13 January 2014

Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors

This weekend I got an e-mail from a friend who was in a proper hardware store.  She said she found 1/2 gallon Ball jars and commented that she hadn't seen jars that size in a long time.

Indeed, if there is a canning "trend" out there in the air it is for small jar canning.  Rarely these days does anyone can much more than a pint?  I recently bought some jars that were 9 ounces and when I got them, I thought they were too big for most things.  If you grew up in the South, you are probably familiar with long shelves of canned good that your grandma "put up."   Today smaller is better.  Grandma still has long shelves of jams and pickles; they are just smaller and easier for you to take home!

After all these years of chronicling Southern living, Southern Living has published its first book of preserves.  Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors enlisted non other than Virginia Willis to write for this book.   Now as often happens with this blog, we were sure, SURE we had written about Virginia Willis' book, Bon Appétit, Y’all.  Well, evidently, we were remiss.   How did we not write about a Southern, French book?  We sincerely apologize for this and will make amends soon.

We do, indeed, love our canning books. There have been tons of them published recently, from the very basic to the overly complicated.  Like many Southern Living cookbooks, this one is grounded in the basics.  If you want summer's berries in a jam next spring, this book will show you how.   But what if you just want to make some jam for a Valentine's breakfast?  This book will also give you a range of refrigerator recipes, that a quick and require a minimum of equipment.

In Alabama, we always had jars of pickled vegetables in the refrigerator.  I never thought much about how they got there, nor about how easy they must have been to produce, since I never remember any grand process for making them.  When I saw Virginia Willis' recipe for Confetti Pickles, I remembered how wonderful those crisp, tangy vegetables were as a compliment to dinner, and how simple they were to make.   They are the essence of little jars with big flavors.

Quick Confetti Pickles

1 English cucumber
1 medium-size yellow squash
4 Tbsp. canning-and-pickling salt, divided
1 long, slender medium carrot
2 pink, purple, or red icicle radishes or 10 standard-size radishes
4 dill sprigs
1 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dill seeds

1. Wash vegetables. Score cucumber and squash lengthwise with a fork, leaving furrows in the peel on all sides. (This makes scalloped edges when vegetables are sliced.) Trim stem and blossom ends of cucumber and squash; cut into 1⁄8-inch slices. Place in a colander in sink; sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. salt, and toss gently. Let drain 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, peel carrot, and cut carrot and radishes into 1⁄8-inch-thick slices. Toss together with drained cucumber and squash.

3. Place 2 dill sprigs in each of 2 clean (1-pt.) jars or nonreactive containers with lids. Pack vegetables in jars, leaving ½-inch headspace.

4. Bring vinegar, next 3 ingredients, remaining 2 Tbsp. salt, and 2 cups water to a boil in a 1½-qt. stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Pour hot vinegar mixture over vegetables to cover. Apply lids. Chill 24 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

Don't delay!  Make up a jar or two of theses this week.  

Virginia Willis has a cool site here.  Her new feature on the FoodNetwork.com is called Down Home Comfort

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