Monthly Archives: January 2014

Got the Wintertime “Greens”?

frozen lettuce

Chances are that you don’t have much to harvest from your garden these days, but if you do, then there’s a good chance it’s at least somewhat green and leafy. Lettuce, bok choy, spinach, turnip greens, collards, and swiss chard are among the hearty plants that are able to thrive in cooler temperatures. If your local temperatures have been too cold even for those crops, then head to a grocery store and keep your eyes open for special deals and seasonal sales in the produce department. Keep in mind however that lettuce has such a high water content and such thin tissue that it does not tend to preserve well using any method.

As mentioned in the recent New Year’s posting, Spinach and Other Greens can be canned, using a pressure canner. You might be amazed at the quantity you can fit in each jar once the tender leaves have wilted from being steamed – a canner load of 9 pints requires about 18 pounds of greens, and a canner load of 7 quarts holds an impressive average of 28 pounds! Note: These “other greens” should be greens with a similar texture to spinach, and not very hard, firm leaves such as cabbage.

Freezing greens is an option, but is recommended only for use as a cooked vegetable. This is for the sake of quality — their cells are full of water and those thin cell walls will burst when that water freezes and expands. So, rather than making a salad with frozen greens, try using them in casseroles, lasagna, soups, sauces and dips. Also, keep in in mind that leafy greens will heat more evenly if thawed before cooking. The water blanching time for most Greens, including Spinach, is 2 minutes, but water blanch collards for 1 additional minute (blanch time: 3 minutes) and Cabbage for 30 seconds less (blanch time: 1½ minutes). Blanching is important to slow or stop destructive enzyme action, clean surfaces, brighten color, help retain vitamins, and make the vegetables easier to pack into jars. Specific directions for water blanching are available here.

Blancher

Perhaps the least common method of preserving greens is to dry them. However, dehydrating can be a useful method for use in baked goods, soups, and casseroles. Dried greens may even be ground into flour to sneak some extra nutrients into breads, pancakes, and cookies. As with freezing, blanching is required. Cabbage can be water blanched for 1½ to 2 minutes or steam blanched for 2½ to 3 minutes or until wilted. Other greens can be water blanched for 1½ minutes or steam blanched for 2 to 2½ minutes or until wilted. Read this publication from the University of Georgia for more information about Drying Fruits and Vegetables.

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Brighten Up your Days with Marmalades

Cold temperatures and gray skies may be begging you for uplifting treats this winter. When you’re not up for braving the conditions outside, why not get busy in the warmth of your own kitchen? Making marmalades is not only fun to do, but there will also be plenty of delicious cheer to share with neighbors and visitors!

Most of these recipes do not require any additional pectin, as there is enough natural pectin in the ingredients. Pectin is a fiber found in the cell walls of many fruits and vegetables, though its content varies widely. Pectin is water-soluble, enabling it to form a gel-like compound that characterizes jellied products when combined with certain proportions of water, acid and sugar. In general, citrus fruits contain the most pectin, although apples, peaches, berries, and a few other fruits also contain a lot of pectin in their skins. Specifically, the most pectin is found in the white membrane located just under the skin of citrus fruits.

Oranges

For a super citrusy taste experience with grapefruit, orange, and lemon, try Citrus Marmalade.

If you still have apples from your harvest or can find a high-quality, tart variety at a grocery store, then you might like Apple Marmalade.

Pull out your frozen peach slices or look for peaches in the fresh or frozen sections of the grocery store to make this Peach-Orange Marmalade.

Warm spices (cinnamon, clove, and allspice) make Tomato Marmalade a unique seasonal specialty.

Cranberry Marmalade is a holiday favorite; just make sure you have a box of powdered pectin on hand.

jar of preserves

How to Preserve Health, Wealth, and Luck

Are you starting your New Year with a hearty meal of black eyed peas, collard greens, and pork? Southern tradition decrees that consuming these three foods has the power to bring personal health, financial prosperity, and good fortune throughout the year. To enjoy these foods sometime later in the year (and maybe even boost your chances of health, wealth, and luck), can them!

Follow the recommendations below to can your foods safely, and remember that tested recipes are meant to be followed exactly as is — in other words, if your own recipes differ from these recommended recipes, then you can eat those foods fresh and also make separate batches following these recipes and instructions for canning.

Presto Pressure Canner

Canning these low-acid foods requires use of a pressure canner. This is very important to the safety of your final product because if low-acid foods are not canned properly in a pressure canner then there is risk of botulism, a potentially fatal food poisoning. The amount of time in the canner is also extremely important to ensuring that harmful bacteria (like botulinum bacteria) are destroyed. Our recommendations have been carefully tested in a laboratory to determine the exact amount of time required for each different food, and that length of time can vary quite a lot among foods types. Each recipe and procedure includes a process time for canning.

A good example of noting the variation in process times is with canning black eyed peas. Are your black eyed peas dried or fresh? Your answer to this question makes a difference in how long you will process the filled jars.

Dried black eyed peas must be hydrated before canning. To rehydrate, soak dry peas for 12 to 18 hours then drain, or for a quicker method, cover with water in a stockpot and boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, soak one hour, and drain. Whether you choose the quicker method or the overnight method, peas must then be covered with fresh water and boiled 30 minutes before being filled into jars. Process time is 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. Complete directions for Canning Dried Black Eyed Peas, including the amount of headspace required and altitude adjustments, are available from the NCHFP.

Fresh black eyed peas do not require as long of a process time as dried peas. Pints are processed for 40 minutes and quarts for 50 minutes. Fresh black eyed peas may be packed raw or hot. Specific directions for Canning Fresh Black Eyed Peas are available in a publication called ‘Preserving Food: Canning Vegetables’ from the University of Georgia. Recommendations for fresh black eyed peas are listed near the bottom of page 5 as ‘Peas: Blackeye, Crowder, Field’ .

You want collard greens to be fresh, tender and richly colored for canning. Discard any wilted, discolored, diseased, or damaged leaves and cut out tough stems and midribs so that they are ready-to-eat from the jar. You will also blanch the leaves briefly before putting in jars, as described in detail here: Canning Spinach and Other Greens.

Pork can be prepared as a raw pack or a hot pack for canning. Remove excess fat, as it goes rancid most easily. A raw pack means that you will simply cut the pork into strips, cubes or chunks, add salt to jars if desired, and then fill jars with the small pieces of pork until 1-inch headspace remains. Liquid that is naturally stored within the meat will exude when heated, but sometimes there is not enough liquid to fully cover the meat, which can lead to discoloration of the uncovered portions. A hot pack calls for precooking the meat and then adding boiling broth, drippings, water, or tomato juice after filling the jar with the meat, better ensuring that it will be fully covered after the canning process. The choice between a raw pack or a hot pack is up to you, but follow these recommended directions and process times either way: Canning Strips, Cubes, or Chunks of Meat.