Last September when I visited Chicago for the wedding of two friends I stayed with two other friends or mine (Jon & Rick). Toward the end of my stay, Rick showed me his stash of cooking supplies he keeps in his basement. Included in all of this on some shelving were some mason jars containing various pickled vegetables. Before heading back upstairs Rick asked me if I was checking my baggage; responding in the affirmative he handed me a few of the jars. My curiosity being roused, I asked a few general questions about the canning process. He broke out his kit, walked me through it, and I said something along the lines of “That’s it? Why haven’t I tried this?”. Basically, if you can boil water, you’re able to can.
For some unknown reason I have never canned anything. Maybe I thought it was too much of a pain in the ass or I didn’t have the right equipment.
So last week I went to Whole Foods here in Durham to procure some olives for dinner, and just to see what seasonal items they had, I took Nate through the produce. To my pleasant surprise they had an ample amount of ramps in stock (as well as fiddlehead ferns). I absolutely love ramps (in fact they’re probably my favorite food item), no doubt due in large part to their fleeting availability in the spring. Just the smell of them makes me feel a bit giddy in the way that the aroma of truffles does. So I bought a handful and cooked them up for dinner that night.
Usually we’ll just have ramps around for a few days and they’re gone for another year. But this year, armed with my cursory knowledge of the canning process I decided that I was going to pickle a bunch to have around for a little while. Later that night I went back and bought about a pound of ramps. In the morning I pickled them using a combination of this recipe and this one. The spices I used were fennel seed, coriander seed, black peppercorn and mustard seed but the ratios of sugar, water and salt I used from the first recipe. I honestly have no idea how they turned out because they’re sealed in mason jars, but I’ll find out this Friday when I plan on using pickled ramps in a scallop dish (for the aforementioned couple from Chicago who were married last September and who will be visiting us).
Feeling more confident, we bought a large container/basket of strawberries from the Durham Farmers’ Market this Saturday. I used about half of these to make a batch of strawberry and kiwi jam. I didn’t use the crystallized ginger as the recipe calls for, chiefly because Erin is pregnant and she asked me to leave the ginger out. The jam came out really well and she’s already been enjoying it on waffles. I plan on making pancakes soon and having it with them.
(With the rest of the strawberries, aside from just eating them, I made strawberry ice cream with Nate’s assistance and considerable delight since this combines two of his favorite foods.)
In the coming weeks/months I plan on canning a wide assortment of vegetables and fruits. The ones I’m most eaglery looking forward to are making my own pickles, blackberry jam, doing something with peaches which might include pickling them as well as making jam. There’s also scapes and whatever else grabs our interest when walking through the market.