Friday, May 29, 2009

Everything Old Is New Again!

My friend Moira (The Good Egg), told me about her adventures in canning/preserving last year and how nice it was to have her own tomatoes all canned and ready in her cupboards. With the arrival of asparagus at Brooks Farm down the street from us (for a mere $3 you will receive a big bag of asparagus that is so freshly picked, it is often still wet from the field), I decided to try preserving this taste of summer myself! I do freeze the spears and then use them in pasta dishes or soups, but I decided to try dilling them. As well, memories of dilled green beans that my friend in high school and university Leanne, shared with me,danced in my head and on my tastebuds.
Her grandmother used to produce these delectable treats and it got me to thinking about how all these traditional preserving methods have fallen by the wayside as more convenience foods have flooded the market. Apparently with the economy and awareness of our food production and movement toward organic, locally grown, seasonal produce, canning has made a comeback! So I am not alone...

Armed with the "Bernardin Guide To Home Preserving" book, my new canning kettle, utensils and rack, along with jars and lids, I embarked on the joys of canning. I was actually quite nervous as this is completely new to me - my Mum made green apple chutney when I was quite young, and my grandmothers lived in England so I didn't learn this at anyone's elbow! I read and reread the recipe, bought the required ingredients and voila! I now am the proud owner of several jars of dilled green beans with garlic, dilled green beans with garlic and red peppers, dilled garlic pickle slices, dilled asparagus with red peppers and dilled green and wax beans. One jar didn't process properly, but as the Bernardin book promised, once popped back into boiling water and reboiled for 15 minutes did the trick!

Now when I go food shopping, or look ahead to my summer CSA basket, I am thinking of ways that I can preserve all these wonderful fruits and veggies so that we can enjoy them when they are out of season!!
Here is a recipe for dilled beans that I got from my Bernardin book. If you are interested in dilling asparagus, just substitute asparagus spears for the beans.
2.2 lbs (1 kg) of green beans
2.2 lbs (1 kg) of yellow beans
3 small red peppers, sliced into thin strips
3 cups each of white vinegar and water (distilled is best but if your water is hard like ours, just add an extra 1/2 cup of vinegar to avoid cloudy brine)
3 tbsp pickling salt
18 peppercorns
3 tsp dill seeds, or 6 sprigs of fresh dill
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
  • Place 6 clean 5oo mL mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer. Set screw bands aside; heat SNAP lids in hot water, NOT boiling. Keep jars and SNAP lids hot until ready to use.
  • Wash and trim beans (or asparagus spears). Cut into jar-length pieces (as I only wanted the tips, I put all the rest of the asparagus stalk, minus the woody ends that I snapped off, into a freezer bag for future use).
  • In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water and pickling salt. Bring to a boil. Add beans and pepper strips; return mixture to a boil. Remove from heat.
  • Place 3 peppercorns, 1/2 tsp dill seed or 1 sprig of fresh dill, and 1 clove garlic in each jar. Fill jar with beans.
  • Pack prepared vegetables into a hot jar within 3/4" of top rim. Add hot liquid (brine) to cover vegetables to within 1/2" of top rim.
  • Using a non-metallic utensil (I used a wooden spoon handle until I realized the Bernardin kit had a utensil included!), remove air bubbles by moving beans a little. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Cetnre SNAP lid on jar; apply screw band securely and firmly until resistance is met - fingertip tight. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN. Place jar in canner; repeat for remaining vegetables and hot liquid.
  • Cover canner; bring water to a boil, process for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove jars without tilting. Cool upright, undisturbed for 24 hours.
  • DO NOT RETIGHTEN SCREW BANDS. After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward.
  • Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Replace loosely on jars or store separately.
  • Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.
  • ENJOY!!!

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