In a Pickle

Had you told me a few years ago that I would be making pickles, I would have laughed.  I didn't used to like pickles.  I would hate opening up the wrapper of a sandwich I bought at a deli only to find a rubbery pickle snuggling up to my delicious lunch.  Figuring I would never escape pickles, I decided I would try and like them.  It took a while but I finally turned hate into appreciation.  I've seen all sorts of pickled vegetables at local farmers markets and wanted to give it a try.

I was already canning jam and tomatoes, why not green beans and jalapeno slices too?!


Dilly Beans!

(makes about 5 pint jars)

4 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)

3 tablespoons pure kosher salt

5 sprigs fresh dill

5 cloves of garlic

5 or 10 dried hot red chiles

2 1/2 to 5 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (options depending on how spicy you want it to be)

2 pounds crisp green beans, ends trimmed, 4 1/2 inches long



By now you know the drill:

Prepare your water bath for canning. (see my peach jam post for reference)

In your preserving pot, combine the vinegar, 4 cups of water, and the salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt.

Ladle boiling water for the canning pot into the bowl with the lids.  Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.  Drain the water off the jar lids.


Working quickly, put a sprig of dill, a clove of garlic, 1 or 2 dried chiles, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, in each hot jar. Pack the beans in the jars, standing them upright.  (This is trickier than you think it would be.  I was trying not to touch the sterilized jar with my fingers while making sure the beans were staying upright.  Hard.)  Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top.  Use a chopstick to remove any air bubbles that might have gotten trapped in the jars.  Put the jar lids on, then tighten the rings. Return the jars to the water and let them simmer for 10 minutes to process.  Remove the jars to a towel and let them rest for 12 hours. Like the jam, and tomatoes, they should start to pop, telling you the seal worked. You've got some dilly beans!!!  They're so pretty in the jars!  Nice fall colors. I plan on tasting them for the first time at Thanksgiving (*cough*, Elisabeth and Jennifer you should show up *cough*).


Did you think this post was over? I have a spicy finish to this one.

Pickled Jalapeno Slices

makes about 4 pint jars

2/1 pounds jalapeno chiles

4 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)

2 tablespoons sugar or honey

4 cloves garlic

Sanitize your jars, prepare your lids, get your towels ready guys, this is about to be a hot and spicy mess.  At least it was for me.  I thought my jalapenos were relatively mild, so I went against all basic chile rules and sliced them without gloves on.  I won't know this is a mistake until about an hour later.

IMG_2072.JPGCut your jalapenos into 1/8 inch thick rounds and rinse them in a colander under cold running water, shaking it to remove loose seeds.  Pick out and throw out any very dark colored seeds.  Drain well. In a non-reactive pot, combine the vinegar, 1 cup water, the sugar, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids, like we've done in the past, to sanitize them.  Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on the folded towel.  Just like the green beans, while the jars are hot, put a peeled garlic clove in each and pack with the chiles, leaving one inch of headspace.  (This is where I started to cough violently.  Apparently the combination of the hot vinegar steam and the chile slices was too much to handle.  Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Use a chopstick to remove any air bubbles that might have gotten caught and then place the lids and rings on the jars after cleaning off the rims with a paper towel.  Return the jars to the water bath for 10 minutes to process.  Remove them with your jar lifter and place them on a clean towel for 12 hours.

Considering I've only eaten these slices with nachos at the movies (junk food guilty!) I'm not really sure what I'll do with all these pickled jalapenos but I'm sure I'll figure it out.  I got only three pints out of what I had but I didn't weigh the jalapenos all that carefully when I bought them.



Fast foward to an hour after the jars have been finished...my fingers start to viciously burn.  At first I thought boiling water had splashed up on them but I didn't remember that happening  My nail beds, and between my fingers burned from the jalapenos for a good three hours after I was all done and cleaned up in the kitchen.  Word to the wise, no matter how mild you think the jalapenos are, wear gloves. You'll thank me.  Really.

Next up... Cherry Jam!








Tomato, TomAHto


- "I'm thinking of canning tomatoes"

- "To do what?"

- " Well for sauce and stews this winter.  Fun right?"

- "You can't use the same tomatoes for sauce and stews. What kind of tomatoes were you planning to use?"

- "Well, um, I was planning on just finding heirloom ones at the farmers' market"

- "San Marzano tomatoes are the best for sauce, but you can't find them at the market in DC.  You can try Roma tomatoes instead I guess.  How are you going to do it?"

- "I've been reading books.  They say to skin the tomatoes and..."

- "Why would you skin them??? The way my mother does it is....."

