eat them plain as a snack, straight out of the jar. I don’t foresee a new spicy bean batch lasting very long at any rate.

Although I had these two pickling experiences under my preserving belt neither of them were examples of ‘quick pickles’ – the focus of this month’s Food in Jars challenge. Quick pickles, sometimes called ‘refrigerator pickles’ – are pickles made and brined quickly, ready to eat quickly, and not ‘shelf stable’ – in other words, not able to be processed in a water bath canner and left on a room temperature shelf. Quick pickles are to be stored in the fridge and eaten more quickly – as fast as 4-6 weeks or perhaps even sooner.

I don’t know why I had asparagus on the brain for quick pickling. Maybe it was our late spring attempting to play tricks with my mind and hoping for local asparagus to be ready. Maybe it was because I just wanted to buy tall jars that I didn’t even know existed up until a few weeks ago. But regardless of the why, I got together with a friend last weekend and we did the how – we made quick pickled asparagus and quick pickled carrots together in her kitchen and walked away with three jars each of the small batches.

I’ve had a chance to try both the carrots and the asparagus and I’m liking the asparagus better so far. Here’s the recipe if you’re interested in trying it. Maybe as part of a smorgasbord meal like we had tonight. They didn’t stay as green as they are in the picture but they’re crisp and delicious. I’m sure they won’t last long!

 

Raspberry Meyer Lemon Shrub

Even though I’m posting this in April, I actually made this second shrub in March when it was still time for “jellies and shrubs” month for the FIJ Mastery Challenge. I told you in my recent post about making the Rhubarb Ginger shrub that I had no idea what a shrub was before this challenge, and now I’m addicted to shrubs!

I did end up ordering Michael Dietsch’s book, Shrubs, and have been salivating over all the recipes to try on its pages. People, shrubs are dead easy to make (so very quick) and are delicious! If you have sparkling water, white wine or club soda on hand that needs a little je ne sais quoi, or have a cocktail fetish and are looking for something new to play around with, you really should consider making shrubs.

Not surprisingly I used another of Marisa’s recipes (seriously, I’m not crushing on the woman but she’s just so good!) because I was in love with the colour and the flavour sounded like it would really work. Still having access to Meyer lemons almost made this shrub a time-limited decision, so I went for it. I made the Raspberry Meyer Lemon Shrub which has just a few steps but takes two days to make.

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Well this shrub is gorgeous in colour but truthfully, I wasn’t sure that I liked it when I first tried it. I may have a tenuous relationship with the scent and flavour of Meyer lemons, I’m still not sure if I think they are great or sort of weird. (If you haven’t tried them, I’ve heard their scent and juice described as ‘floral’). But this shrub has grown on me over the days I’ve been drinking it and I’m going to deem it a success. It makes a refreshing drink when mixed with club soda and it feels good that I made it myself and it isn’t laden with chemicals. (Our daughter even likes it, making her, in Michael Dietch’s words, one of the “coolest kids in the neighbourhood”!) And seeing it in my fridge in the cute little jar that I got from Homesense a couple of months ago (not knowing what it would be for) just makes me smile.

Shrubs. Try them!