When I saw that this month’s Can Jam ingredient was stone-fruit, I was very happy. Some of my favourite canned treats have been made from stone fruits – plum jam, peach bbq sauce, plum sauce, nectarine jelly… I was looking forward to repeating one of my favourites to share with the can jammers. And then I saw the Tigress’ Nectarine Preserves with Summer Savoury and White Pepper and decided to ditch my previous plans and follow her lead, but play with the spices to come up with my own creation. This slightly spicy gem is what I came up with:

Note: As-written, this is a 2-day affair, but the cardamom overwhelms the savoury to the point that you can’t really taste it anymore, so if you’re feeling impatient, you can skip the step of letting the nectarines and savoury sit overnight. Or you could try reducing the cardamom so the savoury isn’t overwhelmed!

A big thanks to Nick for his help taste-testing along the way!

Spicy Cardamom Nectarine Preserves
Inspired by: Tigress In A Jam
Yield: 5 cups (1.25L)
Level: Beginner

3 3/4 pounds nectarines
4 3/4 cups sugar
2 large lemons
6 sprigs savory
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
candy thermometer
1/2 pint or smaller mason jars

Day 1
1. Prepare an icy water bowl or very clean sink with the juice of one lemon. Blanch whole nectarines in boiling water for one minute, just until the skins start to split. Dunk quickly in the icy water bath.

2. Peel, bit and slice peaches. Place in a non-reactive preserving pan with sugar and juice of one lemon. Heat on low until sugar is melted. Turn up heat to medium-high and bring just to a simmer.

3. Place mixture in a large bowl, bury savory sprigs within. Let cool, then place in fridge or another cool place overnight.

Day 2
1. Prepare your canning pot, lids, and jars. Put 2 small plates in the freezer for testing the set.

2. Separate fruit from syrup by either draining in a colander or using a slotted spoon (or both). Place syrup in preserving pan and bring to 221 degrees. Skim foam off top if needed. Add nectarine slices, remove the sprigs of savory as you are doing so. Add the cardamom to the pan 1/4 tsp at a time, stirring and tasting (carefully – it’s HOT!) until you like the strength. Add the cayenne pepper – add it in smaller amounts and taste as you go, if you wish. Bring to the boil again on high heat. Boil for 5 minutes.

Note: At this point, the little bowl of foam I skimmed off the top of my cooked syrup was set into a perfect jelly, so I skipped testing the set. If you’re not sure, proceed to step #3. If you know you’ve got a good set, move on to step #4!

3. Test the set by first turning the heat off. Place a teaspoon of the preserve on a frozen plate. Place plate back in freezer for 30 seconds or so. Run your finger across the plate and through the mixture. If it wrinkles, even slightly, it is sufficiently set. If your finger makes a clean break, place the pan back on high heat and boil for another minute. Try again.

4. Remove hot jars from canner and ladle preserves into jars to within 1/2 inch (1cm) of top rim (headspace). Process 10 minutes.

5. Try not to eat it all at once.

Spiced Nectarine Jam

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What do you get when you take this:
Throw it in the food processor, cook it up, and can it?

Use lots of chillies and leave the seeds and you end up with what I call “Hotter than Hades Salsa”!

I made this salsa during the winter, but the mid-winter tomatoes in Ontario are really awful, so the salsa ended up more heat and less flavour – spicy but bland. My husband still loved it though, so I promised him I’d make more during tomato season so he would get to experience what it should taste like.

The leftover bit that I didn’t can was eaten up quickly last night, so I think he liked the results.

Word of Warning: The reason you’re getting my husband’s interpretation of the flavour of this salsa, not mine, is that it is way too hot for me. So, if you can’t handle the heat, substitute a milder pepper for the chillies, cut back on the jalapenos, and make sure to remove all the seeds. Or marry a heat-lovin’ partner like I have! Then you can substitute hotter chillies for some of the jalapenos and leave the seeds in…

Hotter Than Hades Salsa
From The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard (they call it “Beyond Hot Salsa”)
Yield: 3 cups (750mL) – I almost quadrupled the recipe and got 14 1/2 cups.
Level: Beginner

8 plum tomatoes (about 2lbs/1kg)
1 large onion
4 large cloves garlic
4-5 jalapeno peppers, seeded
2 small hot red chile peppers, seeded (I left the seeds in!)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano leaves (or 2 tbsp fresh)
1 tsp pickling salt
1 tsp granulated sugar

1. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, and peppers in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. Transfer to a medium stainless steel or enamel saucepan.

