With simple step-by-step instructions and 175 delicious recipes, this book will have even the timidest beginners filling pantries and freezers in no time! Put ’em Up! includes complete how-to information for every kind of preserving: refrigerating, freezing, air- and oven-drying, cold- and hot-pack canning, and pickling. Sherri Brooks Vinton includes recipes that range from the contemporary and daring — Wasabi Beans and Salsa Verde — to the very best versions of tried-and-true favorites, including Classic Crock Pickles and Orange Marmalade.
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About the Author
Sherri Brooks Vinton is the author of Put 'em Up!, Put 'em Up! Fruit, and The Put 'em Up! Preserving Answer Book. She is the founder of FarmFriendly LLC, which helps chefs, restaurateurs, and food organizations support local agriculture. She is a former governor of Slow Food USA and a member of the Chef’s Collaborative, Women’s Chefs and Restaurateurs, Northeast Organic Farmers Association, and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
Read an Excerpt
Preserving food is really a two-step process: preparing the food and choosing a preservation method to make it last longer. Sometimes a preparation method can be used for different methods of preserving. For example, you can prepare green beans by blanching them and then preserve them by freezing or drying. Prepare tomatoes by turning them into a ketchup, and then preserve them for a brief time by storing that ketchup in the refrigerator or for a longer time by making it shelf-stable using the boiling-water method. I have broken down the techniques into two sections — Food Preparation Methods and Food Preservation Methods. These reflect the two aspects of putting up food. For each technique, I outline any extra equipment or special ingredients you need to make it work, the steps to follow, and recommendations for storage.
For all of these techniques, I think you will also find handy:
PLENTY OF TEA TOWELS
Preserving is wet work. You might not expect it, but even drying produce, which often calls for the very wet step of blanching, has its sopping moments. It's very helpful indeed to have plenty of material to mop up the damp, even if it's just a pile of cut-up old T-shirts. Don't use scented laundry detergent, and steer clear of dryer sheets, which will leave your produce smelling "April fresh." That scent might be a good quality in a bath towel; not so much in a pickle.
A KITCHEN SCALE FOR WEIGHING PRODUCE
This is not a critical piece of equipment, but boy is it a time-saver. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can always ask the grower at the farmers' market to weigh the produce to suit your recipe, but make sure to label the bags. I've spent my share of time in the middle of the kitchen with my arms stretched out like the hands of justice, trying to determine if it was the onions that weighed two pounds or the apples.
Food Preparation Methods
It all started innocently enough. I didn't really have a focused plan to start preserving my own food. I just had a few strawberries lying around that were starting to pout from being off the vine for a day. Sad. So, in the middle of making dinner, I just plucked off their stems and tossed them into a pot with a little sugar and cooked them until they broke down a bit. Voila! — Back-Burner Strawberry Sauce was born. My kids loved it, it was so easy to do, and I was so turned on by the prospect of being able to stop the hands of time on fading food that I began to dabble some more in this kind of alchemy. Refrigerator pickles were next — just boil up some brine, add it to the vegetables and — ta-da — lovely, lively, refrigerator pickles. And from there I've just kept going.
You can just jump in, too. If you feel a bit daunted at the prospect of making these recipes, it helps to think of putting up food as having two separate components — food preparation and food preservation. In this chapter I talk about all of the techniques — blanching and making agua fresca, granita, jams and jellies, vinegar pickles, fermented pickles, salsas and chutneys, relishes, butters, sauces, and ketchups — you will need to essentially stop your food's aging process. In fact, even if you go no further than this chapter you will be able to save piles of fresh food from a date with the compost (and loads of grocery dollars in perishable food).
Whether you have a little extra produce or a lot — six extra apples or a freshly picked bushel — this section will help you prep them before you lose them. You'll be able to put together some jam while dinner simmers, or whip up some tomato sauce while you watch a movie, not your stove. It's all you need to buy yourself some time before good food goes bad. So let's get started.
