Well, it is finally (sort of) spring around here, and in my “no air conditioning because I live in an 1880 Victorian home and it’s only hot enough to need it a few months out of the year in Minnesota and it’s not worth the expense of installing it” world, that means these past few months of canning when it’s cold outside and enjoying the heat from the stove is about over. However, lucky for me (I guess), it has been unusually cold this past week even though it’s May, and I decided this past weekend was a good time to cross the May “Cold Pack Canning” challenge off my list.
Speaking of canning in the cooler months, before I start talking about the May challenge, I want to do a quick recap of what I’ve done so far this year:
January – For the January ‘Marmalade’ challenge, I stayed traditional and made orange marmalade! Not only was this the first time I made marmalade, this also is the month I discovered Pomona’s Pectin, which has been awesome because this pectin rocks for those of us who are low-sugar gals (and guys.) Since I made the marmalade, we have enjoyed it on toast and bagels and hope to try it soon on some chicken. I currently have four lonely, tired oranges in my fridge and am trying to resist the temptation to make some more marmalade.
|This is Bill. He’s mentioned later.|
February – For the February ‘Salt Preserving’ challenge, I went all out and made gravalax/lox, preserved key limes, preserved Meyer lemons, and preserved egg yolks. Let me be clear: we loved ALL of this stuff. We ate the salmon right away and didn’t share with the dogs. The egg yolks are delicious grated over salad and I would do this again! The lemons and limes are my favorite from this month. We have had a couple (or a few) margaritas with the limes and some awesome guacamole, and also a few cocktails with the lemons in addition to a delicious meal of chicken piccata. When these are gone, we will be making more. (Shout out to Lemon Ladies Orchard for the amazing Meyer lemons, too.)
March – In March, we had a dual challenge of ‘Shrubs and Jellies.’ I had never heard of a shrub and had to Google it before the challenge. I ended up making raspberry/rhubarb shrub and while it seems to have some detoxifying qualities, I really can’t say I love the it. I actually don’t really like it at all. Maybe I’m not mixing it right or maybe it’s an acquired taste, but almost all of what I made is sitting in the back part of the bottom shelf of our fridge. We did however mix it with some BBQ sauce and basted on some smoked chicken, so I suppose that is how we will use it. For the other part of this challenge, I made confetti pepper jelly (again with less sugar thanks to Pomona’s Pectin) and for the first few weeks after it was done, I ate it on everything. Now that I’m typing this, I am reminded that I need to open a new jar. My favorite use of this was as the spicy sauce part of a Cuban sandwich. This, we will be making again.
April – In April, the challenge was ‘Quick Pickles.’ I made a medley of peppers, onion, radishes and carrots and we ate almost all of it within two weeks. I like the idea of throwing some random leftover veggies from the fridge in some vinegar brine and having ‘pickles’ that are pretty darn good. We hate throwing food away, so I will be using the ‘quick pickle’ idea more this summer when we tend to end up with more vegetables from the garden than we can eat but not quite enough of anything to can. Also in April I tried a small jar of pickled ginger. This was a no. I don’t even like pickled ginger from actual good restaurants that serve it, but my husband does … and he didn’t think this was very good. The good news was that it was made with ginger that was on its last leg in the fridge anyway, so tossing it out wasn’t a big disappointment.
This now brings us to May! The May challenge is “Cold Pack Canning.” This is something that I normally do quite a bit of in a regular season. We make dill pickles, halved pears, halved peaches – all cold packed and hot water bathed. We make green beans, potatoes, beets – all cold packed and pressure canned. Since nothing is in season from our garden yet, nor is any fruit in season yet in Minnesota, I wanted to do something small because I didn’t want to just skip a month in the challenge. So – I went to Marisa’s website in search of an idea, and there it was – Spicy Pickled Green Beans. These are something that neither my husband or I have ever tried, and I’ve wanted to try them every summer since I started canning a few years ago. However, when you have 10-15 pounds green beans sitting in front of you on the counter from the garden and you don’t know if you even like them, you end up just pressure canning them regular to eat (because if you didn’t know, there is absolutely nothing better than fresh garden beans that have been pressure canned. We could eat them cold out of the jar.)
Anyway – this was a great opportunity for me to go to the store, buy a small amount of green beans, and give this Spicy Pickled Green Beans business a shot!
|I love this vegetable strainer.|
The only green beans that our store had were in a 12-ounce package and they were the long, skinny French green beans like what you put on vegetable trays. They were perfect. I had two of those annoying pint-and-a-half jars in my stash that are bigger than pints but smaller than quarts, and I decided they would work well for this. So, I made two of those and one pint (to equal the 4 pints in Marisa’s recipe.) I bought two of the 12-ounce bags, so I was 1/2 pound short of the two pounds, but they were already all trimmed and ready to go, so all I had to do was rinse them off.
|Seriously. Hot. Pepper Flakes.|
I followed Marisa’s recipe almost exactly, except I used half apple cider vinegar and half white vinegar. We always do this in our canning, we think white vinegar is too strong and apple cider vinegar is too sweet. For us, the combination is perfect – and the two types of vinegar are the same acidity level so it doesn’t make a difference recipe-wise. The only other things I did differently are: 1) I apparently am out of pickling salt so I used kosher salt, and 2) our red chili flakes are some I dehydrated and ground from some seriously hot garden peppers last year. I mean it. Seriously. Hot.
And please people, make sure your garlic isn’t grown in China. No offense to China intended, but please Google it if you aren’t sure why. We buy ours from a local Minnesota gal who does organic gardening, and I don’t buy it from anywhere else. I buy a bunch from her in the summer and toss the whole bulbs in the freezer, and we have delicious garlic all year. She also makes amazing homemade soap, among other things. Check her out on Facebook if you’d like, she’s Gramma’s Kitchen and Farmer’s Market.
|Before their hot bath.|
Once I had the spices in the jars, I packed the green beans in the jars pretty tight and still had a few leftover to feed my “there isn’t a vegetable I won’t eat” puppy Bill, so it was the perfect amount (even though I was 1/2 pound short from the recipe.)
Once I finally got enough boiling water in my water bath canner (which took 3 tries because I am NOT used to canning only three jars of something, and less jars = more water needed), they processed for 15 minutes (because of the larger pint-and-a-half jars I used) and they were done.
After they cooled, I put one jar in the fridge and we tried them today (three days after canning.) I was planning to share with my grandparents because they appreciate and enjoy the stuff I can AND give my jars back to me – but I forgot to leave the hot pepper flakes out of one jar.
Did I mention they are HOT? With the next batch I make, I will remember to leave some without the hot pepper so I can share. In the meantime, we are going to eat and enjoy these!