Cherry Blossom Hydrosol

Once a year I get the pleasure of looking out my master bedroom doors to my cherry blossom tree.

Literally the largest tree on the block

Not only is it the largest tree on the block but it’s the earliest blooming cherry blossom tree (since my back patio is surrounded by concrete it’s abnormally warm for the area).

I love this tree so much. Not only does it create shade & greenery to my Urban landscape but it gifts me with beautiful pink flowers every year.

This year I did something I always wanted to do: I made a preservative with the cherry blossoms. I went out back & gathered as many cherry blossoms from standing height as possible…& I was pretty proud of myself too! It took all evening!

It took a long time to gather this cute little pile!

When I asked my herbalism group what I should do with the cherry blossoms the overwhelming majority said I should make a cherry blossom hydrosol…

Well… Sh*t…

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Preserved Oranges

Remember when we did Preserved Lemons?  Well, you can do the same thing with oranges (and limes and gragefruit, basically any citrus)!  I don’t use preserved oranges as much as preserved lemons but they are great for a well stocked home bar.  You know all those annoying drink recipes that call for a “twist of orange” and you’re like, “Damn it!  I’m not going to buy an orange just for a twist!”  I just replace that twist with a sliver of preserve orange rind!  It gives your drink the same oomph as a fresh twist and you don’t have to do without; plus, you can eat the rind!



Preserved Oranges

Ingredients

4 Oranges
4 T Kosher Salt

Directions

  1. Slice 4 oranges into eights – maybe smaller depending on how big you want your slices to be and how big your oranges are
  2. In a sterile quart jar, sprinkle about a half tablespoon (I use one generous pinch) into the bottomof the jar.  Lay around 6-8 slices into the jar and push them down until they start to express their juices.
  3. Sprinkle half a tablespoon over the layer of orange slices
  4. Repeat layering oranges and kosher salt until you fill the quart jar up to the neck.
  5. Let oranges sit on your counter for 24 hours.  After 24 hours, fill the quart with fresh orange juice, ensuring that you cover the oranges.
  6. Let the oranges sit for a week.
  7. Label and place in the fridge.  After a week in the fridge, check your oranges.  If they have expanded add more juice to cover.  They will keep about a year in the fridge.

Kitchen Tactics: Boiling Water Bath Canning

Yesterday in the “Let’s Talk About” series, “Let’s Talk About:  Boiling Water Bath Canning”, we discussed the reasons why BWB canning works.  In order to not make either post huge, I decided to break it down into two parts.  Today we are going to discuss *how* to BWB can.

First, let’s look at the equipment you will need.  I have a Norpro 18 Quart Porcelain Enamel Canning Pot.  However, you don’t necessarily need the same pot as I do.  Any very large pot will do.  Next you’ll need some sort of canning starter kit, I bought the Back to Basics 286 5-Piece Home Canning Kit.  This has everything you’ll need:  jar lifter, jar funnel, and magnet pen.  You will also need a ladle.

She gets a lot of use…
Never forget the ladle!
The key to canning is efficiency.  You don’t want your product getting cold, being poured into a warm jar on a cool counter, then bringing that jar up to a boil in your pot.  That will make the jar shatter and all that hard work will be for naught.
So, set up your kitchen with towels and/or place mats.  I find that placemats work great for canning.   Place your empty jars in your canning pot, fill your pot with water until the jars are covered and set the heat on high.  I always bring up my jars to boiling at the same time as the water to reduce chances of breakage.

This takes awhile, so start this first before you start on your product.  You can let the jars boil in there all day long if you want.  It won’t hurt them.  If you do it this way, you won’t have to worry about bringing your jars back up to temperature.   You also want to make sure you boil your jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them before you fill them with your product. However, when you take the jars out to fill them with product, you want to turn the heat off.
Place your lids and rings in a heat proof bowl.  Once the water is at a rolling boil in the canning pot, using your ladle, fill that bowl with the boiling water.  This will soften the rubber on the lids giving you a higher chance of seal when processing.

Once your product is ready to can, pull out the jars and carefully pour out the boiling water from the jars.  Place your jars on a placemat.  For the sake of efficiency and reduction in mess, I always place my product right by my jars.  Place your funnel on your jars and start filling.  Each recipe is different on how much head space you need to give for a proper seal, so be sure to read the recipe carefully before starting the canning process.

These are pictures from my 3 Citrus Marmalade.  We will visit this recipe in the future!
Once you finish filling your jars, wipe the rims with a damp papertowel to remove any gunk from the rims, this helps in ensuring a seal.  Using your magnet pen, place the lids on your jars.


Once all your lids are on, screw on the rings only until they are finger tip tight.  You don’t want to crank these on.

Using your jar lifter, place them in your pot, turn the heat back on and when the water comes up to a rolling boil, thats when you start your process time.  It will take a little while for the water to come back up to a boil, so be patient.  Once the processing time is done, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the pot for 5 extra minutes.  When that 5 minutes is up, pull out the jars with your jar lifter, let any water fall off the top, and place them on a place mat on your counter.  You should start hearing the “ping” of sealing jars.  After they’ve been cooling on your counter for an hour, you want to check the seal.