2. Add vinegar, oregano, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and boil gently, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. or until the salsa is thickened (cook longer if you double or triple the recipe).

3. Remove hot jars from canner and ladle salsa into jars to within 1/2 inch (1cm) of top rim (headspace). Process 20 minutes for half-pint (250mL) or pint (500mL) jars.


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I’m behind on Can Jam posts, but not on canning! This is what I’ve done since my last post, with more planned for this weekend:

Blog updates to follow…

It’s been a busy month or so. Family member in the hospital, crazy garden work, crazy husband doing a crazy sailing race, new work responsibilities with a demanding manager… I’m doing alright, but I have no time for extras. So I missed last month’s Can Jam. Unfortunately, that may mean I’m out of the round-up, but I’ll keep doing the Can Jam. I’m LOVING this project. 🙂

So, for June, I’m WAAAY late, but here’s my recipe:

Drunken Sour Cherries
Adapted from Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving
Yield: 6 half-pint (250mL) jars, plus 3 half-pints of syrup
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
5 cups sour cherries with pits (or 7 1/2 cups pitted)

Per Jar
1 1/2 tsp Kirsch

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cherries, stirring constantly, and return to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, pack cherries into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top of jar and add the Kirsch. Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover cherries, leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot syrup. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

I had extra syrup at the end, so I did three more jars as above, but without the cherries. Yum!

Drunken Sour Cherries

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Earlier this month on the YGG boards, Heather and I guessed that this month’s Can Jam ingredient would be either asparagus (her guess) or rhubarb (my guess). Turns out we were both right! This month we had the choice between asparagus and rhubarb. I picked rhubarb, hoping the plant in my back yard would give me some good (and very local!) yield for this month’s Can Jam!

Unfortunately, the plant seems to have other plans and, unlike every other gargantuan rhubarb plant in Southern Ontario, it’s tiny. It’s barely big enough to harvest a single stalk.

So instead, I asked my sister to pick some rhubarb up for me from the Kitchener market that she goes to every week. I met up with her last Friday for a girl’s day a the hair salon and she handed me this:
I promise it looked much better than this. The condensation was because it was in the fridge. The rhubarb was excellent and fresh!

As we were discussing the rhubarb, a man who was also getting his hair cut spoke up and said, “I’m moving tomorrow, and my old house has a huge patch of rhubarb growing in the backyard. Do you want some?” And thus began what Sarah (who picked this month’s Can Jam ingredient(s), BTW) called my “Random Act of Rhubarb”. The photo at the beginning of this post shows the haul my mom and I harvested from some random backyard in Waterloo. This is what it looked like once it was split into leaves and stalks:
We left the leaves on so we didn’t leave a mess in the backyard, but I cut them off and threw them out – rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so don’t eat them!!

With a small amount of rhubarb from my CSA, the stuff from my sister, and the Random Act of Rhubarb, I ended up with 30 cups of chopped rhubarb. That’s enough for stewed rhubarb, Victorian BBQ Sauce, and 7 cups that are now in the freezer waiting for strawberry season to start so I can make strawberry rhubarb pie filling!

The most unique of the recipes is the Victorian BBQ Sauce, so that’s what I’ve chosen for this month’s Can Jam! I may post about the stewed rhubarb later. The only change I made to the recipe was that I only had about 3/4 cup of raisins, so I substituted 3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries instead of running to the store for more raisins! The only other suggestion I can come up with is this: Make a double batch. This is good stuff and you’re going to want lots.


Victorian BBQ Sauce
From Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving
Yield: 4 pint (500mL) jars
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

8 cups chopped rhubarb
3 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup onion
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened to the consistency of a thin commercial barbecue sauce, about 30 minutes.

3. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, but adding hot sauce. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store. [Don’t know how to do this step? Check out the Tigress’ great Canning 101 post for a great primer.]

