Friday, June 1, 2012

It's getting to be that time of year again.

Especially by the looks of my sad and meager larder.

But on one hand, I get a sense of satisfaction from looking at this nearly empty larder. I remember how full it was at the start of last fall. Look how much stuff we ate this year that we didn't buy from the grocery store, picked ourselves, bought locallly, knew exactly what the ingredients were, etc.

Since I started canning about three years ago, I have made some adjustments to what I've put up based on what we use and need. That summer in 2009, I made WAY too many pickles, so now I know to alternate years. Pickles are one of those things that I personally don't mind keeping longer than one year, but that might make some nervous. (For the record, pickles are pretty much the only thing I'd keep longer than one year. I think fruit jams are okay, but once the 12th month comes and goes on those, I try to use them up sooner rather than later.)

I have a few jars of salsa left, which is good. We love it, and the first year I canned it, I didn't make enough. These jars should get me through this summer until peppers come in season again. Same goes for tomatoes. I use those a lot, and I think I estimated it pretty well last year when I was trying to decide how many to can.

I have a ton of jam left. Last year was a banner year for blackberries, so I canned a lot of blackberry jam. Last year, I made plain blackberry jam, but a few years ago, I made balsamic basil blackberry jam that was delicious! My father-in-law assures me that this year there will be even more blackberries than last year, which I cannot imagine. I'll most certainly make some of that jam, as well as can some whole. Last summer, I tried canning them whole for the first time. I only did three pints as an experiment, but they were great! They held up much better than freezing them. I put them in my oatmeal this winter and spring, and am looking forward to more of those this year.

I'm always on the lookout for fast breakfast foods for weekdays, especially for the Hubs, who is a picky breakfast eater. I've seen recipes online for homemade "pop-tarts" a couple of times, recently, so I think that a lot of my leftover jam stash will go into those.

And speaking of jams, a couple years ago, a friend of my mom's gave her a bushel of peaches from the trees on her farm. My mom split them with me, and I ended up canning them in halves and making the most wonderful jam. I followed a recipe for regular peach jam, and threw a sprig of rosemary in it while it was cooking, removing it before I added the sugar. I have been craving some of that for the past few months, so even if I have to buy peaches from the farmer's market this year, I'll be making some more of that. (Note: While experimenting with recipes is always fun and interresting, it is advised to not deviate in canning recipes. Always use reputable recipes, and if you do add something, say a sprig of rosemary, don't add anything that would change the volume of the recipe, and make sure it is either ph neutral or acidic.)

Two resources for canning that I rely on are: The Ball Blue Book of Home Preserving and the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website. The Ball Blue Book has been around for more than 100 years, and I have a pretty recent edition. It has plenty of modern recipes for things like chutneys and salsas, as well as tips and step by step instructions for canning basics.
The next things on the horizon that I will be canning will likely be peaches and blackberries. Both are in season around the beginning of July. I know I am officially a total canning geek, because I can hardly wait!

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