Summer is a great time to preserve foods as well as learn about foods from the past.
I confess that I am among those small batch canners. Maybe once or twice a year, I tackle this project. If I have a surplus of strawberries or berries, I may make jam or preserves, or if there s Italian plums or a treasure trove of cucumbers, a batch of pint-size fruit or pickles might appear in my kitchen.
Apparently few small-batch or big-batch canners enter the culinary competition at the Lucas County Fair. The entries get fewer and fewer every year, even at the Ohio State Fair and the Michigan State Fair.
If you have never canned before, here are some tips to help you learn how the canning process works:
Read and follow directions thoroughly when making jams or any soft spread. Changing proportions can prevent your jam from gelling.
Step 1: Prepare jars, lids, bands, and canning equipment by washing in hot, soapy water and rinsing well. Dry bands and set aside. Heat jars in hot, 180-degree water, and keep them in hot water until ready to use. Fill boiling-water canner half-full with hot water. Heat water to a simmer (180 degrees). Keep water hot until ready to use.
Step. 2: Prepare fruit and make the recipe exactly. Prepare only one recipe at a time. Use only the fruit that is indicated in each recipe. When preparing fruit for jam, use exact measurements. Cook adding ingredients as indicated. Skim off foam if necessary.
Step 3: Fill jars leaving to -inch head space. Wipe rim and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Center heated lid on jar with sealing compound next to glass. Screw band down evenly and firmly, just until a point of resistance is met. Place jar in canner and repeat procedure, filling jars until canner is full. Process according to the recipe directions. When complete, remove jars from canner and set upright on a towel to cool. Do not retighten bands. Let jars cool 12 to 24 hours. After they cool, test for a seal by pressing the center of the lids. If the lids do not flex up and down, the lids are sealed. Remove bands. Wipe jars and lids with clean damp cloth and store in a cool, dry place.
If you have a time-tested family recipe for tomato juice, ketchup, or tomatoes, check out the latest information from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (www.homefoodpreservation.com), advises Chow Line, a publication of Ohio State University. For many years tomatoes were treated as a high-acid food, and guidelines for canning often recommended processing at lower temperatures than low-acid foods require. However, new varieties, over-mature tomatoes, and tomatoes harvested from dead vines might have a pH value higher than 4.6, putting them in the low-acid food category. Thus, today s guidelines recommend increasing the acidity of tomatoes to be canned by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or a half-teaspoon of citric acid per quart. This will affect flavor, so add sugar as well. All low-acid foods should be processed in a pressure canner. High-acid foods can be processed either in a water bath canner or pressure canner.
Foods from the past
If you are traveling to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia this summer, watch for the 18th century-style chocolate bars in five flavors: milk chocolate, milk chocolate with caramel, milk chocolate and almond butter crunch, dark chocolate, and dark chocolate with almonds.
The candy bars, which retail for $1.50 in gift shops and select stores in the Historic area, are in keeping with what was clearly an early American sweet tooth. Throughout the 18th century, increasing global trade opportunities brought exotic goods such as tea, coffee, and chocolate to the West, extending consumer choices for the palate and the plate. New social rituals such as afternoon tea with all the amenities were popular. Because of its scarcity, cost, and flavor, chocolate became part of these social conventions, especially for the elite social classes. Colonial Virginians drank their chocolate instead of eating it.
As part of this story, Secrets of the Chocolate Maker is a special program given Tuesdays and Thursdays in the fall, winter, and spring which is part of Colonial Williamsburg s Historic foodways interpretation of 18th-century cooking practices held in the Governor s Palace Kitchen. Guests can see how chocolate was made from grinding of cocoa beans and formation of chocolate patties to the grating of chocolate into a fine powder. For information, call 800-HISTORY.
Area fund-raisers are becoming quite creative with food:
Among those participating in Paint the Town Pink are Al Ahmed s Steakhouse/Al Ahmed s Family Cafe, with shrimp alfredo, shrimp cocktail, hummus dip, chicken kabob, salmon, and cherry cheesecake, along with selected pink cocktails; Casa Barron Mexican Restaurant with a One-Legged Flamingo cocktail; Cousino s Navy Bistro with pink peppercorn-seared scallops with pink grapefruit and champagne vinaigrette over watercress and grilled salmon steak with pink crimson potatoes and Pink Vodka Lemonade; Diva with spicy shrimp cocktail, chilled watermelon vodka soup, pink champagne sorbet, pan seared apricot brandied arctic char over pink herbed risotto and fresh rhubarb tart; the Easystreet Cafe with a Pink Martini; Gumbo s with a Pink Hurricane; and Madison s on Main with shrimp cocktail, raspberry chicken, smoked salmon, pink desserts, and pink cocktails. Also participating are Manhattan s, Manos Greek Restaurant, Rose & Thistle in Perrysburg, Summit Street Grill at the Radisson Hotel, Tango s and The Restaurant in Sylvania. The fund-raiser continues through Aug. 8.