• It's time for Marmalade... with new flavors!

    Explore using ginger, cardamom, vanilla, and other exotic flavors to give a new taste to your marmalades.

  • Herb Jellies

    Steeping lavendar, rose petals, and other edible herbs and flowers create unique tasty jellies. You can add amazing flavor to jams when paired with fruit combinations!

  • Grape Juice - It's just that simple!

    A great and easy way to create a flavorful juice using grapes and can be done with Cranberries and other fruits.

  • SB Canning Pre-Canning Season Sale!

    Don't miss the opportunity!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pickling your veggies - Is there a difference in Vinegars?

For canning recipes that require pickling you should always use a type of vinegar that is at least 5% acidity. All vinegars will give you their tested acidity on the bottle or jug so make sure you are using the minimum percentage.

In all pickling recipes the type of vinegar can be interchanged. You can use an apple cider vinegar in place of a white. The flavor will differ but as long as they are both at least 5% acidity your canning will be safe.

There are a few vinegars that I have researched that do not come commercially in 5% acidity. Rice vinegar is one of them. Yes there are rice vinegars that to meet the minimum but they are combined with other acids to bring up the percentage. The highest rice vinegar on the market is 4.3% from Marukan. I have called the company and explained that canners would use Rice Vinegar at a higher percentage, but sales would need to be higher for them to consider producing this bottle.  You may think that its only 1% difference but the level of acidity is key in preserving the food in the jars without creating a growth of bacteria.  

Below are the most common types of vinegars on the market. Any brand will work as long as you are checking the label for the 5% acidity!

White Vinegar

White vinegar can be made by oxidizing a distilled alcohol. It can be used for cleaning as well as culinary and canning uses. Most brands are 5% acidity – perfect for pickling cucumbers, vegetables, and fermentation.  


Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is made from cider or apple. Most brands are 5% acidity – perfect for pickling fruits and vegetables, and often used in fermentation for a sweeter taste.  

Wine Vinegar

Wine vinegar is made from red wine or white wine. It is widely used in Central Europe and Mediterranean countries. Most brands are 5% acidity – is great for pickling strawberries andmelons and gives a great taste to pickled beets. 

Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar is available in red, white and black. It is widely used in Japan and China mainly for the preparation of salad dressings. Rice vinegar does not come in 5% acidity straight out of the bottle. You can find some combination rice vinegars that have added some additional ingredients to increase the acidity. Leaves a flowery flavor to foods that are pickled. 


Fruit Vinegar

Fruit vinegar is made from fruits without additional flavors. Apple, tomato, raspberry, pomegranate and quince are some of the fruit flavors used for making this vinegar. Each of these types of vinegars will vary in their acidity but all are over the 5%. These varieties added in canning chutneys give off some amazing flavors after they have mellowed in the jars for several months.


Malt Vinegar

Malt vinegar is made by malting barley. Most brands are 5% acidity or higher. Great for pickling. Popular in the UK for pickling walnut meats.


Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is made from cooked grapes. It is widely used in Italian cuisines. Also fantastic to use in fruit jams as an added flavor. Balsamic is at least 5% acidity but not recommended in brine pickling your cucumbers, fruits, or in fermentation, as the flavor is very sweet.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pickling & Canning salt - What is it an why use it?

There is a common question that keeps coming up when we talk or teach about pickling, “What the heck is Pickling Salt? Why can’t I use the salt in my shaker from the kitchen table?” 

Pickling or Canning
salt is a particular variety of salt that is used in canning. Canning salt is a fine-grained salt and is iodine-free. It also does not have the anti-caking ingredients used in regular table salt. They add this agent to regular table salt so it will pour freely through a salt shaker. For those of you that don't know what “anti-caking” means the best explanation is if you let pickling/canning salt sit in humid or wet place it will bind together like a rock. Many people use this salt as "all purpose" in the kitchen and in humid areas they add grains of rice to the salt shakers to keep it from clumping together. The rice absorbs any moisture.

The important reason to use a Canning/Pickling salt is the lack of additives.
If you look at the ingredients it will only say, "SALT".  Canning/Pickling salt will not turn vegetables, especially pickles a dark color. This type of salt will also keep pickling liquids or brines from getting cloudy. One of the ways that you can tell that a pickled vegetable jar has gone bad is a cloudy liquid that is created when bacteria is present.  Canning/Pickling salt will create clear brine that is perfect for pickling. One of the other main uses for canning salt is in preserving meats like salt-cured ham or sausage.

Like pickling salt, kosher salt is also free of iodine and also does not have the anti-caking ingredients. It can be substituted but because of the larger grain size there is an adjustment to the quantity.  Most recipes if they call for kosher salt will have already been adjusted.

