Summer and Pickling

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Summer time is here and so is the produce. Lets talk about pickling again. I wrote a blog about pickling in Sept. 2013, letting you know a few things about pickling. I wanted to remind you of a few things. Pickling is easy and fast. What is the hard is waiting for it to pickle. Please use water without chlorine. Chlorine will make the produce soft and I know you would prefer a crunchy pickle. Please use the salt that the recipe is asking for. Never use table salt when canning, it has anti caking agent and iodine that will give the pickles a bad taste and turn them a dark color.If you read the blog in 2013 you will remember that I like  setting up little bowls to place the spices in for each jar. This makes it go fast, efficient and makes sure that the spices are evenly distributed. Lets talk about spices. Buy spices from a supplier with a rapid turnover. Spices lose their flavor with age and stale spices can spoil the taste of any dish or pickles.Ground spices lose their flavor within just a few months: therefore, it is usually better to buy whole spices and grind them as you need them. You can use so many spices when pickling. If you like heat, use red pepper flakes, black or brown mustard seeds, pepper corns, cayenne powder, chili powder, hot Indian curry powder, or red dried chiles. Here are a few more spices you may want to use: Cardamom, Cinnamon, Fenugreek.Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Curry Powder, Celery  Seeds, Bay Leaves, Fennel Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Nigella, Nutmeg, Saffron, Dill seeds, Turmeric, Garlic, Ginger, and Star Anise.

Star Anise comes by its name honestly, with it star shape and a licorice taste similar to regular anise, only stronger. Star Anise is a dried fruit seed pod of an evergreen tree ( Illicium Verum) grown in southwestern China and Japan. It is about one inch high with eight segments and a dark brown rust color. Like regular  anise, star anise gets it distinctive licorice taste from a chemical compound called anethol. However the two are not related botanically – Star Anise is a member of the Magnolia family. To know more about pickling, please go back to the blog from Sept. 2013 . Happy Canning and Pickling.

 

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Judging Preserves At The Alameda County Fair

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I was asked to be a judge at the fair. I’m very naive thinking I was going to taste some wonderful home made preserves. They had me tasting butters, marmalade, curds and hot sauces. They had other judges tasting jams, pickles, olive oils, honeys, relishes, chutneys, canned fruits and jellies. The butters had too much spice and sugar. I couldn’t taste the fruit. The marmalade had big pieces of peel, very bitter. The curd had the smell of eggs and you could see the egg whites. The hot sauce was in a new category for professionals. This is a category for people that sell their products and want to say they won in the Country Fair. We all know the first thing you do when opening a jar is look, smell and taste. The ” look”  you are looking for is bubbling and or mold. The “smell ” will be stinky if there is a problem. If a jar has bubbles, mold and smells bad please do not taste. After opening one of the hot sauces it started to look like a volcano, pouring out all over the table. This is a bad jar with a lot of bacteria built up inside. This could have happened because the room was warm. They had another category that was mixed fruit. This is where I found the best jar of the day. It was a Cherry Balsamic Chutney. It was a beautiful color with great texture. The balsamic was the perfect hint of vinegar and it had some nuts for a little crunch. After I was done I walked around to see what was out there. I asked where is the Pie Filling and Mustard. They wrote them down, so maybe they will be doing that next year.  There are a lot of bad canners out there and I hope they find All In A Jar Private School. Remember to keep jars in a cool dark place. Happy Canning.

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Home Preserving

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Home preserving, whether it’s an exotic or an indigenous product, gives the home cook ultimate control over ingredients, flavors, and cost. In my kitchen I don’t need to compromise on quality. I can make jams with less sugar, pickles with less salt, and preserve roasted peppers with NO additives or artificial colors. My own imagination and the RULES OF CHEMISTRY are the only limits. I can do what commercial manufacturers can’t: make small batches so that quality is never sacrificed (although, remember to never double a recipe in one batch). I constantly look for ways to improve upon common flavors, such as strawberry, and create new products. I recently created Strawberry Chocolate Jam with only one cup of sugar. Home preserving can mean bringing taste you never knew existed to the table. Preserving at home is a natural progression of America’s renewed passion for homemade favorites. We want less complicated dishes and high quality ingredients at reasonable costs. In the past, canning and preserving were tasks our grandmothers had to do; I feel that we should look at these not as tiresome chores but as pleasurable chores. Home preserving is for the cooks today that want to eat healthy (less sugar, less salt and less fat) and have a lot of wonderful taste.

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