The daffodils are peeking through the dirt and the rhubarb is beginning to sprout. The snow is long gone and has little hope of reappearing at this point. The cardinals chirp at the brink of dawn and with the sight of my first Robin of the season, I know: spring is here. With the excitement of the changing season, I begin to sketch my 2017 garden plan and determine which seedlings I will start growing. I make a wish list (more of a goal-list) of all the different fruits and vegetables I intend to preserve throughout the year.
I originally started canning because I wanted to make a perfect tasting pickle to go along with my favorite drink, a Bloody Mary, which after years of experimenting I finally mastered. But I was truly driven to continue canning and fermenting to the extreme I do because I find it incredibly satisfying to preserve local, organic food that I have either grown personally, or purchased at one of the fantastic Farmers’ Markets we have throughout the state. I love knowing what ingredients are in my food and when I became a mother, cooking from scratch became even more important to me.
Simple water bath canning allows me to make jams, jellies, pickled vegetables, salsas, spaghetti sauces, etc. shelf-stable so they can be enjoyed throughout the year. It’s a little mini mind-vacation to open a jar of strawberry-rhubarb jam that I preserved in the spring of the year prior when it’s below zero in January. The process of fermenting food breaks down the produce, which makes it easier to digest, as well as makes it more nutrient-rich and full of healthy-belly probiotics. We constantly have fermentation crocks and other vessels full of sauerkraut, kimchi and other bubbling goodies filling up the counters of my kitchen. Both preservation methods offer benefits, and that is why I wrote a book that offers a canning recipe and a fermented recipe for each fruit and vegetable in it. I want people to experience the best of both worlds and taste the difference in flavors; the taste of a fermented pickle versus a canned offers completely different outcomes, but both are delicious. The recipes in my book are written with ease because I want portray the simplicity of the processes to the reader in hopes that any hesitation they have about food preservation will be at bay.
Here is one of my favorite recipes from the spring section of my book, Can It & Ferment It (now available for pre-order):
Fermented Strawberry Chutney
This strawberry chutney is fantastic paired with spicy foods, such as jerked chicken as well as with curried foods. A friend that test-tasted my recipe said it would even be good muddled in a mojito. Enjoy!
Yield: 1 pint
2 cups fresh, organic strawberries, stems removed, halved
1 cup (about ½ of 1 whole) red onion, chopped
¼ cup raisins, red or golden
¼ cup dried apricots
1 tbsp. (about 1-inch piece) fresh ginger root, peeled
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp. raw honey (local preferable)
2 tsp. unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. kosher salt
Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it reaches the consistency you desire. I personally like the raisins and apricots to retain chunkiness. Transfer mixture into a clean pint canning jar. The chutney is full of flavor immediately but as it ferments, the intensity of the onion will fade and it turns into a delicious ferment.
Use a clean canning jar lid and ring to tightly close the jar to keep the air out. Store at room temperature, ideally between 60–75°F. Keep out of direct sunlight or wrap a dishtowel around the jar to keep light out.
Ferment 3 to 4 days. I recommend taste testing it daily to see how the flavor changes during the fermentation process. Once fermentation is complete, store in an airtight glass jar and refrigerate for up to two weeks.