Category Archives: Canning

Christmas Canning

Not to be confused with Christmas Canon – which happens to be one of my fave songs of the season.  Seriously, check it out and download, ‘cuz it’s about that time folks.

October is here, it’s started, it’s goin’, and if you aren’t planning for Christmas already, then you’re just foolin’ yourself.  Yes, I know I begin my planning in late June at the 6-month mark, but now we’re already past the 3-month mark, so it’s not just me being ‘crazy Christmas lady’.  I’m trying to help you out here.

When bing cherries were in season over the summer, I canned 'Christmas Cherries' in a syrup of sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and all spice. They'll go great with turkey or ham!

About four years ago I started canning salsa’s, jams, and preserves to give away as Christmas gifts.  What started as a way to save money and help streamline the way I gift, (I have about 25 baskets to make each year), turned into a tradition and something that was expected by past recipients.  I was shocked, they really enjoyed what I’d made them, so much so, they wanted to make sure I was going to repeat myself the next year!  “What are you canning this summer for Christmas, what can we expect?  Oh, I can’t wait to see what I get this year!”  And so, canning it is, and canning it will always be.  And I love it.  I generally pair a few jars of different things I’ve canned with a treat I make each year.  One year it was sugar cookies with peppermint glaze, another homemade Chex mix, and most recently I gave sea salt caramels last year – my first foray into candy making.  This year I’m still mulling over ideas, hmmm, peppermint French macarons, maybe?

But one thing I’ve decided on for sure is my packaging!  You have got to love Uline.com!  Why I never thought about them before, I dunno’.  This year I’ll be ordering their craft gable boxes and red/green crinkle paper. And I’ve bought some cute eyelet hang tags at Paper Source and Christmas stamps to use for red glitter and gloss embossing!  I also found the cutest fabric swatches at City Craft to adorn the tops of my canning jars.

The patterns are very Anthropologie, but still holding to Christmassy colors - some even have peppermint swirl candy patterns!

Oooh, project, funsies!  More than likely I’ve bitten off more than I can chew…but it wouldn’t be the holidays if I didn’t do that to myself each year.  To be honest, I thrive off the activity and stress of it all!

Texas State Fair

And on this, my 301′st post, I will celebrate the TX State Fair – and my 2 blue ribbons I won this year.  Yippee.

And here I am with my Strawberry-Mint preserves on my right, and the Tomato Preserves to my left.

Could I be anymore of a dork?  Probably not.

I headed to the fair this past weekend with Ben & David, which happened to be the first Sat. of the fair, only day two its been open.  And I gotta’ say, this might be our fave new time to go to the fair, the crowds were very doable, and we hardly had to wait in line for anything – except the fried butter.  Still a fair favorite after 2 years, we finally tried it.  And yes, it truly is good, even if you are eating a big ball of gooey, melted butter!

Also on our menu of culinary partaking: Fletchers corny dog (of course), $1 hot dog – a new place we found tucked away by the Old Mill Inn, roasted corn – from the ONLY place to get it from, the green/yellow apron folks on the Midway, by the merry-go-round, homemade root beer, homemade lemonade, caramel apples with nuts, fried loaded mashed potatoes – a favorite, and alas, the 1st place winner this year, fried bubble gum.

The Fried Bubble Gum got mixed reviews from us. It's really just a marshmallow that is bubble gum flavored that's been fried. Meh.

And the surprise of the evening, all-you-can-drink Ocean Spray juice samples and free Sensodyne toothpaste!  (Hey, that stuff is expensive, and I happen to be an avid user)!  If you’re over by the Food & Fiber and Creative Arts pavilions, keep walking past those areas, and just before the road curves to go back towards the Midway, you’ll find the vendor sampling areas.  OMG, the new Ocean Spray Cranberry Lime juice is SO GOOD!  All you need is a little vodka and maybe a splash of soda, and you’re good to go!  It’s definitely on my grocery list.

And we also checked out the car show, sat in some nice rides and kicked some tires.  Something I never thought I’d consider as my next vehicle purchase: a Ford.  But hey, that Ford Edge is sexy!  And Ford has really stepped it up with technology integration…USB ports and audio jacks everywhere, fantastic!  They’ve also got a new C-MAX hybrid crossover coming out next summer that will get 47 miles to the gallon in the city, and 97 if you go for the Energi version that plugs in!  Annual fuel costs of around $1,000 – uh, yes please!  :)

Hello World!

Haha, remember that, “Hello World”?  For anyone that took computer programming in high school (talkin’ 80s here), it was the first thing you learned to program that would pop up on the screen.  Or, if you’re, say, a 34 year old that graduated with a computer science degree and spent nerdy time being a software engineer, then you’ve seen it more than you care to note.  And you’ve probably left that all behind anyway, and transformed your life into something much more interesting and socially savvy…like, getting a 2nd degree in graphic design, and becoming all designery and hip, and starting your own food blog, and taking an interest in mid century modern design, and being published to talk about food and design…and yeah, stuff like that.  Wha?  No?  Damn.

