Mainstay Gatherings

Imperfect Pickles

There is a tendency in life (and certainly online) to show only the perfect.  Unfortunately, a beautiful picture is just that – beautiful, but only a picture.  It doesn’t always tell the whole story.  When I started this blog, the purpose wasn’t to show off a perfect life, but rather, a real one.

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There are always going to be moments when things don’t go our way, aren’t what we hoped for, and we feel frustration for all the imperfections of the things we can’t control.

A nice little example is my effort with pickles this year… I kept waiting this summer to share my newest amazing fantastic pickle-findings with you, but after three botched attempts, I need to chalk this one up to failure.  Cucumbers have a very short growing season and I missed it.  This is not to say that there are no pickles.  I made loads of them.  They taste okay, but they didn’t turn out how I wanted them to.  Some were too big and are floating around in the jars.  Some turned out a bit wrinkly.  Some didn’t seal correctly.  The funny part is that I couldn’t let it go.  I tried the damn thing three times!!  At some point in time, Albert Einstein described insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  This pickle effort could possibly be described as cuckoo, crazy, or possibly insane.

When do you decide you have had enough?  How do you move past hurdles when it becomes clear that success is not within your grasp?  How do you know when to change gears?  At some point mid-August, I had to admit defeat in the 2013 pickle category and it didn’t feel good.  But, that’s the truth.  My message today is:

Know that you aren’t the only one to get frustrated.

Know that you aren’t the only one who fails.

We all do.

Truly.

We just usually don’t like to admit it, and we certainly don’t want to broadcast it to the world or Facebook.  So, without further ado, here are some photos of imperfect pickles.  I will try again next year.  Or I won’t.  We’ll see how I’m feeling about it next summer.

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Artichoke Spinach Lasagna

So our family is going through this kindergarten transition very well, but there are some signs of stress.  My baby is becoming a young man and I feel so, so proud of him.  The day feels long without him and even though I was ready to sell him to a band of gypsies by the end of this summer, I miss him.

So, when I feel a little out of control, I either make lists or I make food to freeze.  I guess the idea is that even if I don’t know what is coming around the bend, at least there will be food to eat in the freezer.  I am someone who does not love to cook.  But, I do like projects.  So I enjoy cooking recipes in large batches and then breaking them down and freezing them in sizes that make sense for different sized gatherings.  Then, on any given day (when things get even crazier than they are today), I have a bunch of homemade meals ready to thaw in my freezer.  We have our standbys, our favorites and these meals are fabulous because they make the house smell wonderful and like someone has been cooking all day.  But, it wasn’t me… at least not that day.

So for the last three days, since Sam started Kindergarten, we have been cooking nonstop.  I have FILLED, and I mean FILLED our freezer.  Mission accomplished.  This mama is feeling the intensity of big changes in our family…

This recipe is adapted from an Artichoke Spinach Lasagna I found on allrecipes.com.  Double the below quantities to make enough to freeze.  Not only is this a great method of cooking for busy families, but it is great to have some meals available to share with friends or for impromptu entertaining.

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Artichoke Spinach Lasagna

yield: 8 servings

olive oil cooking spray

9 uncooked lasagna noodles (I prefer no-cook Barilla)

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (14.5 ounce) can vegetable or chicken broth

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 (14 ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

1 (28 ounce) jar tomato sauce

salt & pepper to taste

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1 (4 ounce) package herb and garlic feta, crumbled

(double or triple for freezing of multiple future meals)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a lage pot of lightly salted water to boil.  Add noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente; drain.  (Or skip this step if using no-boil lasagna noodles).

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium high.  Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes, or until onion is tender-crisp.  Stir in broth and rosemary; bring to a boil.  Stir in artichoke hearts and spinach; reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in tomato sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/4 of the artichoke mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish; top with 3 noodles.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese over noodles.  Repeat layers two more times, ending with the artichoke mixture and mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle crumbled feta on top.

Bake, covered, for 40 minutes.  Uncover, and bake 15 minutes more, or until hot and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy tonight or 3 months from now!

