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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2007
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Washington Post photo by Julia Ewan

Behind Jars
Anyone can can with recipes this easy

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Find yourself in a jam?

If you still have summer fruits and vegetables on the vine or in the refrigerator or freezer, it’s time to get out of this pickle. Start pickling the cucumbers, turning tomatoes into salsa and soup mix, and making muscadine jelly and even strawberry freezer jam.

You might win a blue ribbon, too, if you enter canned goods made within the last 12 months (plus freshly baked items and arts and crafts) in the Morgan County Fair, which opens next week.

“Recipe buddies” Reba Godsey of Hartselle and Linda Dodd of Flint didn’t realize how soon the fair is coming up, but both said they might want to enter jars of their favorite peppers, relishes and salsas.

Godsey’s specialties include Candied Jalapenos and Apple Relish.

Her personal favorite, she said, is Apple Relish, which is made with bell peppers, jalapenos and onions, along with apples, vinegar and sugar.

“It’s not hard to make, and my children really like it,” Godsey said. “It’s good on hot dogs and hamburgers, but it also can be used as a side item.”

Apple Relish

10 large apples
8 medium onions
3 green bell peppers
5 red bell peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
1 quart vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups sugar

Peel, core and seed the apples. Seed the peppers. Grind up the apples, onions and peppers. Mix the sugar, vinegar and salt and pour over the apples and vegetables. Put on stove and let cook about 40 minutes after it comes to a boil. Turn it down and let it cook on medium heat, stirring frequently. Pack mixture in canning jars and follow the water bath canning process. “I always water bath mine for 10 minutes to be sure there’s no bacteria and to keep it from turning brown on top,” said Godsey, who said she feels that’s safer although the original recipe didn’t call for water bath canning. She prefers pint jars.

Sometimes Godsey cans using old family recipes that date back 100 years or more, such as 14-day dill pickles and kosher dill pickles using a grape leaf. She said she usually makes modern-day adaptations for old recipes, but she also creates recipes.

That’s the way she came up with her version of Candied Jalapenos.

“One of my sons brought a jar of these back from a trip. He fell in love with Candied Jalapenos and asked me if I could come up with a recipe, and I did,” Godsey said.

Candied Jalapenos

11/4 cup jalapenos, sliced 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients and cook to a light syrup. Place in pint canning jars and follow water bath canning procedure for 10 minutes.

Godsey shared the Candied Jalapenos recipe with Dodd, who began making them this year.

“They taste sweet and hot at the same time, and they are so good that I can’t keep them in the house,” said Dodd.

She visits farmers’ markets regularly to buy jalapenos, as well as all the tomatoes and peppers she can tote home to put into her own version of fresh salsa.

“This is a wonderful salsa recipe. One of my relatives gave it to me, and I’ve been making it for a couple of years now,” said Dodd. She stays busy all summer turning juicy, ripe tomatoes into jars of salsa “that tastes as good as what you get at Mexican restaurants,” she said.

“I try to put some away for the wintertime, when it’s so hard to find good tomatoes,” she said. “But I have to put up a lot of it, because my kids don’t can, and I give some to them. And I use it in meatloaf and other things, too.”

Garden Salsa

1 gallon tomatoes, peeled and cut up
11/2 cups onions, diced
2 cups hot peppers, chopped
2 cups bell peppers, chopped
1/4 cup canning salt
3/4 cup sugar
3 6-ounce cans tomato paste

Put the tomatoes, onions, peppers salt and sugar in a large, Dutch-oven type pot and cook for one hour. After an hour, add three 6-ounce cans tomato paste and cook for 15 minutes more, stirring often. Put in jars and follow water bath canning directions. She prefers “to water bath almost everything to prevent it from getting dark on top.”

Marilyn Champion of Falkville said she has sold more canned goods than usual this summer at her booth at the Decatur-Morgan County Farmer’s Market.

“I think some people got hooked, because they’re buying it by the case,” she said, surveying her canning jars of squash pickles, tomato relish, soup mix and jams.