And there I stood, in the back kitchen of the restaurant I work in, listening to a Neapolitan explain the correct way to jar tomatoes. Forget cookbooks, forget what I think I read, there was only one way to do it.  Or so he thought.

To jar my tomatoes I decided to incorporate the timeless Neapolitan advice with my newly trusted jarring book's recipe and see what happened.

Crushed Tomatoes  (makes about 7 pint jars)

7 pounds ripe tomatoes

Citric Acid (1/4 teaspoon per pint jar or 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (optional)

7 fresh basil leaves (optional)

The ingredients in this recipe are why I wanted to jar tomatoes for the winter.  When you buy tomatoes in a can or tomato sauce you are never really sure what else they have used to keep the flavor and color.  When you make it yourself you know.  Tomatoes, lemon juice, salt and basil leaves.  Simple.


Ignoring generations of Italian recipes, I decided to peel my tomatoes.  I don't want tomato peels in my tomato sauce, mi spiace. Set your kitchen up the same way you did for the peach jam. (2) clean towels, jars boiling away to sanitize them, jar lids in a separate bowl.  This time you are adding a small pot of boiling water, a medium bowl with water and ice for a post tomato boil ice bath, and a bowl for the seeds and peels.

* Bring the smaller pot of water to a boil. Gently slide your tomatoes, a small group at a time, into the boiling water for 30 seconds, long enough to loosen the skin.  Scoop the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and immediately place in the ice bath cool them off.  Wait a minute and then take them out, remove the skins and seed them.  Keep the seeds and skin for later!  Repeat this process until all the tomatoes are peeled and seeded and in your preserving pot.


I got a fair amount of tomato juice out of the seeds and skins. (See the measuring cup next to the preserving pot). I strained the whole thing and used it as tomato sauce that night for dinner. No waste!

* Set the pan with the tomatoes over medium high heat and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

* Ladles the boiling water from the canning pot onto the lids, just like the peach jam, to sanitize them.  Remove the jars from the boiling water and place on a clean towel.  Put the salt and lemon juice into each jar.  Carefully ladle the hot tomatoes, one by one, into your jars.  Fill the remaining space in the jars with the juices from the pot, up to 1/2 inch from the rim.  Add a basil leaf or two into each jar.  Stick a chopstick into the jars to release any air bubbles that might have been caught along the sides.  Wipe away any tomato that could have gotten on the rims and place the lids on the jars and tighten the rings.

* Return the jars to the boiling water and boil for 35 minutes to process.  This is a lot longer than the jam.

* Remove the jars from the water and place on a towel to rest for 12 hours. Just like the jam, your jars should start to pop, telling you the seal has worked.  The recipe said I would get 7 pint jars out of this. I got 4.  It was hard to know exactly how many tomatoes I needed.  This actually happened for each recipe I tried. Both jams made less than expected.  I still have more jam than I know what to do with so it's fine with me.




This was definitely the easiest of all the recipes.  Peel, cook, jar, process, let cool.  I'll have to do this again next summer.

Up next: Pickling! Dilly beans and jalapeno slices.




Can it!

We're going to go ahead and ignore the fact that I haven't posted in over a year.  I have no good excuses, but here are some bad ones. Maybe it was laziness, maybe it was lack of inspiration, maybe it was that I had too many other things going on in my life. Work has been busy, as usual. I signed up, more like my sister and father convinced me to sign up for, the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October.  Marathons as it turns out, take a lot more training and time commitment than half marathons do. I've also been redecorating my apartment, slowly.   Now that it's a bit cooler, and darker a LOT earlier, I have a feeling I'll be at home cooking more.  I'm back at it!

I took a mini staycation this summer, to get away from work and my routine.  The first half of the week belonged to me and what I wanted to do.  The second half of the week belonged to Puerto Rico- a tropical recharge if you will.  I've read countless books about eating locally, eating off the land, only eating what is in season, and canning.  While I shop at my local farmer's market as much as I can, and just signed up for winter CSA box from Smucker's Farms, I've never tried to can/jar seasonal items for winter eating and cooking.  My mini staycation was the perfect opportunity to get hot and steamy in the kitchen with some fruits and vegetables.


I may have been a little ambitious but this was my plan: peach jam, cherry jam, dilly beans, picked jalapeno slices, and crushed tomatoes. Ready?

Go can it!

Day 1:

Figure out what exactly I just got myself into.

Work out the kinks (overflowing boiling water onto the stove sent me into a panic)

Dive into it... peach jam, crushed tomatoes and jalapeno slices.