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Side note:  Another important thing I want to mention is how happy it makes me that Muir Glen brand of tomatoes has decided to get rid of the BPA in their cans.  Tomatoes are notoriously difficult to deal with for corporations because of their high acidity.  They lead the industry in their choice to take the chemical of BPA out of their canned goods.  More and more companies are trying to get with the program, but for now, I trust and applaud Muir Glen for making the choice to help us keep our families safe from chemicals in our food.  Just FYI, the way you can tell if your cans are free of BPA (when talking about tomatoes only) is the copper lining color that you see below.  Thanks, Muir Glen!

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Slow Roasted Tomatoes

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Some days there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  And some weeks there just aren’t enough hours to make tomato sauce… So what does one do when the tomatoes are ripe and abundant in the garden, but you don’t have enough time to can or eat them all before they go bad?  The answer?  You make slow roasted tomatoes.  “Notes on Dinner” has done a lovely job outlining how to slow roast tomatoes.  Her recipe is based on a menu item at a fantastic local restaurant’s menu.  Vios Cafe is a wonderful restaurant in Seattle and is extremely family-friendly with an entire area devoted to kid play.  One can enjoy a glass of wine, while eating delicious food, and everyone is happy.  But, until you are able to make it to Vios, cook yourself up some of their slow roasted tomatoes.

I must admit that I am never patient enough to truly slow roast, although I know they are delicious.  I typically cook the tomatoes on 350 degrees for an hour or two depending on the size of the tomatoes.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and whatever other herbs or flavors you wish, you let the tomatoes caramelize on the pan.  You will end up with a flavor that you won’t believe.  The already deliciously fresh tomatoes become even more full flavored and amazing.  After tasting these, you really won’t need much inspiration for what to do with them.  Spooning them off the pan and straight into your mouth is one very good idea, but here are a few others if you need some encouragement.

  1. Roasted Tomato Tartine
  2. Shaved Fennel, Roasted Tomato & Pistachio Salad
  3. Roasted Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart

Roasted tomatoes are wonderful to have around.  We will use them in soups, pasta sauces, on pizzas, in salads, and on antipasti platters.  Roasted tomatoes have a rich, sweet, concentrated flavor.  They are fantastic…  Enjoy!!

Dill Green Beans

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Pickled beans have always been a favorite of mine.  I remember once when I was about 12, we went to a silent auction and the only thing I wanted to bid on, besides a flourescent pink ski parka, were the pickled green beans.  I remember savoring that jar of beans.  Weird how those memories can stay with you.  Anyway, since then I have been pickling my own green beans and am excited to share my favorite recipe with you!  This recipe comes from one of my favorite canning books, Tart and Sweet: 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler.  I have mentioned this book before, because it is one of my favorites for a quick and dirty lesson on canning and the recipes included both capture the traditional as well as the innovative.

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Since time is short and summer is busy, we’re going to get right down to it today.  We grew green beans in our garden again this year.  They are doing well, but I did need to supplement with more beans from the store.  If you have never pickled, this is an excellent recipe to begin your canning adventure with.  It is incredibly easy and the only part that takes any time at all is trimming the beans.  It is so easy and you will be very happy once you have tried this project… Your bloody mary recipe will thank you as well.

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Dilly Beans

yield: approximately 4 pint (500 mL) jars

4 cups white vinegar

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 cups water

3 tablespoons kosher salt

4 pounds green beans, trimmed to fit in jars

Per Jar:

3 dill sprigs or 1 dill head

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seed

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

Prepare canning water, jars, and lids.

In a large steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve salt.

Place dill, garlic, mustard seeds, and peppercorns in each hot jar.  Pack the beans in tightly.

Pour boiling brine over the beans, leaving 1/2 inch headspace and making sure the beans are covered in liquid.  Check for air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal.

Process for 10 minutes in water bath, adjusting for elevation.

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A few more tips:  Remember that canning is about preserving great produce, so can with the best ingredients you can find.  When packing jars for pickling, pack the jars as tightly as possible, without bruising produce, as the liquid will make everything float and ingredients will shift around.  Canning, especially if you are just beginning, is always more fun with a friend or two.  Use this project as the excuse to get together with a like-minded friend!  The act of having a project to do together always takes away the guilt I feel when just getting together with someone for coffee and a much-needed catch up.  That may not be your hang up, but it is one of mine.

