I recently participated in an age old tradition- canning. It’s been my foodie dream for quite a while to “put up” some seasonal fruits and veggies. I could never bring myself to doing it down south. It just didn’t feel very authentic, I guess…or perhaps I needed to set the scene by actually living in the country. Silly, I know.
Canning, like baking, is a precise art. Alas, I suck at baking (and having to be gluten-free, I have no patience for mixing 9000 different flours and unlocking the secrets of xantham gum). I’m more of a throw a little of this and a little of that into the mix- more of a cook than a baker. But, I think with anything, the more you do it, the more knowledge you have about where you can take some artistic license. I’ll get there, but for now, I’ll stick to the recipe- don’t want to give anyone a jar full of botulism and what not….
Our friend dropped by some lovely rhubarb from his garden and I had some organic strawberries on hand, so I took my first great leap into canning with an easy strawberry-rhubarb jam.
Basically, you clean your canning jars and stick them in the water-bath canner and let the water simmer while you make the jam, jelly, sauce, chutney or whatever. Then you take the piping hot jars and put in your concoction, screw a warmed lid on it and boil it in the canning pot for the specified amount of time. Carefully, pull the jars out and let them cool overnight. The lids will make a quirky little pop while cooling and everything sets overnight.
I had been reading up on canning for quite some time and it made me nervous. What is foam? How do I skim it? Will the heat kill the flavor of the recipe? More importantly, will the heat kill the bacteria that seeks to kill me? In the end, the actual process was pretty easy and straightforward (and safe). The jam came out good- it set properly, but is FREAKING sweet…but the right amount of sugar is necessary for the pectin to do it’s thing. I prefer more complex, sweet and savory flavors, so I bought a brand of pectin that allows for less sugar. With the remainder of the rhubarb, I’ll try doing straight rhubarb jam and adding some herbs (mint, thyme?). Or perhaps I’ll make a chutney- a chutney is a always a lovely balance of sweet, savory and a hint of sour.
In my inherent geeky foodie-ness, I dug through my Flavor Bible and came up with some interesting flavor combinations to try once I get my canning foundations down…
Sounds good, no?
Let’s just say I’m bringing sexy back to canning.