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Archive for the ‘General, Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting’ Category

Recently we’ve shared our reasons that winter is a great time to preserve as well as announced a preserve swap in Toronto as our next event.  With those things in mind, we thought it made great sense to do a roundup of some of the great winter recipes we’ve found from friends and other strangers online.  There are great recipes from people we trust as well as some of our own recipes within in.

Waterbath Canning (requires no special equipment)

  • Sour cherry Meyer lemon marmaladeDesert by Candy freezes sour cherries in the summer and matches them to Meyer lemons when they’re in their peak season for this spread.  We dehydrated sweet and sour cherries this year and I think their texture could be really interesting in this type of dish.
  • I’ve never made jam with bananas but this Island Jam looks really interesting and is a great original take on preserving from Freds In The Head
  • Grow It Cook It Can It shares their Citrus Marmalade.  This recipe is jammed full (pun intended) of a bunch of different citrus and a great winter recipe.
  • Here’ another marmalade from Two in the Nest Mama.  This one appears to be more-in-line with the traditional marmalade (a bit on the bitter side) but a great sample of a classic.
  • Sweet orange marmalade from Mermaid’s Treasures.  Some marmalade can be very bitter – this looks much sweeter and would be a great glaze for chicken amongst many other uses.
  • Carrot Jalapeno Peppers.  Southern Fried Curry – you had me at jalapeno!
  • Snowflake Kitchen takes frozen fruit, combines with lemon and makes a yummy looking winter jam (we have some frozen blueberries that might just make it into this jam soon!)
  • This Little Pint of Mine shares another marmalade as part of their “52 Preserves, 52 Weeks” – proving that preserving is indeed a year-round event.
  • Uncanny’s marmalade takes us in a different direction – using kaffir lime leaves and sounds awesome!
  • Curried Cauliflower Pickles from My Pantry Shelf.  Booya!   This is so far up my alley that it’s practically in my driveway!
  • The tiniest marmalade in the world is shared by Food in Jars with their Kumquat marmalade.
  • Marisa (Food in Jars) steps it up with Blood Orange Marmalade; I’ve always found their name so intimidating but this recipe isn’t.
  • Local Kitchen shares her Cranberry Habanero Mustard.  I have no words; this just looks awesome.
  • Kaela (Local Kitchen again) also shares her Apple Carrot Chile Chutney.  We don’t make nearly enough chutney in this house; this might be a starting place!
  • Pickled Leeks are great in the middle of winter.
  • Spicy Pickled Carrots are another sure-fire (pun intended) winter preserve.

Pressure Canning (requires a pressure canner)

  • Pressure canning dry beansThis was sent to us by Lynn S. on our FaceBook group.  It’s such a cool idea – it starts with dried beans and pressure cans them while rehydrating them – it’s less totally work than rehydrating those beans one-batch-at a time and is on my must-do list for the next rainy day at home.
  • I’ve never pressure canned potatoes but Pat (Mermaids Tresures again) has me interested in trying.  Having cooked potatoes on hand could save a lot of time on those nights that just don’t have enough time.

Dehyrdating (generally requires a dehydrator)

Fermenting (no special equipment)

  • Vinegar.  Cubit’s shares a beautiful post on how to make apple cider vinegar from scratch – this is on the must-do list for next year to-do list for sure!
  • Kimchi.  It’s a winter classic and Put a Lid On It shows us a great take on making it!
  • Sauerkraut – our friend David Ort (Food with Legs) shares how you can make a tiny bit of kraut at a time.  Extra bonus for the spicy part!
  • Gingery Lime Pickle from Tigress.  This is off the hook – I keep seeing posts and thinking I gotta make that – but I GOTTA GOTTA make this!
  • Tigress also brings us a sweet fermentation by working with these adorable kumquats.  We need a warmer windowsill to sit these in!

Other

Of course there’s many, many more all around – check out the sites above for lots of great ideas to help even further – and add your favourites in the comments below!