Happy Pickling!

Author Note:  You might notice that one of these jars has carrots in it.  That is another quick tip.  If you have extra jars all ready to go, give your fridge a quick look to see if anything else in there could stand to be pickled!  Fun way to experiment with new combinations.  Also, this project happened in a post-bedtime burst of productivity, so the photos are not perfect.  These projects happen when they can happen in my life, so that’s the way it goes!  Hope it still inspires you to create!

Apricot Jam (3 intriguing ways!)

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So, (surprise, surprise) things don’t seem to be slowing down around here!  Despite the fact it is summer, we just seem to have more things we want to see, do, and eat!  We were at the farmer’s market last Sunday and I noticed that apricots are in season.  For some reason I thought it would be later!  Well, the guy said it was time, so we bought 25 pounds of apricots.  As I look back at the blog though, this is the exact same time as last year.  I posted Apricot Rosemary Jam on July 25th, so I guess we are right on schedule!  Between the time we bought them and when we made the jam, we ate a whole lot of apricots and also took out the pits… and were left with approximately 12 pounds of apricots.  So, we made four small batches of jam!

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As pleased as I was with the interesting herbal quality of the Apricot Rosemary Jam, I wanted to try something new this year.  One of my other favorites from last year was the Heirloom Tomato Basil Jam, but I didn’t love how long that recipe took to make.  So, this year, I decided to try Apricot-Basil Jam to try to get the best of both worlds.  As I mentioned in last year’s post, apricot jam is one of my favorites because it retains so much brightness in the flavor.  It is also very, very easy.  The prep is simple and quick and those are all important elements for those of us who enjoy preserving, but don’t have loads of time.  This is a fruit worth preserving!

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I also happened upon a great magazine this summer that I want to share with you.  Better Homes and Gardens produces some Special Interest Publications that seem to be seasonal in nature.  I saw that this year they have a Canning: preserving, freezing, drying edition of their magazine this summer (supposed to be displayed until September 9th and is $9.99).  It is a great guide to the basics of preserving.  The magazine is affordable and contains so much great information as well as both traditional and innovative recipes.  If you are curious about preserving food and want to learn more, but don’t feel like buying a bunch of books, this would be a great first step in learning more!  As I was flipping through the magazine I saw that they created some fantastic variations to try.  They were making peach jam and some of their variations were quite nice: cardamom-peach, sweet basil-peach, bourbon-peach, and chipotle-peach – intriguing, no?  Based on their great ideas, I decided to follow their example and try some of these variations for our apricot jams.

Without further ado, Apricot Jam 2013!

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Apricot Jam

yield: makes 7 half pints

6 cups (3 lbs) apricots (halved and pitted)

6 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mash apricots, not necessary for them to all be the same size.  Place apricots, water, and sugar in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil.  Stir fruit mixture regularly.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until fruit thickens and runs slowly and thickly off back of spoon.  Remove pot from heat.

Ladle jam into half-pint jars.  Wipe rims of jars with wet paper towel, apply lids and rings and process in your boiling water canner for 5 minutes.

Remove jars from pot.  Let cool.  After about 20 minutes, turn jars upside-down to disperse fruit.  When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals.  If seals are good, store jars in a cool, dark place.  If any of the jars did not seal, place those jars in the fridge and use within a month or two.

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apricot jam with cream cheese on crackers (clockwise: apricot-rye whiskey, chipotle-apricot, sweet basil-apricot)

Variations:

Sweet Basil-Apricot Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 1 cup chopped fresh basil after skimming off foam.

Apricot-Rye Whiskey Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 1/2 cup whiskey with the sugar, apricots, lemon juice and water.

Chipotle-Apricot Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce with the sugar, apricots, lemon juice and water.