Blanching is often called for in food preservation recipes. It's a simple process: you drop small batches of produce into a pot of boiling water, boil them briefly, then scoop them out and plunge them into ice water. Why go through this extra step? Well, blanching serves a number of purposes:
Most important, blanching deactivates natural enzymes in food that would hasten its decay.
It helps to set the color of foods.
It makes it easier to remove the skins of fruits such as tomatoes and peaches.
It coaxes liquid out of produce so that it won't dilute a pickling brine.
It softens foods so they're easier to pack into canning jars and freezer containers.
It softens skins, such as grape skins, so they dry more readily.
* LARGE POT (FOR BOILING WATER)
If you have a canning kit, by all means use the canner. But, you can use any large stock, soup, or lobster pot you have. A cover helps the water reach and return to a boil more quickly, so you'll need a lid, too.
* SLOTTED SPOON OR SPIDER (TO REMOVE THE PRODUCE)
I prefer the mesh spiders you can buy in Asian groceries or at restaurant supply stores to scoop produce out of the blanching water. Their open weave picks up just the produce, not the hot water. You can also use a slotted spoon, but try to find a large one so you don't need to make too many scoops.
* LARGE BOWL OR COOLER (FOR SHOCKING PRODUCE)
You're going to need something large enough to hold the produce you're working with plus enough ice and water to chill it. If you're doing only a small batch of produce — 2 pounds or so — a large bowl will be fine. For really substantial quantities of produce, an insulated cooler is handy. Just scrub it so it's nice and clean. If you haven't got a cooler, the freshly scrubbed kitchen sink will hold the ice bath.
* ICE, AND PLENTY OF IT
I've tried using reusable freezer packs, thinking they would chill the water and save my supply of ice, but they aren't nearly as effective. Either freeze extra trays the night before (you'll need six to eight trays for a typical 25-pound case of produce) or pick up a 5-pound bag and stash it in the freezer until you're ready to use it.
1 Wash all produce.
2 Fill a large bowl, cooler, or the sink halfway with water. Add enough ice to chill the water without melting all of the ice (six to eight trays or 3 to 5 pounds).
3 Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
4 Using a slotted spoon, place about a pound of produce in the pot. It's important to keep the batches small so that the water can regain its boil quickly without cooking the food through.
5 Begin timing after the water has returned to a boil. Blanch the produce for the length of time indicated in the recipe.
6 Using a spider or slotted spoon, scoop the produce from the boiling water and plunge it directly into the ice bath.
7 Let the food chill in the ice bath while you repeat the process in small batches with the remaining produce.
8 When all of the produce has been blanched and then chilled, drain and proceed with the recipe.
MAKING AGUA FRESCA AND GRANITA
Agua fresca is a delicious, refreshing beverage from Mexico. Fresh fruit juice is lightly sweetened and spiked with citrus. It's the perfect complement to the grilled foods of summer, a cooling beverage when paired with spicy foods, and a terrific base for a cocktail. It's quick and easy to make; you'll want to have some on hand all summer long. Make a little extra for the freezer and you can enjoy it year-round. Don't want to fuss with straining? Then just combine the puréed fruit with a little simple syrup, pour into a shallow pan, and freeze for granita.
* A BLENDER OR FOOD PROCESSOR
Okay, I'm really not crazy about gadgets, particularly the kind you have to plug in, but it really helps to release the juice for this recipe quickly if you grind the fruit. Unlike rendering juice for jelly, you don't have to concern yourself with clarity here, so you can pulverize the pulp as much as you like. I've grated produce on a box grater and then squeezed the pulp by the handful to release the juice. It's possible and an alternative if you need it, but absolutely no fun at all.
* A STRAINING RIG
You have to drain the ground-up pulp. Use either a fine-mesh sieve or a colander lined with a single layer of cheesecloth set over a bowl. Agua fresca, unlike jelly, doesn't require the tight weave that would yield a clear juice, so you don't have to be too careful about the setup. Any kind of small-weave strainer is fine.
