Tag Archives: Gifts

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

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Be Merry with Cranberries

Cranberries

Use fresh cranberries in these innovative recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) to spice up your holiday meals. The yields will provide you with some for now, some for later, and some to give away! Elizabeth Andress, Director of the NCHFP, had this to say about these exciting recipes, “Both of these can be made during cranberry season and used as delightful homemade gifts.”

Cranberry Orange Chutney stands on its own as a side dish, or can be spooned over or basted into ham, turkey, chicken, or pork. Cranberries have so much natural pectin that the final product is almost jellied.  Raisins add texture to tang from orange juice and zest, while the warm spice of ginger and cinnamon round out the overall flavor. You could add small amounts of other dried spices if you like, such as cloves, dry mustard, or cayenne pepper. After it’s made, chutney will continue to set over the next 24 hours, but you can eat it once it cools down. Store un-canned chutney in clean storage containers and refrigerate. Remember to also refrigerate opened jars if you don’t finish it all at once.

Spicy Cranberry Salsa brings something new to the table by essentially switching out tomatoes for cranberries. The flavor is highlighted by Serrano peppers and honey. Use this salsa as a dip for chips, as a side with meat, or as a spread stirred into cream cheese. This recipe, procedure, and process time are also available in Spanish.

Loose cranberries

This entry was inspired by an article written by April Reese Sorrow and Elizabeth L. Andress for the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Looking for a Gift that Keeps Giving? Try a Dehydrator!

Trays with fruits and veggies

For your “foodie” friend or family member, a dehydrator might make a great gift. Effective and efficient at drying apple slices, chili peppers, figs, fruit leathers, jerky and more, food dehydrators are a favorite appliance of avid home food preservers.

Why not just use an oven? Using an oven may be reasonable option, but not all ovens maintain a temperature low enough to dry without baking (140 degrees F). Oven drying also requires leaving the oven door cracked open with a fan blowing to provide circulation, requiring a substantial input of energy and time. Dehydrators are small, counter-top appliances designed to dry foods quickly using an electric element for heat and a built-in fan and vents for circulation.

Dehydrators w copyright symbol

There are two main types of dehydrators: units with horizontal air flow and units with vertical air flow. Horizontal air flow design places the heating element and fan on the side of the unit, whereas vertical air flow design contains the heating element and fan at the bottom of the unit. The limited capacity of horizontal flow models can be a disadvantage, while most vertical flow models allow for more trays to be stacked on top of one another. The height of food pieces is more limited with the vertically stacked trays, however, as compared to some horizontal flow cabinets.  Also on the plus side, models with horizontal flow reduce flavor mixture if you are drying different types of foods at the same time, and heat is distributed evenly across all trays.

You can find dehydrators in natural food stores, the small appliance section of department stores, and mail-order catalogs. Costs vary. Before buying the first one you come across, consider this list of dehydrator features to look for:

–          Enclosed heating elements

–          Fan or blower

–          An enclosed thermostat

–          Double wall construction of metal or high grade plastic

–          Four to 10 open-mesh trays made of sturdy, easy-to-wash plastic

–          UL seal of approval

–          One-year guarantee

–          Convenient service available if needed

–          Dial for regulating temperature

–          A timer that can be set to turn unit off (very helpful when drying lasts into the night)

–          Availability of tray liners to purchase for making fruit leather if desired

Dryer with Liner

© Andress, E.L., Harrison, J.A., eds. (2006). So Easy to Preserve, 5th ed. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Spice up the season

If you’ve had enough sweets, but you’re still looking for a way to brighten up the winter days, try mixing together a spicy red hot sauce! This recipe is easy to follow and uses ingredients that are available no matter what the season. Easy Hot Sauce is great for stirring into vegetables or cheese dips and spicing up soups and chili.

Easy Hot Sauce

You’ll need:

  • 8 cups (64 ounces) canned, diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1½ cups seeded, chopped Serrano peppers
  • 4 cups distilled white vinegar (5 percent)
  • 2 teaspoons canning salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spices

This recipe yields four half-pint jars. Wear gloves when handling, cutting and seeding hot peppers or wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.

Start by washing half-pint canning jars; keep hot until they are filled. Prepare lids according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Next, place mixed pickling spices in a spice bag and tie ends firmly. Mix all ingredients in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

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Press mixture through a food mill. Return the liquid to the pot, heat to boiling and boil for 15 minutes.

Fill hot sauce into clean, hot half-pint jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids.

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft. altitude; 20 minutes if over 6,000 ft.). Allow hot sauce to cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check seals. You can remove screw bands after the food has cooled if the lids are sealed.

P1010090

This entry is an edited version of an article originally written by April Reese Sorrow and Elizabeth L. Andress.