23 July 2008

Preserving Summer's Flavors

Every year gardeners and cooks preserve the bounty of summer by drying, freezing and canning produce. Some use the ones that came from a grandmother's kitchen and others experiment with new flavors.

Here are a few recipes I have used for decades.

Eggplant Caviar
This recipe was in a Gourmet magazine in 1973. It calls for one-pound of eggplant so for every pound of eggplant you want to preserve, increase the other ingredients. There is no need to be precise. The more finely you chop the ingredients the less lumpy the spread will be. Large black skinned eggplant have to be peeled after baking. The long thin Asian eggplants do not have to be peeled. Just remove the stem and flower ends – they are pretty crunchy.

The 4-ounce jelly jars and a 15-minute boiling water bath preserve Eggplant Caviar for gifts and personal use during the winter. (Hoopes Hardware in Muskogee 918-682-0711 will order cases of the 4-ounce jars - $7.49 a dozen.)

Bake one-pound of eggplant at 400 for 1-hour and cool.

In a skillet, sauté 1-medium onion in 3-Tablespoons olive oil for 8-minutes.

Stir in one-third cup minced green pepper and 2-small cloves garlic, minced.

Cook, stirring 5-minutes.

Peel and chop the eggplant, add the onion mixture, one-half cup peeled and chopped tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to suit your taste.

Cover and cook over low heat for one-hour. Remove the cover and cook 30-minutes until the mixture thickens into a spread.

Stir in 1-Tablespoon lemon juice and a one-half teaspoon sugar. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice or sugar to suit your preference.

Serve with crackers.
Pepper Jelly
The first time I saw this in jars on a friend's counter twenty years ago, the beauty of the red and green pepper flakes floating in the jelly made a huge impression and I had to have some sitting on my pantry shelf.

Usually a bar of cream cheese is put on a serving platter, the pepper jelly poured over and crackers served on the side. Pepper Jelly also makes a great dip for oven fried chicken or fish. Once you make a batch and try some, other uses will come to mind such as dipping fresh vegetables.

This has to be made with liquid pectin, which comes in pouches in a box. All attempts at making it with regular powdered pectin failed to set.

Some cooks prefer jalapeno peppers but mine is always made with red, green and/or yellow bell peppers plus banana peppers if the garden is bursting with them.

Chop three-fourths pound of cleaned peppers into slivers.
Add 2-cups cider vinegar and 6-cups sugar

Boil for 10-minutes, stirring. Add 2-pouches liquid pectin and bring back to a full boil. Boil a full minute. Either skim off foam or add 1-Tablespoon butter to calm down the foam.

Pour the jelly into the hot, sterilized canning jars. (I use 8-ounce jars for home use and 4-ounce jars for gift packs.) Wipe off the top and seal. Boiling water bath 15 minutes.

Curry Pickles
These are from an old Farm Journal cookbook. They have only a little curry powder in them and are more like a bread and butter pickle since they have a generous amount of sugar in them.

I vary the recipe from year to year, using less onion or more cucumber, depending on what is available.

The night before canning, slice 4-cucumbers, 10-onions and 2-red bell peppers. (Or 8-cucumbers and 3-onions.)

Top with one-half cup canning salt. Table salt will make the brine cloudy because of the additives in table salt. Cover with cold water. Let the vegetables sit overnight.

The next day, drain off the soaking water. Add 1-pint vinegar, 1-cup water, 4-cups sugar, 3-Tablespoons pickling spices, and 2-Tablespoons celery salt. (Change the seasoning to your taste – add garlic if you like it.)

Heat to boiling and cook 15 minutes.

Add 1-teaspoon curry powder.

Ladle into six, hot, one-pint, sterilized jars, seal with canning lids. Process in boiling water bath for 10-minutes. (To keep the house cooler, we use a propane-fueled turkey-fryer outside for all the boiling water baths.)

Whether you grow your own or buy at local produce stands, nothing beats having your own home canned goodies on the shelf to cheer up the winter table.

For other great ways to preserve the flavors of summer check out homecanning.com or the U. S. Department of Agriculture's advice at http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/cesnutrition/Food_Preserve/usda_home_canning.htm and http://foodsafety.psu.edu/canningguide.html


Ben said...

Preserving is a great way to enjoy your produce throughout the year.
Your recipes are a great, I will have to try the egg plant one!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben -
The eggplant caviar - if you can make a batch just to can it in gift size jars (4 or 8 ounce), everyone will want to be on your holiday list.
How do you preserve your garden?

Martha said...

Hi Ben - Are you preserving anything this year? Freezing? Canning, Drying?

Do try that eggplant caviar and put some in 4 or 8 ounce jars and can it - makes great holiday gifts.

Kathy K said...

When you say to can the eggplant cavier, which method are you talking about? Water-bath canning? Pressure canning? Is the lemon juice enough to make it acidic enough to be safe for canning? I'm assuming you have had good luck w/ it since you have been doing it for 30+ years.

Molly Day said...

Hi Kathy -
The tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar and salt all act as prevervatives in the caviar.

If you have concerns, you can buy the ascorbic acid for tomato canning in the canning section of your store, and add it according to the directions on the container. It doesn't change the flavor and would provide extra insurance.

Yes, I boiling water bath the 4-ounce jars for 10 or 20 minutes.

We set up a propane-tank turkey fryer on the back patio to boil the jars before canning, and then the filled jars. The pot is huge and gives lots of room for water to cover.

I hope you have a chance to make and eat the caviar. The lemon juice really lifts the flavor.

Kathy K said...

Thank you. I'm getting back in to canning and could use something for all of my eggplant. Kathy