Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WInter Canning

Canning is stereotypically a summer/fall activity-after all, that's when the full bounty of the summer growing season is overflowing gardens and CSA shares.   I typically can seasonal fruit jams- strawberry in June, Blueberry in July, Peach in August, Raspberry in September, and Fig in October.
Peppers, green beans, tomatoes and carrots are in there at the appropriate times.

But I can in the winter too- not as often, but at least once a month.  It's a lot nicer to have a big pot of water boiling for an hour or more in January than in August- that's for certain.  I make a lot of beans, as they're a good easy protein source, and it's nice to be able to open a small quantity to have them ready quickly. When I was growing up my Mom would make "bean of the week" and then freeze it, so that there were always a variety of legumes available.  I don't have enough freezer space for that, so I can them instead.   They're not much different than store-bought canned beans except I can pre-season them with chili pepper and onions (pintos, black beans, cranberry beans)  or cumin and onion (chickpeas).
 These ones were my first test of my new BPA-free, re-usable canning lids from Tatler that I got for Christmas.  One reason to can is that you can avoid the BPA lining that most commercial canned goods have,  but the lids still have a coating that has BPA in it.  While the food doesn't sit in contact with the lid, I think I'd prefer to avoid it if I can do so easily, plus these are re-usable, which will be nice. I was a bit worried about the system, but so far so good, and I think I'll buy a bunch more, as I don't want to feel like I need to "save" them.

I also can chicken broth as I use it up.   I will go buy 10 lbs of chicken legs and backs- ideally from Mayflower Poultry- "Live Chickens, Fresh Killed" in East Cambridge. Making the broth takes a while, but canning only takes 25 minutes at temperature.  I need to do another batch, but it's a nice thing to do on a cold weekend.

Both of the above require a pressure canner, but last weekend I made something that requires just a hot water bath- Marmalade.  Citrus is in season this time of year, even if it's not exactly local.  
After two trips looking for sour "Seville" oranges, I finally found some at Market Basket in Somerville. (hint, they're all the way at the end of the produce section, next to the plantains).
I followed this recipe, and it worked out OK,  except for my oranges weren't very juicy, and I had to supplement with other random citrus I had around (grapefruits, clementines, lemons).
It took forever ( four hours or so of chopping, pithing, cooking down etc), but the results were good, at least on the back of a spoon.

  To test it properly, I made home-made English muffins,  from this recipe from King Arthur Flour.   They were very tasty, but the dough was really sticky and hard to deal with, and they had to rise a really long time, even in a warmed oven, and then took a long time to cook on the stove.  I think they were too much trouble for not enough improvement on store-bought to make them a regular thing.    They proved admirable marmalade vehicles though, and I very much enjoyed them on a cold winter morning.

I know this is mainly a bike blog, but is there anyone out there that cans?  Do you do it in the winter, or just in the summer months?


  1. I've mainly done fruit jams. In fact, this year I didn't do any because I had so much left from prior batches I have enough to carry me through to next summer. My CSA excess usually ends up as soup in the freezer, and by the end of the season the freezer is completely packed. But then I hardly have to cook until March! I've thought about getting a pressure canner, since that would mean more things could be canned. I have to admit, I would worry about the seal on a reusable lid; that's something I would like to see someone else go first on.

    There's a pretty good English Muffin recipe in Peter Reinhardt's Bread Baker's Apprentice, though I have only tried it myself once. I make bagels regularly now, though. Way better than anything else I can get around here.

  2. I use an english muffin recipe that is both delicious and quick. It is as follows. They are incomparably better than store bought.

    It is a sticky dough, but if you go at it with a 1/4 cup measure (not too big) then it is easy to coax out. Also, perhaps a light coating of oil on the scooper will get it out much easier.

    Makes 10 english muffins.

    Yeast Starter
    1/3 cup warm water
    1 tablespoon sugar
    2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet, I believe - you can also use 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast instead)

    1 cup skim milk (110 degrees)
    3/4 tsp salt
    1 1/2 cup white flour
    1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    Proofed yeast

    1. Proof the yeast by combining the "Yeast Starter" ingredients, mixing, and waiting 5 minutes. The liquid should bubble up, indicating the yeast has been activated.
    2. Combine remaining ingredients and proofed yeast in a bowl. Mix lightly with a whisk until all the flour is wet. It's best to under-mix and leave lumpy and thick.
    3. Cover and let stand 40 minutes to let the yeast rise.

    4. Heat a heavy pan (I use a cast iron skillet) on medium to medium-low heat.
    5. Scoop 1/4 cup of dough into a tall blob in the pan.
    6. When the dough has turned dull on top, flip over. (About 5 minutes)
    7. Remove from heat once the sides have become dull. (Another 5 minutes)
    8. Let cool 3 minutes on a wire rack before eating. (I dare you!)

    In steps 6 and 7 you have to watch the muffins so they don't burn or undercook. However, don't play with them too much, or they'll collapse.

  3. I am grateful for the idea of a homemade English muffin, just for the inspiration as the ubiquitous croissant has (gasp!) gotten old.

    Saw you biking over the Longfellow when I was home, but you didn't hear me yell. Next time....

  4. I did 10 pints of pickled beets, about six pints of pickled green beans, all from the garden. They make good gifts for family and friends.
    I like your idea of canning beans and stock. I just toss my extra into the freezer.
    I've made homemade whole wheat English muffins. But it has been years. I need to give it a try again.

  5. The problem with BPA-free lids is that their replacements are not necessarily better, just different. It actually gets scary sometimes since it is hard to avoid everything. Watch the "Bag It" documentary and you are right to be concerned.