* FRESH-ISH PRODUCE
This agua fresca will be stored in the fridge or the freezer, so it's fine to cut away any bumped-up sections of the produce and use the rest without compromising the integrity of the recipe. Feel free to use the half melon left over from the weekend party that isn't going to get eaten during the week, or the cucumbers you picked on Wednesday for a refreshing Sunday-brunch eye-opener. Of course, truly sad produce belongs in the compost, not in your belly.
I don't mind sugar, but if you do, substitute something else. I think honey's strong taste overpowers in this beverage (apologies to my beekeeping friends), but stevia or agave nectar are good choices.
* LIME JUICE
A tangy little spark will brighten the flavor of the strained juice. If you don't have lime, any other citrus will do.
Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze in small freezable containers for up to 6 months.
AGUA FRESCA AND GRANITA STEP-BY-STEP
1 Set a fine-mesh sieve or colander lined with dampened cheesecloth over a bowl.
2 Purée the produce in a blender or food processor, working in batches as necessary.
3 Transfer the puréed produce to the sieve or colander as you go.
4 Let the mixture drain fully.
5 Compost the solids and pour the juice into a pitcher.
6 Add water and sugar to the juice, as instructed in the recipe, and stir to dissolve the sugar.
7 Serve over ice, with a splash of seltzer (optional).
MAKING JAMS AND JELLIES
My friend and editor Gabrielle Langholtz knows a great little French rhyme she shared with me: "La vie est dure sans confiture" (Life is hard without jam). Indeed it is. You should always have some little sweet thing in the pantry.
Jam is often a cook's canning debut. It's tasty and pretty and fun to give to friends. With all of the acid from the fruit and the added sugar, it's also relatively stable from a foodborne illness perspective — a big plus for anyone with first-time canning jitters.
I have to say, though, that jam can be tricky, particularly if you expect the homemade jam to be just like the store-bought kind. Some of the most experienced canning pros hit a jam hurdle every once in a while. They've come up with the batch that wouldn't set, the pot that turned rubbery as it cooled, the fruit that bobbed to the top of the jar rather than dispersing equally throughout. And double that for jelly, which, being made mostly from clear fruit juice, mercilessly shows its flaws.
I say, "So what." We're not out to win any blue ribbons here. We're in this to feed our families, our friends, and ourselves. Sometimes the careful balance of fruit and sugar, acid, and pectin goes a little haywire. No matter. If it's real food, it will be real good. A jam or jelly that's a little loose is still a gorgeous, delicious sauce for ice cream or waffles. One that's a little stiff is still a shockingly good thing to whiz into a smoothie or, dare I say it, downright decadent blended into a margarita. And if you've got bobbing fruit in your jam (also called fruit float), well, that's jam on the top and jelly on the bottom. Tell everyone you meant to do it that way and no one will know you didn't.
* A HEAVY-BOTTOMED POT
High heat and sugar are a recipe for scorching. A heavy-bottomed pot reduces the chance that the jam or jelly will burn during cooking. It can be a Dutch oven with high sides or a skillet with relatively low sides, as long as there is enough height for the spread to boil without bubbling over (you don't want that mess on the stove). But thicker is definitely better.
* JELLY BAG OR CHEESECLOTH
Whereas jam is made from the whole fruit, jelly is made from the juice alone. To extract the juice, you need to strain the fruit gently through a jelly bag or a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth set over a bowl. A jelly bag renders the clearest juice, but you need a special stand for it and the whole thing stacks up quite tall. So, if you plan to strain pulp overnight, as is often required in jelly recipes, you may have to do a bit of rearranging in the fridge. A cheesecloth-lined strainer doesn't have the fine mesh of a jelly bag, so it may not give you the same level of clarity, but I find it much easier to use. I always have cheesecloth on hand and the lined colander and bowl fit easily into the fridge, so for me it's the more user-friendly option.
