Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Bookmark and Share

I am moved into my new home – albeit not completely unpacked and organized, yet – the holiday season has passed, and I have slowed down on my canning and preserving, so I finally have a few moments to post some more recipes and photos from all my small batches I put by at the end of the harvest season!

I really, really like eggplant. I like it as parmigiana or as a grinder, sprinkled on an antipasto salad, on bruschetta or focaccia – or if it is Preserved Italian Style in oil, sometimes I like it straight from the jar.

A variety of eggplants and tomatoes, fresh from the garden, ready for preserving.

The problem here in the United States is that when you preserve certain vegetables in oil the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider it ‘risky business’. The Italians have been doing it for centuries without serious consequences, but I would not advise anyone to can or preserve something in a way that could be detrimental to their health. The recipe I am going to share with you should be refrigerated. Because the eggplant is soaked in red wine vinegar (making it ‘acidic’) before canning, the process is safe.

As a disclaimer, though, I must insist that anyone planning on canning or preserving fruits and vegetables should educate himself or herself with the processes for safe canning and preserving. A great place to start is with the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s guidelines found here.

In the meantime, if you would like to preserve Eggplant Italian Style, it is fairly simple. All you need are some sterile jars and lids and a few basic ingredients: Eggplant, Red Wine Vinegar, fresh Basil, dried Red Chilies and good Olive Oil.

Simply peel your eggplant and cut it into squares. I like mine about ½” in size. Toss these with plenty of salt, and then set them in a colander inside a large bowl to drain for a minimum of 1 to 2 hours, but it is best if you can let them rest overnight. They should shed a substantial amount of liquid.

Stone Crock, Red Wine Vinegar and Eggplants.

After the cubes have rested, press as much remaining liquid out of the eggplant as you can. Use your hands, a wooden spoon, a dessert plate – whatever works for you. Then let the eggplant rest on some paper towels and drain for another little bit.

While the eggplant cubes are resting, get yourself a stone crock that is clean and sterile (make sure you rinse thoroughly with boiling water) or similar deep container that will hold your cubed eggplant with a little headspace. Make sure you have a clean plate whose circumference is slightly smaller than your stone crock or container, and a clean jar filled with dried rice or water. The jar will be used to weigh down the plate, keeping the eggplant cubes submerged in the Red Wine Vinegar.

Cubed eggplant in the crock soaking in red wine vinegar.

Place the drained eggplant into your container and cover with red wine vinegar, cover with plate and rest jar on top, if necessary - then set aside for 1 to 2 hours. Pour eggplant into a colander and press off red wine vinegar.

Using a slotted spoon pack the eggplant into pint jars, layering with 2 or 3 leaves of fresh basil. Press each layer down firmly, and pour any excess vinegar out of jar. Top with one small dried red chili pepper. When each jar is full, cover the contents with your favorite olive oil leaving a ¼” of headspace. Secure the lids on the jars and refrigerate.

Let the flavors meld for at least a week, before decanting. When ready to use remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before using in your favorite recipe. Return any leftovers to the refrigerator after opening.

Preserved Eggplant Italian Style!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Heart-shaped Hachiya persimmons.
photo courtesy of Pixmax

It really should not surprise me, knowing just how many different, unique and nutritional fruits are available for canning and preserving, but sometimes I am pleasantly startled by the local bounty sitting right under my nose.

Bookmark and Share

I have learned that taking the time to put aside fresh foods in season is good not only for my physical health, but for my mental health as well. I love the gathering, planning, chopping, blending, cooking, processing, not to mention the fun of recipe researching, as well as being rewarded with shelves of lovely, delicious bottles of goodies to share with my family and friends.

In that spirit, I decided to make sure I paid closer attention to local bounty, which led me to two fruits which are relatively under appreciated, but steadily regaining popularity here in the United States: the persimmon and the quince.

Though persimmons are Japan's national fruit, many Americans are unfamiliar with them. With persimmon season running from late October through December here in the northeast, now is the perfect time to try something different.

There are two types of persimmons: Fuyu and Hachiya. Fuyu persimmons are squat and dense. Their skin ranges from pale yellow-orange to brilliant reddish-orange; generally, the darker the color, the sweeter the taste. Fuyu persimmons are non-astringent, which means you can eat them either firm or soft. Firm Fuyus can be eaten like an apple, skin and all, and when you slice off the top, a beautiful star is centered in the flesh.