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Classic Raspberry Freezer Jam

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We made strawberry jam a few weeks ago and now it is time for raspberry.  Raspberry freezer jam is my absolute favorite.  It captures sunshine and summer for me all in one sweet bite.  Raspberries can be quite maddening, as their shelf life is so very short.  They are wonderful to eat that first day and I always find myself saving them, only to be disappointed that they don’t look quite as plump or luscious the next day.  With this in mind, I love to make loads of raspberry freezer jam in the summer and imagine grey February skies brightened by the spreading of this yummy goodness on my English muffin come winter.

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The process is almost exactly the same as with the strawberry jam.  I like to make no-cook freezer jam, as I feel that the freshness of the berries is maintained better than with cooked jam methods.  And, as I mentioned with the strawberry freezer jam, there is quite a lot of sugar in these recipes.  I guess I am one that tries to enjoy small amounts of the good stuff and not worry too much about it.  If you are interested in low sugar options, you will want to research low or no sugar needed recipes, as changing the amount in this recipe will result in your jam not setting properly.

Another fun thing about freezer jam is that it is a great activity to do with the kids!  There is no heat involved, so there is no risk of burning, as with other types of jams.  The skills involved are measuring, pouring, mashing and stirring.  The boys had a great time running the show and I loved that I could take the backseat on this project!  Taste testing is always the final treat!

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Classic Raspberry Freezer Jam

Ingredients

2 cups crushed raspberries

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 cups sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin (Certo)

zest of one lemon

Wash and rinse plastic containers with tight fitting lids.  Use 1 to 2 cup size containers.

Crush berries.  Sieve 1/2 of the pulp to remove some seeds, if desired. (I omit this step, as I don’t mind the seeds)

Measure exact amount of prepared fruit into a large bowl.

Measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl.  Stir sugar into prepared fruit.  Mix well.  Let stand 10 minutes; stir occasionally.  Stir pectin into lemon juice in a small bowl.  Stir pectin mixture into prepared fruit mixture.  Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes.  (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

Mix in lemon zest.

Pour into prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at top of container for expansion during freezing; cover.

Let stand at room temperature 24 hours until set.  Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.  Or store in freezer for up to 1 year.  Thaw in refrigerator.

Enjoy!!

Classic Strawberry Freezer Jam

After two years of making jam, I am poised to make some changes this year.  I love the process of canning, but I realize like beet salads, not all jams are equal.

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Over the past few years I have been canning classic strawberry and raspberry jam, among other things.  Since strawberries are usually the first berries to ripen each spring those are the ones I start with.  As I see that strawberries are starting to show up in the market, I need to be honest with myself that I have not been totally pleased with my past results.

Part of my personal ethos is that if I go to the time and effort to make something, and I am still thinking about the store-bought inspiration, something is wrong…  I am in favor of preserving the best of the season, but not if the end result is something just sort of okay.  It seems like a crime to take beautiful, ripe berries and cook them into something that does not resemble those fresh beautiful gems.  So, last year I changed things up and made both classic canned raspberry jam, as well as two different recipes of freezer raspberry jam (one with Pomona’s Universal Pectin and one with Certo Sure-Jell).  The whole family had a clear favorite of these three and agreed that it rivaled the delicious store-bought version that our family enjoys (Our favorite local store-bought jam: Sunfresh Freezerves).  My kids loved the most classic homemade freezer jam recipe, made with liquid pectin, and our homemade jam was happily consumed all year long… lasting our family through April of this year (we make lots of cream cheese and jam sandwiches)!

This year my plan is to cut out making the jams that lose the beauty of the original fruit and instead only make the berries into freezer jam that will be gobbled up by the family… Because, after all, that’s the point, right?  And just for the heck of it we’ll start the freezer jam extravaganza with strawberry jam this year.  Hopefully I can make enough freezer jam this season to get us through next May!  We’ll see, we will have one more sandwich eater this time around!  (Note:  I still plan to do traditional canning this season, but only with fruits that work well with this process.)

Freezer jams are extremely easy to make.  They take about half the time of the cooked method, and result in a softer set, fresh fruit taste.  They do require a lot of sugar, so look for Sure-Jell for Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes, if you are looking to limit the amount of sugar used.  I am using the Sure-Jell Certo recipe for Quick & Easy Freezer Jam.  Although I try not to use any added pectin in my cooked jam, I have had my best results using liquid pectin in my freezer jam.  When making freezer jam, as with any jam (and especially with strawberries), it is important to measure exactly, otherwise your jam may not set correctly.

