Canning Tips & Tricks

-Use fruits and vegetables when they are at their peak freshness.

-Get a jar lifter. This simple tool makes submerging and removing hot jars from boiling water much easier and much less dangerous.

-Once you’ve sterilized your jars by running them through the dishwasher or by boiling them in water for 10 minutes, store them in the oven at 250 degrees. It will keep them hot, sterile, and out of the way while you prepare your product.

-Sterilize the lids by soaking them in water that has boiled. Put on the lids while they’re hot. The heat softens the rubber around the edge of the lid, which helps ensure a vacuum seal.

-Fill the jars nearly to the top, leaving 1/4 inch of head space with jams and jellies, 1/2 inch of head space with acidic foods, such as fruits and tomatoes, and 1 inch of head space with starchier, low-acid foods, which may swell and need additional room.

-Remove any air bubbles by wiping a clean knife or spoon around the interior of the jar.

-After filling, wipe the tops of the jars with a clean cloth or sponge. A clean rim helps to ensure that the lid seals properly.

-Once you have processed the jars, check the seal after 12-24 hours by pressing the button in the center of the lid. If it pops back, the seal is not good. The food can be reprocessed and canned again or refrigerated and eaten. If it does not pop back, the seal is good and the food should be fine in your cupboard for up to a year.


Chicken & Edamame Salad

Edamame is a bean that delights. The crunch of the texture, the chewiness of the bean and its cool, earthy flavor are hard to resist. A young soybean, edamame is Japanese for “twig bean,” referring to the stem at the end of the bean pod. It’s high in protein, iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

A few weeks ago I bought a few bags of Cascadian Farms frozen edamame, shelled. They’d been sitting in my freezer until today, when inspiration struck. I pan-fried a chicken breast that I had on hand. As it cooled I boiled the edamame for about five minutes in salted water. I chopped a quarter of a small white onion, and a few stalks of celery. Then I cut the chicken into small pieces, drained and shocked the beans to stop them cooking, and combined it all in a bowl with some mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Delicious.


1 chicken breast, pan-fried
3/4 cup edamame beans
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 small onion, chopped fine (about 2 tablespoons)
2 stalks celery, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

Serves two.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

This is a wonderful pepper pesto, sweet, smoky and sharp. It’s a nice change from a basil-based pesto, and a bit more versatile. You can eat it as a dip, or use it as a sauce on pasta or chicken, or as a salad dressing. It’s delicious with goat cheese as well.

A side note: anytime you use pesto on pasta, it’s worth adding 3-4 tablespoons of the pasta water to the pesto. It helps distribute the thick pesto evenly throughout the pasta.


3 red peppers, roasted
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

Roast red peppers, either by placing directly on gas burner or by broiling on a cookie sheet in the oven. Turn frequently, until skin has blackened. Place peppers in plastic bag, tied loosely. Let rest for several minutes. The steam captured in the bag will help loosen the skin. Remove from bag and peel off blackened skin. Remove core of pepper and seeds. Cut remainder into strips. (You can also buy peppers already roasted.)

Puree pepper strips in food processor. Add bread crumbs, olive oil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, salt, pepper and garlic. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning for flavor.

The UK Guardian has a short interview with Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s fame online. He says that he and Ben learned how to make ice cream by taking a $5 correspondence course. Also that he and Ben did not want to sell their business to Unilever (which took place in 2000), but because they were a publicly held company under obligation to their stockholders, they had no choice. He calls ice cream “an indulgent dessert that should be eaten in moderation.” His favorite flavor? Vanilla toffee crunch.

Blackberry Jam

On my recent trip to Vermont, I was thrilled to discover that blackberries were just coming into season. I picked six quarts over two days, fighting thorns, bees and spiders who felt I was invading their territory. The berries are tart and delicious. When making pies and jams with them I always add a bit more sugar than I might with other fruits, to counterbalance the tartness.

Blackberries contain Vitamin C, Vitamin K and folic acid, and are among the highest-ranking fruits in levels of antioxidents. Fun fact: there’s a superstition in the UK that blackberries should not be picked after September 29 (Michaelmas) as after that date the devil has claimed them by urinating on them. This superstition has some basis in scientific fact, as the more wet and cool weather after this date often results in the fruit being contaminated by molds. The molds give the fruit a nasty look and can be toxic.

This jam is a soft-set jam, made without addition of any commercial pectin. The lemon juice enhances the fruit’s flavor. Add the lemon rind into the jam until it boils, which will add further pectin to the jam beyond that which is in the berries themselves.


20 oz. blackberries
1 3/4 cups sugar
Juice of one lemon
Rind of one lemon

Combine blackberries, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Crush blackberries with potato masher. Add lemon rind. Heat to a boil, stirring periodically. Remove lemon rind. Continue boiling until mixture thickens and reaches about 101 degrees Celcius (about 214 degrees Fahrenheit). The jam will continue to thicken as it cools, so don’t worry if the set is still soft when you remove it from the heat.

A cobbler is a sort of inverse tart, in which all the dough rests on top of the fruit, instead of below it. In my case, it’s a lazy person’s tart, as it’s what I made yesterday when I was too tired to roll out dough. Instead I gathered my fruit (which I picked myself, resulting in the subsequent laziness). I sprinkled it with sugar and heated it. I put together the dough, and crumbled it on top-resulting in a ‘cobbled’ look, hence the name-and baked.

We called it a ‘black and blue cobbler,’ as I used the blackberries and blueberries we picked over the weekend. You can use any combination of fruit, really: peaches and blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, apples and raisins.

4 cups fresh fruit
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 eggs

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter an 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Add fruit and lemon zest, and sprinkle 2/3 cup of sugar on top. Bake the fruit and sugar for 10 minutes, then remove from oven.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter and work it in until the dough has the texture of cornmeal. In a separate bowl, beat egg, then add to dough and mix until combined.

Crumble the dough over the fruit so that it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the cobbler is browned on top. Cool on a rack.

Vanilla Sugar

What do you do with vanilla bean pods, once you’ve scraped out the vanilla? Save them, and make vanilla-flavored sugar. Place the empty bean pods into a bowl of sugar. Then leave for two-three weeks, letting the flavor of the vanilla bean seep into the sugar. It will keep indefinitely. Another method is to dry out the vanilla beans, then grind them up in a coffee grinder or food processor and mix with sugar.

Vanilla sugar can be used in baking, ice cream or sprinkled on fresh fruit. Try it in your coffee or hot chocolate. You can also buy it pre-made from Williams-Sonoma .