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Pickled Red Okra

Red okra. I saw this somewhere and it sparked an interest. I made a couple of jars of pickled okra last year, and I entered one in competition at the State Fair. I had some winners, but my okra wasn’t one of them. I tried it, and I thought it was good; but I’m not a pickled okra “expert”, so…. How can I get the judges’ attention? How about some RED okra?!

I followed the basic recipe found here:  http://nchfp.uga.edu/

Our State Fair requires that the recipe source follow established and tested guidelines for submissions, and this is the site specified. I broke down the brine ratios for a small batch: 2 cups water, 2 cups white vinegar, and a little over 3-1/2 tablespoons of kosher (or pickling) salt, brought to a boil.

Into each prepared pint jar, I packed the cleaned and trimmed okra, then added a fresh, whole garlic clove, a couple small springs of fresh dill, and I eyeballed around 1/4 teaspoon each of dill seed, yellow mustard seed, and a dash of red pepper flakes.

Red okra packed in jars with flavorings.

Meanwhile, I had prepared my canner, jar lids and rings, and utensils.

Canner coming to a boil, brine, and lids.

To the jars of okra, I added the hot brine, leaving 1/2″ head space. I cleaned the rims, added the lids and tightened the rings.

I processed the jars for 10 minutes.

After processing, I removed the jars from the canner and made sure the rings were tight. Now, they will rest 24 hours. I have already observed the lids creating the “ping” sound for sealing. So, tomorrow, I will remove the rings, wash the jars, and store them in my pantry. I have one for competition and one to eat, after I see what the judges’ think (October). Fingers crossed.

I can already see that the color of the okra has faded and colored the brine. (See top photo) Not as striking, but hopefully still eye-catching!

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Scuppernong Jelly 2016

Scuppernong grapes

Scuppernong grapes

 

Well, this year hasn’t been too productive in my usual spots for wild foraging my Muscadines; so, I wound up purchasing some Scuppernongs at the local farmer’s market. Scuppernongs are the green/gold variety of Muscadines. I think the flavor is a little lighter, and maybe has a little honey note to it. (I’ve thought about making a Scuppernong mead, but haven’t done it yet.) I bought a “one gallon” bag of grapes for $10.00 and weighed them when I got home. It was literally one big grape over four pounds. Of course, I ate about 4 or 5, so it was about 3 pounds and 14-1/2 ounces when I started the jelly making process.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

The recipe that I’m using is from the USDA Guidelines…pretty much have to do that if I want to be able to enter my final product in the N.C. State Fair Food Preservation competition. (I’ve entered a number of things over the last four years and won two first place blue ribbons and several second place ribbons.) Here’s a link to the recipe: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/grape_jelly_powder.html   But keep in mind, things don’t always work out perfectly regarding volume.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

This time, the grapes I had yielded only 3-1/2 cups of juice…even though the recipe only calls for 3-1/2 pounds of grapes and a cup of water. The recipe is based on Concord grapes, though…maybe they provide a better yield than Scuppernongs. Anyway, to get to the 5 cups of juice that is called for, I strained my grapes through a cheesecloth bag that I created and hung from a cabinet and allowed to drip into a bowl.

Extracting the grape juice.

Extracting the grape juice.

After squeezing the pulp, I put another 1-1/2 cups of water in a pot on the stove and boiled the cheesecloth bag in it, like a teabag for ten minutes. I poured the now-flavored water into the bowl and re-hung the bag to drip. I’m trying to keep the flavor from getting watered down.

The juice is now refrigerated until I’m ready  to continue the process tomorrow. This allows any sediment to settle and reduces the chance of tartrate crystals forming in the final product. The juice will be filtered through cheesecloth again before continuing.

Next Day: I ran the juice through cheesecloth and held back a tiny amout of sediment. I needed to add about a 1/2 c. of water to make 5 cups total.

Almost ready to can.

Almost ready to can.

Followed the rest of the recipe instructions and ended with nine 1/2-pint jelly jars and processed them in the water bath canner for 5 minutes. Now they sit for 24 hours. (I love hearing those lids popping as the vacuum seals them to the jars!)

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

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Canning Peach Salsa for a taste of the Summer…Anytime!

Peach Salsa, canned. Pretty. Tastes even better!

Peach Salsa, canned. Pretty. Tastes even better!

As the Summer begins to  wane and the Summer fruits and veggies become harder to find, I figure it’s time to make a few jars of my peach salsa for the pantry. Actually, one jar will be sacrificed to competition at the North Carolina State Fair, next month. I haven’t canned this year as much as I did last year, but I will be entering the salsa, crab apple jelly and wild muscadine grape jelly and hope to come home with a ribbon! Enjoy!

Peach Salsa

Ingredients for Home Canned Peach Salsa:

6 cups chopped peaches, about 3 pounds
3 large fresh tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups red or sweet onions, chopped
2 to 4 medium jalapeño peppers, finely chopped and seeded
1 large sweet red peppers, finely chopped and seeded
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Directions for making Home Canned Peach Salsa:

Step 1: Sterilize 8, 1/2 pint jars, I do this in my dishwasher.
Step 2: Blanch peaches, cool in cold water, peel, pit and chop.
Step 3: Blanch tomatoes and cool with cold water, peel, remove seeds and cut into chunks.
Step 4: In a large stainless cooking pot, combine peaches, tomatoes, onion, jalapeño peppers, sweet red pepper, cilantro, vinegar, honey, garlic, cumin and cayenne pepper.
Step 5: Bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes, stir frequently. If the mixture is too soupy, boil for a few minutes longer so that some of the liquid evaporates and the mixture thickens.
Step 6: Taste and adjust seasonings to taste. Add more cayenne pepper if you desire a spicier taste.
Step 7: Ladle salsa into hot jars to within 1/2 inch of top leaving head space.
Step 8: Remove air bubbles by sliding a rubber spatula between the glass and salsa.
Step 9: Wipe jar rim to clean off any spilled salsa.
Step 10: Place lid and band and screw until tight.
Step 11: Place jars in a hot bath in a canner and process for 15 minutes.
Step 12: Remove jars and place on a towel; allow to sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours.
Step 13: Jars are sealed when the lids pop and are curved down. Remove screw bands. Store in a cool, dark place.

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