Preserving the Harvest – Pickled Dilly Asparagus Spears

dill asparagus spearsWe’ve got a small asparagus patch at the Land of Fruits and Nuts. Not really enough of a harvest to have to can, but enough to whet my husband’s appetite. So, when it goes on sale during asparagus season, I buy a bunch and make pickled dilly asparagus spears. Now, for me, the cheapest I have found it is $0.99 a pound . . . it may be cheaper in your neck of the woods and it may not.

Dilly asparagus spears are a way to preserve the harvest so to speak without pressure canning. Asparagus is, like most vegetables, a low acid food so to be safe, asparagus must be pressure canned for safe shelf storage unless you add acid and pickle it. And boy is it good with some dill and garlic.

For asparagus speaks, I like the pint and 1/2 jars. Now these are supposed to be processed like quart jars and they are tall, so you have to have a tall pot to cover the tops with an adequate amount of water. But here’s the recipe for a regular pint size jar.

Ingredients

For six (6) wide mouth pint jars, you will need:

10 pounds asparagus
6 large garlic cloves
4 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar (5%)
6 small hot peppers (optional – I don’t use)
1/2 cup canning salt
3 teaspoons dill seed

Directions

First, wash and rinse canning jars; keep hot until ready to use. Prepare lids according to manufacturer’s directions. You don’t need to sterilize the jars first because you will be processing for at least ten (10) minutes.

Next, start your brine. In a large non-reactive pot, combine water, vinegar, hot peppers (if using), salt and dill seed. Bring to a boil.

While the mixture is coming to a boil, peel and wash garlic cloves. Also wash asparagus. Cut stems from the bottom to leave spears with tips that fit into the canning jar with a little less than 1/2 inch headspace.

When brine is about to boil, place washed, rinsed and warm canning jars on a flat surface on top of a towel. Place a garlic clove at the bottom of each jar. Now, I also add additional dill seed or dill weed to each jar because I love the dill flavor. You can add additional dried spices without upsetting the acidity level or causing problems.

Tightly pack asparagus into jars with the blunt ends down.

Fish out hot peppers if using and place one hot pepper in each jar over asparagus spears. Pour boiling hot pickling brine over spears, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids.

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (adjust for altitude). Process time is for pints or 12 ounces jars. After processing is complete, turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes. Remove from water bath and place on counter on towel. Let cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check for seals.

Allow pickled asparagus to sit in processed jars for 3 to 5 days before eating for best flavor development. They taste good right after, however, as my husband can never wait.

Preserving the Harvest – Raspberry Chocolate Sundae Topper

raspberry chocolateIt is harvest time at here at the farm. Or perhaps I should save summer harvest because it seems like I am harvesting year round. Right now, I’ve got buckets and buckets of blueberries and raspberries. Well, I have buckets as long as I beat out the peahens and the dogs. I didn’t even know dogs would eat blueberries straight off the blueberry bushes until I watched my dogs do it. Silly puppies.

I still have pints of blueberry and raspberry jams from last summer, so I wanted to find some different ways to preserve the berries. For the raspberries, I came across a recipe for a sinful ice cream topper in the Ball preserving book – a chocolate raspberry sundae topper. The recipe calls for:

Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder (make sure it is unsweetened)
    • 6 Tbsp Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin
    • 4-1/2 cups crushed red raspberries (measure after crushing)
    • 6-3/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 Tbsp. lemon juice
    • 6 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions

So, the first step is to prepare you boiling water canner. This is your large pot with water added. Add a canning rack or a round cake cooling rack to the bottom so the jars are lifted off of the bottom. Fill partway with water. If you have hard water, you can add a splash of white distilled vinegar to keep residue from forming on the jars, or just plan on wiping them off when you are doing. Add the jars to the water and heat to simmering but do not bring to a boil. Keep in mind you are going to want the water to be at least 1 and 1/2 inches over the jars when they are full and being processed.

When the water is hot, scoop a little in a bowl and add the jar lids. Set bands aside.

For the sundae topper, place the cocoa powder and the pectin in a small glass bowl and combine. Set aside. In a non-reactive sauce pan, add the crushed raspberries and lemon juice. Whisk in the pectin/cocoa mixture until dissolved. Bring mixture to boil over high heat.  Add sugar all at once, and return mixture to full roiling boil stirring constantly. Keep a full roiling boil for 1 minute, stirring. At end of minute, remove from heat.  The mixture will be richly, deeply red and glassy.  See the picture of my topper in the pot.

Skim foam off if desired. Let sit 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle into the jars (remove them from the water first and set on counter on top of dish rag or cloth). Leave 1/4 inch headspace. Center lids (warmed in water) on jar and place screw bands, tightening until “finger tip” tight.

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (adjust for altitude). Turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes. Remove jars and set on counter top on top of dish rag. Let sit 24 hours and check seal.

If seal is good, label and store. To use, warm and put on ice cream. Or use in a crepe or on pancakes. The topper is sinfully delicious and rich.

Land of Fruits and Nuts – Day 8 – Sweet Marmalade

DSC01395I’m still trying to use the oranges that are hanging on – the end of the season’s crop. I’ve got fresh blooms and new fruit starting, but we haven’t harvested all of this year’s crop. Mostly because it is all just a little too overwhelming here on our farm. I mean really, I’m a suburban mom with 2 kids and a full time job. How am I supposed to also be a modern pioneer woman?

In any event, having picked 2 more baskets of oranges in my efforts to tame an unruly orange tree (meaning I was attempting to give it a much needed pruning), I had to figure out what to do with them. My previous marmalade efforts were not much liked by my children or my husband. They didn’t like the bitterness, although I thought the marmalade tasted pretty darn good and very English.

