Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hot Topics Canning Club

"Many hands make short work" is especially apt when embarking on a major canning project.  As we gear up for the feasts ahead -- and the numerous home made delectibles we plan to bestow so lavishly on friends and family -- it's neigh impossible to overfill your larder. So the Hot Topics Canning Club convened for a full day of productive preparations, both savory and sweet. 

Who's in the club? Our team at work is a wonderful group. As the days are unfailingly hectic, our secret to sanity is our daily group lunch.  Without fail, at the strike of noon we gather at the team meeting table.  After a cursory assessment of the various lunches, we launch into the main agenda: lively discourse on the Hot Topics du jour.  Mad Men and Gossip Girl are regularly recurring themes and Real Housewives of New Jersey earned its fair share of table talk.  But daily, without fail, food -- preparations past and future, family traditions, favorites and oddities and everything else imaginable is evaluated, laughed over, speculated upon.

So I invited the gang out for a day of peeling, chopping, juicing, grating, stewing, jar sterilizing and many many dips into the essential boiling water bath.  Three hours flew by and at the conclusion we'd put up a dozen jars of Lemon Honey Ginger Jelly, 20 jars of a fine and spicey Autumn Pear Chutney, and three dozen jars of Cranberry Rosemary Mustard. Recipes to follow.

In the photos that's Kerri at the pear prep station, Lauren bringing in her zested lemons for juicing, Lisa manning the boiling water bath and Elizabeth filling the chutney jars. Astute eyes will notice Elizabeth is due with twins in about four weeks, but no worries, we had plenty of boiling water and an ample supply of clean dish towels in the event of the unexpected.

A note about equipment: plenty of measuring cups and spoons goes without saying.  You'll  need large, non-reactive pots to cook the chutney and jelly and then the biggest pot you can manage with a rack on the bottom for the all-important boiling water bath. A good strong food processor. Ball's specialized home canning tools: the funnel that perfectly fits the jar openings, the wide ended tongs to lower and raise the jars from the boiling bath, the magnetic tipped wand to pluck the lids from the simmering hot water. 

2 cups whole yellow mustard seeds (try Indian markets or online)
4-5 cups red wine vinegar
2 t. salt
2 cups dried sweetened cranberries
6 t. dried rosemary

Put the mustard seeds in a non-reactive bowl or plastic storage container, add the salt and cranberries, and cover with the vinegar. 4 cups should cover the seeds to start, but they soon start to absorb the liquid and swell up considerably. Continue to add vinegar so that the mustard seeds are just covered. Most of the swelling will happen in the first day.

The seeds and cranberries need to soak at least three days, covered, room temperature is fine, no need to refrigerate. Just keep an eye on it to make sure the vinegar just covers the seeds. And be prepared to use more than 5 cups. Don't sweat it, the important thing is that the seeds absorb as much vinegar as they want to.

After this good long soak, scrape the mixture 2 cups at a time into a food processor fitted with a sharp blade. (Sorry, a blender just doesn't work.) Process on high for 12 minutes (yes, 12 minutes). Then add 2 t. of the rosemary and process 3 minutes more.

You'll end up with a creamy mustard with some yellow seeds still visible. Process longer if you want a smoother mustard, less if you like it grainier. You'll always see some seeds unless you strain the mustard, which is a lot more trouble than it's worth. Texture = home made = good. 

Mustard keeps just about forever in the refrigerator, or for a longer shelf life process in sterilized canning jars and lids for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Using whole dried mustard seeds gives this recipe some heat ensuring it will be a Hot Topic at your holiday table.

4 quarts roughly chopped pears (about 20). A mixture is good. Peel dark ones like Boscs. Light skinned pears such as Anjous needn't be peeled. You want firm pears. Luscious, soft and juicy pears ripe and ready for eating lack the sturdiness needed for chutney.
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup chopped onion
3 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup whole yellow mustard seeds
2 T. peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 t. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. dried hot red pepper flakes
1 t. ground allspice
1 t. ground cloves
5 cups white vinegar

Combine everything in a large non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Ladle hot chutney into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Put on caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

This recipe makes 14 or more half pint jars.  Delicious right away and tastes better when it's had at least 2 weeks to meld all the flavors.

(From Edon Waycott's Preserving the Taste)
2 1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 T. lemon zest
1 T. orange zest
3 T. minced crystallized ginger, rinsed first to remove visible sugar
3 oz. commercial pectin (1 pouch of Certo)

Bring honey, lemon juice, orange juice, the zests and the ginger to a boil in a large non-reactive pot. When it's boiling good and well, add the pectin. Bring back to a full rolling boil and boil hard for exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any accumulated foam, and gently stir for a few minutes so the zest and ginger are evenly distributed.

Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. Seal and process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.  Or you can do what's called the open canning method -- when the jars are filled and sealed, invert for five minutes and then turn right-side up.  This is how I've always done it and it works out just fine.

This recipe makes about 4 cups.

This has to sit for a couple of hours before it sets.  Don't get discouraged, it will get there.

Perfect on hot buttered toast and also a wonderful glaze for roasted or grilled chicken or pork -- apply in the final five minutes of cooking so it doesn't burn.


  1. I was lucky enough to receive a jar of the Hot Topics Canning Club's Cranberry Rosemary Mustard from Lauren last night and... I ate half of the jar. With a spoon. Spectacularly Delicious!
    Lauren's friend Alyson

  2. Wow that's a lot in one sitting, you may have set some kind of record. Now that Lauren knows how to make it she can keep you in good supply. Sean


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