Other Salts: 
Sea salt is evaporated sea water and contains various minerals.  It is safe to eat but minerals in the salt may cause canned foods to discolor.
Rock salt, ice cream salt, and solar salt are used to melt ice, freeze homemade ice cream, and to soften water. Since they are not considered suitable for human consumption, do not use them for home food preservation.

It is vital the cook use the specified amount of salt called for in the recipe so the pickles or meat will be safely preserved. 

Things to remember about Canning/Pickling salt when canning:

Canning/Pickling Salt has no effect on the natural color and texture of canned foods, perfect for pickles and cured or smoked foods.

The main reason for using table salt in canning is to enhance flavor. For recipes that are not pickled or cured the salt can be omitted for people on a low-salt diet.

Do not use salt substitutes in canning. They may cause the color or the flavor of the food to change. Also, they may give jar liquids/foods a cloudy appearance.

Here are some other ways to enhance flavor without salt:

Try adding one tablespoon of lemon or orange juice to each pint of carrots, beets, or asparagus. For green beans and peas, add one-half teaspoon of mace, nutmeg, or curry powder per pint.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Concord Grape Pie Filling - It looks amazing!

I have had this recipe in my folder for over a year but just have not gotten around to making it or posting it. It's hard to find the Concord Grape variety here in Santa Barbara so I will have to leave it to those that have these readily available to give it a whirl. 

If you need Clear Jel you can order it from the SB Canning Store!
Concord Grape Pie Filling
Yields 4 Quarts

22 cups Concord seedless grapes, washed
4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice (or 1 t. citric acid)
1 cup Clear Jel
1 cup water or 1 cup of grape juice from pulp
Preparation: Working over two pots or bowls, take a grape in each hand and gently squeeze it over the first pot. Deposit the grape skins in the second pot. Continue until you have separated all of the grape pulps from the grape skins. You can discard the skins in your compost.
Cooking: Place the pot with the grape pulps (do not add water!) over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, allowing it to boil for 5 to 6 minutes. Set aside - Do not put them through a food mill or colander. You just separated the skins and you want to keep the pulp as in tacked as possible.Combine water or grape juice, sugar, and Clear Jel in a stainless steel pot. Stir using a whisk and cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. It will come to a smooth texture. Add lemon juice and boil sauce 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat! 

Filling: Fold in the grape pulp gently till well mixed and immediately fill hot quart jars.
Place a canning funnel over the opening of a clean, sterilized quart jar and ladle in the hot pie filling leaving 1 1/2 inch of headspace. Using a plastic spatula remove air bubbles and refill to proper headspace if necessary.  Moisten a paper towel and wipe the rims of the jars so they are spotless. Center a hot lid on the jar and screw the ring in place until fingertip-tight.
Processing: Place the jars in a water bath canning pot and ensure they are completely covered with water by 1-2 inches. Bring the water to a boil and process for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let the jars rest for 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack or a towel on the counter. Let cool, undisturbed, overnight before removing rings, wiping clean and labeling. Store the jars in a cool, dark place. Store jars with the rings removed.

 To Make the Pie:
Pour a quart of the filling into an unbaked 9" pie crust and add a lattice or decorative top.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 50-60 minutes.  Let cool before serving. Great with a little vanilla ice cream!
Pie from Bakepedia
 Pie from happierthanapiginmud

For a twist... Concord Grape Pie Filling with a Peanut Butter Crust  

For the peanut butter crust

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup cold peanut butter
2/3 cup ice cold water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water for egg wash

Make the peanut butter crust by placing the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and sprinkle it over the flour. Toss the butter until each piece is coated with flour. Add the peanut butter and cut it up into 1/2-inch chunks as well. Toss to coat.
Using your hands, squeeze the butter and peanut butter in the flour, until all the pieces are smashed. Then start rubbing and squeezing flour, butter and peanut butter together until the ingredients start to become sandy and clump together a bit when you grab a handful and squeeze. Sprinkle the water over the mixture and toss with a wooden spoon or spatula until a shaggy dough forms. Using your hands, start kneading the dough until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Split the dough into two disks, flatten and wrap securely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Roll out one disk of the dough on a generously floured surface and move it to the pie tin. Prick the bottom of the tin with a fork and line it with a piece of parchment paper. Fill the tin with pie weights, dry beans or uncooked rice. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the pie crust from the oven, and gently lift the parchment paper filled with the pie weights off the pie crust. Brush bottom and sides of the crust with the egg wash and place back in the oven for 5 more minutes or until the crust look dry and shiny. Remove and let cool on a rack. Add your filling and cook at 350 degrees for 35 minutes until the filling is bubbling. 
Irvin Lin Peanut Butter Crust
with Concord Grape Pie filling!