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A lot of people think that winter is a bad time to preserve.  It’s my experience that it’s actually an excellent time to do so – here’s my top 10 reasons on why I’ve come to that conclusion (in no particular order):

  1. Waterbath canning can make your house warmer and more humid.  Anyone who has canned (or for that matter, dehydrated and/or pressure canned), knows the dread of turning a giant pot of water to boil on a sweltering day.  Let’s face it, canning can be hot work – so hot that I’ve had days I’ve had to skip because our loft was already a sauna.  These techniques have the opposite effect in the winter – adding heat and moisture from the steam which helps make our apartment feel even more cozy.
  2. Not all preserving is canning.  When we think of preserving as being only about jam and pickles, we miss many other opportunities.  Curing bacon or fish, making sauerkraut and dehydrating veggies are all examples of things that can be made year-round.  Expanding the variety of methods you use to preserve will easily allow you to expand your preserving through all 4 seasons.
  3. Summer and fall are busy times.  We feel the pinch of a busy summer and fall.  Winter tends to have less social engagements for us and preserving can sometimes feel ‘squeezed’ into busy weeks or weekends.  Preserving in the winter is at a slower pace and just a whole lot easier to work into a less-than-busy schedule.
  4. There are less light in the daytime in the winter.  Less light means more time inside.  More time inside means more available time to play in the kitchen.
  5. There are lots of fresh/ local ingredients.  Contrary to popular belief, there’s a tonne of stuff to preserve in the winter.  Common (local to Ontario) ingredients include mushrooms, apples, cabbage, onions, garlic, kale (as in chips), dairy, turnip, garlic carrots and more.  Less common ingredients include brussels sprouts, squash, potatoes, and more.
  6. “Local” becomes broader.  Winter is the prime season for citrus and a careful examination of a good grocery store will show an expanded citrus section: limes, key limes, blood oranges, lemons, Meyer lemons, grapefruit and other specialty citrus.  We don’t preserve a lot of these items but preserved lemon is an example of something we make gladly in the winter.
  7. It’s a great time to learn.  I’ve found that a lot of people wait until the summer to learn to preserve for the first time.  I encourage newcomers to preserving to attempt it in the winter – you’ll see just how easy it is, be able to plan for your summer and learn when the options (and pressure to preserve them all are fewer).  Almost every person I’ve met who learned to preserve in the summer regretted not making more in their first year.
  8. There’s a great opportunity to test new recipes and techniques.  Want to learn to ferment chilis or make hot sauce?  We’re a giant fan of local food but I’m not sure I’d want to learn by experimenting with a bushel of local Ontario peppers.  Why not make a small jar a few times in the winter (with imported peppers) to see what you think of your results before increasing your scale?  If you try things a few cups at a time you don’t even have to process them – just keep them in the fridge and see what you think.
  9. Practice makes perfect.  I used to preserve heavily from July-October and then wait for the next year.  As a result, each July became a lesson in re-learning the process.  By preserving around-the-year I’m able to stay in practice, consistently learn new things and hit the main season running.  I make fewer mistakes and have more fun.
  10. There are lots of jars around – and space on the shelf.  I’m constantly running out of jars in the summer and trying to figure out where to stack them – preserving in the winter generally finds my house with lots of room and lots of extra jars to use in the process.

We’ll share a round-up of winter recipes tomorrow.  in the meantime, why do you preserve?

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We’ve received multiple questions in the last several days about general safety questions – many of which were about tomato sauce and the issues of adding lemon juice or other acid.  While this post will answer that question (sort-of), it’s important to me to share the context of many answers around safety-type questions that surround canning and the Internet.

Because today’s post is a bit more serious than most, I must also say that it’s not a rant.  There is little more I like better than comments or questions – and little more I feel badly about than giving vague or generic answers. 

It’s important for me to explain why our answers on safety are generic and why we come up with them.  We’ll share this post in the future as our one-off explanation of how we come up with the answers we do and why we answer some specifically while being vague with others – and provide links to help you find answers to some of your own questions.

It took me a few years to convince my Mother that some of the recipes or techniques that she was using were considered less-than-perfectly safe.  My Mother was raised in a family that gardened, had a cold cellar and preserved as a matter of survival and sustainability. 

