Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I am not sure what started it, but for some reason I've expanded my cooking skills and have started canning. I fully acknowledge the low coolness factor of this new activity, but I started feeling bad about all of the summer produce that just gets passed by. Or worse, I buy fresh fruits and vegetables and they go bad before I use them. So, I thought, maybe I could go Old School and try canning. Turns out, it's pretty easy. Granny used to spend a fair number of hours preserving and "putting up" the summer vegetables from her TWO gardens. It seemed to me then to be such an ordeal. But, now I can see how putting hours into tending a garden might motivate you to store up all of your hard work for the winter.

Basically, you make whatever it is you desire (jam, jelly, whatever) and then you put it a Mason jar, slap a lid on it and boil the bejesus out of it in a canner. The tough part, which is crucial in each step, is dealing with all of the boiling hot equipment. You have to keep the jars, lids and rings in hot water while you prepare the food. This is so that when you pour hot veggies, food, etc, into the jar, it doesn't break. I suspect that there is a sterilization component here too. But, really, you should have done that already. I have scalded myself a couple of times.

So far, I have canned some apple butter and and some cherries. I love cherry cobbler, cherry crisp, cherry anything, so I thought I might get a kick out of baking this winter with my specially prepared cherries. I will let you know how that turns out. The apple butter, I am proud to say, has been a success. I am pretty sure that it won't make it to winter. But, that's OK. I will definitely make some more of that.

This cherry crisp is what resulted from my latest attempt at canning. After I pitted all the cherries, I decided that since no one is promised another day, maybe the cherries would be put to better use in a crisp. I was SO right. In fact, it was so good, I think I will just pass along the recipe. This is from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. If you don't have this cookbook, I would strongly encourage you to get it. It is not only a fantastic cookbook, but it's really a cooking reference. If I want to try cooking something new, I usually grab that book first and work from there. Love it!

To Prepare Fruit:
2 - 3 pounds fruit (blueberries, cherries, apples, whatever)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 TBSP Brown sugar
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
2 TBSP cornstarch or flour if you are using a watery fruit (like cherries)

5 TBSP Butter cut into small pieces
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
dash of salt

Toss the fruit with the cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Spread it lightly in a greased 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan.

Combine all other ingredients. You can either pulse them in the food processor or you can use a pastry blender to mix. I just use the pastry blender because it's easy and less to clean up. The mixture should look like crumbs when you are finished with this step. It does not need to look uniform. Spread this over the top of the fruit and bake 30-40 minutes. Serve hot with cream or vanilla ice cream. There is nothing better...