Tuesday, September 30, 2008

can you can? canning, preserving and "putting up"

it is "last call" at the everyday food & away to garden food fests...we have been at this for 10 weeks (10 weeks!!!)..and will move to sporadic fests instead of a new one each week...the term "last call" reminds me of the way i feel regarding food at the end of each season. when we bought our farmhouse, it was the first time i had a yard in my adult life. we lived in a condo in southern california when we first got married...and, when we moved to san francisco, we bought a flat and lived there for 15 years. our flat was the entire second floor of a three story building..large and really sunny..tons of light...but no yard to speak of. i have always wanted to garden..so when we moved to napa i immediately took advantage of the opportunity.

we do not have a large yard by any means...but we inherited a massive fig tree, persimmon tree and lots of big rosemary and lavender bushes. we planted a meyer lemon tree, a lime tree and a mandarin orange tree our first year. this year we planted a pear tree ( see my pear tree post) and a small pomegranate tree. one thing about napa..it deserves its reputation for terrific growing conditions..we pretty much plant something and it grows, and grows and grows. i am still shocked at how much fruit a single tree can produce..and we go through the same cycle each year...first, a particular fruit will be in season..take our persimmon tree for example..the persimmons are beautiful...i start making everything persimmon..breads, pancakes, cookies, cakes, salsas, drinks, puddings etc..we reach the point we can not take any more...we give away tons..still have more coming...donate to food banks..more fruit ripens..i finally start making jam..and more jam..and more jam...then it is meyer lemon season..and the cycle starts again..so preserving aways reminds me of the end of a season. and..later in the year..takes me back to the parts of each season that i love...

i now look forward to the process of preserving..there is something really beautiful about walking into the pantry and seeing rows and rows of these amazing jewel colored jars...and i love knowing the origins of each and every ingredient used in the food i feed my family and friends. throughout the year..when each of these items are in season... i will share a number of my recipes on this blog..all the persimmon dishes described above,the many, many, many meyer lemon recipes..including the oft requested meyer lemon marmalade..and the equally popular limoncello.

i will post about oranges and limes..rosemary, lavender, pomegranates..more pears..etc..along with the seasonal items i plant. as always, i will ask for your ideas, suggestions and, of course, your recipes...today, i will leave you with two fig recipes...please let me know what you think...

if you have not canned before, please make sure you are totally familiar with each step of the process...canning is very easy..but to ensure your preserves are safe, each step must be followed. also, be sure to follow a recipe that states it is safe for canning... there are many sites which explain the process..i have listed one that is written in clear, concise and easy to understand steps..homecanning.com..but follow your favorite recipe's instructions if you wish...
i have made fig jam for years..ever since we moved into our farmhouse. i shared my usual recipe in my first fig post "do you like fresh figs?" . this season, i decided to make 2 versions..the plain jam..and, after a suggestion from my twitter pal lelonopo, one with orange liqueur added...i used grand marnier. it turned out delicious..perfect on biscuits, sandwiched between cookies, added to a cheese plate..i even served it alongside a roasted pork dinner...really good. try both..if you are a fig lover you won't be able to choose..do what i do..make them both!fresh fig jam with orange liqueur
4 pounds very ripe figs
4 cups sugar
large pinch kosher salt
1 large orange
3/4 cup orange liqueur (i use grand marnier)

remove stems from figs and discard. chop figs (do not peel) and place in stockpot. add sugar and salt, stir to combine. remove peel from orange using a grater..i use a microplane. (orange part only..no white pith). add orange peel to fruit mixture, stir and let sit for 1 hour(stir every 10 minutes). add orange liqueur and let sit for an additional 1/2 hour.

cook over medium heat until they come to a boil.( stir frequently) reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until jam thickens (about 35 minutes). when stirring, use the back of your spoon to mash the figs..you want small pieces of fig in the finished product. you will know it is ready when you can place a spoonful of the jam on a plate..tilt the plate..and the jam sticks..does not run... transfer the jam to sterilized jars and process if you wish..i do..or keep refrigerated for up to one week.
i love balsamic vinegar..have posted a number of recipes using this ingredient, along with balsamic reduction...my blog friends white on rice couple posted a delicious sounding fig/balsamic vinegar reduction. i tried it and it is fantastic..have made vats of the stuff trying to use up more figs...will be giving some to everyone i know this fall...if you can get your hands on fresh figs..after you have made the jam..give this one a go..you will be delighted you did...

fresh fig & balsamic reduction
about 1 cup ripe fig pulp
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla (i like tahitian)

1. scoop out fig pulp
2. in saucepan, add vinegar, fig pulp and simmer on low heat until mixture reduces down to about half. Stir occasionally (every 5-8 minutes). this will take 30-45 minutes.
3. allow fig/balsamic reduction to cool. place mixture in blender or food processor. blend thoroughly until mixture combines and becomes smooth. this step will also help release the seed from any pulp that has not cooked down. in separate bowl, strain out fig seeds. depending on your strainer, you might need to strain it at least two times to remove most of the seeds.
4. add 1 teaspoon vanilla to reduction, combine well
5. the reduction is very concentrated. use about 1 tsp at a time (or to taste) to your favorite marinades, sauces, dressings and drizzles.

to be clear..just the food fests with everyday food are on hiatus..i will continue to hold a weekly food fest of my own...if you would like to participate...or have ideas regarding what you would like to see featured..please use the comments section of this post..or feel free to email me directly...
have a good week..and happy october!
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"
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LeLo said...

Yeah for figs! And Yeah! for preserving what you've got. I feel a need to figure out a barter of something wonderfully Northwest for that amazing looking meyer lemoncello. I have a pantry stocked with tayberry, raspberry and marionberry jam!

I look forward to reading more about your adventures in canning.

Anonymous said...

It was through your first fig post that I found you. Now you've given two new recipes that I am definitely going to try.

I say, 'yeah for figs' too!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was wondering if you would ever be interested in becoming a featured publisher with Foodbuzz.com? If so please conctact me at lizstambaugh@yahoo.com

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi lelo..thanks for the comments..and, again...thanks for the tips...
i would love to barter with you..your preserves..your vinegars..really everything you do!..limoncello is usually ready dec/jan..let's figure our the trade..

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi sally..thank you for the comment..and for the very kind email...really means a lot..
happy we continue to get to know each other through our blogs..

Anonymous said...

Your jam sounds so good. I would like to try this recipe, but almost fell over when I saw the price of figs in the supermarket. Can I make this with dried figs?

Anonymous said...

chopped fresh figs are delish in homemade vanilla ice cream...topped with caramel sauce!

Unknown said...

I have a bunch of figs and would love to make this balsamic fig reduction. Can I use the water bath method to can them and store the cans in the pantry? If so how long to I boil the jars. Thanks