Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daring to do it: Food Preservation

It's that time again! (I promise, I do make other crafts, not just the Daring Kitchen foods! I just seem to have a hard time getting to the posting thing... I am going to try to be better about that...) Sit back, relax, and read all about it!!

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

This challenge was a true learning experience. I have never canned food before, and the freezing that I do is mostly reserved for leftovers... (That's still food preservation, right?) My father-in-law cans, though, making the best pickles in the world, as well as a variety of other pickled vegetables (from his garden, no less). I was excited to see if he would let me in on the family secret for this challenge. John, though, made what could have been an unbearably daunting challenge something so great. He provided more than just a recipe, more than just a new method, he provided a ton of information. His challenge layout really was a lesson in science, in cooking, and in sociology! It was a lot of fun to read, and the cooking process was just that much more fun, knowing the science and reasoning behind what we were doing!!
Before I got to cooking, though, I had to conquer what might have been the most difficult aspect of this challenge - the logistics. I do not have a canning set up at home. Heck, the largest stock-pot I have is only five quarts. And the food to be preserved is supposed to go into the jars warm, so how could I make a lot of food and then can it in the same pot? Then I had to find jars! I could have borrowed some from my father -in-law, but I was pretty sure I wanted smaller jars than he had available. I finally found the right size jars, and figured out a way to use my crock-pot in conjunction with the stock pot, and I was ready to cook and can!
One of the recipes which John gave us for this challenge was apple butter. I know a lot of people who love apple butter, but I honestly don't think I had ever had it before. And I know I have never made it before! I have made applesauce, and apple butter seemed to be pretty much the same, just cooked down longer. This being September, the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanna, was going to fall during this challenge. What perfect timing! Apples and honey are traditionally eaten to celebrate the new year. So why not make honey-apple butter? So now I was excited for this challenge on yet another level!

I made my apple butter in the crock-pot, using a recipe which was based on a bunch of different ones I had seen in my searches. I know John wanted up to credit our sources, but unfortunately I kind of can't... I did what I do for my applesauce, substituting honey for a large part of the sugar. I then let it cook all day. The apple smell filling the apartment was so good!! After about six hours I opened the pot to start the mashing. It was great, and I was so excited to see how the finished product would turn out!
With the apple butter well on its way to being ready it was time to prep the jars. They have to be carefully washed and dried before being filled, then they should be warmed before the warm food is put in. Washing was no problem. For warming? A low oven did the trick perfectly!!
Finally I was ready. I filled my stock pot, lined the bottom with some towels to buffer the heat from the jars, and started boiling away. As silly as it seemed, I was really excited. And as the jars cooled, I was rewarded with the amazing little "ping" sound which indicated that the jars were properly sealed! It was so cool!
This apple butter was so good! My mother-in-law ate it with a spoon straight from the jar! So did I... So did Little Girl... For this alone, this challenge was a HUGE success.

But I wasn't done. I couldn't do a canning challenge without seeing how my father-in-law works his magic. His willingness to share his process and his recipe with me really made me know in a whole new way just how much a part of this family I have become. It was a really special day for me...!

The weekend we were there, my father-in-law had planned to make pickled green tomatoes. And these green tomatoes started the day on the vines in his garden. You don't get any fresher than that!!

After the tomatoes are cut they are loaded into the jars. My father-in-law does not heat the jars before filling them. He does, though, heat the lids and bands. The room temperature tomatoes are covered with hot brine. Once they are sealed they go into the canner to cook and to set.

This was traditional family canning at its very best. And I was so flattered that my father-in-law included me and shared his family "secret" with me!!

Thank you, John, for introducing me to canning, and for giving me the opportunity to learn new ways of celebrating the New Year and my amazing family! This challenge taught me a lot. And about food preservation, too!

To see the amazing creations my fellow Daring Cooks came up with, take a look here. Try not too drool on your keyboard!!


  1. Isn't the 'ping' the greatest sound? So glad you enjoyed this, and that apple-honey butter sounds fantastic!

  2. Straight from the jar! That sounds amazing. Do you think it might be possible to get the same flavor in an applesauce?

  3. Your apple-honey butter sounds delicious! I would love to try making the apple butter in the crockpot; what a great idea!

  4. Yummy apple butter with honey! And the pickled green tomatoes look intriguing. Great job!

  5. Great job on the challenge! I love those green tomatoes! It's fun when a challenge like this can become a family event too