Southernism of the Week:
Well that just dills my pickle: Uh-oh. Something has turned everything sour and I’m het up about it… related to other expressions such as in a pickle, which refers to being in a mess (think piccalilli), or three pickles shy of a quart, which refers to someone’s mental capacity not being quite “all there.” … We Southerners really identify with the world of pickles and pickling.
HEAT IT UP WITH CANNED TOMATOES, PICKLED OKRA, AND FRIDGE JAM
It’s that time in late summer when all the gardens have hit their peak. Serious gardeners, survivalists, and clean-food aficionados are busily canning, pickling and preserving as much produce as their budgets and time will allow.
For almost 20 years, interest and inter-generational training in the art of canning and preserving dwindled. But renewed consumer interest, especially among aging Boomers and conscientious Millennials, has revived the once-common practice of “putting up” veggies and fruits.
As the doyenne of all things homemade says often, it’s a good thing. And it really is, because home canning encourages families to become self-sufficient and to eat healthful products that don’t contain potentially harmful additives. Of course, that is assuming it’s done right and that the cook has access to discount prices when buying by the bushel.
That’s why The Old Bride attended a canning workshop offered last week by the Lafayette County office of the MSU Home Extension Service. The canning workshop went a long way toward alleviating my “fear of canning.” (See this week’s TIPS ON CANNING feature.)
In this week’s column we will share several recipes that are easy to accomplish using the hot water bath processing method.
We’ll save the pressure canning process for a future column. After my newlywed experience with the pressure cooker that went boom, I still suffer from “fear of pressure cooking.” I look forward to future workshops dedicated to the art of using the pressure canner for processing.
HOT-PACKED CRUSHED TOMATOES
This canned tomatoes recipe is from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and was the one we used during the canning workshop at the Lafayette County Extension Service office last week. It is the basis of all those stews and Italian sauces requiring tomatoes. For canning whole tomatoes, follow instructions for coring and peeling, and simply pack into the jars, allowing 1/2-inch of headspace before processing.
8 to 9 wide-mouth qt canning jars, new lids and lid screw bands
Whole ripe tomatoes; approximately 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 lb per qt (Roma tomatoes work well if fresh local vine-ripened tomatoes aren’t available)
1/2 tsp canning/pickling salt (NOT regular table salt or kosher or sea salt)
1 T bottled lemon juice or citric acid per jar
Prepare a large pan of ice water; have additional ice on hand. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Wash tomatoes. Cut a small x into the skin at the blossom end (the bottom). Dip into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, until skins start to split. Carefully ladle with slotted spoon into the ice water. Slip skins off the shocked tomatoes. Use paring knife to remove cores and trim away any bruised or discolored portions. Cut into quarters and place into a large pan.
Heat about 1 lb of the quartered, peeled tomatoes in a large pot, crushing them with a spoon as they are added to the pot. This releases juices and enables the pot contents to heat more evenly. Continue heating the tomatoes, stirring to prevent burning. Once this original pound of tomatoes is simmering, add remaining quartered tomatoes, stirring constantly to distribute the heat evenly. The remaining quartered tomatoes do not need to be crushed because they will soften as they heat. Once all tomatoes have been added, boil gently for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
Prepare hot jars by wiping dry and adding lemon juice or citric acid to each jar. Add 1/2 tsp canning salt to each pint jar or 1 tsp to each quart jar. Fill jars immediately with hot tomatoes, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Use plastic knife or bubble remover tool to remove bubbles in the hot liquid. To do this, spear vertically downward into the jar about 4 to 5 times at regularly spaced intervals. Add more hot tomatoes if headspace is larger than a half inch.
Wipe jar rim (top and exterior) with clean paper towel. Use jar id lifter to pull hot jar lid out of warm water and position it over the lid. Press down with one finger to center the lid and start the seal. Screw on lid band, but not too tight. Use jar lifter and place covered jar into hot water bath canner, allowing room for the other jars.
For pint jars, process 35 minutes before lifting out and placing jars on a towel-covered surface to cool for 12 to 24 hours. For quart jars, process 45 minutes. Allow additional 5 minutes of processing time at altitudes of 1,001-3,000 feet, 10 additional minutes at altitudes of 3,001-6,000 feet, and 15 additional minutes at altitudes above 6,000 feet.
Jar lids will make a pop sound when they seal. Allow jars to cool, untouched, for 12 to 24 hours. At the end of this time, check each lid to make sure the seal is tight (you will be unable to depress the center). Store in a cool, dark space indoors.
The local okra is GORGEOUS right now, so get out your jars and new lids, and buy some at the farmers’ markets. It doesn’t ALL have to be fried or added to gumbo. This recipe is less spicy than some folks around here prefer, but it’s quite tasty as an appetizer!
8 to 9 qt or 12-oz jars w ring and lid
Enough small-to-medium okra pods to fill each jar tightly packed (about 7 lb small-to-medium pods for 8 to 9 pts)
2 to 3 garlic cloves per jar
2 sprigs fresh dill per jar (or 1 T dried dillweed per jar)
1 to 2 small cayenne peppers or 3 to 4 sliced serrano pepper rings per jar
1 c of 5% white distilled vinegar per jar
1/2 c water per jar 1/8 c salt per jar
Rinse okra and peel garlic cloves. Scrub jars, rings and lids, rinse in very hot water from tap. (I recommend sanitizing in boiling water, then draining to dry and cool.) Upon cooling, pack jars with whole okra pods (packed vertically). Pack in the dill, garlic cloves, and peppers. (If using ground dill, spoon it over the top of everything else.) Nothing should stick up above the lower edge of the jar lip.
Combine water, vinegar and salt in large pot. Bring to a boil. Stir until salt dissolves.
Pour the still-boiling brine into packed jars, covering above tops of ingredients, allowing 1/2 inch of headspace above the liquid. Seal jars with fresh jar lids and screw bands, and place in hot water canning bath, covered by 2 inches of water. Simmer in hot water bath for 10 minutes (15 minutes at 1,001-6,000 feet, and 20 minutes above 6,000 feet).
Remove jars to a towel to cool for 12-24 hours. The jars should pop as they seal. Do not tighten the lids. Pickled okra will be ready to consume in about a week. It’s very tasty when refrigerated to serve cold.
SPICIER VARIATION: Add 1/4 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp black peppercorns, and 1 generous splash of hot sauce to each jar before adding the vinegar mix.
SIMPLE REFRIGERATOR JAM
This quick-fix refrigerator recipe is perfect for recycling those old jelly jars that are not appropriate to use in canning. The jam or jelly will last for about a week in the refrigerator, or about six months tightly sealed in the freezer. No processing is needed. It’s a fine way to combine leftover berries or fruits that don’t make up sufficient quantities for preserving alone. No pectin is needed to jell the concoction once cooked.
2-3 c strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
2-3 c blueberries, rinsed and drained
2-1/2 c white granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Combine the berries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Mash loosely with a potato masher. Bring pot slowly to a boil, stirring vigorously with a large wooden spoon. Stir in the lemon juice. Boil until concoction reaches about 220˚F, continuing to stir and remove liquid from sides. Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon and remove from heat when the concoction thickens on the spoon and appears somewhat transparent. Cool to lukewarm, and pour into canning jar(s) or freezer container(s). Refrigerate up to a week and use on biscuits, ice cream, or as a topping for pound cake. May be frozen up to six months.
Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ),Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site: www.tripleheartpress.com and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).