How things have changed...
This is just a sample of all the preserving I did this year. It doesn't include everything that we've already eaten, or my green tomato salsas or my roasted vegetable pasta sauces... or even the many jars I gave away. No fruit or vegetable escaped my canning clutches :)
In India, we do preserve, spicy pickles, jackfruit, dried fish, tamarind... come to mind. My favourite Indian preserve has to be the way my grandmother, Mai, did her jackfruits. Jackfruits are huge, spiky fruit that grow on trees, and are a delight when fresh, ripe and sweet. There are two kinds, the fibrous ones, roshal, and the other one is the firmer one, kapo. Roshal are sweeter, but a mess to eat, while kapo are prized for their flavour, not just when ripe, but also raw, where they are preserved in brine in huge stoneware crocks. Mai's kitchen always had these stoneware crocks full of preserved jackfruit, tamarind and the occasional fermenting spicy mango pickles. We preserved fish by drying it out, and salting it. These little fish were then ground up into a spicy chutney with garlic, chillies and coconut. Jackfruit was sliced up and made into a dry curry with splatters of mustard seeds and chillies. It was one of my favourite dishes growing up. Now, I can't think of it without tearing up at the thought of my Mai, who made this for me everytime I went to visit her.
And when we had an abundance of roseapples, my mom made roseapple jam. I still remember her first batch, her at the stove in our tiny kitchen, surrounded my my neighbours and aunts, all dispensing advice on jam making. The resulting jam was not canned, but placed in the fridge to be eaten straightaway, to be honest, there was never enough fruit to make this whole process worthwhile. We lived in the tropics. Jam was a 'Western' food, eaten in posh households that had a toaster. We ate it on soft bread, the days mom was too busy to make us a hot breakfast before school. Sometimes we had mango jam... that tasted nothing like fresh mangoes off the tree. But the taste of that jam still evokes so many memories. School, friends, the beach, my grandparents' house...
My first real experience of canning was in my mother-in-law's kitchen. MIL has a beautiful vegetable garden, and as she tells me, she grew and froze so many vegetables, that they lasted her most of the winter. She grew up canning... it was a tradition in her family, and she has happily passed down her tips and techniques to me. She let me help her make raspberry jam, and it was such a new experience for me. She doesn't can as much now, as she reckons its easier to freeze produce for just the two of them, but she did kindly pass on her canning and jam making books to me. I love going through old cookbooks, its like diving into a past that didn't include me, but in a present that does.
Both Kay and I knew that when we moved back to Canada we were definitely going to have a garden and as Kay loves gardening, vegetables and fruit were a given.
But still, the sheer scale of the produce coming in during this short Edmonton growing season shocked me. I had to learn how to can... and fast. So I did.
My saviour of a book was 'Preserving Made Easy' by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. I don't think any other cookbook that I have has been used as much this year as this one. I love that its all small batch preserving but it also gives you plenty of scope to play with the flavours to make them your own.
One of the biggest successes from this book was this amazing sparkling pepper jelly. I played with the flavours, substituting cider vinegar for white wine, adjusting the number of peppers and the heat levels until I found the perfect balance.
My biggest problem with the jelly recipe was getting the peppers to stay suspended in the jelly, because my altitude meant that the peppers would all float to the top instead of staying all jewel like in the middle. It took me a few attempts to get this right and the recipe below reflects all the changes I have made to the original recipe. Not that floating peppers made a difference to the flavour, mind, it was really all about the presentation here.
This jelly is totally amazing with crackers and soft cream cheese, brie or blue cheese. We recently took it to a friend's place, and it disappeared in no time... and I had people asking me for the recipe. I played a little coy, but then gave away the fact that it was going to be up here. I must admit, for a canning novice, it really was a proud moment. Between that and my salsa, I think I may be now set for the cold winter to come.
Adapted from 'Preserving Made Easy' by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard
Makes 2.5 cups
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1 orange pepper, deseeded and finely diced
3 - 4 hot red peppers, finely chopped (I used 3 hot Thai bird's eye chillies, deseeded)
(Peppers should measure a total of 2 cups)
1 cup cider vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 pouches liquid pectin (85 ml + 50 ml)
Place the diced peppers, cider vinegar and sugar in a deep, heavy based pot. Bring to the boil, and boil hard for 1 minute. Stir in 1 pouch (85 ml) liquid pectin, then boil again for 1 minute.
Take off the heat and let cool completely, stirring every so often. Cover and leave for about 4 - 6 hours, or overnight. This will stop the peppers from floating to the top when canning.
When ready to can, prepare jars, by washing them, and placing them in hot water. Place the lids in hot water.
Bring back the pepper jelly to the boil, and add the remaining 50ml of liquid pectin. Boil for 1 minute, take off the heat, and stir hard for a couple of minutes. Ladle into the prepared hot jars, leaving 1 cm of head space (space on top).
Clean the jar rims, then place the lids on top, then screw the bands on to fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (depending on altitude). Take out of the canner, and let cool completely, until the lids pop and the jars seal.
Store at room temperature for up to a year. If the lids don't pop, store in the refrigerator.
This post is part of the The Canadian Food Experience Project. Myself, along with the other participants are sharing stories about our Canadian food experiences, across this vast country we call home. We would love it of you followed along and joined us too.