Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bread and Butter Pickles

A friend gave me a load of fresh onions Friday that are delicious! I bought some cucumbers at the market today and made bread and butter pickles. They are very easy to make and I love to snack on them.

Autumn has settled in and I'm beginning to see nice squash at the market. I will begin thinking about canning some squash soup, but need to wait until the season is in full swing and the prices drop. I did some work this week on a turkey pot pie filling recipe and hope to get it posted soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Waterbath Canner verses Pressure Canner

The most frequently asked questions from our readers are “Do I really need to use a pressure canner for this recipe?” or “Can’t I use a waterbath canner for this recipe?” So, let’s address the differences between the two.

A waterbath canner processes canned goods submersed in boiling water. Water boils at 212F or 100C at sea level. A pressure canner, at 11 pounds of pressure, processes foods at a higher pressure and reaches a temperature of 240F or 115C at sea level. This represents a 15 percent increase in the processing temperature!

Some foods are more acidic and some are less acidic or non-acidic. We can typically taste acidic foods on the sides of the tongue, not to be confused with bitter tastes on the back of the tongue. Sweets are tasted with the tip of the tongue. You can test this by tasting consecutive spoonfuls of lemon juice (acidic,) tonic water (bitter,) and a sugar cube (sweet,) and then noting the area of the tongue that becomes sensitive upon tasting each one.

Common acidic foods are citrus fruits, apples, berries tomatoes and peaches. At the opposite end of the spectrum, low-acid foods include meats and vegetables with the exception of some peppers. Although we can taste these on our tongue, a more accurate measurement of a food’s pH, or level of acidity can be made using pH strips or a pH meter. Both can be found at our canning supply store.

In canning, the magic number for determining high-acid verses low-acid foods is 4.6. Foods with a pH of 4.6 or below are considered high in acid and are generally safe for processing using a waterbath canner. Certain bacteria exist in low-acid foods, with a pH above 4.6, that cannot be eliminated at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Low-acid foods must be processed at the higher temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Please note there are certain dense foods that should never be processed at home such as pesto.

If you intend to process a lot of low-acid foods, we highly recommend an investment in a good pressure canner. We prefer the All-American pressure canners, which can be quite expensive. You might start making hints that one would make a great holiday or birthday gift! Waterbath canners and pressure canners may be found at our canning supply store.

More information about high-acid and low-acid foods can be found in our five dollar technical guide available at the

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More Figs and Zucchini

I picked five or six dozen more figs yesterday. It looks like the rest will be ripe within a week or so and I'll can them at that time.

I went to the farmers market which seemed to be overflowing with beautiful zucchini. Now is the time to can zucchini soup! I can mine using only salt and pepper and a little lemon juice, which helps keep the color. I decide what I'm going to do with zucchini soup upon opening. Sometimes, I add a hint of nutmeg or some shaved Parmesan cheese. I might add a little cream (or just milk) when serving it to company as a starter. You might also try poaching cod in it as we do in Video 4.

Along with the zucchini, eggplant is in season and it's about the end of the tomato season. With the three in season, it's the perfect time to can ratatouille, which is a traditional French sauté of onions, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. If you've never had it, I'd recommend making some for dinner and trying it on its own, or serving it with a pork or lamb chop. Feel free to change the quantity mix of the vegetables to suit your own taste. When serving with beef, I like to add Worcestershire!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I picked figs this morning for the second time this week. They are really beautiful. I have one tree that produces small, dark-purple figs and another that produces large, redish ones. I'm not ready to can them because the weather is nice and I need to get some outside painting done plus I'm putting in a lawn. So, I've decided to freeze them and can after all of them are picked. I'm rinsing them off, letting them dry and then putting them into freezer bags.

When I do can the figs, I'll can the small figs in red wine. When I open these, I usually remove the wine sauce from the canning jar and reduce it until it's the thickness of syrup just before serving. I put the two or three figs in a large soup dish with two or three scoops of vanilla ice cream and then drizzle the syrup over them. Yum!

I'll make fig jam from the large ones because the lighter color is so appealing. I can serve the fig jam with pound cake, or heat it up and put it over ice cream.

I know that tomato season is almost over and I'm trying to decide what I need to can with them. I'll go to the farmers market next week before making a final decision. I saw some beautiful eggplants last week and have been thinking about them too!

Thursday, September 06, 2007


This is my first Blog, so bear with me as I get accustomed to this form of writing. David has been blogging for years and you can tell by the way he so easily finds that blog tone and runs with it.

I wanted to write about applesauce but the more I thought about it I realized that what I was really going to say had a lot more to do with the joys of cooking and canning in general. I'll start out with the applesauce and tell you what I mean along the way.

So, we have an orchard, a bit old and in need of care, but nevertheless we have this amazing apple tree, Alexandre is the variety, and it produced a record number of apples this year. As I do every year, I set about collecting the apples and preparing to start the peeling, chopping and cooking of the apples. My husband carried this huge box of apples over from the orchard and I set things up on the terrace outside the kitchen door to get to work. Then one of my sons, Phillip, came along and sat down, asking if I wanted a little help as the quantity of apples gave the impression I might be there for several hours! So we set to work; I peeled and he chopped and to our amazement Johan my husband came out with another chopping board and knife and joined us!

We passed an hour this way, chatting while we worked, filling two of my huge pots with chopped apples, which of course resulted in two huge pots of applesauce. I will post my various recipes on our web site, or rather David will since I am such an incompetent computer person.

Anyway, at one point a friend of ours came over to say hello and found us out on the terrace. He was amazed to see this little apple party; how many of us are lucky enough to have an 18 year old son and a husband who would happily take up this kind of work?

It all made me realize that cooking and canning are really great vehicles for social interaction. It doesn't have to be some solitary activity the canner does alone and slaves away for hours preparing all those apples.

OK, so I'm the one who actually stirs the pot and eventually puts the applesauce in the jars, but once again, when it comes time to load up the canner, Phillip is right there to help me lift all the jars.

We have a cellar full of three different applesauces this year which we will slowly enjoy during the winter months for easy desserts, warm or just straight out of the jar. Perfect comfort food!