By Cindy Della Monica, Cheesemonger and Owner, Cheese Central
Summer is MY season, and you won’t hear me complaining about the heat. I’m in the pool, so warm weather meals are a must, and the garden is a joy! Friends get together at the drop of a hat, and sunny days are long. Our shop customers are delighted with fresh mozzarella and burrata for tomato basil salads. Also, they are looking for the myriad flavors of pepper jellies for easy appetizers to have by the pool or lake; or to make glazes and barbecue sauces for the grill.
When I was a kid, my mom couldn’t wait for my great-grandma to find the perfect tomatoes in the market to make lemon-spiked Tomato Jam. Mom would toast up some nice white bread (probably Wonder!), spread it with cream cheese and top it with Grandma’s jam. Talk about a special treat! Only occasionally, Mom would ask if I wanted a toast, too…because I barely liked tomatoes on my salad at the time, but J-A-M? No way, Josephina!! Well, Mom was smart by not pressing the subject. This treat wasn’t shared with the kids, barely shared with my father, and certainly every spoonful was savored to the last sticky drop. Who knew Mom was on the cutting edge of the natural pairing of cheese and jam that we so love today?
The introduction of a Bloody Mary at a friend’s brunch party was another tomatoe-y surprise—but I’m still not a fan. The concept is okay, I don’t mind the vodka, but I feel like I’m consuming cold spaghetti sauce over ice. HOWEVER, the pick-ly, dilly green beans as a garnish in that lovely glass is my idea of yum! Putting together a basket of Bloody Mary ingredients and a special glass for a birthday or hostess gift always includes my home-grown and canned green beans. What a way to enjoy summer!
And then I ruin everyone’s warm bubble…
Merry Christmas! Gasp!
Yes…. Today is when I start thinking about the holidays, complete with those delicious treats mentioned above. My garden is overflowing with awesome produce just begging to be put into canning jars. The figs are gorgeous, reminding me that the pickled fig recipe from that ancient Portuguese lady is the perfect accompaniment for the Thanksgiving turkey, with similar sweet/sour flavor and little crunchy seeds for great texture as the ever-present traditional cranberry sauce. Fresh fruit jams, fruit vodkas and liqueurs, and dehydrated treats are all welcome hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, and coffee table “jewels” to be enjoyed throughout the winter season.
NOW is the time to be planning and executing these gifts, while the produce is ripe, and the production time is available! So put on the Hallmark Channel for the “Christmas in July” screenings and prepare for the holidays.
If you have never canned produce before, take the plunge. Fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables are packed into particular canning jars (easily purchased at any grocery or drug store) per your recipe. The jar is fitted with a special lid that has a self-sealing ring (included with the jars), and when the jar is heated in a “boiling water bath,” the high heat kills any dangerous organisms that might be present that would spoil the food in the jar. The heat causes the food in the jar to expand, which drives out any oxygen left inside the jar. When the jar is removed from the water bath and starts to cool, a vacuum is created inside the jar and it pulls the lid down over the jar mouth for an air-tight seal. Unless that seal is broken, such as by opening the can, the food cannot spoil as no organisms can enter the jar and flourish.
Following the rules for food safety is a must—washed produce, clean hands, clean surfaces, and no cross-contamination with foods such as raw meat or other proteins (i.e. multi-tasking by making dinner AND canning produce can cause inadvertent exposure by using the same surfaces and cutting boards). Enjoy this process, do it properly, and everyone will enjoy the “fruits of your labor” when the warm weather is over and the holidays actually do arrive!
See www.freshpreserving.com for further, detailed instructions from Ball canning, the leading expert in the canning field. Or contact 800-240-3340
As always, our staff at CHEESE CENTRAL is ready to help you with samples of our 100+ cheeses at the counter. Visit us at 11 N School St, Lodi, CA 95240 or visit our website at www.cheesecentrallodi.com
PICKLED GREEN BEANS
A quick refrigerator pickle that
doesn’t need a water bath canner
5 oz. green or wax beans
1 pint jar with lid
1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
½ t coriander seeds
1 small dried chili
1/8 t black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 C cider vinegar
½ C white wine
1 T sugar
1 t salt
Arrange beans vertically in pint jar to see how many fit. Remove beans and trim them to fit lengthwise in jars, leaving at least ½” empty space at top of jar. Stuff seasonings into jar around the beans.
Bring to boil the vinegar, wine, sugar, and salt. Cook for 2 minutes. Pour mixture over beans. Screw on the lid and let sit until cooled to room temperature. Refrigerate for two days or up to six months before eating.
STRAWBERRY LEMONADE JAM
A refrigerated fruit spread using much less sugar than traditional jam, thickened with cornstarch in a shorter cooking time, leaving a fresh strawberry flavor! This won’t last until Christmas, so enjoy this combination now.
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Process strawberries in a blender until smooth; press through a wire-mesh strainer into a 3-qt. saucepan, using back of a spoon to squeeze out juice; discard pulp. Stir in sugar.
Whisk together lemon juice and cornstarch; gradually whisk into strawberry mixture. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat. Place plastic wrap directly on warm jam; chill 2 hours or until cold. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to one week.
4 pounds medium-ripe tomatoes
4 cups sugar
1/2 T broken stick cinnamon
2 C vinegar
1 T grated lemon zest
Scald, peel, and chop tomatoes. Place in preserving kettle. Add sugar, cinnamon, vinegar, and lemon zest. The spices may be tied in a loose muslin bag. Simmer, stirring frequently, until thick.
Ladle into hot jars, leaving about ¼” space at top. Wipe jar rims and threads clean. Cover jars with hot canning lids. Screw bands on firmly.
Place jars in a boiling water bath. Cover canner and return water to a boil; boil 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner and let cool. Check seals and store in a cool, dry place.
Cindy Della Monica is a Cheesemonger and Owner of Cheese Central in Lodi, Ca.
This story first appeared in the Ardent
for Life Late Summer 2019 issue.