Summer's Bounty

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Today is the first annual National Can It Forwad Day. Canning is taking on a resurgence these days. People are looking for a way to eat fresh local produce year round, it's a good way to control the contents of their food, and it's a great way to stretch a dollar. I'm not canning today, but I am admiring the colorful stack of full jars of pickles and jams sitting in my kitchen today, from the previous two full weekends of canning. I'm so proud of my work over the last two weekends so I'm going to share all my hard work with you here today. In honor of National Can It Forward Day. The first thing I do before canning is peruse my canning bible Putting Food By by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan. I love this book, it explains all the basics of canning and has some great recipes. It's a must have for canning. And this year my canning session was inspired by the August 2011Bon Appetit. There was a great article in this months magazine called The Preservation Society about a group of Los Angeles friends who gather to preserve their summer bounty and to create a sense of community. And yet another inspiration for my canning, and this book will be an inspiration for a great many things, because it rocks like Iron Maiden, was this awesome book that I splurged and bought for myself. Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen. This book is worth a whole separate post, but for this post, just know that there is an incredible ginger rhubarb jam recipe that I used. A recipe that made my kitchen smell amazing! So, the first thing I did was take a walk over to the farmers market in Old Town Eureka on my lunch break on the Tuesday before I started my first round of canning and picked up a flat of these beautiful local strawberries. These babies were so aromatic - the entire office was engulfed in the sweet smell of strawberries. It was all I could do to keep my co-workers out of them, and even harder to keep my 7 year old daughter out of them on our way home - so I had to relinquish a few to keep the peace. The next thing I did was pick up some more jars - which I just never seem to have enough. If you're in need of canning supplies, I highly recommend Fortuna Ace Hardware. I like to go in the Fortuna store and just stare at their full aisle of canning supplies and drool. It's my toy store. Next was setting everything up, and getting everything clean and sanitized. Getting it all in order so that once I got started it would all fall together and run smooth. I did all of this canning by myself, so I need to be organized in order to not make a huge mess and to keep everything clean and safe. My mom's hot water bath canner. I treasure this. First I did the strawberry jam. It was an old style recipe with no pectin that I got from my Putting food By book. And no, you don't need pectin - the jam will come out fine. It's easier than you think. My kitchen smelled like summer - the only thing that smells more summery would be the smell of fresh cut grass. The next day a local neighbor of mine brought over some of his home grown rhubarb, so I said I would can it for him if he'd let me keep some of it, which he was more than happy to do. So I have now officially defiled page 447 of my new Forgotten Skills of Cooking cookbook. I can now turn straight to that page because it's been gooped up with my cooking. I love my goopy cookbooks. Nearly 4 lbs of Rhubarb, cut fresh that morning Rhubarb and Ginger Jam 4lb rhubarb, trimmed 8 cups granulated sugar grated zest and juice of 2 lemons 1/4 cup fresh ginger, bruised and tied in cheesecloth 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger or stem ginger preserved in syrup (optional) Wipe the rhubarb and cut into 1 in pieces. Put it into a large, stainless steal or Pyrex bowl layered with the sugar. Add the lemon zest and juice and leave to stand overnight. Next day, put the mixture into a perserving pan, add the bruised ginger. Bring to a boil until it is a thick pulp, about 30 to 45 minutes, and test for a set. Remove the bag of ginger and then pour the jam into hot, sterilized jars. Cover and store in a cool, airy cupboard. If you like, 1/4 cup of chopped, crystallized ginger or preserved stem ginger can be added at the end. Now for next weekends canning project. Beets from the Farmers Market in Old Town Eureka. Spears of Zucchini soaking in iced salt water. Sliced kirby cucumbers purchased from the Farmer's Market in Old Town Eureka, preparing to become bread and butter pickles. All three of these recipes I found in the August Bon Appetite - and I can tell you I sampled them before I canned them and they're going to be awesome when they're ready to open and eat. I can't wait to bring these on my camping trip coming up in a couple of weeks and share these with my family. You can find the Pickled Beets with Star Anise, Zucchini Dill Pickles, and Bread and Butter Pickles in the August 2011 issue of Bon Appetite. And here is my bounty of pickles. I can't wait to get into them! Hopefully soon I will be graduating to a pressure canner and I will be trying my hand at things like spaghetti sauce, ketchup, maybe some canned local albacore tuna, or just some canned green beans. Even more summer bounty. YUM!

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