Victorian BBQ Sauce

I had an extra cup or so left over of the sauce so, instead of doing a half-jar, I used it on the pork tenderloin we ate for dinner that night. Just spread the sauce over the tenderloin, bake at 350F until the tenderloin is cooked. Easy!

For bonus points, dump all the juices and extra sauce out of the roasting pan into a small saucepan. Put it over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently (this stuff is really sweet, so it’ll stick easily!). Meanwhile, mix 1 tbsp flour with some water, stock, or some of the juices into a small bowl (I use a container with a lid so I can shake it all together) and mix as well as possible. Dump the flour mixture into the heated juices, mix with a whisk until well blended, and spoon this over the tenderloin.

Victorian Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Gravy

For extra noms, serve with oven roasted potatoes and a salad of fresh greens straight out of the garden. Yum.

Happy Victoria Day weekend to all my Canadian friends!

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My mom has grown red currants for several years, but I never really understood the appeal. They’re tiny fruit that take forever to harvest and the bushes attract aphids like no other plant I know. And for some reason I had convinced myself that I didn’t even like the taste of the berries.

Then, last year, I went raspberry picking with a friend of mine and the farm also had black currants, so we laboured for over an hour to get two baskets of the tiny berries. I brought them home and made black currant jam… and decided currants are my new favourite fruit. So I called my mom and asked her to set aside some of her red currants for me. Those precious berries sat in my freezer until I pulled them out to make this month’s Can Jam recipe. I won’t make the mistake of leaving them unused for that long again!

After my great black currant jam experience, I thought I’d love to add a currant bush or two to my fruit collection, but figured they’d have to go in the ground and I’m pretty much out of room, so I didn’t obsess about it too much. Then one day, while Googling my way around the internet, I learned that currants will grow just fine in containers. So I started keeping my eye out for a black currant bush. I ended up with a “Ben Conan” black currant that is happily growing on my deck in a big plastic container.

Then, yesterday, I went to Humber Nurseries with my mom, and somehow ended up with this little guy in my cart:
Currant "White Pearl"

It’s a “White Pearl” currant. You can see Ben Conan in the background. From the tag:
Ribes sativum “White Pearl”
Height: 125cm
Spread: 100cm
Zone: 3
Growth/Yr: 30-60cm
Clusters of medium-large sweet green-white fruit. Currants grow on 1 and 2 year old wood. Three year old wood should be removed. Ripens late July. Plant in moist well drained soil. Full sun.

So hopefully in July I’ll be canning up a whole rainbow of red, black, and white currant jams and sauces.

Now if I could just figure out how to keep the aphids away…

Tigress’ Can Jam April Featured Produce: Herbs!

Rosemary, Cranberries, and Red Currants

This month’s ingredient was herbs. Not any specific herb, just… “herbs”. It’s been a beautiful, warm spring here in Toronto, but we certainly don’t have much for herbs growing around here right now. So I went into my basement and pulled this off my grow-op:

It’s a rosemary from the release party for Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail. Which means this is the first month I’ve managed to actually use local produce as the featured ingredient – you can’t get much more local than what’s grown right in my own house!

Then I went into my deep freeze and pulled out some cranberries and red currants. The red currants were grown by my mom in Bruce County. She always has way more currants than she can use and gave me a bag of berries that’s been in the freezer since last summer. The cranberries were picked up at a farm stand off highway 400 in the Orillia area and were grown not far north of there. That’s two more local ingredients!

So maybe I can be forgiven for the non-local orange? 😉

This recipe is loosely based on a Raspberry & Red Currant sauce in The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. I went on a few tangents from there. There were a few little things I’d change for next time. For one, I’d cook and strain the currants on their own and then make the sauce from there with whole cranberries (they should be cooked just until they burst, like you would with cranberry sauce). I’d also add a bit more rosemary, although the rosemary may shine through more after the sauce has had a few more weeks to blend.

Cooking the Sauce

Herbed Cranberry & Red Currant Sauce
Yield: 3 1/2 cups
Level: Intermediate

4 cups red currants (fresh or frozen)
4 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
juice of one orange (about 1/2 cup)
zest of one orange
2 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary

1. Combine red currants, cranberries, and water in a medium stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and boil gently, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve or cloth (you may need to let it sit for a few hours to drip); discard pulp.