Heart-shaped Hachiya persimmons have a deep orange skin. Hachiyas are astringent, which means they can be eaten only when fully ripe. When a Hachiya persimmon is ripe, it should feel very soft, almost mushy. If you purchase some and they are still firm, place them in a paper bag with a banana and set on a pantry shelf for a few days.

For me the persimmon’s exotic flavor, reminiscent of apricot/mango, brings to mind warm tropical breezes. When perfectly ripe, the coral colored flesh scoops easily from its skin with a spoon, already resembles jelly.

I preserved Hachiya persimmons as a marmalade using a simple vintage recipe I discovered through Uncle Phaedrus, Consulting Detective and Founder of Lost Recipes; but there are many other fun and tasty persimmon recipes if marmalades are not your thing.

Persimmon and Granny Smith Salsa or Persimmon, Gingersnap, and Caramel Sundaes, can be found on Food Blogga. CHOW also has a fabulous recipe for Boozy Persimmon Pudding.



2 Quarts ripe Persimmons

¾ Cup Honey

1 Cup Orange Juice

Grated rind of 1 Orange

5-7 Half Pint Jars


Cut the tops off the persimmons; scoop out the flesh; discard seeds and cores.

Mash Persimmons and cook with Honey, Orange Juice and Orange Rind over medium heat until mixture is thick. Do not allow to boil.

Ladle into canning jars leaving 1/4  inch headspace.

Process in a Boiling Hot Water Bath for 10 minutes

The birthplace of the Quince is believed to have been the Fertile Crescent in Asia Minor, the cradle of civilization. From there it spread to the Mediterranean, delighting Greeks and Romans with its tart  flavor and potent aroma.

A bowl of quinces, or in my case a bag on the counter waiting to be preserved, perfumes the air. Once you have worked with quinces and had their fragrance lingering in your kitchen, you will forever dream of that time of year when they will once again decorate your counter and intoxicate you with their aroma.

The whitish quince flesh turns rosy when cooked, and is traditionally stewed, poached, or baked in desserts, often with other fruits. It is especially prized in the Middle East but also well-loved in South America, where it is often used in savory meat dishes. In Spain, quince becomes a dense paste to eat with cheese.

The quince was popular in Colonial America, and quinces grew at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Having grown up in Connecticut I was familiar with quinces, but had never had the opportunity to track some down for preserving. Luckily I have some personal ties to the Averill Orchard in Washington, Connecticut. Though they only have a few trees and do not usually sell these golden apples to the public, I was able to wrangle a peck for adding to my apple sauce.

Here in the Northeast United States, the skin of the bumpy, pear-shaped quince is rough and woolly and needs a good scrubbing before you use it in your recipes, and are not palatable to eat as you would an apple, but poached, stewed, sauced or jellied they add a sweet dimension to many a dish.

My simple recipe for Quince-Applesauce is a quick and easy way to familiarize yourself with the fruit. Besides, with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays right around the corner, who couldn’t use a few jars of homemade sauce for the dinner table? And this applesauce with the added quince will leave everyone who tastes it begging for more.

If you want to try quince in a dinner dish, check this out:

For more interesting facts and a few vintage recipes for quince click here.

Local Quince and Apples from Averill Orchards in Washington, Connecticut.



1 Peck whole Quinces

1/2 Peck whole Apples

2 cups Apple Cider

1/2 cup Honey

2 Tbsp. Cinnamon

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

6 – 8  Pint Jars



Wash the Quinces and Apples well, and cut into chunks. Leave in the cores and seeds, but cut out bruised portions, stems, and the blossom end of the fruits.

Place in a large pot with a lid, along with the apple cider.

Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to moisten all the fruit; reduce heat to low.

Leaving the lid a bit ajar, cook for a few hours, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is mushy. Be careful not to let the fruit burn on the bottom of the pot.

Remove from heat and scoop the fruit into a food mill.

Puree, and then taste. Adjust more or less until sauce is at desired sweetness with the honey and brown sugar. Add in cinnamon. Stir thoroughly.

Return to pot and bring to simmer again. You want the sauce hot when you add to the jars.

Ladle into clean canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use a knife to remove any air pockets.
If you have leftovers that won’t fill up a jar, keep in refrigerator for immediate treat.

Process jars in a Boiling Hot Water Bath 15 minutes.

Hot Water Bath or Pressure Canning