My Grandmother recently shared with me that when she was young every house HAD to have a garden and you wouldn’t have been able to provide for your family otherwise.  Growing and preserving food wasn’t a luxury – it was a core requirement of supplying the kitchen.  She lamented that she couldn’t find a single vegetable garden in her community today (and we found 1 farm in an 800-kilometer round trip specifically looking for farms).  A lot of the knowledge had diminished.

The 1970’s were pivotal for preserving.  A few things happened (these were not all related to each other – but you can see how significant pressure would have come to the family unit as well as our food structure):

  • The family structure was changing and more houses were becoming dependant on dual-incomes and less time existed for domesticity.
  • The economy was under tremendous pressure – gas prices soared, interest rates were massive (mortgages were 17% and higher).
  • New crops for the home garden were becoming available (there was a particular boom in heirloom varieties which, while tasty, may not have had the same acidity as ‘traditional’ varieties that people had used for years).
  • People became sick from home-produced and commercially produced preserves.  In 1971 a couple in New York City became very ill after eating commercially canned vichyssoise – he passed away while she became very ill (source is here).  A later case in 1978 became an international incident as people all over the world became sick on Alaskan Salmon that was preserved (same source).
  • Reports of people dying from botulism from home canning emerged from California.  There were many rumours on why – most revolving around the ‘fact’ that the people (I believe it was 2 deaths in total) passed away because of using heirloom tomatoes that were less acidified than typical tomatoes (you can read more about this in Putting Food By which is so valuable as a textbook/ resource more than as a cookbook).  From the research I’ve done, it appears that the tomatoes were NOT water-bathed and instead wrapped in towels to ‘seal’ (an old-world technique that some still use but is not considered safe).
  • It is amazing to me that one of the biggest celebrity Chefs in Canada has a recent cookbook that still recommends the towel method.  In other words, you’re going to hear very different things from very different people.
  • The FDA overhauled its safety standards – many of the practices that predated the 1970’s were now forbidden.  The changes were so drastic that the preserving section of “The Joy of Cooking” was one of the few (and perhaps only) chapters that has been completely re-written from its original source).

The USDA changed it’s guidelines in 1988 specifically recommending adding acid to tomato (source).  For many people who have canned tomatoes for longer than that (or have learned from those who did), this is largely unknown and asking their opinion will yield a very different answer than from someone who has been trained since that time.

There are also reports of our food changing substantially.  Reports that mass agriculture (this is based more on anecdotal evidence/opinion than fact) has produced methods and produce that have changed tremendously over the years. 

A mass-produced tomato can taste the same right across the continent even though there’s different soil, heat, sun, weather and water.  Consider that a local restaurant in Toronto (Cowbell) conducted a taste-test of produce which started with the same seeds but were grown in separate areas of the province – diners were almost 100% in agreement that 1 region produced better tasting produce in the blind-test. 

Regardless of preference, it was clear that two carrot seeds sent to two different locations did taste significantly different.  This begs the question: if mass-produced tomatoes taste the same across the continent, what changes have occured to their chemical composition to accomodate? 

Reports include that food is going through substantial changes – some of our tomatoes are far less acidic than they were 20 or 40 years ago.

Add a final complication to this whole mess: the Internet.  Consider:

  • In Italy it is still standard to preserve tomato sauce in any bottle you can get your hands on.  A friend of the family uses glass sprite bottles and ‘seals’ them with wax (highly not recommended in North America).
  • Preserving garlic in oil (typically left in the sun for weeks) is considered lethal in North America (we stopped putting a garlic clove in our oil almost 20 years ago after very real reports of botulism came out about this).  But in India, this is still made – I have no idea of the safety record.
  • In the USA, pressure canning meat and fish are endorsed by the FDA/USDA (source: NCHFP).  Two different sources in Canada have two different views (Eat Right Ontario touches on that it can be done – although doesn’t mention pressure canning – here while I have a document at home that says there’s no safe way to do this at home).  To further turn heads, meat is routinely canned with salt and no pressure in Newfoundland and most of Northern Canada.  It is a staple of the diet, people would possibly starve without it and is simeltaneously NOT something I could endorse.  It’s one accident away from certain disaster.

