It’s January, and hardly the time for canning, right? The farmer’s markets are closed until Spring, the snow is sleepily falling. All those jars and pots and pans and lids have been tucked away since October.
Why is it, then, this week, I started to feel the itch again? Is it because we’ve been living out of the freezer and larder for awhile now? The boxes in the garage are filling up with empty jars. I worry. Is there enough? I think about what I’ll do differently this year.
Winter is a great time to think to plan. To dream. To make lists. To mark recipes.
Now is the perfect time to look over your own supplies, see what’s missing, check Craigslist, yard sales and Goodwill for canning equipment. It’s always after that first winter clean out of the basements/attics/garages across the land neglected boxes of jars and canners are abandoned. So here you go – a checklist.
Basic canning equipment:
Magnetized lid lifter (not necessary, but useful)
4 c glass measuring cup
Preserving pan, non-reactive, at least 5 quarts, heavy bottomed – I like Le Creuset or Emile Henry or copper
Nice to have:
Large stock pot – 12 quart is nice – I found All Clad at an outlet store for about $100. The non-reactive stainless pan is useful for cooking tomatoes and salsas. It also serves as a sterilizing pot, a cook pot, and even a canner w/a DIY rack.
Pressure Canner- for canning sauces, stock, soups, salsa, tuna
Copper preserving pan
About those Ball Jars.
You’ll find so many sizes and shapes. Old ones with blue glass and zinc tops. Jars with metal clamps and rubber gaskets. All of these are wonderful to have, and your pantry will be organized and lovely when you fill these jars with lentils and flours and rice, but those pretty jars are not the safest for canning.
You want jars that will take a metal ring, either regular or wide mouth. Any jar that is not cracked, chipped or otherwise compromised, on which a metal ring can be tightened, is suitable for canning. At yard sales and junk stores, I most often find old boxes with eight or nine mismatched jars. Some of these finds are my favorite odd shaped, old fashioned jars that I resist giving away.
1 pint is very useful – chutney, soup, salsa, small whole fruits and vegetables, pickles, tomatoes.
1/2 pints are best for jam and jelly.
1/4 pints are very small
1 quart is best for pie filling, whole fruit and tomatoes.
1 gallon is great for storing cereal or pasta, and for infusions, but generally not useful for canning.
Itching to Preserve
Until the temperature rises and the markets are bursting with rhubarb, asparagus and berries, appreciate, preserve and revel in citrus. Just this week, I saw Cara Cara oranges, Minneolas, tangerines, Meyer lemons and pink grapefruit. It’s citrus season in the US – and while that’s not local eating, at least this food is US grown, not shipped from some faraway land. I realize I am rationalizing, but I really love citrus.
I went a little crazy. I brought home a huge bag of Cara-Cara’s. Another huge bag of Meyer lemons. And another huge bag of regular lemons.
Today, it was time to stretch my preserving chops. Not canning, per se, but some other tasty goodies. 10 cara cara oranges and 20 meyer lemons, some sugar, salt, eggs and butter, and some vodka. What could be bad about any of those ingredients?
In three hours this afternoon – Limoncello. Triple sec. Lemon Curd. Preserved Lemons.
Start here. You’ll be so happy when you make your margarita or cosmos with homemade triple sec.
Makes two quarts
10 oranges – I like cara cara – no seeds and a beautiful color
4 c sugar
1 c water
4 c vodka or grain alcohol
Rinse and dry two one quart jars.
With a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from 4 of the oranges, leaving behind as much of the white pith as possible. Divide the peel between the two jars.
Juice all the oranges. You should have about 2 cups of orange juice.
Heat the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Pour in the orange juice slowly, stirring all the while.
Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes.
Cool the sugar syrup completely. Then divide between the two jars. Divide the vodka between the two jars.
Cover the jars and place in a cool, dark spot for one month.
After one month, strain through cheesecloth and bottle.
I rolled up my sleeves to deal with the mountain of Meyer lemons. If you’ve never had a Meyer lemon, they are in season now and you really MUST try them. Floral, super sweet, juicy – these are lemons from heaven. I adore them and simply cannot walk by a display without buying some. Many. Lots.
I always make Limoncello with Meyer lemons. In about three months, I’ll have four quarts ready to enjoy (and tuck away for next Christmas!)
One of the by products of a batch of limoncello is a LOT of lemon juice. You will be zesting 15-20 lemons to make a gallon of liquor – and the recipe doesn’t call for the juice. I can’t bear to see anything go to waste – it’s that DIY Homesteading part of me – and four cups of juice – half frozen for lemonade, lemon pie, lemony cocktails…
And with the other two cups of juice, and three tablespoons of zest, butter and eggs, Meyer Lemon Curd.
I’ve tried canning lemon curd, but I’ve been unsatisfied with the results. It will keep in the refrigerator for quite a long time. One half-pint jar is the perfect amount for one 8×8 pan of lemon bars.
Today, I’m feeling particularly devilish, so I made a tart instead. Speculoos are all the talk on Twitter – a current favorite cookie – it’s showing up in many forms – cookies, spread and caramels. This is a food and flavor of the Gods. It’s somewhere between shortbread, animal crackers and browned butter. In other words, delicious.
Speculoos Lemon Tart
30 crushed Speculoos cookies, about 2 c.
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 c Meyer Lemon curd
1/2 c heavy cream, whipped
Garnish – grated chocolate or chopped candied Meyer lemon peel
Preheat oven to 350°
Crush the cookies in the blender (my preference) or the food processor.
Mix together the cookie crumbs and melted butter.
Press this mixture into and up the sides of a 9″ round tart pan with removable bottom, or a 9″ pie plate
Freeze the crust for 20 minutes.
Bake the crust for 15-18 minutes until it feels dry to the touch. Remove to a rack a cool.
Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave. Spread a thin layer on the baked crust. Chill for one hour.
Remove the tart form.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Fold into the lemon curd. Spoon the filling into the tart pan.
Garnish. Either serve immediately or chill for no more than six hours (or the filling will start to weep.)
Update: Cocktail hour – Sidecar: 2 parts Cognac, 1 part last year’s Triple Sec (still have about 4 oz. left), and Meyer lemon juice. FTW.