Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Food Preservation (September 2010)

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

When I first opened this challenge, I was excited to have a reason to try my hand at something that I was exposed too when I was a young child. My grandma, mom and I used to spend hours in the kitchen canning peaches and tomatoes during the summer. My job during the canning process, especially with peaches, was to make sure that the pretty side of the fruit was facing out. I was such an eager helper, and I'm sure that this job was given to me because my smaller hands fit in the jars easier! Of course, there was always those few peaches that needed to be "tested" (read that as eaten!) for quality control. The funny part is I don't remember ever using the canned results later in the year, though I'm sure they were.

Since apples aren't quite in season yet here (give them a few more weeks!), I decided to try my hand at the bruschetta in a jar. I'm a huge fan of bruschetta and the whole process was going to be fairly quick and easy.

I had to go purchase some of the items needed for canning. I already had the jars, lids and tops because of the apples that mom and I canned last season (and I used to make pies mid-winter! Yum!). What I didn't have were the jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter and the headspace measurer. Granted, the lid lifter and the measurer were luxury items, but I found an entire "kit" for canning at Bed, Bath and Beyond for only $10. (Psst...I couldn't find the kit on the BBB site, so that link goes to the Ball canning site where you can purchase it. That site also has some great recipes.) I used my big stock pot with the pasta strainer insert as my "shock protector." It worked great!

Once I had all of the equipment and ingredients assembled, I was ready to get going. Since it was only me, I decided to half the recipe. You'll see I still came up with 5 jars of preserved goodness. I used about 10 plum tomatoes and then one "regular" tomato because I had a bit of room left in the last jar. The texture difference was pretty amazing. I'm glad I used mostly plum tomatoes.

Since I was only using half the tomatoes, I also halved the liquid recipe. For some reason, this did NOT work out. I think it may have been because I didn't pack my tomatoes in tight enough (therefore needed more liquid). BUT, the good news is that the liquid was a quick and easy thing to whip up so I just made a full recipe and had plenty (with a bit leftover in the end). You may want to make extra just to be sure you don't run out mid-canning like I did. (Advice when packing the jars: Don't be afraid to really pack the tomatoes in there...I think it worked better in the end. The liquid was a bit more tricky to get down in there, but the end product was prettier (in my opinion).)

The "cooking" process was simply to just let them boil away for 20 minutes...how easy is that! Once they were done and had rested in the hot water for 5 minutes I removed them to the counter (on a pot holder!) and waited for then signature "ping" of a good seal. I was rewarded with 5 solid "pings" before I knew it!

I've not yet tasted the bruschetta...but I'm hoping to break into a jar later this week to give it a try. I'll do my best to come back and update you on how it tasted....but honestly, it smelled wonderful going in, so I can't imagine it'll be bad. :-) Here's a glamour shot of the jars after they were done:

For other recipes and to see the wonderful results of other Daring Cooks, visit The Daring Kitchen.

The Recipe:
Bruschetta in a Jar

Plum/Roma Tomatoes* - 3 1/2 lbs
Fresh Garlic - 5 Cloves, Minced
Dry White Wine - 1 Cup (Reminder: Use something you'd drink!)
White Wine Vinegar - 1 Cup
Balsamic Vinegar - 2 Tbl
Sugar, Granulated - 2 Tbl
Dried Basil - 2 Tbl
Dried Oregano - 2 Tbl

* Note: Although other tomato varieties may be used, firm plum tomatoes yield the best results. If using round garden-variety tomatoes, seed tomatoes and drain in colander for 30 minutes then chop.

Headspace: 1/2 “ (1.27 cm)

Processing Time:
20 minutes for altitude of 0 ft (0 m) to 1,000 ft (305 m)
25 minutes for altitude of 1,001 ft (305.1 m) to 3,000 ft (915 m)
30 minutes for altitude of 3,001 ft (916 m) to 6,000 ft (1,830 m)
35 minutes altitudes above 6,000 ft (1,831 m) to 8,000 ft (2,440 m)

1) Place 7 clean half-pint (250 ml) mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Heat lids in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use.

2) Wash, seed and chop tomatoes into 1/2 inch (1cm) pieces; measure 9 cups (2250 ml), set aside.

3) Combine garlic, white wine, wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, water, sugar, basil and oregano in a deep stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a full boil; reduce heat. Stirring occasionally, boil gently, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

4) Pack tomatoes into a hot jar to within 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top rim. Add hot liquid to cover tomatoes to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more tomatoes and hot liquid. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining tomatoes and hot liquid.

5) When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process –boil filled jars – 20 minutes.

6) When processing time is complete, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.

7) After cooling check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.

Serving Suggestions:
With boiling water canning, very little oil is used since the oils can weaken the seals on the jar.

For the Bruschetta, olive oil and fresh herbs can be added before serving on top of toasted bread or as a condiment to a dish.

Enjoy with Love,


  1. Great job on the Daring Cooks' Challenge! I love the idea of Bruschetta in a Jar--to just be able to spread some of that lovely mixture on a sliced baguette would be great!

  2. Nice job! You may not remember using the canned goods your grandma and mother used, but I bet you remember eating grandma's delicious peach cobblers in the winter and spring. She made them with those canned peaches you did in the fall.