Her secret to tasty squash pickles?

“I used a recipe that didn’t call for turmeric, but I added some and I think it gives them a good flavor and makes them look prettier in the jar, too,” said Champion. She also adds turmeric to her squash relish.

“I was going to enter some jars in the fair last year but didn’t get around to it,” she said. She may try to take some canned items to the fairgrounds Sunday or Tuesday.

“I just pulled the last of the Concord grapes from the field and have them in the refrigerator, so I can make some more grape jelly,” said Champion.

She still has strawberries picked during a May bumper crop in double-lock plastic bags in her freezer, too, which she regularly uses to make no-cook Strawberry Freezer Jam.

“All I have to do is thaw out the strawberries,” she said. After following the directions on the box of Sure Gel or another fruit jell pectin, she fills her jars and keeps them in the freezer (a jar to be eaten in the next few days can go in the refrigerator).

Strawberry Freezer Jam

2 cups crushed strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
13/4-ounce package of Ball Natural Fruit Jell Pectin

Remove caps from 1 quart of fresh strawberries. Crush berries one layer at a time (do not use a food processor, blender or food mill).

Combine prepared fruit, lemon juice and sugar (do not alter the amount of sugar or use sugar substitutes in this recipe, because the exact amount is necessary for a good gel.) Mix thoroughly and let stand 10 minutes. Combine water and 13/4-ounce package of Ball Natural Fruit Jell Pectin in a small saucepan. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add pectin mixture to fruit and stir for three minutes.

Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust caps. Let stand until set, not to exceed 24 hours. Store in freezer (may be stored in refrigerator for up to three weeks). Makes five 8-ounce jars.

The basics of canning

Home canning isn’t nearly as scary or time-consuming as you might think. Here are some basics:

  • There are two ways to can food, in a boiling water bath (essentially a large stockpot of boiling water) or a steam pressure canner (a specialized piece of equipment similar to a pressure cooker).

  • The water bath method is used for foods that are high in acid, such as fruits, jams and spreads, as well as pickles and tomatoes to which vinegar is added. Jars are submerged and boiled for set periods, varying by recipe. The temperature of the water (212 F) destroys molds, yeast and some bacteria (which also are inhibited by the acidity of the food).

  • Canning foods low in acid, such as meats and most vegetables, requires the higher temperatures (240 F) reached with a steam-pressure canner. The steam in a pressurized canner circulates around the jars, heating the food inside.

  • Both methods require adjustments for high-altitude locations, where water boils at temperatures lower than what is needed to kill bacteria. With the boiling method, longer processing is required. With steam, more pressure is necessary.

  • In addition to canning jars and tops, basic equipment includes either a boiling or steam-pressure canner, a rack to keep the jars elevated inside the canner (allowing water or steam to surround the jars), tongs for holding the jars when hot, and a canning funnel.

  • Water bath starter kits that include all essential equipment can be found online for about $40; the individual items also are widely available at most hardware and kitchen shops. Steam-pressure canners can cost considerably more (Target.com offers one for $89.99, but larger models can cost more than $500).

    The Associated Press

    Enter cans in the fair

    Next week is the time to enter your canned goods, baked goods, honey, field crops, plants, sewing, artwork and crafts in the Morgan County Fair, which will open Sept. 20.

    Entries can be taken to the exhibits building at the fairgrounds on Modaus Road behind Home Depot on Sunday between 1 and 5 p.m. or on Tuesday between 4 and 7 p.m. (baked goods must be taken Tuesday).

    Foods should have been canned within the past year and never entered in a previous Morgan County Fair.

    Many divisions are divided into elementary (through age 12), teen (13 through 19) and adult (20 and up) age groups. Cash prizes range from $2 to $11.

    For a complete list of exhibit categories, see www.morgancountyfair.com, or call exhibit chairwoman Susan McClendon, 351-9550.

    Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
    AP contributed to this report.

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