I’m not suggesting that guidelines are too strict – I am trying to point out that there are many sources, opinions, scientific fact and conflicting standards that  contradict each other.  People aren’t aware of how often things have changed – and how much has changed.

Sites like WellPreserved are love projects.  Next Saturday will mark 1,000 days of consecutive posting.  There are easily more than 2,500 hours of time put into this project (grand total of income from it, including gifts are around $500).  2,500 hours is the equivalent of 62.5 (based on a 40-hour week).  This doesn’t include research, cooking, buying, and time spent dreaming and obsessing.  Add vacation time and it’s easy to rack up a year-and-a-half full-time effort in creating something like this (and while so many more are worthy of note I must tip my hat to Marisa at Food In Jars who makes the scale of our project look tiny). 

But does this make me an expert?  That’s a tough question that I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer – certainly I have canned thousands of jars safely, know a lot of information on the principles, culture and safety tips around preserving.  My knowledge is largely taken from reading, teaching, attending courses and learning – but I am still not a food scientist.

This isn’t a pity party but it’s part of the necessary context to explain why I don’t feel comfortable giving you advice on safety for you and those you love.  It’s important to me that you know that I believe in everything I share with you – so much so that my friends, family and I consume the things we post about here. 

But I’m not a food scientist, major corporation or an expert in all regions, countries, techniques or ingredients.  Pretending to be that would let you down – as well as expose myself both emotionally (if something went wrong) and potentially legally.  And I can’t do that for a love project.

So, for the sake of safety, we do two things when it comes to answering questions about safety and your jars:

  • Point you to the sources who are the truest experts (and I believe that is the National Center for Home Food Preservation)
  • Recommend always to fall on the side of safety – regardless of my technique.  Yes, this means that I will recommend to do things that I may, or may not do (for such an example, here’s our article on adding lemon juice to tomatoes for a direct answer).  And when I do, it’s not ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ – it is exactly as I recommend. 

There is a gap between what I can recommend as someone who is host to a Global Community (we could have never imagined the blog, FaceBook page and community here growing as it has) such as ours and what I do personally.  I reconcile this by reasoning that I want you to be as safe as possible, do your own research and make the decision for yourself on what works for you and your family.  I do hope you’ll understand – it’s simply an extension of the fundamental rule of canning – ‘better safe than sorry.’

I’ll never make garlic pickled in oil.  I don’t believe it’s safe – further I believe it could be deadly.  I won’t recommend you ever make it.  And, as a stranger in a public forum, I would also highly recommend that you don’t consume it.  But I have no idea how I’d react if I ever have the opportunity to go to India and am offered a taste of a 100-year old recipe from a family that eats it daily and swears it’s whats made them live to 120…  I don’t even know if I’d share the experience – but I know I’d want to.  But that’s not the same as endorsing it for others – and that’s a paradox that leaves me sometimes uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, it’s important to do your research, to know that what we share here is up to standards that are tested and true (to the fullest extent of our moral and intellectual ability) and that we eat the things we share with you here.  I hope you’ll understand if you ask me for an opinion on something I haven’t made, eaten or know about that I will default to a generic safety-first answer because nothing can go wrong with that!

To wrap this explanation up, my Mother told me a few years back that she has switched to only tested recipes – mostly those found on the Internet.  I’ll never forget the look on her face (it was utter panic) when I reminded her that anyone could be an ‘instant expert’ online – including me.  We laughed a lot about it but it took that connection to realize that it’s tough to find the sources that one can trust – even if that’s sometimes your Son (or your Mom). 🙂 

Just to be perfectly clear; my Mom is a kick-butt preserver who rocks jars like nobodies business – without my folks, I would not be into this like I am.  I hope that comes across and doesn’t sound like I’m saying she doesn’t know what she’s talking about – because she does. 🙂

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Since sharing posts about preserving 8 bushels of tomatoes into sauce, we’ve had the same question on Twitter, Facebook and the blog – “What are you going to do with all of this?” or “How long will it last?”

