Why Can

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There are many reasons why people can. Everyone has a different reason. Here are a few reasons why I can.

Health is a big one. I feel that people are slowly killing them selves with all the processed food they are eating. People ask me all the time why I can and I tell them, I know what is in the jar and I can pronounce each ingredient. There are no harmful additives, and a lot less sugar and salt.

Eco-Friendly is an other reason. If you grow your own food you are not having trucks bring your produce to the store and pollute the air. If you can’t grow your own food buy local.  You are reducing the waste of pre-packaged foods and the mason jars are reusable.

Finance is an other reason. When produce is in season it is at it lowest price. This is the perfect time to start preserving food and stock up your pantry. Those upscale kitchen stores with the fancy jams, chutney and mustard that you drool over can be made for a lot less money. When friends and family members know you can  they will start to bring you produce so be ready have jars on hand!

Passion is an other reason I can. I love food and sharing. I have been blessed to come from a family of foodies that are Portuguese. The Portuguese people I know want to show you how much they love you by cooking you a meal, handing you produce from their yard or a jar of homemade jam. Canning is a connection to my culture, family and heritage. I have to admit I love handing someone a jar and seeing them smile. The other thing I love is hearing the “POP” sound from the jars as they seal.

Gifts, What a wonderful thing to hand to someone. In my family we decided many years ago we would give consumable gifts during the holidays. For years I gave wine, but then I realized it’s not as special since they can go buy a bottle any where. So the last few years my family and friend have received jars from me. Now they are starting to make requests. When it comes to the holidays us canners have the upper hand on gift giving with our full pantry to shop in.

Quality and taste is far better homemade that any store-bought. Find the best produce at its peak and can it. Is going to taste better than anything you can get from the store.

One last thing, I’m highly addicted to canning and my personal goal is to get you addicted too.  I love it, it makes me happy. Happy Canning!

Share with me your reasons for canning.

P.S. Check out the class calendar. I have change a few things.  Please let me know what you would like to learn.

See you in class

Chili, Chile, or Peppers

100_1572Proud to have a guest blogger.

Chili, Chile, or Peppers?
By Mike Strauss, Pit Master, Bay Area BBQ.Info

Chili, Chile, or peppers; what’s the difference? Simply stated, they are all chili peppers.
Chili peppers are usually broken down into 3 varieties: Bell peppers, Sweet Peppers, and Hot Peppers.

All three varieties have been part of the human diet since 6000BC.
Their pungent flavors made them a valuable trading commodity and were used for barter throughout the world as part of the spice trade routes.
For me, they satisfy three of my passions; cooking, gardening and photography. They are such beautiful plants, easy to grow, and the chili pods, (with are actually berries), come in a rainbow of beautiful colors, shapes and sizes.
I love to go out into my pepper garden, (which I named Peppertopia) and walk through the many varieties to see the changing of colors as they ripen. It gives me a thrill to watch them grow and harvest their bounty.
When I have picked a variety of peppers, I like to take close up pictures and showcase their contrasting colors and shapes.
Some plants are so beautiful; I think I would plant them as accent plants and ornaments. Some of these are the Peruvian Purple, Black Pearl, Zimbabwe Bird’s Eye, and Orange Thai Dragons.
As we all know, peppers come in varying degrees of heat. The active ingredient in peppers is called Capsaicin. When eaten or applied to the skin, the capsaicinoids trigger the pain receptors in our nervous system and tell the brain we have just eaten something hot! The brain reacts by increasing our heart beat, internal temperature (which causes perspiration), and releasing endorphins to ease the pain.
Scientists measure the concentration of capsaicin using the Scoville Heat Units or SHU.
Standard Grocery Store Peppers
Sweet Bell Peppers have 0-4 SHU
Mild Green Chili or Anaheim chilies have 2-5 SHU
Jalapeno peppers have 2,500-5,000 SHU
Habanero peppers have 250,000-300,000
Extremely Hot Peppers
Infinity Peppers have 1.2 Million SHU
Bhut Jolokia (Ghost) Peppers have 1.5 Million SHU
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Peppers have 2 Million SHU
Carolina Reaper Peppers have 2.2 Million SHU
Chili Peppers are used fresh in sauces, salsas, and mixed into foods, or stuffed. The pods are often preserved dried, smoked, or pickled. They can be reconstituted for later use, or powdered. I use all of the methods, as each one allows me to use them in countless recipes.
My first experiment with extremely hot peppers started when my customers said my hot barbecue sauce wasn’t hot enough.  I was adding plenty of crushed red pepper flakes, but I wasn’t getting that mouth tingling sensation that today’s hot sauce freaks are looking for.     I started purchasing jalapenos and adding them to my recipes, but I still wasn’t getting the results they wanted. It wasn’t until I added Habanero peppers to the mix, that I finally found a source of heat. But, I wasn’t done yet. Although Habanero Peppers have a great flavor, the amount of pepper flesh needed to make it hot enough, gave the sauce a very green vegetable taste. I tried cooking the sauce longer, thinking that it was the raw pepper flesh that was giving it the vegetable taste, but that didn’t work. It wasn’t until I dried and powdered the peppers that I could reach the heat levels, maintain the Habanero flavor, and keep their mouths’ burning.
Since then, I have been growing my own peppers to add that special flavor to numerous recipes.

