My food-preservation skills have definitely increased since I first tackled marmalade in January with only the vague suspicion that marmalade had something to do with citrus. Similarly, I wasn’t sure what cold pack preserving was, but I knew it had something to do with preserving food that was… umm… cold? Yes, definitely cold.
“Why would you pickle a perfectly good strawberry?” My mother asked me.
Moments earlier, she’d been telling me that I had become a better cook than her (which I protest—adamantly so), and I had texted her a picture of my latest project: pickled strawberries. In the jars, the strawberries looked like rubies against darkness of the balsamic vinegar. I had been rather enamored with their appearance, which is what prompted me to send her the picture. Without knowing what was in the jars, she suggested that the picture was proof I was a better cook. (Again, proposition rejected!)
Once I told her what I had done to those 2½ pound of perfectly good strawberries though, I lost all credibility and comments about my cooking prowess ceased.
The entire month of April seems to have flown by, and I’m staring at today’s date wondering where each of those the days has slipped away to. Maybe they’re hiding with all the months that have already disappeared into 2017. What hasn’t vanished is my interest in expanding my canning repertoire. The skill for the April Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is quick pickles.
I know that pickling vegetables was a way that homesteaders historically preserved many vegetables and other miscellanies (pickled pigs feet anyone?) through the winter, but I have never much cared for pickles. As a child, I hated them, and as an adult, I have come to occasionally nosh on a pickle or two if they are served on the side of my sandwich. I’ve just never much cared for them. Heck, I still have a jar of pickled zucchini and yellow squash from two summers ago in my stash of canned goods. If pickles were people, they would be the acquaintances to whom I’m polite and friendly but rarely seek out to chat about where all those sneaky April days had vanished to.
One of my foster kiddos, however, loves pickles. She was as interested at the idea of making her own batch of pickles as she was disappointed that we weren’t growing cucumbers in the garden. So, we walked to the grocery store, picked out some cucumbers and other ingredients for the refrigerator dill pickles, and had at it. Let me tell you, making two pints of quick pickles was as snappy as this month has already been. The cucumbers were swimming in their pickling brine and into the fridge before we knew it. We left them to stew for a few days, and we busted them out for our black-bean burgers this weekend. Even I enjoyed them enough to have two, and that admission has to be saying something for any pickling fiends out there. Maybe I’ll have to try out a few more quick pickle recipes.
The Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is well under way, and I finished out the month by making a batch of roasted garlic jelly and Herbes de Provence wine jelly on my day off on Wednesday. I desperately needed the time to myself to be crafty and do my own thing, and I wanted to add just a few more jellies to my mastery challenge. I already made the sour cherry jelly and lavender wine jelly earlier this month for the challenge.
I’m participating in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge, and the March skill is jelly or shrubs. I’ve never made jelly (I typically prefer jams), and I had to google what a shrub is (a sugary fruit-vinegar combination used in cocktails or tonic water). I have a tendency to go a little overboard when it comes to challenges; for example, I made three marmalades in January over the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. With the chaos of foundation repairs, new flooring, a wood stove, seven yards of dirt in the driveway, and taking in a new foster kiddo, I managed to carve out time on Sunday to make two jellies and a shrub. Yep, I’m a touch crazy and surprisingly not too tired.
The last marmalade I made over the long weekend was a prickly pear marmalade. One of my friends is (flexibly) helping me complete the mastery challenge with Food in Jars. She picked the recipe for prickly pear marmalade, and I was game for it! A marmalade made with cactus? Sounds different and fun! Why not?
As I wrote about earlier, I’m participating in the mastery challenge led by Food in Jars—and going full throttle with it. After making the lemon ginger marmalade, I dived right into making blood orange marmalade. I chose to make an additional marmalade because I thought making a traditional marmalade before making one with a friend might make me feel more confident in my role as the more experienced canner.