Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adventures in canning

The cold seasons are upon us here in Basel and like so many other cities we're slowly saying goodbye to the plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables at local farm stands and hello to more frequent stops at the neighborhood Migros or Coop. As dismal a shadow this seems to cast on the next 6 months in die K├╝che, we'd like to keep store-packaged foods to a minimum and our homemade foods going strong. And so we've ventured into the world of canning in a small Swiss kitchen (sSk).

Pumpkin Butter

First up - pumpkin! Both farmer's markets and grocery stores alike have an abundance of pumpkin this time of year and we couldn't think of a more delicious sounding concoction then pumpkin butter. While none of us had made it before, the recipes we found all seemed quite simple so we gave it a shot.

We used this delicious looking (and tasting!) pumpkin from the Gluscht Oase stand at the Riehen market. The gorgeous shades of orange found in their different types of pumpkin were so intense, just beautiful!

After chunking, then steaming and peeling about 3 cups of pumpkin, we pureed it using a nifty immersion blender—such a wonderful kitchen tool, we highly recommend it. Then we added apple juice, some ground ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Easy!

This lovely concoction cooked on the stove for about 30 minutes; meanwhile, we prepped the glass jars and lids by completely submerging them in water, turning up the heat and simmering them for about 10 minutes.

This process was super easy and the final product was a bit like fall in a jar. Very delicious on toast, morning granola, ice cream, etc. Any other ideas? :)

Thanks to Peter and Lilli Zmoos of Gluscht Oase at the Riehen Market for the beautiful pumpkin/squash, the tips, and for that beautiful gourd he gave to my daughter! (rylla)

Plum Jam with Cinnamon

After a few days of rest and half way through our Pumpkin Butter, we decided to can another fruit of late summer / early fall abundance, the plum.

When the gentleman in Riehen from whom we purchased the plums found they'd be used for jam, he insisted we add cinnamon to the mix. Feeling no ties to one particular recipe on hand, we searched the internet for combinations of plums and cinnamon. Plus, it felt like the right thing to do since a local recommended, rather insisted, on it. In the end, we found quite a few recipes and ended up averaging the results. The ingredients went a little something like this: about 20 medium plums, two cups of sugar, one cup water, one tablespoon cinnamon.

The mixture of chopped plums, water and sugar was beautiful! As you can see, we opted to leave the skins on to get as much 'healthy stuff' in the jam as possible. You know, to balance out the two cups of sugar. :) Oh, and we also used raw sugar which may have produced a bit of a darker tint.

Because of the high content of sugar we made sure to stir frequently and keep the heat on medium as to not burn the mixture.

After cooking for about 30 minutes we skimmed the pink foam off the top, added the cinnamon, taste-tested and simmered for a bit longer. Really, the cinnamon is a genius idea. It tasted so wonderful and definitely added a touch of fall to the batch.

Meanwhile, the jars were prepping in their water bath. None of us have by-the-book canning equipment here in Basel, so we opted for the same quick and easy method used for the pumpkin butter—so easy, just make sure you have kitchen tongs and a few hot pads on hand.

The process was remarkably quick—before we knew it the jam jars were filled to the brim, sealed and sitting on their heads. We read that they must sit this way for six hours, so sit they did. Also, a little note here: at the beginning of canning season Migros had a nice selection of jars and fabric lid toppers complete with cute labels.

We'd love to hear about your canning adventures—any unique combinations out there? Anything you can because it allows you to enjoy your favorite food out of season? Any canning recipes you favor because they hold a special place in your memory bank? Happy canning!


S. McLeran said...

Yum, plum jam and pumpkin butter - both sound yummy! I made some peach jam and tomato sauce at the end of the summer, but didn't think to do any canning with fall fruits and vegetables. Thanks for the ideas!! If you are looking for more things to do with pumpkins, try this soup: It's a yummy dish made with some good autumn fruits and veggies. I just made it tonight and it was great - just beware that it is quite spicy with the 1/8 tsp cayenne!! p.s. do those jars seal when you can with them???

Erin said...

hey sue, thanks for the awesome recipe - i can't wait to try it...perhaps tonight. i LOVE spicy!

as for the jars, hard to believe, but yes they did seal. the simmering waterbath and upsidedown placement for 6 hours does the trick! there's a nice 'POP' when opening the jars, which is a good sign. ;) we were skeptical, but for high acidic foods that won't be stored long it totally works. and i love that we get to recycle - i'm all about that!

Cara Rynerson said...

When I saw plums at the market Monday, I knew I had to make this jam. I begged some off of Erin last fall and took it to a Christmas party. Dumped over cream cheese, it was an instant crowd pleaser.
My plums were super sweet, so I was able to cut back on the sugar, using raw as you suggested. I also added a touch of salt, vanilla, cider vinegar, and cloves. It is heavenly!
Thanks so much for the inspiration. Keep up the good work!

Erin said...

so glad you enjoyed the plum jam, cara! (i, too, love it and can't wait to make more this year) the touch of cinnamon was heavenly - i even liked it scooped over vanilla ice cream! :)