Category Archives: Pickling

Totally Tomatillos

tomatillosHusk tomatoes, also known as tomatillos, can be very productive plants, producing 64 to 200 fruits per plant in a season. Tomatillos don’t like freezing, so should be planted after any danger of last frost. Planted as such, they will flower mid-June and ripen mid-July.

So then, what to do with too many tomatillos? A few options:

Tomatillos can be canned, whole. However, keep in mind that home-canned Tomatillos will be cooked until tender and softened, so if you like the firmer texture of tomatillos then you may prefer one of our other options.

Tomatillo Green Salsa is probably the most popular way to prepare, preserve, and serve husk tomatoes. You could also substitute green tomatoes in this recipe instead of tomatillos (but remember it is important not to make any changes to the proportion of tomatoes/tomatillos to lemon or lime juice, and that lemon or lime juice CANNOT be substituted for vinegar in this recipe). This recipe and directions are also available en Español: Salsa verde de tomatillo.

In contrast, Tangy Tomatillo Relish contains vinegar instead of lemon or lime juice, bell peppers instead of hot peppers and it also highlights the more unusual ingredient jicama. And that jicama provides a nice slightly crunchy texture to this relish compared to most others. The relish could be scooped like a salsa, spread on top of tacos, or mixed into prepared dishes.

For more about home-growing of tomatillos see Tomatillo by a Sonoma County Master Gardener with the University of California and for more about large-scale growing of tomatillos see the publication Tomatillo by University of Kentucky.

Plain or pickled, they make great treats. What are they? Yes, they’re Beets!

Packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, beets are a healthy and delightfully colorful wintertime veggie. (Did you know that Betanin, often used in industrial food production as red food coloring, is from beet root?) Beets are easily roasted, baked, or steamed into a fresh side dish, and there are even more options for preserving them.

Here are a few ways we recommend to preserve those bright and beautiful beets:

If you’re not up for canning, then you can simply freeze beets. Select tender, young beets (ideally 1 to 2 inches diameter) and wash them then sort them according to size. Trim their leafy tops, leaving ½ inch of stems and tap root to prevent the color from bleeding out during cooking. Boil the beets until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes for small beets and 45 to 50 minutes for medium beets. Cool the cooked beets immediately in cold water then peel, remove stem and tap root, and cut into slices or cubes. Leave 1/2-inch headspace in the freezer containers as you pack them, then place in a freezer.cut beets

Beets can also be preserved by pressure canning them in pint or quart size jars. For a full canner load of 9 pints use about 13.5 pounds and for a canner load of 7 quarts use about 21 pounds. Remember, those amounts are averages, obtained by weighing the beets without tops, and there will be natural variance in actual quantities. You will remove skins before canning the beets; to do so, trim off beet tops, leaving an inch of stem and roots (you’ll cut these off later), scrub the beets, boil them for 15 to 25 minutes depending on size, and then cool them just enough to handle without burning yourself, and remove their skins, tops and roots. The beets should remain warm or hot going into the jars.  Baby beets can be left whole, but medium or large beets need to be cut into 1/2-inch cubes or slices. Add one teaspoon salt per quart jar if you like, then fill the jars with the hot beets. Add fresh hot water that has been brought to a boil first (not the water you used to boil the beets with), leaving 1-inch headspace. Process pints for 30 minutes and quarts for 35 minutes in a pressure canner, making altitude adjustments as required in the tables here.

If you prefer boiling water canning and want to try something with more flavor, then try one of our pickled beet recipes. Pickled Beets are highlighted with the flavors of sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and onions (optional) and No Sugar Added Pickled Beets are almost the same, except that the sugar is replaced with a sucralose sweetener.

 

A Particular Pear to Bear in Mind

 

Anjou, Asian, Bartlett, Bosc, Concorde…all these types of pear and more are typically available across the U.S. from August through early springtime, thanks largely to orchards in Oregon and Washington. As those pomaceous fruits begin ripening in your home kitchen, you might be tempted to preserve some for later. But did you know that not all pears are created equal, and that there’s a particular type of pear to be aware of before canning?