The easiest (and coolest) way to check the seal is to remove the rings and lift the jar up by the lid.  If you can pick up the whole jar, it is sealed.  If the seal comes off at all during that lift, it did not seal correctly.  You can either reprocess or place in the fridge and eat it within the next few weeks.

If they sealed, leave them on the counter, undisturbed until they are cool.  I normally let them sit overnight.  Once they are totally cooled, wipe them down so that there is no gunk that can cause sealing failure overtime, label, and store them in a dark cabinet.  One important tip: you do NOT want to store the jars with the rings still ON.  The ring can rust on to the jar and then it’s a royal pain to get off.
And now you know the basics!  Happy Canning!


Let’s Talk About: Boiling Water Bath Canning

This is a long, boring post but it is extremely important.  Please read it before you start any BWB canning!

There are several ways that you can preserve your food:  freezing, drying, pickling, pressure canning, Boiling water bath (BWB) canning, preserving in oil, curing, and smoking.  Most of my preservation techniques center on freezing, pickling, and BWB canning.  This year my goal is to expand into drying and pressure canning.  I’m not much of a preserving in oil fan as the foods that you preserve in oil become mushy as time goes on and they really don’t last that long.  Somethings preserved in oils will only be good for a month or two and if I’m going to put so much time into something, what’s the point?  I don’t do curing or smoking, either.  It’s just way too easy to buy cured and smoked meats to put the time and effort into curing and smoking.  Today, we are going to talk about Boiling Water Bath canning.

BWB CANNING CAN ONLY BE DONE FOR HIGH ACID FOODS!

Let me repeat, BWB CANNING CAN ONLY BE DONE FOR HIGH ACID FOODS!
Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me explain why.  Overall, preserving is about prolonging the shelf life of foods by killing or neutralizing the agents that would otherwise cause them to spoil(1).  Spoilers are enzymes, molds, yeasts, and bacteria.  Bacteria is the big boogeyman of home canning, specifically salmonellae, staphylococcus, and clostridium botulinum.

BWB canning works because water boils at 212.  Enzymes die once their host gets heated past 140. Mold and yeast are destroyed from 140-190.  However, there are two classes of bacteria.   Some bacteria die at temperatures exceeding 240, which is where acid comes into play with BWB. The process of BWB kills all spoilers except clostridium botulinum, HOWEVER, this bacteria cannot thrive in a pH of 4.5 or less.  Pickling low acid foods is the only way to safely BWB can low acid foods.  Pickling is adding an acid to a food. You can add acid by using a form of vinegar and/or lemon juice (citric acid!) or fermenting the food (3).  This is why BWB is safe for foods that have a pH of 4.5 or less (2).

BWB canning also works because as the gass jars are boiling in water, the heat pushes the air out of the tissues and creates a vacuum seal.  Without oxygen, spores cannot bloom in your food.  The temperature of the boiling water will also sterilize the jars and the foods.

Once you have finished canning an item, you must make sure that the lid is vacuum sealed on. If the lid is not vacuumed sealed on and comes off easily, you must refrigerate it immediately and eat it within 2 weeks.  If the seal is strong you can place it on your shelf.  When you want to use that food item, always check the seal of that item.  If you can lift off the seal easily, you must toss the item.  For whatever reason, that item did not preserve correctly and the bacteria have been having a party in that jar.  I have been BWB canning for 3 years and have only had 1 canned item spoil on me, so if you follow the rules your chances of failure are miniscule.  If, for whatever reason, you have doubts about an item, just throw it out.  It’s better to be safe than sorry!

If you are interested in preserving, I highly suggest that you do your own research.   Every canner SHOULD have Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  After that, every canner should have the National Center for Home Food Preservation as a favorites link.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation stays current on the latest canning research and offers advice and tips.  If at any time you read a recipe that you are just not sure about, you can go to NCHP and look up that technique to see if the technique is valid.  I highly suggest to add Well-Preserved by Eugenia Bone, Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff, and The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard to your canning book library.  After that, there are a myriad of canning books out there that you can follow for recipes.  Finally, there is a wonderful online forum called Harvest Forum on GardenWeb.  The community is extremely knowledgeable, fun, and quick to respond.  There are other canning forums but I find that the others tend to promote unsage canning practices and tend to be not as up-to-date on modern canning practices.  Harvest Forums members’ primary concern is for your safety, how can you argue with that?

Finally, BWB canning is a highly effective way of preserving food for your family.  With the state of corporate canned items being loaded with sugars, MSG, and other non-pronounceable preservatives, you will find that canning your own food items is a much healthier way.  Plus, home canned items taste so much better.  Once you start, you will wonder why you never did it!

1.       Well Preserved, Page 13, Eugenia Bone, Clarkson Potter/Publishers New York 2009.
2.       Well Preserved, Page 14, Eugenia Bone, Clarkson Potter/Publishers New York 2009.
3.      Canning for a New Generation, Page 15, Liana Krissoff, Stewart Tabori & Change New York 2010.

HAPPY CANNING!
Resources:
1.    Well Preserved, Eugenia Bone, Clarkson Potter/Publishers New York 2009.
2.   Canning for a New Generation, Liana Krissoff, Stewart Tabori & Change New York 2010
3.  Ball Blue Book, TMS Ball Corporation, Hearthmark LLC Indiana 2010