Today I have 80 plants of 15 different varieties. I no longer grow Jalapeno, Cayenne, or Pablano peppers, because they are available in stores nearly all year. I tend to grow the exotics, extremely hot or colorful pepper varieties. Most all are available online or special order from local nurseries.
Now I am honing my skills of matching flavor profiles of foods to the species of peppers. Last year’s creations were Water Melon Habanero Sauce and pineapple ghost pepper rib glaze. This year I has given a huge box of peaches and came up with a sauce that I call, “Sweet Heat” and “Extra Hot Sweet Heat”. I combined the sweetness of the peaches with the heat and flavor of Habanero peppers to form Sweet Heat. But again, the public loved the flavor, but wanted that extra kick, so I added fresh Zimbabwe Bird’s Eye Peppers to take it to the next level.
I have added my pepper powder to my spice rubs, and came up with “Kicken’ Chicken” and “Angry Bee Butt Rub”. The Angry Bee is a combination of my standard rub with Scorpion peppers and powdered honey.  I think it would also pair well with my homemade bacon.

I hope you enjoyed the first guest blogger. Please let me know if you have a topic that you would like to know more about.

See you in class

 

Action Packed Weekend

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What a fun weekend!!! It started on Thursday after class; one of my

students and I went on a field trip to Berkeley Bowl. I had a great time

showing her all the different produce that they have to offer. Just the variety of

mushrooms alone would blow you away.They have a bargain produce area

that is wonderful for canners to pick up some very ripe tomatoes, plums and a

few other things. We also picked up some organic vanilla beans at a

amazing price, four in a package for $3.99. Score!!! We also visited the bulk

section and picked up some mustard seed, raw sugar, spices and sesame

seeds. The next day I spent canning for my family. I had tomatoes left over

from class and I got two bags of tomatoes from the bargain produce 5

pounds for $2.78. Yes, people $2.78. Score again. I got some beautiful

green beans to make Fasolakia Green Beans in Tomato sauce. This is a

Greek recipe that my family loves. In order to put vegetables in a jar

with out vinegar (pickling) you need to use a pressure canner. So I had

the pressure canner making my green beans and had the water bath canner

going too. I had a lot more tomatoes then I thought so, I made a new Tomato

Jam. It is yummy with a hint of Garam Masala. This is a spice mix that has a lot

going on and is used in Indian food frequently. The ingredients are Coriander, Sichuan,

pepper, Anistar, Fennel seeds, Cumin, Seeds, Cloves, Kalpasi, Pepper Chili,

Black Cardamom, Bay Leaves, Cinnamon, and Ginger. Very rich in flavor.

For the other tomatoes I made a new Tomato Hot Sauce. If you have been

here for a hot sauce class you know I make hot sauce many ways, but this is

the first time I made it with tomatoes. It is full of flavor and just the right

amount of heat. But my weekend wasn’t over yet! I’m sure you have heard me say “The best part of food is, that it

is endless and we can ever get to the end.” Gotta love that. So on Sunday I went to the

Farm To Fermentation Festival and Fundraiser. WOW, I can’t wait for next

year to go again! It was a wonderful event and I learned so much. I wish I could

clone myself because there where classes coming on at the same time that I

would have loved to be in each one. Next year I think I will ask a few friends

to go with me, that way each person can go to a different class and take notes

and at the end we could sit and exchange notes. Some of the classes included: ” Your

Digestive Health”, “Making Healthy Sodas”, ” Using a Water Lock to make

Kimchi”, “Traditional Meat Curing” and much more. There were vendors as well selling

things like tools for home fermenting, Apple cider, goat cheese, kimchi and

some canning supplies. I can’t believe I was able to pack in so much fun and learning in one weekend!

See you in class