We’re talking about those pears that are sometimes mistaken for apples – those petite, round, crisp Asian pears.

Asian pears are generally slightly smaller and rounder than other varieties, and are distinctly crisp in texture. There are more than ten varieties of Asian pear and some are classified as low-acid for canning purposes. So, before boiling water canning, Asian pears must have a strong acid (e.g. lemon juice) added to them in order to increase the acidity enough to prevent the growth of botulism-causing bacteria. The exact amount recommended is 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice per pint jar (2 Tablespoons per quart). Complete canning recommendations for Asian Pears, Halved or Sliced also include soaking pears in an ascorbic acid solution to prevent discoloration and preparing a covering liquid of a syrup, juice, or water. (Aside from the addition of bottled lemon juice, the recommendation is very similar to canning Pears, halved.)

You could also wash, peel, core, and cut into ½-inch slices then dry until pliable, but not sticky. If you fold a piece in half, it should not stick to itself.

Due to the relatively large amount of vinegar in the recipes, it’s fine to use Asian Pears in Pear Pickles and Pear Relish or even this unique recipe for Chayote and Pear Relish. Also, Pear-Apple Jam has enough bottled lemon juice that you could use Asian pears if you are willing to try a jam that may have a bit of a crunch to it.

However, Asian pears are NOT recommended for use in Pear Preserves. In addition to the potential for a safety concern due to pH, the crisper fruits might not produce the textural quality you are going for in typical preserves. So stick with one of the thousands of other varieties of pear out there for preserves!

Corn-ucopia

Have you got a cornucopia of corn starting to come in? Or maybe you just really enjoy crunching on fresh kernels from a grocery store? Well, if you want that great flavor to last, then try one (or all!) of these methods of preserving corn…

Instructions for freezing corn-on-the-cob, whole kernel corn, and cream style corn are in a previous post – Corn: On or Off the Cob.

If you’re wondering what to do with all those frozen corn kernels, or if you have 16 to 20 medium-sized ears, and you’re feeling a little zesty, then try making Pickled Corn Relish and processing it in a boiling water canner.

Corn in HuskThe rest of these canning recommendations are not pickled products, and so a pressure canner is required since corn itself is a low-acid food. Corn can be canned as Whole Kernel Corn or Cream-Style Corn. Sweet corn kernels may also go into a medley of Mixed Vegetables or Soup (note that the pressure canning process time varies – following the recommended process time is important to the safety of the final products…the soup has a lot more water to help distribute heat more quickly, and also less solids to have to penetrate through).

If your corn browns during canning, it usually means that the temperature required for canning is too high for the sugar levels in your corn variety.  This carmelization has become more of a problem as newer varieties of corn get sweeter and sweeter. You cannot safely reduce the heat or processing time needed for canning corn; you can freeze that corn or find a locally grown variety that is recommended for canning. Though not an immediate safety concern, you might want to consider refrigerating these jars and/or consuming them more quickly since they may not maintain the best quality for long.

Corn can also be dried, although consider your use of the kernels to decide if the texture is what you are seeking. Ears of popcorn can simply be left to air-dry on the stalks or at 130°F after harvest. For other varieties of corn, husk, trim, and steam blanch for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes or water blanch for 1-1/2 minutes. A test to check if it’s blanched enough is to cut into a kernel — if milk does not exude when the kernel is cut then it is adequately blanched. After blanching, cut kernels from the cob. Use a dehydrator try liner (or a cookie sheet if drying in the oven) so that the small pieces don’t fall through. Dry in an electric dehydrator at 140°F for 6 to 10 hours, longer in an oven. To rehydrate the kernels, soak each cup of corn in 2-1/4 cups water for 30 minutes.

Lastly, let’s not forget candy corn this time of year…it typically stores well on the counter in an airtight container (perhaps out of sight from children!).