Jean Powell of Goose Creek is interested in canning recipes using fresh veggies and fruit, and the time is "ripe," pun intended, now that many are in season or soon will be.
Canning is a method of food preservation that dates to 1809 and the Napoleonic Wars. The French government offered big francs -- 12,000 -- in a quest for a method of preserving large quantities of food to feed its armies. Nicolas Appert, a Frenchman, found a way by sealing food in glass jars.
Commercial canneries sprung up and tin and later steel cans replaced the glass jars for mass production. So home "canning" is a misnomer, because the foods are still packed in jars, not cans.
Canning was a necessity as well as a source of pride in my grandmother's generation. I can remember standing in the dark coolness of her cellar pantry peering at jars upon jars of jams (blackberry, raspberry, peach and plum) with longing and awe. There were vegetables, too, but I was focused on the sweet stuff.
But home canning began fading away as folks left farms for cities and became more dependent on grocery stores as a year-round source of food.
Interest in canning has seen a revival since 2008, about the time the recession became a reality. But saving money hasn't been the only factor driving sales of preserving products, which jumped 30 percent between 2007 and 2008 at Jarden, the company that makes Ball jars. There's also a growing appreciation of fresh local food, whether it comes from a suburban garden or a Sea Island farm.
Some years we can at my house, some years we don't, and it's mostly pickles and relishes. We always regret when we don't make the time, though.
Once you purchase the needed equipment and "learn the ropes," canning is not hard. To that end, consider investing in a book or educating yourself with free information on good websites, such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation, www.uga.edu/nchfp.
Two readers, Sara Peagler of Cross and Lynn Rhode of Round O, recommended "The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving," which covers all aspects of food preservation, including freezing. I haven't checked, but both said Walmart usually carries the book.
My "Ball" book is titled "Complete Book of Home Preserving" (2006). Here are two recipes found in it.
In this one, the cucumber helps balance the heat of the peppers.
Makes about 8 (8-ounce) jars or 4 pint jars
7 cups chopped cored peeled tomatoes
2 cups chopped peeled cucumbers
2 cups chopped sweet banana peppers
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped, peeled, roasted Anaheim or poblano chiles
1/2 cup chopped, seeded jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup loosely packed finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
Prepare canner, jars and lids.
In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers, green onions, roasted Anaheim pepper, jalapeno peppers, vinegar, cilantro, marjoram, salt and lime juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process both 8-ounce and pint jars for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
This barbecue sauce is recommended for chicken or fish.
Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 8 (8-ounce) jars
6 cups finely chopped pitted, peeled peaches (see cook's note)
1 cup finely chopped seeded red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 1/4 cups liquid honey
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
Cook's note: To peel peaches, drop them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Immediately rinse under cold running water. The skins should lift off easily. You can chop the peaches by hand or in a food processor.
Prepare canner, jars and lids.
In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine peaches, red pepper, onion, garlic, honey, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper flakes, mustard and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened to the consistency of a thin commercial barbecue sauce, about 25 minutes.
Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot sauce. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
As Lowcountry tomatoes come in, consider making a big batch of spaghetti sauce that will see you the whole year through, or at least many months to come. This recipe is borrowed from "The Beginner's Guide to Preserving Food at Home" by Janet Chadwick (Storey Publishing, 2009).
One difference in this recipe is in the removal of the screw band at the end of processing. This prevents them from rusting onto the jars and helps you to detect broken seals, according to the book.
Jan's Spicy Spaghetti Sauce
Makes 6 to 7 quarts
30 pounds tomatoes (10 quarts puree)
4 large onions
1/3 cup dried sweet basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup honey or sugar
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
3 to 3 1/2 teaspoons citric acid (see cook's note)
Cook's note: Citric acid is added to seasoned tomato sauces to guarantee that the sauce is acidic enough to be canned safely in a boiling-water bath. Citric acid is available from your drugstore and will not affect the flavor of the sauce. Instead of citric acid, you can use 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice per quart of sauce.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Puree tomatoes in a hand-cranked strainer. Chop onion finely. Put the vegetables with remaining ingredients except citric acid in a large roaster. Stir well. Bring to a boil on top of the stove.
Cook, uncovered, in the oven for 10 hours. Do not stir.
One hour before cooking time is up, fill the canner with hot tap water and preheat water and jars in the canner. Prepare lids.
When cooking time is up, ladle the hot sauce into hot jars. Leave 1/2-inch headspace. Add 1/2 teaspoon citric acid to each jar to ensure the safety of the sauce.
Process 35 minutes for pints and quarts once water has returned to a boil.
Cool jars. Check seals. Remove screw bands. Label. Store.
Who's got the recipe?
--A co-worker would like stir-fry recipes for beef or chicken that are not very spicy.
--A West Ashley reader asks if anyone has a recipe for chicken in wine and mushroom sauce that uses boneless cutlets.
--Here is a timely request, as fresh field peas soon will be in season: Sharon Fratepietro would like vegetarian recipes using field peas.
--Sammie Gourdine of St. Stephen seeks recipes for chopped barbecue and hush puppies.
--A reader wants to mimic the thick, red picante sauce served by the now-closed Cisco's Mexican Restaurant. It was commercially made, so that recipe isn't available, but he would love to have any other user-friendly recipe that would make 1-2 quarts at a time.
Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Food Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.