May 24, 2015

Returning The Jar

Dill Pickled Okra
Fortunately my wife doesn't like okra,
so I get to eat the whole jar.
Not many people "can" anymore. I guess it's too much work, or people are just too busy to bother. I think that's probably true about cooking in general. I hate to think that people get so busy with their lives that they can't make a good home cooked meal for them and their family.

If you cook, then it's possible that you have used canning jars for making homemade jam, jelly, pickles or chutney. Personally canning is a link with the past when refrigeration was not available, a time when survival was about doing what you had to do to provide your family with what they needed.

Like my ancestors, I like to pickle things like beets, green tomatoes, okra, chutney, whatever, I make a large batch to share with friends. Most of my friends know about "returning the jar". They know that it's just good etiquette, and that if they return the jar, then perhaps next time they'll get more. Sometimes I even get my jar back filled with something new which is really a treat, but that hardly ever happens. Unfortunately it seems like not everybody knows about returning the jar.

You see, canning jars can be pricy, and when I give away my pickled tomatoes, I would like to get the jar back afterwards, it's sort of like the jar is an expensive vehicle that will take you on a wonderful journey, but if the vehicle isn't returned to the garage, then you don't get to take another trip. By returning the jar, it shows that you appreciate the hard work that went into making the gift and that you are a worthy recipient for future batches.

I found this poem/label online that is a nice way to get your jar back:

"If you have enjoyed the fruits of my labor and found within this jar a taste to savor then do me a little favor... please return the jar and ring! Thank you Neighbor."

Here are a couple of my favorite pickling recipes:

Dill Pickled Okra
Most people seem to like pickled okra. When I have room in the pickling jar, I usually like to add a few green beans to keep the okra company. They are great in a Bloody Mary.

2 pounds young, small to medium okra pods, rinsed
4 small dried chiles, split in 1/2
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
12 sprigs fresh dill or 4 teaspoons dried dill
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups bottled water

Special Equipment: 4 pint-sized canning jars, sterilized

Wash okra well, removing fuzz and stems. Leave the caps on; do not cut into the pods. In each of 4 pint jars, place 1 chile, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 3 sprigs of dill or 1 teaspoon dried, 1/4 of the minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns in the bottom of each of 4 sterilized pint canning jars. Divide the rinsed okra evenly among the 4 jars, standing them up vertically, alternating stems up and down. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the salt, vinegar and water to a boil. Once boiling, pour this mixture over the okra in the jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space between the top of the liquid and the lid. Seal the lids. When the metal lid pops down, you know it's sealed properly. Set in a cool dry place for 2 weeks, and try not to eat them if you can until they are ready. Makes 4 pints.

Pickled Green Tomatoes
Pickled Green Tomatoes
Click on photos to view larger
This is a great recipe, even if I have to say so myself. Most of the people I have given these to have returned the jar, but you know who you are.

2- 1 quart canning jars
4 1/2 tablespoons sea salt, or kosher salt
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 red or green jalapeno pepper, cut lengthwise into 8 slivers, remove most of the seeds
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and skin removed
1/2 of a small yellow onion, cut into slivers
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 teaspoons pickling spice, divided
10 large green roma tomatoes, enough to fill 2 quart canning jars (you can use cherry or regular tomatoes as well, but they need to be green or they get too soft)
Sterilizing Canning Jars

Put your jars and lids in a large pot and cover with hot water. Put the lid on the pot and boil the water on high heat. allow to boil for 10 minutes, and then turn the heat off.

To make the brining solution, to a medium sized pot, add 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) of hot water, 4 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt, and 3/4 cup of white vinegar. Stir and bring to a boil on medium heat. Meanwhile in a small skillet, saute the jalapeno pepper, garlic, and onion in the olive oil, over medium heat, until the onion just starts to get brown around the edges, but not burnt. Turn the heat off.

Sauted onions, garlic, and peppers
Next wash and cut the roma tomatoes into quarters, lengthwise, or use whole green cherry tomatoes. Divide the jalapeno peppers, onions and garlic equally and put them into the bottom of each sterilized jar, along with 1 teaspoon of dried dill and pickling spice. Now fill the two jars with the green tomatoes, gently pressing them into the jars to get as many into each jar as you can, but leave about 1/2 inch of room at the top of each jar. Put the jars into your kitchen sink and carefully pour the hot brine into each jar, leaving 1/4 inch of air space. Immediately seal the jars with the hot lids, and close them very tightly. Leave the jars on your kitchen counter at room temperature for about 24 hours. If you like crisp tomatoes, you can eat them the next day. After 24 hours, refrigerate the pickled tomatoes if there are any left that is. Makes 2 quarts.

Note 1: Unless you grow your own tomatoes here on Moloka'i, it can be difficult finding green tomatoes. Fortunately you can usually get them at Kumu Farms if you ask them to pick them for you green. Or ask them for semi-green tomatoes, which are great to use for fried green tomatoes, but that's another recipe.

Note 2: For more canning recipes, check out the "Recipe Index" tab above, under "Condiments".

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