Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer in a Jar

2014 was an excellent year for tomatoes on the farm.  For this year's garden, I scaled back on the variety of items, and just put in tomatoes, peppers, basil and cutting flowers.  It's very exciting when the first little greenies begin to swell and ripen, but later I found myself inundated with many ripe red globes begging to be put to some use.

We ate a lot of fresh tomatoes, gazpacho and salsa.  Another favorite is caprese salad with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.  The flowers came inside to brighten up spots all around the house.  Although I planned to can tomato sauce, or marinate peppers, I never got around to it.  But there's always next year for me, and if you would like to take advantage of your produce year round, the library has some great resources for the home canner/preserver.

Canning, preserving, drying and pickling home grown fruits and vegetables are all great ways to preserve summer's bounty and with the spread of the locavore movement, you can get great fresh local produce even if you don't have the ability to grow your own.

Saving the Season: A Cook's Guide to Home Canning, Pickling and Preserving by Kevin West - A stylish, richly illustrated, practical guide for home cooks and preserving enthusiasts, this is the first cookbook from journalist Kevin West, author of the popular blog Incorporating classic favorites and new flavors, there are more than one hundred recipes, organized by season.

Blue Ribbon Country Canning: State Fair Award Winning Modern and Traditional Recipes by Diane Roupe.   This book presents detailed instructions on food preservation techniques while featuring ninety-five recipes for the safe canning of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, jams, jellies, sauces, and relishes.

Preserving: Putting Up the Season's Bounty from the Culinary Institute of America outlines the health and environmental benefits of canning and preserving backyard produce, shares detailed instructions for every method while providing more than sixty recipes for pickles, jams, and other homemade foods.

Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone is a collection of 30 small batch preserving recipes and 90 recipes in which to use the results.  In addition to canning, the book shows how to use methods like oil preserving and curing.

If you are more of a visual learner, the library also offers a DVD called "The Art of Canning", which covers equipment needed, storage and how to clean everything as well as the basics of caning jam, pickles, vegetables and even eggs.

There are a couple of farm/ranch life blogs that I dip into now and then.  One of these is the Pioneer Woman, blogged by the now popular Food Network personality, Ree Drummond.  Drummond has written several cookbooks, and her blog has several good posts on canning.  There is a beginners project on strawberry jam - that's good way to learn the basics.

Another blogger turned book author is Suzanne McMinn, whose blog "Chickens in the Road" chronicles her adventures on a small farm in rural West Virginia.  Her blog hosts a great forum of like-minded folks who share their advice and recipes.  A couple of posts give the basics of canning, with lots of pictures and step by step instructions.

A tried and true friend to both farmers and suburban farm types is the local Extension Service.  The UMD Extension Service offers advice on all kinds of topics, and each year they hold "Grow It, Eat It, Preserve It" workshops at their Derwood facilty.  One of these workshops is coming up on September 16th, and you can get registration information  here. If you can't make the workshop, a  portion of their website is devoted to food preservation and canning, and there are many links to useful information and videos.

No excuses for next year now!


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