Every book on canning and jarring has a chapter on the proper sanitization of your canning jars, and rightfully so.  No one wants to experience what the books say will happen to you should you get a bad batch due to bacteria growing in your jars.  It's kind of like driver's ed and the crash videos, or sex ed and the STD class.  "Can at your own risk". I probably over boiled every jar I used but better safe than sorry! Wear your seatbelt! While I gathered inspiration from several books, I mainly used Canning for a new Generation. My aunt gave it to me and it had by far the best selection of recipes and tips. I also used Put 'Em Up! for inspiration.

When planning for this, I thought I wanted to try different combination of flavors for the jams.  It being my first try, simple ended up being the way to go.  Once I master the technique I can play around with the flavors.


Classic Peach Jam

12 ounces of Granny Smith apples (about 2 large)

4 pounds of peaches, peeled, pitted and diced

2 cups of sugar

3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

Prep your kitchen counter:

(1) clean cloth to place the sterilized jars on when they come out of the water bath

(1) clean cloth to put the finished and VERY hot jam jars on to sit for a while

Line up your canning utensils:


Jar lifter (to handle hot jars)

lid lifter (with a magnet)



Prepare the water-bath for canning:

While you will have to do this step each and every time you start a new recipe, I like that the book reminded you to start the process at the beginning.  Repetition repetition, repetition. It's good for beginners.

Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot, put a small plate in the freezer and put the flat lids in a heat proof bowl.

*Cut the apples into quarters and core them.  The recipe calls for putting the seeds and cores into a cheesecloth bag. I didn't have one so I used little teabags that my sister gave me from a tea store at Pike's Place market.  ( I also used these little bags to infuse simple syrup for my Early Grey Pound Cake).  You're supposed to put loose tea in them but they can play double duty in this case.


SO FAR: Apples are cut up, seeds and cores are in cheesecloth, jars are boiling away and bacteria is dying.

* Put the peaches and sugar into a 6-8 quart preserving pan (I wasn't about to go out and buy a lot of equipment to do this, other than the necessary stuff, so I used a big cast iron pot as my preserving pot).  Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices cover the peaches.


Pour the cooked peaches into a colander, collecting the peach juice in a bowl. Stir the peaches gently to release all the juices. Pour collected juices back in the preserving pot and add the apples and apple core cheesecloth- bring to a boil over high heat.  (From what I gathered, the apples bring the pectin that will "jellify" (yes that's a technical term) the jam in the end.  You can omit the apples and use 'pectin in a pouch' but I thought going all natural was the best way.) Boil, stirring occasionally, until the juice thickens and reduces.  About 15 minutes.

Return the peaches and any accumulated juices back into the preserving pot, add the lemon juice, and bring to a simmer.  Stir frequently until the peaches are very tender and falling apart.  The recipe says is it done when you put a small dab of the jam on the plate that was in the freezer and it becomes firm after a minute of being put back in the freezer.  I forgot to do this.  Rookie mistake.  It ended up fine.


Remove from the heat and stir for a few minutes to distribute the fruit in the liquid.  Remove the cheesecloth and the apples.  While I was able to find and remove the apple skins, there were no apples to be found.  They had all disintegrated into the jam.  I think it's fine but I wonder why the recipe thought I would still be able to find them.

SO FAR: Jam is basically finished, your jars have been sterilized and are happily bubbling away in your steaming stockpot full of water. Your lids are still not sterile.

*Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a clean folded towel. Drain the water off the lids.  Make sure the lids aren't stacked on top of each other or the boiling water won't be able to sterilize the entire area of each lid.  ALSO, don't dunk the lids in the boiling water pot because it's not good for the rubber on them.  Just pour a little bit (I poured the hot water from one of my half pints on top of them) of boiling water on them and let it sit for a bit.

Your jars are clean and drying on the clean cloth.  Carefully ladle the hot jam, through a funnel, into the jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Using a damp paper towel, clean off any jam that might have gotten onto the rim of the jar.  Take your lid lifter (the one with the magnet) and put the lid on, then tighten the ring on. I burnt my fingers here a few times.  Return the jars to the water and boil for 5 minutes to process.


Remove from the water.

Those jars will be h-o-t!  With a jar lifter, move the jars from the cloth they are on to another clean cloth where the jars can stay, for 12 hours, undisturbed.

Soon you should hear the jars "pop!".  This means there is a seal and your jars can be kept unrefrigerated.  After an hour, push down on the top of all your jars to make sure there is a seal.  If it there isn't and you can push down on them, put the jar in the refrigerator.


Success! You have peach jam.  I haven't tried the finish product only because I haven't stopped admiring them. I'm going to wait a while I think.


To be continued.....

Next up: Canned tomatoes.