2. Return sauce to pan, add orange juice, and return to a boil. Slowly add sugar, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in orange zest and rosemary; boil gently for 5 minutes.

3. Remove hot jars from canner and ladle sauce into jars to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of rim. Process 15 minutes for half-pint (250mL) jars. [Don’t know how to do this step? Check out the Tigress’ great Canning 101 post for a great primer.]

Herbed Cranberry & Red Currant Sauce
(the half-filled jar went straight into the fridge after this photo!)

One final thing: this sauce is delicious… but I have no idea what to use it on. It’s both sweet and tart, with a nice hint of citrus. The rosemary seems to complement the fruit very nicely. It’s quite runny but, judging from how it looked when I canned it up, it may thicken slightly as it cools. So… any ideas?

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I hate onions.


Ok, so I don’t hate them. I don’t like them much. I certainly don’t like them enough to choose them as the primary ingredient in a canning project. So when Alliums (onion, garlic, etc.) were chosen as the ingredient for this month’s Can Jam, I considered just leaving them as a background ingredient in something like a salsa. But I decided that was cheating. So I went through my two favourite canning books and found a recipe that uses another ingredient that is interesting, but still not my favourite: fennel.


Add in some sweet red pepper:

Red Pepper

Mix it all up with some salt and let it sit for 4 hours, then rinse and drain:

Rinse and drain

Do some basic picking steps (see the recipe below) and can ‘er up with bay leaves and peppercorns:

Almost done

And voila!, something that I might eat, but likely will just give to my husband, who will love every bite:

Sweet Onion & Fennel Relish
Fennel & Onion Relish

Although it’s also possible I’ll like it. I won’t know for another two to three weeks because, like all pickles and relish, this will have to sit at least that long before it can be eaten so all the flavours can blend. When I opened last month’s dilled carrots, I was surprised that I actually liked them, despite my intense dislike for cooked carrots. Let’s cross our fingers that this will be the same! And if not, maybe I’ll have better luck with next month’s Can Jam and end up with an ingredient I love!

Sweet Onion & Fennel Relish
From The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard
Yield: 4 cups (mine made 6 cups)
Level: Beginner to Intermediate (I find hot-pack to be slightly more intimidating than cold-pack, so I’d say it’s slightly harder than last month’s carrots)

1 large sweet onion, such as Spanish or Vidalia (about 8oz/250g)
1 fennel bulb (about 10oz/275g)
1 sweet red pepper, sliced into thin strips
2 1/2 tsp pickling salt, divided
1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 bay leaves (I used 6 very small leaves in 6 jars)
8 black peppercorns (I used 2 per jar for 12 total)

1. Slice onion in half lengthwise, then in very thin slices crosswise to form half circles (I used my mandolin, which is right up there with my apple corer and jar lifter for favourite canning tool ever). Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise and remove core; thinly slice crosswise to form half circles. Place onion, fennel, and pepper in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with 2 tsp (10mL) salt. Toss and let stand for 4 hours. Rinse twice and drain thoroughly.

2. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and 1/2 tsp (2mL) salt in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add vegetables and return just to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

3. Remove vegetables from liquid with a slotted spoon and pack into hot jars. Pour liquid over vegetables to within 1/2 inch (1cm) of rim (headspace). Add bay leaves and peppercorns.

4. Process 10 minutes for half-pint (250mL) jars and 15 minutes for pint (500mL) jars. [Don’t know how to do this step? Check out the Tigress’ great Canning 101 post for a great primer.]

Fennel & Onion Relish

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The Beach in February

The great thing about living in The Beaches (or, if you prefer, The Beach) in Toronto is the easy access to walk along the waterfront. I especially enjoy spending time there with my brother, his wife, and their two dogs.

