Friday, July 20, 2012

Pickling & Preserving Party!

A few weeks ago there was a post on Food52 about National Can-It-Forward Day. I had never heard of such a day, but they were offering coupons for free Ball jars for folks who were interested in hosting pickling and preserving parties on Saturday, July 14th. I love canning, I love pickles, and I love parties, so I decided to cast my name into the hat. Sure enough, a week or so later, a FedEx envelope with 6 coupons for free Ball jar sets arrived on my doorstep. Score!

So on the morning of the 14th, three friends and I, Andy, Annie, and Lars met at up at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market, checked out what produce looked the best, and planned our attack. We decided to do vinegar cucumber pickles, dilly beans, and pickled okra, a peach-jalapeno jam, and a blueberry-basil jam. We were able to find almost all of our ingredients at the market, thanks in a large part to the very friendly farmers at Earth Spring Farm who had herbs and jalapenos, pickling cucumbers and okra.


We headed to Bestworld to get the rest of our ingredients, as well as some beer and lunch fixins, for we needed to fuel up for our day-long kitchen activities. Next stop was the hardware store for jars...we were able to get one set at the adorable Old School Hardware in Mt. Pleasant. Then we tried the Ace in Takoma Park, but unfortunately they did not take manufacturer's coupons, so we ended up having to buy our jars. No worries, though--I'm sure the coupons will be put to use at some point 'cause we'll definitely be doing this again.

Back home in the kitchen, we spread out our bounty. Andy went to work on our open-face quesadilla (open faceadilla) lunch, Annie put on some summer jams and then we all tied on aprons, cracked beers, and started peeling peaches, stringing beans, and chopping basil.



It was a collaborative process, with everyone helping with each item...prepping produce, stirring jam pots, and sealing jars. Though we're still waiting on the pickles (they need 6 weeks to "pickle"), the blueberry-basil jam was probably our favorite. And since this is a pie blog, I'll say that it would go great on this lemon goat-cheese tart (replace the blackberry preserves with the blueberry-basil jam) or in this almond crostata (replace the marmalade with the jam). Here's the very easy recipe we used, adapted from Rustic Kitchen.

Blueberry-Basil Jam
Adapted from Rustic Kitchen

Ingredients
8 c. fresh blueberries
5 c. sugar
about 1/2 c. minced purple basil (to taste)
5 Tbslp. lemon juice

Directions
Pour fresh, washed blueberries into a large saucepan. Stir in sugar, purple basil, and lemon juice. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reads 225 degrees F on a candy thermometer and coats the back of a spoon. Once the mixture is ready to can, pour into sterilized jars and seal (make sure to follow proper instructions for sterilization and canning--you can find some on the Ball jar site). Makes about 3 pints.


In the end, we had almost 50 jars of pickles and jams and spent a lovely overcast Saturday sharing skills and stories, listening to tunes, and making deliciousness-in-jars from our local farmers' market bounty. Many thanks to Andy, Annie, and Lars for being such awesome pals and picklers. And thanks to Food52 for inspiring us and donating the jars-- even if we didn't get to use them this time, we'll definitely be having another pickling & jam party soon.

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