The short answer that no one wants to hear is, we will eat it.  In 10 months.  The longer answer is as much about our life and how preserving has changed it.

We start by sharing the sauce with my parents.  We don’t count jars but our families split it.  The majority of the sauce is stored at their house in the suburbs and we take a case at a time downtown to the loft.  We try to bring the empties back but my habit of filling them (often with dehydrated food) means they are replaced with different ones.

This still leaves each family of two with about 80 jars each.

We do eat a fair amount of pasta (often with homemade noodles) – my parents more than us.  I’d actually be happy eating noodles almost daily if I could survive on that.  Alas, man cannot thrive of noodles alone.

Preserving our food has pulled us further and further away from the grocery store.  Less than 10-20% of our groceries come from a grocery store (and most of that are staples like milk, butter and the like).

We also eat almost 100% seasonally – other that what’s been preserved.  This means that we don’t buy out-of-season produce at all.  We are fortunate to have an amazing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that has been able to grow an amazing variety of crops (including greens) 48 weeks a year.  Much of the produce in our winter market are things like potatoes and squash but there is certainly more to be had than ‘just’ these root veggies.

This means that buying asparagus, tomatoes, a lot of fruit and much of summer’s bounty doesn’t happen in our house.  Of course we’ll eat these things if offered to us at a friend’s house or out for dinner but are more likely to steer away from it if we happen into a grocery store.  It’s worth sharing that only 4 or 5 years ago we were in love with grocery stores, saw them as a garden of plenty.  For the last 2 years we’ve found ourselves in a grocery store in the depth of winter and found ourselves not able to find anything that excites us to eat.  This is very much a ‘problem’ of the first world and I’m aware that the majority of the world would be offended by us even considering this a dilemma.

We have also drastically reduced the meat we eat in our diet – and the meat we do eat tends to be wild game (mostly moose) that my Father and I harvest or small-farmed meat.  There are rare exceptions but those are becoming rarer each year.  It’s not entirely intentional – just something that has evolved with time.

All of this has just sort of happened.  Writing about food, preserving and local food has certainly influenced a lot of conversations around our dinner table and the changes in our diet and where we spend our food budget has migrated without much effort.

Because of the combination of changes in our life, the sauce becomes a staple in our house that we will easily consume between now and the return of fresh tomatoes next year.  Here’s ways we use it other than for pasta:

  • Braising stock
  • Chilli
  • Soup
  • Stew
  • Potato gnocchi

In essence, it becomes almost a replacement for stock and an essential element of our cooking through the winter months.

What would you use it for?

 

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Hey all!

I am so excited to see what’s been happening with the growth of the canning community this year.  I thought the real buzz around canning and other forms of preserving had peaked last year – and I have wholly been proven wrong. 

I am absolutely blown away by the amount of preserving that I am seeing, hearing, reading about and seeing evidence of.  It was less than 3 years ago when people would email asking where they could buy canning jars (retail) and a better question today would be where CAN’T I buy them.

It’s awesome to see the amount of new canners giving it a go, experienced canners canning more and finding the online communities like this.  I’m really excited and thrilled.  It’s been exciting to see the amount of interaction people have had with each other and the resulting traffic to our site (yesterday I shared with our Facebook Group that we had more visits to the website last week than 10 of the 12 months last year).

We’ll return to some preserving posts tomorrow (there’s a lot more to come) but I wanted to take a step back for the sake of caution.  I’ve recently seen some practices that are marginally to very dangerous online and wanted to provide a few guidelines/ resources and posts that may help you stay safe.  Some of the well-intended examples of dangerous technique have been:

  • Waterbath preserving of vegetables with no acid/ pickling.
  • Waterbath preserving of meat products such as bacon jam.
  • Garlic-oil infusions.
  • Waterbath preserving of recipes with oil added.
  • Pickling with vinegars of unknown acidity (it’s recommended that one uses 5.5% acid vinegar and many balsamics are unmarked and lower than that).
  • Adding large amounts of low-acid ingredients to jams which may considerably change the acidity.

