Let’s talk about Weck jars. When it comes to the combination of form and function, Weck canning jars rock my world. I discovered them last year, but it suddenly seems they’re on all my favorite gardening websites this week. This is not only because Weck jars use these amazingly cool clips to fasten, but because today is Labor Day and there’s a slew of us that will be choosing to spend our time today not on a beach but in the kitchen over a hot stove. I know, I know, we’re crazy, but once you start learning how to save some stuff from your garden and local farm stands, once you’ve cracked open a jar of frozen peaches from the Halsey farm in February and used it to make a peach pie that still has the taste of September clinging to it, you will never escape.
Now I will confess that in our tiny little house we have very little storage room for canning supplies and so my big pot in which I boil things that need a heat bath has been sitting on the front porch since the end of apple season last year. It’s a little unHamptons of me, but we’re planning to get the basement useable soon, until then on the porch it lives and actually, I’m really late this year. I totally missed my blackberries, didn’t make a tomato sauce (bad Paige) and now I’m thinking of broadening my storage tricks and preserving with alcohol! And for that there’s no pot required!
There was a great article in the New York Times a couple of years ago about preserving food this way, which mentioned a recipe for Boozy Concord Grapes. Where instead of making a jam – and let’s face it I have almost all of last year’s jam staring back at me from the shelves – you could macerate the grapes in sugar and brandy. The alcohol eliminates any threat of bacteria, so once you’re finished it goes right into a cool dark place for a month or two and then voila, it’s time to eat it or use it in a recipe. And I’ve got a bunch of ways to use drunken fruit. Imagine these grapes with roasted duck, or pork! There’s an enormous arbor filled with concords at work that get picked and handed out to the staff every year. This year I’m bringing home a box!
I’m also going to try peaches with vanilla beans in brandy or maybe rum and some lemon.
Of course I’m also going to freeze some of those same peaches in my Weck jars by slicing them, pitting them and jamming them in and then trying a couple of different liquids to fill the gaps. Livestrong.com suggested orange juice, which I really like as an idea and awaytogarden.com uses white grape juice, which is also a great idea. If you want your peaches to stay the right color, you should make up a citrus bath for them either using ¼ cup of lemon and 4 cups of water to soak your slices in before your put them in the jars and pour your liquid over them, or add a ½ teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder directly into each quart of the liquid you are using to cover the fruit. (Easy to find in the vitamin aisle of the drugstore or at any of our health food stores.)
When you are freezing fruit, it sometime wants to rise to the top of the jar. Margret Roach shares her trick on using plastic wrap to hold them down, but I just don’t fill up as far as she does. I let them rise while they freeze and top off with a little more liquid later (making sure I still leave room for that to expand too). I’m also thinking of making a light syrup with this case of white wine we bought by mistake and freezing my peaches in that. Martha Stewart has a recipe that uses 2 cups of rose wine, ½ cup of sugar, lemon zest, lemon verbena and 1-½ cups of water that sounds perfect that she uses to serve peaches in at the table. I think it’ll pour into my jars perfectly.
Of course, you know that canning is still going to happen. My pickles from last year were a disaster (I used lemon pickles which didn’t work) and this year I grew pickling cucumbers just to do pickles, but of course never picked them when they were the right size, so I’m going to have to get on the stick and make more regular trips out to the garden to get the pickles back on track. And I have to make the world okay by pickling up the peppers that I grew to excess to have something spicy and hot for Dereyk in jars for the winter. If it’s spicy enough, it’ll make him hiccup and there’s really nothing like the sound of your husband hiccupping through his meal to bring the summer back full bore in the doldrums of February.
Paige Patterson is going to try and overwinter her fig tree this year, hahahahahaha.