Today started out so well. I did a great pushups workout with a new PR for number of reps in a single set, I went for a walk along the beach with my brother and his wife and their two dogs, I finally got my mess of a seed collection somewhat sorted (more on that in a later post), I got a load of laundry done… in general, a very productive day. And then, as I was happily finishing up my carrot pickle recipe for this month’s Can Jam, I went searching for the Twitter hash-tag to tweet my progress and – horror of horrors! – realized I’m a day late posting! I was so sure I had until Saturday night, but it turns out this was supposed to be posted by last night at midnight! Gah. It may end up that I don’t make it in this month’s round-up, but I’m posting anyway. The pickles are gorgeous and I’m doing this for the canning not for the notoriety!

I considered many different options for this month’s Can Jam, but most of them were sweet and I have too much jam in my basement, so I settled on a really basic pickle recipe from the Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving. The dilled beans I made in the summer were incredibly popular, so I decided to try out the dilled carrots too. I don’t generally like cooked carrots, but I’m hoping these will be an exception!

I had some carrots in the fridge, but I knew I didn’t have enough, so I stopped by Meat on the Beach, a fantastic independent grocer a few blocks from my house, and found these babies:
Heirloom Carrots
I don’t know if they’re local or organic, but they’re fantastic colours, so I grabbed a bunch of them.

The only purple carrot variety I’m familiar with is Dragon, which is purple skinned, but has orange flesh, so I was over-the-moon when I started peeling the purple carrots and discovered this – purple flesh!:
Purple Carrot
If anyone can give me a heads-up about what variety this might be and where to find the seeds, that’d be fantastic!!!

Chop, chop, chop. Aren’t these beautiful?
Chopped Carrots

These pickles use the cold-pack method, so the jars needed to be prepped immediately. I tend to be a bit lazy and prep my jars as the food I’m canning is cooking, but for a pickle like this, you’ve gotta get those jars clean and warmed up right away.
Warming the Jars

The spices here are simple. Garlic, dill (I used seeds because that’s all that was available to me, but in the summer I would use fresh dill flower heads), and hot pepper flakes:
The Spices

I only added hot peppers to half the batch. This was for two reasons – first, I wanted some that weren’t hot, and second, my sister is allergic to nuts and my hot pepper flakes have a nut warning on them. I would love to give her a jar of these, so I made half of them sister-safe!
Carrots, Dill, & Garlic

Add the liquid:
Add the Pickling Liquid

While the non-spicy batch processed in the water bath, I prepped the spicy jars:

For these ones, I must admit that I cheated.
I had a bag and a half (about 3lbs) of baby carrots in my fridge, so I used those. This was the half-bag. The full bag was organic, so maybe that makes up for my laziness, at least a little bit?

Then came the magical moment when I pulled the first batch of (non-spicy) jars out of the water bath. Check out the gorgeousness!
Purple Pickles
As you can probably see, I only put the purple carrots in 4 of the 5 jars, and the purple in the carrots bled out into the pickling liquid. I’m very happy I did that. I love the colour difference between the jars!

I can’t wait to try these pickles, but they’re going to have to sit for a few weeks so the flavours can blend. If they’re even half as good as the dilled beans, I bet they won’t last long!

See you all next month!

Dilled Heirloom Carrots
From Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving
Yield: 7 pint jars (I ended up with 10)
Level: Beginner (an easy one, as far as pickles go!)

6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 cup pickling or canning salt
4 cloves garlic, halved
14 heads of dill (or 1/2 tsp dill seeds per jar, if fresh isn’t available)
3 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
5 lbs carrots (25-30 medium), ends removed, peeled and cut into sticks (1 inch/2.5 cm long and 3/4 inch/2 cm wide) – or you can cheat like I did and go with 5 lbs of baby carrots!

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.

2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water and salt. Stir well and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve salt.

3. Place 1/2 clove garlic, 1 head of dill (or 1/2 tsp seeds) and 1/2 tsp of hot pepper flakes, if using, in each hot jar. Pack carrot sticks into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top of jar. Top with second head of dill. ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover carrots, leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace. [I had to make more canning liquid to manage all my carrots – if you have to do that, make sure your vinegar/water/salt ratio is the same as the original batch!] Remove air bubbls and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe rim. Centre lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger-tight.

4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store. [Don’t know how to do this step? Check out the Tigress’ great Canning 101 post for a great primer.]

Rainbow Pickles

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