I thought that with this post I would spend it on the art of preserving. This is nothing new and has been around for a long time. Preserving is a great way to capture the flavors of the season and have them throughout the year. I had watched my grandmother and parents do this when I was young and I started to do my own preserving during the 90s when I was raising my family.
There is something about connecting with the food that you prepare and also knowing what exactly is in it. For the most part you would either grow or pick your own fruits or vegetables to start the process, and this in itself is what makes it more fun.
You must not just pick any product and use it for preserving, but pick it at its peak. Selecting product at its peak makes preserving even more special—I love to open a jar of strawberry jam in January and get that taste of summer.
In the fall, I love to get local chestnuts and cook them down to make a vanilla bean infused confiture that I can use throughout the year. I make a chestnut confiture with mascarpone cheese and lemon zest and smear this in a fresh made crepe and served it warm with a cooked down pear sauce—it is just outstanding. Since you can only get chestnuts in the fall and I know I would like to serve this during the year than I need to preserve them when they are harvested.
Preserving does not always have to be during the regular season. Last December I was at the market and they had some very ripe and juicy raspberries from California, I knew that I needed a raspberry jam for some Christmas cookies that I was going to make in the coming weeks so I prepared the jam and saved some for the upcoming parties and canned the rest for future use.
Food safety is paramount and there are dangers that you need to keep in mind. For example, if you do not properly seal and boil the jars, than this you can result in botulism. If you are canning a high acid food then using a boiling water bath is fine, but if you have a low acid food than you will have to prepare them with the pressure canning method. It is also recommended that you consume the product within the first year. So follow canning procedures methodically and keep these tips in mind:
- Use only the best, top quality ingredients—use fruits and vegetables at their peak of freshness
- Leave the recommended headspace when filling jars
- Carefully remove air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula between the jar and food and press gently on the food to release trapped air
- Wipe rim and threads at the top of the jar with a clean, damp cloth before putting the lid on the jar
- Center heated lid on jar and apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight
- After heating, or processing, remove jars from canner; set jars upright on a towel to cool and allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours
- Do not retighten bands after cooling
- Before storing, check lids for seals—lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed
- Label the jars with date and contents and store jars in a cool, dry, dark place
- Use fresh preserved foods within one year