J is for Jars #AtoZChallenge

Canning jars decorated with fabric and jute. Mango rum chutney, pickled green tomato slices, green relishThese jars were Christmas presents for a few friends. I found the idea to decorate them online and was happy with the way they turned out.

Decorating and wrapping gifts are not my strong suits. I’m good at cooking, baking, and in this case, canning, but that final step before gifting usually gets overlooked.

This time I was happy to decorate. It was fun. I learned that the name of that kind of scraggly looking string is jute. (I would have guessed raffia.)

Ingredients for mango rum chutney in the pot
This delicious chutney is a treat to make.

The recipe for the  Hot Mango-Rum Chutney came from Better Homes and Gardens. It’s not actually hot, but the people I gave it to would consider it spicy so I labeled it to give them warning. The recipe can be made with papaya or mango.

The recipes for the Green Tomato Relish and Dilled Green Tomatoes don’t seem to be online, but if you have an older version of the Ball Blue Book, you’ll see them there. I did blog about making them in a post about relish a while back.

 

Chocolate Habanero

2016-10-21-12-34-31Why do they call you chocolate habanero? Is it because they want to watch me take a bite and laugh at my tears and burning tongue? I know it’s only a name because they look like chocolate, but I’m just dumb enough to want to taste one….

Spicy peppers at the farmers market, jalapeno, habanero, Serrano, Fresno, cayenne, poblano

I love the hot peppers on display at the farmer’s market.

They are too spicy for me, but I enjoy pickling them for my husband.

Chopped hot, spicy peppers on a cutting board

They are so pretty when chopped up and canned.

Hot spicy peppers slices and pickled in masn jars

Daily Prompt: Relish (Green Tomato & Beet)

Green Tomato relish and pickled

In addition to my fried green tomatoes, I also made green tomato relish. I had never tasted it before and am surprised at how much I like it. The green tomatoes make it tangy and the brown sugar balances that with some sweetness. There’s also onion, pepper, cabbage and mustard seeds.

Chopped green tomatoes, onion, cabbage, peppers are salted for several hours, rinsed and then turned into relish
Chopped green tomatoes, onion, cabbage, peppers are salted for several hours, rinsed, and then turned into relish. This is about 28 cups!

I also made some beet relish a few weeks ago. (Same day I made a batch of hot peppers, apparently.)

Beet relish canned and spicy peppers canned

It’s pretty heavy on the beet flavor, but still good. I had never tasted this either, but I had some beets and the recipe in the canning book seemed good.

Ingredients of the beet relish: chopped beets, cabbage, onion and peppers

I think the green tomato is my new favorite. I had to try some refrigerator pickled slices, too. These are flavored with dill.

Green Tomato slices, pickled with dill

I made 7 pints of the green tomato relish, 4 pints of the slices, 4 half-pints of beet relish, and one pint of refrigerator pickled slices. Looks like I’ll be…savoring this relish for a long time.

viaDaily Prompt: Relish

P is for Preserving Food

Two summers ago I tried canning for the first time and loved it. Last year I did even more food-preservation projects.

Cherries were first. I canned some sweet and some sour, and I also made jam for the first time. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I’m still getting over how much sugar goes into jam. It’s hard to dump 6-7 cups of sugar into a pot of something I’m making.

Canned cherries and cherry jam

Later, I made blackberry jam. It was such a nice day picking these blackberries that I used some photos for my entry in the photo challenge called Good Day.

Homemade Blackberry jam

I also canned peaches. At the time, I felt like I had packed the jars full of peach halves, but after canning they kind of shrunk and floated, making it look like I could have fit more in.

Jars of home canned peaches

Throughout the summer, I was canning tomato sauce. Each week I would bring home tomatoes from the farmers market and make sauce.

Quarts of home canned tomato

Sometimes you can find tomato “seconds,” which are fruits that aren’t in perfect shape, but are still definitely edible. There may be bruises that you have to cut off, splits, or minor things like that. These are sold at a discount, or sometimes given away for free. They still make excellent sauce, so they’re good enough for me.

Chopped heirloom tomatoes in pot for tomato

In all, I think the things that I canned were: cherries, cherry jam, tomato sauce, pickled beets, spicy peppers, applesauce, picked roasted bell peppers, peaches, blackberry jam.

Canned spicy peppers

It got so hectic that I wasn’t keeping up with writing down or taking pictures of the stuff I canned, it was hard enough just to get it done and still have my tiny kitchen cleaned and ready to cook the next meal. But I really loved it. The chaos and mess were totally worth it.

I love the idea of preserving good products at the peak of freshness to enjoy later. It’s nice to have control over the process of what goes in it. I’m looking forward to doing more this summer as things come into season.

***

I’m participating in the A to Z Challenge for the month of April. The idea is to post every day, except Sundays, and end up with one post for each letter of the alphabet. It’s a good challenge to help me to blog every day.

A to Z Challenge badge

Things That Are Hot: Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge

Campfire for smores
For this week’s Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge, the theme is things that are hot. This campfire made some yummy smores last summer.

Canned spicy peppers
This is a mix of spicy peppers that I pickled and canned last fall. Jalapeños, Scotch Bonnets, and some others that a friend grew but couldn’t remember the name. They sure were hot when I was cutting them up!

Toasting a marshmallow
Another campfire for smores from last summer. I guess that’s all I do in the warm months.

Two mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows
Marshmallows again. I really didn’t think I ate them that often.

Blue flame
(You could totally toast a marshmallow here if you had to.)

Photo Challenge: Good Day–Blackberries

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Picked blackberries in the morning and made jam in the afternoon. I don’t like blackberry jam, but I know several people who love it, so this will make nice gifts for them.

This is in response to this week’s theme: Today was a good day. The challenge asked us to create a Mesh gallery using their new app. I thought about trying it, but I just feel to busy right now to download and try something new. I’ve been neglecting my blog as it is. I don’t want to download and neglect something else. If they could integrate it into the WordPress interface I might use it.

Cherry Abundance

Inside a sour cherry tree
Inside a sour cherry tree

Say what you want about the weather this spring, (it’s been bat-shit crazy!), it produced some excellent cherries. This was only my second year picking my own, and everyone at the orchard said what a terrific crop it was. Last year there were no sour cherries and a limited amount of sweet ones. This year the trees were simply dripping with them.

A row of sour cherries
A row of sour cherries

What did I do with them? I tried making jam for the first time. It came out OK, but I still prefer the brand that I’m used to buying. My jam isn’t sour enough, so I guess next time I would add more lemon juice. I don’t think I’ll do that anytime soon because I’m still getting over the massive amount of sugar that I had to add. I mean, I understand that this is how jam is made, but 6 cups?? It’s a lot to dump in all at once.

Several different types of sweet cherries.
Several different types of sweet cherries.

I made some sour cherry juice that I mixed with some sparkling water to make a little refreshing drink. I froze a few batches of cherry pie mix and hope to test one soon.

Sweet cherries waiting to be picked
Sweet cherries waiting to be picked

For the most part I canned the cherries in an extra light syrup so I have options for using them later.

The cherries back in April
The cherries back in April

This is what the cherry tree rows looked like in April, with the plain white flowers just starting to bloom. Not the prettiest cherry blossoms, but it’s not like these trees had any delicious fruit on them. Or these.

Cherry season is short and sweet. It was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to picking my favorite fruit again next year.

Canned cherries and cherry jam
This should keep the cherry party going for a while