Strawberry jam is always there, because it’s a crowd pleaser at breakfast (or, let’s be honest, any time you crave a big spoonful of something sweet and fruity). I recently made a very nice lemon curd after overcoming my fear of canning with egg yolks. And in the fall, when western North Carolina apples hit local markets, I put up numerous half-pints of apple butter and applesauce. All these things are nice to have on hand as a flavor boost for baked goods or to share as a housewarming or holiday gift.
But let’s face it, all these treats require a lot of sugar. And as much as I’d like to live by jam alone, a few veggies are a must-have in your cupboard. I’ve experimented with canning dill pickles and okra, but the results were a salt and brine-induced grimace, lots of curse words and several trashed quarts of produce. No one likes to throw away quality food, so I have remained a sweet fruit canner for the most part.
I decided to stretch my preserving skills, put my oversalting fears to rest and try a vegetable-based recipe. Drawing inspiration from a visit to a Philadelphia restaurant a few years ago, I decided to replicate the Italian antipasto of giardiniera, a mix of pickled vegetables.
Because I don’t fool around with food safety (hello, botulism!), I did not make my own recipe. The correct acid ratios and densities are crucial for safe canning, so be sure to follow a recipe from a trusted source.
In my case, it’s Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of one of my favorite home preservation cookbooks Put ‘em Up! I adapted her recipe, below, with care to adjust only for garlic and other seasonings.
It’s a nice mild pickle, with enough zing and zip to show that boring, predictable tub of hummus who’s boss at the next party or potluck you attend. And it involves vegetables, too, so go ahead — nibble away and feel slightly superior.
You can read more from Erin at hungrytimestwo.blogspot.com
Makes 4 pints
4 cups distilled vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into small florets
4 carrots, cut into coins
1 red bell pepper, seed and cut into strips
8 cloves garlic, skins removed
Combine first eight ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Add cauliflower, carrots and bell pepper and return to a boil, simmering for 2-3 minutes until tender.
Ladle mix into hot jars and add two cloves of garlic per jar, leaving a ¼ inch headspace at the top of the jar, and add lids and bands to the jars. Screw ‘em on tightly!
Process the jars for 10 minutes (boiled in a hot water bath) in a covered canner. Turn off heat, remove lid, and let jars rest for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from canner and set aside for 24 hours, checking thereafter to ensure a safe seal.
And don’t forget to smile every time you hear the comforting “pop!” of the lids as they cool. That usually means you made something safe — and delicious!