If you didn’t know, marmalade is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits. The presence of the fruit peel is what makes it a marmalade, and the white pith and membranes impart the traditional bitter flavor. So, I wanted to make a marmalade with less bitterness than the traditional marmalade – a sweet marmalade.

The problem is that reducing the pith, seeds and membranes means that you are eliminating the parts of the orange that contain pectin – which causes the set (or the gel). You can make up for this by adding store bought pectin. So, I decided to try a sweet marmalade recipe, and found one in 175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and Other Soft Spreads by Linda J. Amendt which seemed pretty easy.

The recipe calls for 12 to 14 medium Valencia oranges. Now, I don’t know what kind of oranges I have. I know I don’t have navel – navels get their name from the fact that the bloom end looks a lot like a human belly button. The book states that you should not use navel oranges for making marmalade because they become tough when cooked and contain an enzyme that will cause the fruit to turn bitter during storage. However, a couple of recipes I found online say that you can use navel oranges.  I don’t know – but I do know I did NOT use navel oranges.  Although I don’t know what kind of oranges we have, I do know that they taste pretty darn good – and the first rule of preserving is to use good fruit to get good preserves.

So I had 14 oranges. First, I prepared the canning jars and lids. The recipe didn’t say how much it would make, so I prepared 6 1/2 pint jars. If you need a refresher on prepping the jars and water bath, read this post. Then I prepped the fruit, which involved removing only the colored portion of the peel from 6 of the oranges. I used a microzester to do it. Once you do that, you peel all of the oranges, removing the outer with pith. You then cut the fruit sections away from the membrane (remember, we don’t want any bitterness) and also remove any seeds. Discard the pitch, membrane and seeds.

Finely chop the fruit and measure 2 and 2/3 cups.

In your jam pot, put in the chopped fruit, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/8 tsp baking soda. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 8 minutes. Stir in the orange zest, cover and simmer 3 more minutes.

Slowly add and stir in 5 cups of granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp of unsalted butter (butter is optional – it is supposed to reduce foaming). Increase heat to medium-high and, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil. Stir in 1 pouch of liquid pectin (3 oz). Return to full rolling boil while stirring constantly, and boil 1 minute.

Remove pot from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Remove any foam if necessary. Ladle into prepped jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims. Add lids and then screw bands (finger tighten). Place jars in water bath, leaving covered by at least 1 inch of water. Cover and bring to boil. Process 4 or 8 ounce jars for 10 minutes and process 1 pint jars for 15 minutes.

Remove jars from water bath and place on wire rack or cloth towel. Let sit without disturbing for 24 hours. Check for a good seal. Remove screw tops and store in cool, dry location.

 

Land of Fruits and Nuts – Preserving the Harvest – Day 2 – Orange & Whiskey Marmalade

Calamondin Citrus OrangesSo, having successfully made and canned strawberry jam (see my blog post on Day 1), I was ready to move on and try something to preserve the actual harvest. And boy do we have oranges. There are many mature orange trees on the Land of Fruits and Nuts. I don’t know what kind of oranges, but we have tons. And I was told you must remove all the fruit from the tree each spring so I figured I would tackle one tree, harvest the fruit and do some pruning. And then can the harvest.

Well, the harvest netted bags and bags of oranges – most of which were taken by a friend to be donated to a food bank. But I kept some of the oranges to try my hand at making marmalade.

I really wanted to make a whiskey marmalade. I have quite a fondness for whiskey – American whiskey to be frank. My current favorite is Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach Whiskey (YUM!) (although I am also stuck on Apple Pie Moonshine). I wanted to mellow out the marmalade with whiskey but I couldn’t find a recipe designed for whiskey until I hit upon one in Preserve It!.  The recipe was for “Clementine and Whiskey Marmalade” and while I don’t know whether or not I had clementines, I just used the oranges I had picked. I am pretty sure that they were NOT clementines.

It came out okay, but I found the recipe instructions to be a bit confusing and incomplete. For example, if you read the recipe literally, it doesn’t tell you to put the lids on until after you have processed the jars in the water bath. That would be a complete and utter disaster! Also, you are supposed to juice the oranges before cutting the peel, and then use water to cover the orange pieces. Seems to me you should use the juice and I’m going to try that. In any event, here is the recipe:

  • 2 lbs (900 g) organic clementines, scrubbed, rinsed, halved, seeds removed
  • juice of 2 large lemons
  • 4 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp whiskey (I used Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach)
  1. Prepare your jars for water bath canning. I made 4 1/2 pint jars with this recipe. The recipe says it makes about 3 medium jars or 2 and 1/4 pounds. If you need help on prepping, see my Day 1 post.
  2. Either juice the clementines and then shred the skins with a sharp knife or put in food processor and chop until shredded but not mush. I started by juicing and making nice slivers with my sharp knife, but quickly gave up and stuck in the food processor.
  3. Place chopped fruit in a preserving pan and add 3 cups of water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook gently until rind has softened (30 minutes or more). Next time I am going to use any juice (assuming I juice first as opposed to using the food processor).
  4. Add lemon juice and sugar. Cook over low heat, continuously stirring, until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Turn the heat up to bring to a boil. Keep at rolling boil, stirring constantly, until gel point is reached. This took my stovetop FOREVER – really, 40 minutes I think.
  6. Take off of heat and stir in whiskey. I added 2 to 3 tbsp, but hey, that’s me!
  7. Place into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add lids (that have been properly warmed) and screw tops (finger tighten). Place and process in water bath for 5 minutes. Remove and place on towel. Let sit for 24 hours and check seal.

This is a more traditional marmalade as my mom says, with the bitterness of the orange present. I am going to try adding whiskey to a sweet marmalade for my next batch of oranges. I only have 6 more trees at least to depopulate of fruit – lots of opportunities for experimenting.