• Stir It Up: Yes, you can can
     | August 16,2013
    Colin Erricson Photo

    Just a few fresh chili peppers, a bit of onion and some chopped dried apricots make a tasty, jewel-like condiment for cheese or grilled meat or fish. The photo is from www.robertrose.ca.

    It may have started around the time of the last recession. It may be an outgrowth of the “locavore” food movement. It might be concerns about food additives and preservatives.

    There are many contributing factors to the resurgence of interest in home canning, says Steve Hungsberg, a spokesman for Jarden Home Brands, makers of Ball canning jars. That interest has spurred a 31 percent increase in jar sales in the last year alone.

    Hungsberg and his colleagues are so gung-ho, in fact, that they’ve declared Saturday to be National Can-It-Forward Day, to encourage people all over the country to “put by” or “put up” some of summer’s harvest. If you happen to be in New York City on that day, you can find them celebrating — and canning — at the outdoor market at Union Square.

    The folks at Ball make it as easy as possible to can food. Their Blue Book is a bible for the food-preservation set and is still an affordable $6.49 (plus shipping) from freshpreserving.com or 855-813-9352. Want more? The National Center for Home Food Preservation, an arm of the USDA, has posted its guidelines on the University of Georgia website: nchfp.uga.edu. If your excuse has always been that you didn’t know how to find out how to can, you’re out of excuses now.

    Space limitations make it impossible to address all of the preparations and methods for canning; if you wish to use the recipe here, it is imperative that you research canning guidelines on your own. But rest assured that it’s really quite simple and not terribly expensive, and gives great results. Plus, a little time spent canning surplus from your garden or from a local farm stand will reward you with good eating for months to come. You will also have a stash of gifts to dole out during winter holidays or take as hostess presents.

    Start with something simple, like the Habanero Gold pepper-jelly recipe below, from the “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.” It’s spectacular when served over a block of cream cheese or a wedge of Brie and makes a fiery complement to grilled meats and fish. It’s also quite beautiful.

    Can it forward!

    Habanero Gold

    1/3 cup finely diced dried apricots (see note)

    ¾ cup white vinegar

    ¼ cup finely chopped red onion (see note)

    ¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper (see note)

    ¼ cup finely chopped and seeded habanero peppers, or Scotch bonnet peppers, or a mixture of less-hot peppers (such as jalapenos) and habaneros or Scotch bonnets

    3 cups sugar

    1 (3-ounce) pouch liquid pectin

    In a deep stainless steel pot, combine the apricots and vinegar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight.

    Wash three 8-ounce (half-pint) canning jars, lids and jar closure bands. Prepare them for canning according to manufacturer’s instructions.

    When ready to can, add red onion, red bell pepper and chili peppers to the apricots and vinegar. Stir in the sugar. Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly; keep at it until you reach a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the pectin and boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam with a clean metal spoon.

    Quickly ladle the hot jelly into the prepared jars, leaving ¼ inch of head space. Slide a nonmetal utensil such as a rubber spatula between the food and the jar to release any air bubbles that may have formed. (Bubbles can affect the seal.) Wipe the rim of the jar. Center a lid on the jar opening and screw the closure band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

    Place jars upright in a hot water bath prepared according to USDA guidelines. Bring to a boil; boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow jars to sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars; allow to cool for 24 hours. Test the seals, clean the jars and store according to USDA guidelines. Remember to label the jar with the contents and date before you store them.

    Note: To ensure that the fruit remains suspended in the jelly (and therefore looks most attractive) cut the apricot, onion, bell and chili peppers into 1/8-inch slices, then cut the slices into ¼-inch pieces. If you want to boost the heat in the jelly, don’t remove the seeds from the chilies.

    (Excerpted from “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving” by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine; copyright 2012 www.robertrose.ca. Reprinted with publisher permission.)

    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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