In 2012 we discovered our passion, trite though that may sound: Canning. This Christmas family and friends received baskets and tins filled with the fruits (and vegetables) of our labors. Some have weighed in with comments and opinions and we have finally tasted everything we canned. Here are the reviews:
Tomato Sauce: We didn’t give any as gifts but we did cook with it and everyone agreed it was just about perfect.
Cucumber pickles: Definitely a thumbs down for the most part. The dill pickles weren’t crisp and tasted like vinegar, no dill flavor at all. The bread and butter pickles were salty. We knew that different kosher salts have different weights but the recipe we used didn’t specify the brand, so we used the amount called for. The sweetness is overpowered by the salt. We need to find a new brine for both types of pickles.
Dilly Beans: The dilly beans were a great success. The favorites were the lemon & bay leaf and the spicy. We had no intention of making dilly beans but when we saw that crate at the produce auction and realized we could buy it for $8.00, we snapped it up and are glad we did. We will make these again this summer.
Pear Butter: The consistency is off but the flavor is amazing. Everyone loved the pear butter.
Blueberry Lemon Jam: Another success. Although we weren’t happy with the consistency, everyone else loved it.
Blueberry Syrup: Pretty perfect. You can taste the blueberries over the sweetness of the syrup. We tasted this on lemon ricotta pancakes that Louisa made after the holidays.
Sweet Onion Marmalade: Anyone who got a jar from the first batch loved it. The second batch tasted like tin and went in the garbage. We’re going to watch for Walla Walla sweet onions next year and order some before they are unavailable. They must be amazing because they sell out in just a few weeks.
Citrus Overload Marmalade: Mixed reactions – Sandy and Denise’s dad were not fans but others liked it quite a bit. Again we have to work on the consistency.
Pickled Daikon & Carrots: This stayed crispy and has a nice flavor but needs more heat.
Canned Blackberries:. We didn’t give these out either and hadn’t tasted them before the holidays. They just may be the best thing we’ve done. The taste of the berries is still there and the syrup is light but extremely flavorful. And they are beautiful.
Limoncello: The majority loved it. Neither of us had ever tasted it so we had no way to measure our reaction. A few thought it was too sweet or too strong and one person said it was better than moonshine – we’re not sure if that’s a thumbs up or thumbs down.
Neither of us anticipated the reaction we would have to canning. It was just one more idea, one more project we thought we should try in our quest to figure out who we are and what would make us feel fulfilled in our empty nests. The blackberries were canned with hope and uncertainty. The tomato sauce made us believers and on that Saturday, canning grabbed us and hasn’t let go. We spend far more time looking for canning recipes than we do recipes for Sunday dinner. It is part of every conversation we have. We have a wish list of what we need and now have a scale (thanks, Louisa). Now we no longer have to stand on our bathroom scales with bags of fruit or vegetables, hopping on and off, hoping we’re right. We’re looking to buy an additional burner so we can run two canners this summer.
When the produce auction closed for the winter, we went in to canning withdrawal. But we realize now that we can use these winter months to work on the bits that challenged us-better brines, pectins, new combinations of spices and produce. We’ve learned that you can use a slow cooker for fruit butters so next weekend, we’ll make a small batch of pear butter to see if we get the consistency we’re searching for. Thanks to the gift of a book called Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, we are going to try our hand at homemade vinegars. Pineapple vinegar will be our first attempt. If nothing else, we’ll have pineapple upside down cake for our efforts. If we are successful, that will be a terrific addition to next years baskets.
We still love to cook and will continue to try new recipes for Sunday dinner, but canning may be what we have been searching for. Our successes and our failures have been equally inspirational. We are certain that we will only get better. No bad pickles in next years baskets. That may be the best of what canning has brought to the empty nest.
THE RECIPE: CANNED BLACKBERRIES AND LIMONCELLO CREAM
The first time we looked for a fresh berry recipe, we found a recipe that called for an ingredient we didn’t have so we skipped it. Looking for a recipe for the canned blackberries recently, we found a perfect recipe in Epicurious. It wasn’t until after we made it that we realized it was the recipe we’d found two years ago but didn’t have limocello. Now we do, because we made it. This may be the best dessert of the year. Not only is it easy and so very delicious, it is made with blackberries we picked in 98 degree weather and with limoncello we made in the fall.
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 oz. marscapone
- 3 tlbs. sugar
- 3 tbls lemoncello
Beat all ingredients until thickened-it should be like a soft custard, firm enough to hold its shape. Spoon in to bowls and top with blackberries including syrup.