This summer I indulged in a favorite pasttime: stashing away food. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not a hoarder, not a doomsday prepper, not a eighty-year-old lady. I simply love to open the fridge or the pantry or the freezer and see row after row of food, waiting for me. Even better if it’s food I’ve prepared myself!
It started when I bought the Ball Blue Book of Canning. It is chock-full of tantalizing recipes – everything from cinnamon anise jelly to garden relish to plum preserves to pickled asparagus. Who can say canning is outdated and old-fashioned, when you can create things like Fig Preserves and Kumquat Marmalade and Artichoke Relish?
I was immediately inspired, but knew I had to carefully choose what I wanted to do. When you have a small “helper” in your kitchen, plans must often be worked around the Big Guy’s time at home, naptime, and bedtime, and must sometimes be amended or completely dropped. You know what I mean. Sometimes you just have to toss aside your plans and ideas, and sit down and read to the Little Guy, or buckle him into the jogger and get outside to enjoy a beautiful afternoon. Case in point: the Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce I wanted to make, but did not get to. There’s always next summer!
I started safe. I mad Jalapeno Jelly, which I’ve done before. It’s easy – a great intro for the first-time canner – although it does leave your house smelling rather potently of spicy vinegar. I used a few drops of green food coloring, which made for a prettier jar of jelly. It’s sweet with a little kick (I removed the membranes and seeds from the jalapenos). This stuff is dynamite slathered over softened cream cheese, served with crackers for dipping. My brother has been spreading it on bacon sandwiches in the morning.
Then I bought a 20-lb box of peaches, and I knew I had to get serious. Even stored in a cool, dry, dark place, peaches do not wait for any woman. Once they are ripe, you better be ready to go.
Tomato Peach Preserves (keeps in fridge) – This recipe is from Southern Living. They recommend it with goat cheese crostini, grilled flank steak, and turkey burgers. So far we’ve just tried it with the burgers, and it was excellent! It’s sweet; the rosemary adds a nice pungent… something.
Jalapeno Peach Preserves (keeps in fridge) – This one is from Southern Living, too, another play on their basic Stone Fruit Preserves recipe. They recommend it for coconut fried shrimp, chicken quesadillas (tried and tested = yum!), and ham and cheese panini. It lacks the heat I was hoping for. If I make it again, I’ll use a couple jalapenos and leave in the membranes and seeds.
Peach Salsa (keeps on shelf) – This has been a hit so far. Aesthetically, I don’t like that the fruit rises to the top and leaves several inches at the bottom. But – give it a good shake, and it looks lovely. It’s got some serious heat! I made one batch more mild, and another batch hotter, with less sugar. I believe this means I broke the canning rule “do not modify the recipe” (said rule existing because modification can throw off the acidity balance and result in unsafe bacteria growing… ack….). The sad thing is, I won’t be able to replicate this year’s salsa because I neglected to record exactly what I did. Sigh….
At this point, I was tired of sweating over the stove, tired of wiping up endless sticky messes from my countertop, and tired of buying canning jars. My mom gave me some delightful little green and red peppers from her garden, plus a bag of zucchini. Out came the cutting board and knife and the food processor. I diced the peppers and bagged them in 1-cup portions. I shredded the zucchini and bagged it in 1- or 2- cup portions. These are wonderful to have on hand for baking.
I think I owe this food-stashing tendency to my mom. She recently froze 14 dozen ears of sweet corn.