From nerdy-land it roughly translates to, “I have arrived, I am here on this planet, this is my mark!”  So it’s poignant I use it today as my intro, because it feels like I’ve been gone for forever, doesn’t it?  Feels that way to me.  Me = bad blogger.  But, but, but, I have a good excuse!  But wait, really, I do…well, sorta’, okay, not really.

Lesse’, what have I been doing to keep myself so busy I couldn’t take time out of my day to give forth to my loyal followers (deep, heartfelt thanks to all 5 of you…especially the phone calls harassing me to post, no, seriously)?  Well, my life kinda’ imploded a few months ago…3 months today, actually.  After working (read: over-working and suffering thru 3 years without a raise, prior to which I’d just bought my first house!), at a job for 8.5 years, I was unceremoniously called into a boardroom and told my services were no longer needed, my position had been eliminated.  Yeah, fun, right?

So my almost 9 years fit into 2 quaint shipping boxes…crazy, right?

And so those came home with me and promptly went into my spare bedroom closet, and then I began to bake, and bake, and can jams, and bake, and cook.  And then I started driving all over town and thrusting these baked and canned goodies upon people: friends, chef-friends, Sicilian master bakers (Hi Mary), neighbors.  It felt good just to give…to give something that was a part of me to people who would respect it and embrace me, and be grateful to just be thought of.  This lasted about 2 weeks and then I saw this quote on a friend’s FB page: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~E. M. Forster

I realized at that moment just how relieved I was, and just how unhappy I’d become because of certain people and circumstances I was surrounded with each day, and why I had ever let it into my life was beyond me.  And why I had never done anything to correct it sooner.  I should have been making the best choices for me, and not hoping in the end people would do the right thing or fulfill promises made.  Baking I know, cooking I trust, putting love into something you turn around and give to people for nourishment…that is a no brainer.

And so I taped that quote to my fridge, and promised myself I would try to let things in, and not be so type-A controlling about every aspect of my life.  And oddly enough, I didn’t have this sense of constant worry, something was calming me.  To me my life was chaos, or rather, should have been chaos.  “OMG, no job, what’s a gal to do, everything is gonna’ go in the sh!tter.”  And then things started to happen.  People were reaching out in their own ways, which I tried to reject at first, I didn’t want pity.  But as my friend Ben reminded me, I must let people do things for me sometimes…it’s what people do when someone is in need.

It started with daily calls of people wanting to take me to lunch.  Then I got invited to a fun July 4th party.  Someone baked me a cherry pie (Hi Diane)!  My Dad paid the last 4 payments of my car note (awesomest Dad, ever).  I started getting up at 7am to walk The Katy Trail on mornings.  I picked up extra shifts at my part-time job, and met 4 new customers who were canning enthusiasts.  Got published with my 7th write-up for Modern Dallas on Il Cane Rosso.  Started interning at a PR office in trade for learning this new industry and a workspace to call my own (Starbucks got old).  Met new Dallas food bloggers via Twitter and a fundraiser I worked at Dallas Farmers Market.  Got invited to go on a road trip with 2 of my best boys to Albuquerque (Hi Ben and David).  Went to a fancy dinner put on by Matt McCallister and my dear friend Brandi’s boyfriend picked up the tab (Hi Jimmy). Won 2 blue ribbons at the TX State Fair for tomato preserves and strawberry-mint preserves.  Was given an all expenses paid ticket for a girls trip to Palm Desert to hang out with my best friend since 2nd grade, (I think I fainted on this one), and found out my other 2 best boys, (Hi Mark and David), will be there at the same time!  Worked a fancy VIP party for my catering friend and got to work in the trenches alongside her (Hi Ann).  Won an Artizone gift card online for $25 worth of gourmet eats – I never win anything!  Got invited to a restaurant opening.  Got asked to be on the Chefs for Farmers committee.

I mean, it’s insane!  The universe was definitely trying to tell me something, and I’ve felt the slightest push forward on my shoulder this entire time.  And do you see the pattern?  Food, foodies, food world, etc., etc.  So, it’s only fitting I’ve been in talks with a possible employer who’s clientele is all restaurants, food distributors, and chefs.  And, as you can imagine, I’m chomping at the bit for this opportunity.  But I must be patient, and not push it.  I have to just let the cards fall where they may…but could I just this once be a magician and make it happen already!?  lol

So I give a shout-out to all who have lent a helping hand, even the smallest gestures, you have no idea.  All of them together has made this massive snowball of love and support, and I’ve been blown away.  Pinching myself regularly it’s so crazy, and so I let it ride, riding it out to see what happens next.

And this is just some of where I’ve been in the last 3 months, of which blog posts are to come – promise:

My little red ribbon.

I left for England/Paris the week the TX State Fair opened, so I didn’t get to visit my winning entry until the 3rd weekend of the fair.  I had several people tell me after I got back that they had seen my tomato preserves on the shelf in the Creative Arts building – which was very sweet for them to notice and to tell me – thank you all!

