Vanilla and Nectarine Preserves

I told you I was going to attempt Vicious Sweet Tooth’s Vanilla and Nectarine preserves, and so here we go. 

She has some good tips on canning, and of course my mother and I recently made some grape jam with a canner, so just follow those instructions and you should be fine.

Pit and chop up about 4 1/2 lbs nectarines.  Leave the skins on, because that’s where you get the pectin from.  We used about 4L nectarines, so it probably is slightly more than we needed but what the hey.

Plop them in a pot with 2 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  We chucked in one of our old vanilla beans (you can re-use vanilla beans, did you know?) for good measure.

Bring the fruit mixture to a boil.  The pectin in the skins will help your preserves to gel. 

The mixture should thicken and darken a bit.

To see if it’s ready to can, put a plate (or in our case, a ramekin, which can handle the temperature change without cracking) in the freezer for a little while, then remove it and drop some of your hot jam mixture onto the plate.  Put it back in the freezer to cool for a few minutes.  If you give the drop a push and it wrinkles up, it’s ready for canning and will gel nicely in the jar.

Pour your mixture carefully into your hot, sterilized jars. 

Seal to finger-tip tightness before returning to the canner for another five minutes.

Tada, you have preserves!

This yielded us 7 half-pint jars (250mL each).

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Bread and Butter Pickles

One summer when I was young, our kitchen was filled with cucumbers.  We made them into dill pickles and bread and butter pickles and there wasn’t a single counter that wasn’t packed with shiny, hot jars of the stuff.  The whole house smelled of vinegar.  It was great.

We made two batches of bread and butter pickles on this particular day and it took a long time, what with the sterilization and the soaking and the canning, so make sure you have a free day and plenty of space when you’re going to do this.

One batch of bread and butter pickles yields about six 1-pint jars and uses 3L (about 4lb) of pickling cucumbers.

Wash your cucumbers.  Scrub them and all their knobby bits well.

Cut the tops and bottoms of the cucumbers off (the bloom and stem ends).Using a mandolin or a food processor, slice the cucumbers into 1/4″ thick rounds.

Please do not cut off any of your fingers.  Mandolins are vicious.

This will take a while, especially if you are doing two batches.

Now you have a helluva lotta cucumber slices.  Put some on your eyes and take a rest for a while.

Just kidding.  There’s work to be done.

Now you have to slice some onions.  Use about three medium onions per batch of pickles.  Peel the onion and slice it in half lengthwise, then use a mandolin or food processor to slice them the same thickness as your cucumbers.

I like to use the Onion Goggles here to avoid bloodshed.  Or tearshed.  Or both.  If I’m weeping uncontrollably I may slice off an appendage on the mandolin.

Put all your cucumber and onion slices in an enormous bowl and sprinkle them with kosher or coarse pickling salt.  Cover with ice water (or water with ice cubes in it) and leave to soak for three hours.

Now you can take a break.  Or make something else while you wait.

You know what, why don’t you cut up two sweet red peppers, sliced thin on the mandolin again, and add them to the pile?  They make for a nice colour contrast in the jar.

Drain the vegetables after their three-hour soak, rinse them thoroughly in cold water, and then drain them again really well.

At this point you should probably start preparing your jars and lids.

Put your lids and rings in a pot of water and set that to boil. 

Plop your jars in your canner and set that to boil as well.  This will take a while.Now you can prepare your pickling brine.

The key spices here are celery seed, turmeric, and yellow mustard seeds.

In a small bowl, put 2 tablespoons mustard seed, 2 1/2 teaspoons celery seed, and 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric (the turmeric is what turns everything yellow).  Set it aside for now.

In an enormous pot (we used the large maslin pan from Lee Valley), put 5 cups granulated sugar (I know, it seems like an awful lot).

Add to this 4 cups pickling vinegar.  My grandmother insists that all pickling (unless otherwise stated) must use pickling vinegar.  It’s about twice as strong as regular distilled white vinegar.

Add in your pickling spices and give it a stir.

Bring it to a boil and dissolve the sugar.

Now plop in your vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until they are tender and yellow and the liquid is once more boiling, about fifteen minutes. 

Once your jars have been boiling for ten minutes, you can haul them out of the canner.  Turn off the heat for now to allow the water to cool slightly.

Drain the jars carefully using a jar gripper and put them near your pickle pot.

Using a canning funnel, carefully ladle pickle mixture into your six jars to within a half or quarter inch of the top of the jar. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you, your counter tops, and everything around you will become extremely sticky at this point.Make sure there is plenty of liquid in the jar as well, but be careful to leave some space at the top.

Use a wooden skewer (don’t use metal) to poke around and remove the air bubbles from amongst the pickles.

Remove your lids and rings from the heat and carefully place the lids on the jars. 

Twist the rings on to fingertip tightness and return the jars to your canner. 

Dunk them under and bring the water to a boil for fifteen minutes.

Remove the jars from the canner and allow to cool.  As they cool they will seal with a lovely POP sound.

You can eat these pickles right away, but store opened jars in the refrigerator.  Serve as a side to your dishes, put in sandwiches, or just eat straight from the jar.  Your choice.Our two batches left us with some extra pickles, which we put in a jar in the fridge. 

The rest we saved for you!You know you want one …