Black Spots on the undersides of your Lids? Might not be harmful!

A few of my Facebook followers have shared some concern about opening jars and finding black or brown spots on the underside of their canning lids. I have done some research on the problem and in many of the cases I read it was clearly from canners who state that their jars were sealed tight and when they removed the lids they had resistance and heard the vacuum seal or "whoosh". To their dismay there were black spots on the back side of the lid. 

To assess these lids first you should do some quick checking;
  1. The black or brown spots do not have hairs and with a simple scratch of a utensil it appears more like a "soot".
  2. There is no strong off odor to the contents of the jar.
  3. Appears that these spots are concentrated on the lid of the jar.
  4.  When you opened the jar there was resistance in opening the lid. 
If all these are true it could be harmless. 
The underside of canning metal lids are protected by an enamel coating. If there are any imperfections in the enamel like tiny scratches or pinholes there can be a chemical reaction. The natural compounds in food can react with the metal in the lid to form brown or black deposits. These reactive compounds are associated with proteins in the food. When subjected to the heat of processing in a water bath or pressure canner these compounds are released. The black sulfide deposits are not harmful; they are just unattractive. Many times this reaction happens with tomatoes as the acidity is a common reactor. Unfortunately, there is nothing that will prevent these spots in future canning.


If you look at the two pictures you can see there are scratches in the lid and also notice that the spots are localized to a specific place where there is an imperfection in the enamel. 

I hope that this helps those of you that have had some concerns about why this is happening to your jars.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chicken Marsala - Perfect for pressure canning!

Some classic recipes can be used in putting together some quick meals in jars. This recipe was shared with me by Richard who is an avid follower and has been putting up food for eating more healthy in his life.

Chicken Marsala is a delicious way to prepare chicken and perfect because of its "base" of using chicken stock and adding thickener, cream or sour cream just before serving after reheating the jars contents. Remember you can't add milk, cream or thickeners to your jars to keep them shelf stable. Richard's recipe at the end will tell you how to add the finishing touches to create that creaminess for a perfect Marsala so it's ready to serve. 

Thanks Richard for your time and photo and letting me share this with the canning community. 

Yields 5 Quarts or 10 pints 

5-7 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken
5 cups sliced mushrooms (2 - 20 oz. pkgs.) 
2 cups dry Marsala wine 
2 quarts chicken stock
1 medium onion diced 
1 tsp. oregano
1 heaping tsp. chopped garlic 
Salt and Pepper 

Preparation: Prepare chicken by cutting away any visible fat removed and cut into bite sized pieces. Slice mushrooms, dice the onion and mince the garlic, set aside.
Cooking: In a frying pan using a small amount of olive oil sauté chicken pieces seasoning with salt and pepper, in several batches and place in a colander placed over a bowl for excess grease to drain. Place 1 cup of chicken into each pint jar along with ½ cup sliced raw mushrooms. Using the same pan that you cooked the chicken add the diced onion, garlic and oregano. Saute until the onion is soft but not brown. Add 2 cups dry Marsala wine and boil hard for 1 minute (to evaporate the alcohol) stirring all the bits together and add 2 quarts chicken stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer a few minutes to let the flavors combine.
Filling the jars: On a dishtowel place your hot jars. Using your funnel in each jar fill with  the stock mixture filling to 1" headspace.  Remove air bubbles and refill to the proper headspace if necessary. Taking a clean paper towel wet it with vinegar and wipe the rims of the jars removing any food particles that would interfere with a good seal. Using your magic wand extract the lids from the hot water and place them on the now cleaned rims. Add your rings to the tops of each of the jars and turn to seal just "finger tight". 
Processing: Make sure your rack is on the bottom of the pressure canner and place the jars in bottom. Lock the lid and turn up the heat bring the canner to a boil. Vent steam for 10 minutes, then close the vent by adding the weighted gauge or pressure regulator (for dial gauge canner). Process for 90 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure (11 lbs for dial gauge canner). If you choose to do pints they should be processed for 75 minutes. (Adjust pressure for altitude) When complete turn off the heat and let pressure return to zero naturally. Wait two minutes longer and open vent. Remove canner lid. Wait 10 minutes then remove jars and place on dishtowel in a place that they will sit overnight to cool. Do not touch or move them till the next morning. Your food may still be boiling inside the jars. That is normal! 

chicken marsala

Serving: When ready to serve, drain liquid into a saucepan and thicken with cornstarch or flour butter mix, add 2 tablespoons of cream or sour cream (I like it plain-as is) and add contents of jar until heated through. Ladle over Angel hair pasta or rice.