As you may recall from a previous post, I entered 3 canned items in the TX State Fair on a whim, and took 2nd place for my tomato preserves.  I was completely shocked, and honored!  I did not have high hopes when I dropped off my items at the Creative Arts building and saw literally hundreds of canned items across many tables!  But I got a ribbon, and everyone says I should be proud of that, and so I am.

Here’s a few pics I snapped when I finally got to visit with friends.  And if you want the recipe, follow the first link above to my previous post.

That's mine. :)

Stiff competition...

Brandi taking a pic of my entry. Just look at that entire wall filled with hard work, sweat, and tears! lol

Some were just so beautiful. I must work on my jar layering techniques for new entries next year!

Look at those peppers...dare I say, cute?

I Took 2nd Place at the Texas State Fair!

For my tomato preserves!  Who would have thunk it after I saw all the beautiful submissions when I turned my selections in for consideration.  And sadly, because it was the ONE thing I entered that I did very last minute and in a rush, I don’t even have a picture to post for you!  lol  That is bad, isn’t it?  I’ll be going to the TX State Fair in early October, and you can bet that I’ll be visiting the Creative Arts building to see my ribbon and note my competition for next year!  I’ll post pics of my excursion then. 

I used tomatoes from the same batch as my canned roma’s, which I purchased at the Dallas Farmers Market for $10 – a whole box, 93 Roma tomatoes people, 10 buck-a-roos. 

Peel, core and seed, chop 'em up, and you're ready to go. Not much else but sugar and lemon juice.

 

But what I can do is share the recipe for you here if you’d like to venture out on your own and make some tomato preserves:

Farmers Market Tomato Preserves 
Makes approx. 8 half pints

3 cups prepared roma tomatoes, about 14 med-lg. romas
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice, approx. 2 lemons
6 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 pkg Sure Jell fruit pectin

First prepare the roma tomatoes by scoring the bottom with an “X”.  Scald the tomatoes by dropping into boiling water for 30-45 seconds.  Remove and transfer to cold water to stop the cooking process.  The skins of the tomatoes should peel off easily now.  Peel the tomatoes, remove the core, and squeeze to discard extra juice and seeds.  Give them a rough chop then bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  If you like your jam to have a smoother texture, you can mash the tomatoes as they cook with a potato masher.

Measure 3 cups of the tomato mixture into a separate stockpot or large heavy bottom saucepan.  Add the lemon zest, juice, pectin and mix well.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stir in sugar quickly, and return to a full rolling boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and skim off any foam with a spoon, making several passes across the top of the mixture to remove all visible foam.

Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/8 inch headspace, remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims and threads, cover with lids and secure with screw bands.  Place jars in water bath and process for 5-10 minutes.  Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours to cool, checking that all lids sealed, then store in a cool, dry, and dark place for up to one year.

Try it: this tomato preserve is great for a bruschetta appetizer!  Cut a baguette into slices, drizzle with olive oil, and toast until crispy.  Smear goat cheese on the bread pieces, then place a small dollop of the tomato preserves, and top with a basil leaf.

Canned Pickles and Roma Tomatoes with Basil and Garlic

For the first time in 3 years I took some time out to can a few things I wanted to keep back as pantry staples.  You see, everything I can thru the summer season I give away as gifts come Christmas.  It always happens to work out that I give away every single jar, and it wasn’t until this year that I’d even tasted some of the things I have canned thus far!  But I did can extra things this year to keep back some for myself.

Fresh basil and dill cleaned and ready to go.

Including these large quart jars of pickles with fresh dill, garlic, and thai chili peppers, as well as Roma tomatoes with garlic and basil.  These pickles will be awesome on grilled burgers next summer!  And the tomatoes are canned for pasta sauce throughout the winter months.  Simply dump the jar in a stock pot on the stove, and gently mash up the Roma tomatoes with a fork or potato masher to the consistency you like.

Cukes, dill, garlic and thai chili bathing in vinegar/salt mixture.

For the pickles, I actually followed the Ball recipe on the back of the pickling salt package – here’s a very similar recipe from Cooks.com.

Up in the cabinet these go for at least 4 weeks...

For the tomatoes, no real recipe, just a big box of Roma’s from the farmers market and I went to town.  Tip: score an ‘X’ in the bottom of your Roma’s and drop them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute, until you notice the skins starting to peel away.

Quick scald, then peel.

Then transfer them to a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process (I sterilize one side of my sink and use that w/ some ice thrown into tap water).  Then peeling all of the tomatoes is a piece of cake, just takes a little time to get thru them all – I had about 60 tomatoes because I was prepping a large batch and using 1 qt. jars.  I also core them and squeeze to release most of the seeds.

Ready to pack.

Once you’ve got all of your ingredients together, simply add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, some basil, minced/sliced garlic, and 1 tsp. of kosher salt to each jar.  Then pack the tomatoes tightly up to about once inch from the top of the jar.  Pour boiling water into the jars to top off, run a small spatula around the interior to release air bubbles, and add more water as needed.  Clean your rims, seal them up, and process in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.  And there ya’ go, pasta sauce for the winter!

Mmm, can't wait! That basil and minced garlic will really infuse over the coming weeks.