I’m not saying any of this to be hollier-than-thou or to be an ‘expert’ – I’m learning like the rest of us.  I’m just hopeful that we all stay safe and share best practices and look out for each other.

Many people don’t realize that there were significant changes made to the standards of food preservation in the United States in the 1970s.  Many techniques passed down from before that time are now considered dangerous and using Grandma’s recipe may – or may not – be a good idea.  It’s also important to note that Grandma had different food ingredients – there are many reports that claim the ‘average’ tomato has become less acidic over the last 30 years.

Here’s a few tips that may help you on the road to safety:

  1. National Center for Home Food Preservation (Our article introducing this resource – if you don’t know what this is, I think it’s a must read).  This resource is on my screen almost every time I can.
  2. Understanding High Acid vs. Low Acid Foods (from our site)
  3.  How to buy a pressure canner (including safety advice – from our site); and the basics of how to pressure can.
  4. How Long do Preserves Keep? (Our site).  This includes links to a lot of resources about jar storage and length of time you can keep your jars (and how to spot spoilage).
  5. Canning 101 (Food In Jars).  A list of links to Marisa’s fundamentals – a great set of articles that can help make sure your fundamentals are in-line.
  6. I be Jammin’ (our site) – a refresher on the fundamentals.
  7. Watch out for the biggest risk – the boiling water.  I gave myself 3rd degree burns last year (and was very lucky) for my first ‘real’ canning injury.  I was careless and it was my fault.
  8. Wear shoes.  I haven’t written about this but hot jam or boiling water are a bad combination with bare feet.

Feel free to add your safety tips and links below – we’d love you to share them!

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It was a heck of a weekend – we got a whole lot done and are thrilled with the results.

It was particularly fun to be updating our progress on Facebook (there’s quite a few pictures from the weekend still there) and interact with others as well as see you all interact with each other as well!  I loved seeing posts and pictures of what everyone was up to and the interaction between such an amazing community of people – it actually helped push us on through the weekend.

There’s 75-100 jars but, more importantly to me, a huge variety of different things:

  • Rumtopf – Blueberries, plums, apricots, strawberries, peaches, blackberries and more appear in this years version (this was last years)
  • Herbes Salles – Salted herb preserve that stays in the fridge and keeps herbs available for a long time past summer.
  • Red Currant Bitters – a special ‘extra’ for cocktails
  • Pears – preserved quarters in mild syrup with a touch of Toronto Whisky
  • Grand Marnier Infused with blueberries.  We’ll pull the berries out for baking or some other goodness.
  • Blueberry Sauce with Maple Syrup (this is ideal for pancakes or goat cheese)
  • Vodka Infused with Blackberries
  • 3 types of naturally fermented/ sour pickles
  • Red Currant and Apricot Jam
  • Brandy-soaked Apricots
  • Peach-infused brandy
  • Slow roasted figs preserved with lemons
  • Smashed peaches
  • Cantaloupe Pickles
  • Plum Sauce
  • Plumbeena (beverage)
  • Spicy Carrot pickles
  • Preserved lemon in salt
  • 2 Different types of fermented hot peppers (jalapeno and scotch bonnet)

I am sure there were others as well – but this is the list of things I remember off-hand.

In the coming days (and weeks), we’ll be sharing recipes and techniques from all of the above.  The biggest question that remains is – where to start?

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Welcome to August!

You may have noticed that we haven’t had a lot of preserving articles up while some are mostly done their canning. 