* CANDY THERMOMETER (OPTIONAL)
There are several ways to test whether a spread has reached the gelling stage. One is to watch its temperature on a candy thermometer (220°F is the magic number here). If you have one, time to bust it out. If you haven't, we'll talk about alternative tests you can run in the "Testing for Gel" section (see page 38).
Pectin is the natural thickening agent found in fruits. Some fruits have more pectin than others (see the chart at right). Underripe fruit always has more pectin than fully ripened fruit. To make jam or jelly out of lower-pectin fruits or even vegetables (such as the Sweet Pepper Jam on page 264), you'll have to incorporate some additional pectin to get it to gel.
I use Pomona's Universal Pectin for all of the recipes in this book that require additional pectin. Pomona's is very versatile; it doesn't require a large quantity of sugar to set and can be used for both refrigerator and shelf-stable preparations. Pomona's comes as a two-part kit that contains pectin powder and calcium powder, which act together to gel your spread. The quantities to use are outlined in each recipe.
* GORGEOUS FRUIT
The fruit should look good and be free of rot and mold. I've heard that many economically minded cooks buy seconds for jams and jellies, but I don't recommend it. The spot on the peach is really just the tip of the bacterial iceberg. Even if you cut away that section, there are colonies of bacteria that reach deep into the fruit — too much for the home canning process to compensate for. You could wind up with moldy jelly — or worse — on the shelf. Start with fresh, wholesome fruits.
Berries are particularly fragile, so that can mean processing on the same day the berries are picked. If you can't manage the double-header of picking and putting up, just freeze the berries and process them into jam and jelly when you have ample time to do so (see Freezing, page 61).
Fresh does not have to mean perfectly ripe, however. In fact, the ripeness of the fruit will play an important role in the setting ability of the jam and jelly. Unripened fruits have much more firming pectin than do fully ripened ones. It's a good idea to use at least one-third underripe fruit (peaches that are a bit hard, for example, or strawberries with white shoulders) to guarantee a good set.
Sugar plays a number of roles in jam and jelly making:
It helps the gel to set.
It preserves the color of the spread on the shelf.
It increases shelf life once the spread is opened.
It gives jam and jelly an unctuous, satiny texture and a glossy sheen.
The jam and jelly recipes in this book use an amount of sugar that I think lets the flavor of the fruit shine through without overburdening it. It is often significantly less sugar than in other spread recipes. This is perfectly safe. Just like their high-sugar counterparts, these spreads will stay shelf-stable for up to a year if processed using the boiling-water method. For a sweeter jam or jelly, you can increase, up to double, the amount of sugar recommended here.
Most fruits are naturally acidic to some degree. Some require a little additional acid, most commonly bottled lemon juice, to make a successful jam or jelly. Although fresh lemon juice tastes great, it's not the one to use for shelf-stable recipes. The acidity of lemons varies, so your citrus might not pack the power necessary to get the job done. Unless otherwise noted, use bottled lemon juice, which has a more reliable level of acidity. The acid performs a number of duties in the jelly and jam business:
Most important, acid is the key to safety. Never eliminate or reduce the amount of acid (lemon juice or vinegar) called for in any recipe — even jams and jellies. Likewise, make sure you measure the fruit and use the quantity detailed in the recipe to ensure enough acid in the mix to keep things safe.
Excerpted from "Put 'em Up!"
Copyright © 2010 Sherri Brooks Vinton.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
How to Use This Book,
Part One: Techniques,
FOOD PREPARATION METHODS,
FOOD PRESERVATION METHODS,
WORKING IN GROUPS,
THINGS THAT WILL SURELY GET YOU INTO TROUBLE,
THINGS THAT LOOK BAD BUT AREN'T DANGEROUS,
Part Two: Recipes,
RAMPS AND SCAPES,
SUMMER SQUASH AND ZUCCHINI,
TOMATILLOS AND GREEN TOMATOES,