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Classic Strawberry Freezer Jam

Ingredients

2 cups crushed strawberries

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 cups sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin (Certo)

Wash and rinse plastic containers with tight fitting lids.  Use 1 to 2 cup size containers.

Wash and cut up berries, discarding stems.  Crush berries 1 cup at a time, using a potato masher for best results.  If using a food processor, pulse to a very fine chop.  Do not puree.  Jam should have bits of fruit.

Measure exact amount of prepared fruit into a large bowl.

Measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl.  Stir sugar into prepared fruit.  Mix well.  Let stand 10 minutes; stir occasionally.  Stir pectin into lemon juice in a small bowl.  Stir pectin mixture into prepared fruit mixture.  Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes.  (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

Pour into prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at top of container for expansion during freezing; cover.

Let stand at room temperature 24 hours until set.  Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.  Or store in freezer for up to 1 year.  Thaw in refrigerator.

Enjoy!!

Pretty Pickled Beets

Recently I heard beets described as “pedestrian”.  I was shocked… at first.  I thought to myself, “In what world are beets pedestrian?”  But after chewing on this for awhile, I am ready to admit that the presence of beets on restaurant menus has become de rigueur.  Like caesar salad, beets have become a mainstay within restaurant culture, everyone has their own slightly different version – some more successful than others.  Because of my love of beets, I can be counted on to order pretty much any beet on a menu.  I am very reliable that way.  Whereas at one point in time I was just happy to see the word “beet” on a menu, now I am becoming an expert and paying attention to how the beets are prepared and what accompaniments they are served with.  This has made me realize that not all treatments of beets are equal and I have become more discerning in my “beet love”.

Here are my unscientific findings:

  • I prefer beets cold versus warm
  • I like beets best in salad form, greens optional
  • Beets show off very well alongside salty cheeses (such as feta or goat) and earthy nuts (such as pistachios or walnuts)
  • Roasted beets are nice, but I have learned that I like them better once they have been marinated in vinaigrette or pickled.  They are similar to mushrooms in that they are a great vehicle for other flavors, since their own flavor can be subtle and earthy.

If you are thinking about preparing beets at home, it can feel a bit intimidating at first, with their long greens and dirt-covered skins.  But roasting beets is quite simple and I recommend that you try it, if you haven’t before.  (Here is a step-by-step guide to roasted beets.)  Pre-prepared beets are also available in most grocery stores.  I even saw a huge container of them at Costco the other day (maybe they are pedestrian after all)!  The question is, what do you do with these beets once roasted or taken out of their vacuum pack?  Have you opened that container, hoping to replicate your favorite restaurant-quality salad only to be a bit disappointed?  I have learned that by just letting them hang out in a vinaigrette for a half hour or so before adding them to a salad does wonders, or… (drum roll, please)… You can pickle them for later use!

This is my first foray into the world of pickled beets.  When I began to think about attempting this project, I did my usual routine of consulting all of my canning cookbooks to compare processes and flavors.  Every canning cookbook I own had their own slightly different version of beets.  This tells me that although I am new to the process, the pickling of beets is quite standard.  The recipe I ended up adapting is from Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler’s book, Tart and Sweet: 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen.  I liked that their recipe for Sweet Apple Cider Baby Beets didn’t use loads of sugar and the spices seemed nicely aromatic, but not too crazy.  I have doubled the recipe in their book and added white onions, as I believe if you are going to the trouble of canning you may as well make more than just a few pints, if possible.

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Pretty Pickled Beets

yield: about 8 pints

ingredients:

6 pounds baby beets, scrubbed

1 white onion, cut into large slices

4 cups water

2 cups cider vinegar

4 tablespoons kosher salt

4 tablespoons brown sugar or honey

per jar:

1/2 teaspoon allspice berries

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 star anise pod

1 cinnamon stick

Have ready hot, sterilized jars and their lids.  (After cleaning my jars, I like to keep them in a 200 degree oven so that they are ready when I am.)