There’s a few reasons for this:

  1. The preserving I have done so far has a lot of repeats from previous years and I want to save you from reading the same thing twice.
  2. Time has been short.  We’ve done some really new stuff with cherries, strawberries, rhubarb and more but just haven’t had the time to take pictures and post about them.  I’m in a dilemma on some of those – the season is over for most of them but I have unwritten posts that could explain things for next year – not sure if people want to see that far ahead though.
  3. It’s starting to cool down at night.  I generally don’t boil gallons of water in the middle of the hottest seasons of summer.  Waiting a few weeks past the start of the traditional harvest to get through the maddening heat that turns our apartment into a sauna (without the heat of boiling water).
  4. Product.  Although there are plenty of exceptions, I find that mid and late-season preserving can be more economical as well as, in some cases, superior product.  There are exceptions of course.
  5. Ability to combine batches.  The longest part of preserving, to me, is getting my water bath (or pressure canner) up to a boil.  By doing multiple batches at once I can prep a batch while another seals away.  It’s the same amount of time to set up for one batch (especially when multiplied by setting up the photo lights and studio in our apartment that goes in to taking pictures for the blog) as it is for a single batch.
  6. It’s fun to make giant batches.
  7. Shared ingredients lead to greater variety.  This is especially true if adding spices or liqueur.  For example, If I preserve whole peaches, apricots and blueberry jam, I would have 3 different batches.  Buying 3 small bottles of liqueur and adding a bit of each to each different type of fruit gives me 9 different flavour types with the work of 3.  I could also take whole fruit and preserve them in any of the liqueurs and make more batches again with minimal additional work.  The more ingredients you are working with, the easier it is to make different combinations in a hurry (when making pickles with chipotle, I might just take an extra pepper and toss it into a jam for a possible cheese pairing that I wouldn’t use otherwise).
  8. I enjoy presering late into the harvest when the days are shorter and there’s less light to enjoy the evenings outside with.

With all of that in mind, I’m getting ready to do a bunch of jars this weekend.  I am going to guess that the final count will come in between 60-100 with 12-20 different completed products.  Some will require a lot of prep work and others will be as simple as adding booze to fruit in a jar.  Of course we’ll share the results.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when doing large batches like this:

  1. Let the market decide what you are going to preserve.  Ask your farmer what the best thing they have on the table is and don’t go determined to make one thing if you can’t find it at it’s best.
  2. Know your recipes and where to find them.  I study recipes through the winter so that when I’m looking at a table, I know roughly what I need to make a product or recipe.  There won’t be a lot of time to research once I bring the amount of stuff home that I’m going to work with so being efficient is important.  Keep a list of recipes if needed and sort by ingredient and where you have the recipe stored (I’m gifted with a killer memory that can help me in a pinch).
  3. Know safety and use tested recipes.  There are rules that you can experiment with and others that you can’t.  It’s important that you know the difference.
  4. Know where to find recipes in case you come home with something you don’t know what to do with.
  5. Contact your farmer in advance if needed.  I have been given the heads up by 3-4 of my faves as to what they will have this weekend and what will be at its best.  This allows me to do some additional prep work.
  6. Take inventory of jars, spices and equipment.  Keep an abundance of staples like sugar, vinegar, lids and key spices (dill, mustard seed and the like) on hand.  You should have extra when finishing (there’s nothing worse than 12-14 hours of work ending with you missing 3 lids).
  7. Get to the market early.  You want your pick of things and sleeping in isn’t an option when making big batches.  A number of years ago we made a golden raspberry jam with the 6 pints available at the local market.  The only 6 pints.
  8. Group your recipes.  When we made golden raspberry jam we also made red raspberry jam.  The process was similar and it made getting things done just that much easier.
  9. Label as you go.  Clean as you go.  Seal as you go. 
  10. Enjoy it and have fun.  If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it.
  11. Consider bringing friends along for the ride – but be warned of the law of diminishing returns which states that there is a point that adding resources can slow down a process.
  12. Invest in the right equipment.  A mandoline can cost you $15 and speed up your slicing by 1,000% or more.
  13. Have a beverage, some great music and fun conversation – but pay attention, especially when tired.  I got lucky last year when a small batch of preserves nearly maimed me (my first 3rd degree burn ever while preserving).  I was sober and paying attention but made a stupid decision.
  14. Know the basics.  This type of preserving probably isn’t the logical place to start if your entire group is brand new to preserving – then again, with the right amount of reading and the right partners, perhaps it’s ideal.  We all learn from mistakes – and learning from large batches can be expensive if the mistake is big enough.

I hope this list helps – what would you add to it?

 

 

 

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