My first gift in a jar is in honor of my very dear friend, John. I have already shared the story of visiting his family many years ago in rural Missouri and raiding his Grandma Blesi's larder for homemade dill pickles (the event which launched my canning career). But when I was in the pantry grabbing big old jars of dills, Johnny was grabbing smaller jars of something he remembered very fondly from his childhood called "pear honey." It has no actual honey in it, but is a surprising mix of pears and canned pineapple that's cooked down to a tawny, honey-like consistency (hence the name) that, to hear John tell of it, goes perfectly on a hot biscuit. I didn't have Grandma Blesi's recipe (note to self: call John's mom), but I used one from Paula Deen that seemed very traditional. Naturally, I had to zhoozh it up a bit by adding a vanilla bean (definitely not traditional, but vanilla is so YUMMY with both pears and pineapple), and it turned out beautifully. I only made a half batch, and it yielded nine jars--plenty to send a bunch to John and still have some leftover for local gift-giving.
Pear Honey with Vanilla Beans
(Source: adapted from Paula Deen)
3 lbs. (about nine cups) peeled, cored, and chopped pears
1 8 oz. can (about one cup) crushed pineapple with syrup
5 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook until pears are tender and mixture thickens, 30-45 minutes. Process jars in a hot water bath, 10 minutes for half-pints and 15 minutes for pints.
Yield: 9 half-pints
That took care of John's Christmas present, but I still needed little gifts for my co-workers. Since cranberries were on sale for Thanksgiving, I wanted to try something called Spicy Cranberry Salsa, which was the perfect holiday red color, and would make a wonderful condiment on a turkey sandwich, or served over a brick of cream cheese with crackers or tortilla chips, or as a zippy substitute for traditional cranberry sauce on a holiday table. Delish!
Spicy Cranberry Salsa
(Source: National Center for Home Food Preservation)
6 cups chopped red onion
4 finely chopped large Serrano peppers*
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar (5%)
1 tablespoon canning salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons clover honey
12 cups (2 3/4 pounds) rinsed, fresh whole cranberries
*Caution: Wear plastic or rubber gloves and do not touch your face while handling or cutting hot peppers. If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.
1. Wash and rinse 6 pint (or 12 half-pint) canning jars; keep hot until ready to use. Prepare lids according to manufacturer's directions.
2. Combine all ingredients except cranberries in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat slightly and boil gently for 5 minutes.
3. Add cranberries, reduce heat slightly and simmer mixture for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
4. Fill the hot mixture into clean, hot pint jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Leave saucepot over low heat while filling jars. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars and apply two-piece metal canning lids.
5. Process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes (half-pints or pints). Let cool, undisturbed, 12-24 hours and check for seals.
Yield: About 6 pint jars (I made half-pints for gift-giving)
Lastly, as I had recently been to Everett Orchards and procured a half peck of GINORMOUS Cortlands, I decided to give friends and co-workers a choice between the cranberry salsa or an apple chutney that I read about on my favorite Harvest Forum from Annie of the legendary Annie's Salsa fame. It turned out lovely, and I believe it would be a perfect pairing with anything porcine--pork roast or pork chops in particular. Yum!
(Source: GardenWeb's Harvest Forum)
8 cups cored, peeled and chopped apples
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 extra-large sweet red pepper, chopped (or 2 medium)
1 lb. golden raisins
1 lb. black raisins (I used red flame raisins instead)
2 jalapenos, chopped
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
4 cups apple cider vinegar
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 teaspoons canning salt
2 teaspoons allspice (I reduced this to one teaspoon)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (I reduced this to one teaspoon)
2 teaspoons ground cloves (I reduced this to 1/2 teaspoon)
*I added 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all in a large kettle and bring slowly to a boil, stirring often to keep from sticking. Simmer until thick (30-45 minutes?). Pour into hot jars, adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yield: 12 to 14 half-pints