Trim the beets by cutting off the top part, near the stem, as well as the root end.  Place the beets in a large non-reative pot (if using different-colored beets, separate them into two saucepans).  Cover with water and boil for about 15 minutes, or until the beets are just tender.  (Roasting the beets is also fine.)   When the cooked beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into slices 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick.

(Note: The beet skins should slip off easily – just rub them with your fingers.  You can wear latex gloves to prevent your fingers from getting stained.  If you have trouble slipping off the skins, you can also use a vegetable peeler.)

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, water, salt, and brown sugar to a boil.  Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Place allspice, peppercorns, star anise, and cinnamon in each hot jar.  Divide beet and onion slices among the jars, packing tightly without bruising them.  Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Make sure the beets are fully covered with the liquid.

Check for air bubbles, wipe rims, and seal.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Let the jars stand undisturbed for 24 hours and then set them aside for 1 week for the flavors to develop.  If a seal has failed, store the jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Enjoy your beets straight from the jar or mixed into a salad!

Happy Pickling!

Dill Carrots

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It is getting to be that time of year again!  Canning season is approaching and Dill Carrots seem like the perfect recipe to begin the season.  This great recipe is perfect for beginners as it is super easy and very straightforward.  If you have never tried it, pickling something is extremely satisfying!  You get to hear the joyous “pop, pop, pop” sounds in you kitchen as your jars seal… And it requires less time and stirring than small-batch jams.  Plus, the vibrant jewel-toned colors are enough to brighten anyone’s day!

Dill Carrots were introduced to me by a friend who also claims the title of “most accomplished canning lady I know.”  She brought them to a canning party I threw and everyone raved about them.  When she mentioned that her kids gobble them up too, we all immediately requested the recipe!  Dill Carrots is inspired by a the recipe in Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  This canning cook book is a great guide for just about anything you might wish to preserve.  The Dill Carrots recipe is quite versatile in that you can add spice (or not), make with fresh dill (or use dried if not available), cut up carrots from the garden (or use bagged baby carrots from the grocery store).  All variations produce a nice perky flavor that will add interest to your antipasti trays or make a great garnish for sandwiches.  This time around I decided to double the batch and make half out of bagged carrots and half cut from full size.  I will report back in a few weeks if I can tell any real difference in the flavor or texture of this variation.  I also omitted the red pepper flakes, as I wanted to make this batch family-friendly!

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Dill Carrots

Makes about seven pint (500 mL) jars

6 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

1/2 cup pickling or canning salt

7 cloves of garlic, halved

14 sprigs of fresh dill (if using dried dill, use 1/2 teaspoon per jar)

3 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes (optional)

5 lbs carrots (20-30 medium, ends removed, peeled and cut diagonally)

Prepare canning water, jars, and lids.

In a large steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve salt.

Place 1 clove (2 halves) of garlic, 1 sprig of dill, and 1/2 tsp of hot pepper flakes (if using), in each hot jar.  Pack carrots into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar.  Top with second sprig of dill.  Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover carrots, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Insert chop stick or skewer into jar and move around to release air bubbles.  Wipe rim with wet paper towel.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in boiling water bath, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Process for 10 minutes.  Remove jars, let cool completely, and store.  Your Dill Carrots will reach full flavor after a few weeks of “marinating”.

You will be surprised by how popular these guys are.  We easily go through a jar whenever one is opened whether we have company, or it is just our family snacking on them.  You can see that my kids are reaching for them even as I make them!

A few more tips:  Remember that canning is about preserving great produce, so can with the best ingredients you can find.  When packing jars for pickling, pack the jars as tightly as possible, without bruising produce, as the liquid will make everything float and ingredients will shift around.  I find that I never cease to be surprised by this.  Canning, especially if you are just beginning, is always more fun with a friend or two.  Use this project as the excuse to get together with a like-minded friend!  The act of having a project to do together always takes away the guilt I feel when just getting together with someone for coffee and a much-needed catch up.  That may not be your hang up, but it is one of mine.

Happy Pickling!

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