Can, jam, pickle and preserve in Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – The net is abuzz with bloggers in love with home canning. Complete with detailed photos and clever journal entries, a new generation of canning devotees are documenting their newest hobby.
At http://www.foodinjars.com, Philadelphia resident Marisa McClellan shares all sorts of recipes, including peach-plum ginger jam, tomato jam and watermelon jelly. At Put Up or Shut Up (www.putsup.com), there’s a whole lot more going on then plain Jane strawberry jelly or the like – think rhubarb fennel chutney or kumquats in honey ginger syrup. L.A. resident and fashion stylist Nina Corbett, the blogs author, says “canning is couture.” At Saving the Season (www.savingtheseason.com), blogger and magazine editor Kevin West reports on his preserving exploits, from pickled peppers and salsa verde to peach-passion fruit jam “and those related preparations that result when you chunk bits of seasonal produce and preserve them in a syrup either piquant or sweet.”
Here in the Vail Valley, an ever-expanding group of people is discovering the same thing. Or at least they were Monday night at Sweet Basil. The restaurant’s executive chef, Paul Anders, led a class called “Can Do,” which was essentially canning 101. A repeat class is set for Sunday afternoon as part of Vail Restaurant Month.
Around 20 participants (including three men), listened intently as Anders waxed poetic about “putting up” before getting into the nitty gritty of how to actually can whole tomatoes, peach preserves and “Paul’s Pickles.”
“Canning has become a lost art,” he said at the start of the class. “Most of us can relate to grandma’s cellar, and jars stacked up, neatly labeled. But you just don’t see that as much anymore.”
Until now. People are taking the concept of eating seasonally and locally super seriously, moving it from niche status to mainstream. There’s a harvest dinner nearly every week at one of the local restaurants, the farmer’s markets were packed on the weekends this summer and more than ever before, locals grew their own vegetables and herbs on pots on sunny decks, in backyards or wherever they could score a plot of dirt. And just as vegetable gardens are back in vogue, people are taking the concept of growing their own one step further – to canning their own.
“If you have ever wondered how you can have a great tomato sauce in February, the answer is in preserved tomatoes that capture the essence of a great summer heirloom,” Anders said.
So far this summer Edwards resident and class attendee Lynn Gregg has made fresh raspberry jam and she’ll likely can some bread and butter pickles using her mom’s recipe, as she does every year. Gregg agrees that canning is definitely “back.”
“We’re all looking for more healthy things for our families,” Gregg said. “This way, you know what’s in it. The canned things at the grocery store are totally different. Homemade everything is so much more fun – it makes your heart feel good.”
While attendees noshed on two kinds of Anders’ pickles, bread topped with peach preserves and sipped on champagne, the affable chef talked canning basics. He showed the class the essential tools (jars, lids and bands, canning pot and utensils including a jar funnel, a jar lifter and a water canning rack), talked about how to prepare for canning, how to fill the jars (hot pack versus cold pack) and how much space to leave between the top of the food and the lid of the jar. Finally he talked about the need to process the jars for additional time (20 minutes if you live between 8,000 and 10,000 feet) if you live at high altitude. While it might seem a bit daunting, Anders assured the class it is not.
“A beginner can very easily do this,” he said. “All you need is the right equipment, which is easy to find, and a little patience. Canning is more of a science and there are specific rules/recipes to follow. So, if you can follow a recipe, you can preserve and can your own vegetables at home very easily.”
Most of the things Anders taught in class, Gregg was very familiar with, having learned it from her grandmother who canned everything from sauerkraut to apple butter, using her wood-burning stove, but she still enjoyed the experience.
“Sitting in Vail’s best restaurant and seeing one my family’s traditions, canning, being passed on – I loved it,” she said.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Courtesy Chef Paul Anders
This brine makes for a balanced sweet and sour pickle, but as Chef Paul Anders says, it’s super versatile. If you want it sweeter, add sugar or honey. If you want it spicier, up the amount of peppers.
The weight and number of cucumbers you use depends on the size and quantity of jars you are using. A typical one quart jar will take about 1-2 cups of pickling brine.
3 quarts water
1 quart wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon turmeric
1 Tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 Tablespoon mustard seed
3 bay leaves
2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon dried dill
3 Calabrese peppers (you can find these in a jar. Rinse the oil off before using.)
30 cloves garlic
1/2 cup salt
1 1/2 cups champagne vinegar
Place all ingredients for the brine, except the champagne vinegar, in a large pot and bring slowly to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes and then take off the heat. Allow the brine to cool slightly and then add the champagne vinegar. While it is cooling, slice/cut the cucumbers and pack tightly in the jars. Ladle/pour the cooled brine over the packed raw cucumbers and seal the jars. Process in a water processor, or water bath, for 30 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Courtesy Chef Paul Anders
4 cups peeled, pitted and sliced peaches.
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 ounce pectin
1 ounce ginger, sliced into 1/8-inch thick pieces
1 cup water
Prepare jars, lids and bands and the water processing pot.
Place the peaches, pectin, lemon juice and water in a pot and bring to a boil while stirring gently. Once it boils, add the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the peaches back to a rolling boil for one minute. Skim any foam that rises from the peaches and discard. Pack the peaches into the jars immediately. Place the lid and band on the jar and place in a canning rack. Once the rack is full, place in the water processor and process for 30 minutes total. Cool and label accordingly.
Yields: 4-6 1/2 pint jars