Here in Southern Ontario the window of availability for most produce worth preserving is just a few weeks long. That makes it difficult to refine recipes unless you keep a good journal that gets updated every year. What’s a blog for if not that sort of thing? So, here is my 2011 preserving round up post. (My instalment from 2009 can be found here.)
The Jellies: I was sceptical about whether these were worth the input in time and ingredients but they really are cool to look at and taste delicious. Also, the apple jelly (which I neglected to photograph) took home a ribbon from the Beaverton Fall Fair. For texture and taste the wild apple-wild grape was best. Small jars are key. Next year: Concentrate on recipes containing apple.
Wild-fermented pickles: I’m pretty happy with my level of expertise for lacto-fermented pickles. These are vegetables immersed in a salt brine and left at room temperature for one to three weeks. No vinegar is added. I made a half-bushel of cucumbers into dill pickles and repeated the process on a much smaller scale for the green cherry tomatoes left in the garden. Next year: Repeat. Be more organised about having right size and number of jars ready. Maybe add some hot chilies to a couple of the jars.
Tomato sauce: We pushed the operation to two bushels this year. The two on-going challenges are the pulping stage (it looks like par-cooking is key to getting tomatoes to pass through my mill) and sourcing. Prices vary widely, the bottom of some bushel boxes can hide moldy tomatoes, and tomato variety matters to how difficult the process is. Making tomato sauce is onerous and doesn’t really save much money compared to canned but somehow I feel the product is better for pizzas straight from the jar. Next year: Probably repeat. Again plan better on jars.
Pickled peaches: This recipe came straight from We Sure Can!. Surprisingly delicious. There is something about the sweet fruit, slight but sharp acid from the vinegar, and warm spices that are magic together. Next year: Will keep it’s spot on the bus.
Cherries in boozy syrup: A recipe from Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home that I’ve done before. This was a bad year for cherries in our part of the world so they were more expensive and harder to find than usual. Next year: Only if the red, sour cherries can be sourced in bulk.
Mustard Pickle: Also a ribbon winner at the Fair. This is an old family recipe that I’ve gained some expertise at making. I like my latest tweak that has a sharper mustard note based on when the vinegar is added to the hydrated dry mustard. Also, this year’s batch was made from 100% garden-grown cucumbers. Next year: Definitely stays.
Peaches in very light syrup: Have opened these so will reserve final comment on whether they come back. Biggest lesson learned was that quality peaches that are tree-ripened are a breeze to peel. Others are the opposite. Next year: Undecided.
Peach Bourbon Jam: A subtle boozy hit to it. This jam didn’t set properly so it pours–which is fine with me for putting it on my oatmeal. Next year: Undecided.
Zucchini Relish: With the peaches in syrup and peach jam this was another product of the preserving party we did near the end of the summer. I haven’t opened any of mine yet so I’ll reserve judgement but these summer squash are so abundant that I’d love to have a way to preserve them. Next year: Undecided.
Strawberry Conserves: Ontario strawberries growers have cracked the nut of the ever-bearing, alpine strawberry so that we now have fresh, local ones from June to well into October. The recipe that Jeffrey Steingarten borrows from the Chinos and originally applies to apricots worked perfectly. Whole black peppercorns are a nice addition. They don’t change the flavour much sit at the bottom of the jar soaking up strawberry (and sugar) flavour and make a great bonus when scraping the end. Next year: Definitely.
Applesauce: Skins on and a piece of cinnamon stick in every jar. Oh, and I managed to keep the bottom of the batch from scorching on the pan. Pulping the wild (free) apples we used here was a breeze with the food mill that was more frustrating with tomatoes. Next year: Probably will do again–really a matter of apple supply.
What about general findings? I continue to like the solution of switching to a plastic lid once the jars are open and refrigerated. Even without the corrosion angle this just keeps bands and lids from spreading everywhere in the kitchen over the year. I also really like the small 125ml Mason jars for jellies and other low-output preserves.
I’m sure I’m missing some things but if I have anything more to add I’ll do it down in the comment section. If you have a similar roundup of your preserves posted on your blog I’d love if you’d share a link in the comments as well.