Category Archives: canning

I entered a jam contest!

I entered my plum-cinnamon jam in the Oakland Eat Real Festival 2011 Jamboree Contest.  I’m looking forward to the festival, which will be an homage to all things local, homemade and delicious.  And who knows — maybe my jam will win!  I’ll find out on Saturday!


preserved grape leaves

We are fortunate to have grapes grow as the shady overhang in our backyard.  They are exotic yet seasonal, and so I decided to preserve some of the leaves for future use.

Dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice and other Greek ingredients) are a lot of work, but I would like to make them as a special appetizer for Thanksgiving using the grape leaves from our garden.

To preserve fresh grape leaves, cut them from the vines and layer them vein side up, as shown.  Fold and layer them inside a pint jar:

Cover the grape leaves with a 3:2 brine, which is three parts filtered water to two parts apple cider vinegar. Here, I made two pints of leaves and used three cups of filtered water and two cups of apple cider vinegar, which I boiled before adding it to the jars.  Process the jars for 15 minutes.

I’ll post my recipe for dolmas when I make those this fall using my preserved grape leaves.  UPDATE:  It just occurred to me that I could make a batch of dolmas now using fresh, blanched grape leaves.  Duh!  I’ll try to do that in the next week or two while the vines are still green and fresh.

pints of pickled peppers!

My cousin Angela, an avid gardener and canner in Minnesota, asked me if I had a suggestion for what she could do with the glut of banana peppers in her garden.  What to do?  Make pints of pickled peppers!!

I made pickled jalapeños, which we’ll use throughout the year for chili, nachos, quesadillas . . . yum!  Pickling peppers is easy: slice the peppers crosswise, lengthwise or leave them whole, pack the peppers in jars and cover them with your basic pickling brine (I use a ratio of 3 parts water to 2 parts vinegar) without salt, sugar or spices.  (The peppers have plenty of their own flavor to preserve!)

pickled peppers

Yield:  3 pints*

Time required:  About 30 minutes

[ *Canning equipment is required to make these pickled peppers pantry stable.  Please refer to my relish recipe and jam posts for a full list of equipment and more details on the canning process. ]


1 pound peppers (such as jalapeños)

3 cups filtered water

2 cups apple cider vinegar


Prepare the hot water canner.  (Mine takes a loooong time for all the water to get hot enough to process jars, so this is always my first step.)

Combine the water and vinegar in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil.

Meanwhile, wash and slice the peppers (or keep them whole).  Pack the peppers into pint jars.

When the hot water canner is ready to go (hot water actively steaming but not boiling), remove the hot brine from the heat and fill the pepper jars with brine, leaving 1/4-inch head space.  (It’s important to wait until just before processing so that the veggies aren’t sitting around in the hot brine, getting mushy.)  Process the jars in the hot water canner for 10 minutes.  Check the jars to ensure all have sealed, label the lids with the date and contents and await spicy winter days ahead!

sweet cucumber relish

So I totally made up this recipe, and it worked.  If you like sweet relish, and if you know how to make bread-and-butter pickles, then you can easily adapt your B&B recipe to make your own sweet relish.  (So long, store-bought relish with its high fructose corn syrup, thickeners, etc!)  This is the real deal, and you–and your hot dogs–will be very happy if you put up some homemade relish this summer.

The method is simple: chop up cucumbers and bell peppers (add in some onions, if you want), simmer the veggies in your B&B brine along with your B&B spices, strain and then can your finished product.  You can use my method with your favorite B&B brine and spices, or you can follow my recipe.

sweet cucumber relish

Yield: About 5 half-pints

Time required: About 1 hour


2 pounds cucumbers (any pickling variety), finely diced

1 pound red bell peppers, finely diced

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup filtered water

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/8 cup salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 teaspoons celery seeds


kitchen scale

large sauce pan


rubber gloves

hot water canner (large pot and canning rack)

half-pint mason jars (cleaned and dried) with new lids

jar funnel and ladle

Sharpie or other magic marker


Prepare the veggies:  Finely dice the cucumbers and red peppers.  Yes, this will take a while.

Prepare the B&B brine:  Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a large sauce pan and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Let’s make relish!  Add the veggies to the brine along with all the B&B spices (salt through celery seeds).  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer the relish for about 10 minutes.  Lightly strain the relish.

Ladle the relish into jars, leaving a 1/4 inch of head space.  Wipe the rims of the jars clean and put the lids on the jars.  Screw the lids until fingertip tight — just until you feel resistance and the jar tries to turn on its own.  Do not over tighten the lids.

Put the jars in the canning rack and, while wearing gloves, carefully lower the rack of jars into the hot water (it should be steaming heavily but not boiling).  Process the jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Then, while wearing gloves, carefully lift the canning rack out of the hot water and remove the jars to a cutting board to cool.  Tighten the lids slightly.

Check the lids after a few minutes (or after you start to hear “ping” sounds).  The “button” part of the lid should be drawn inward so that the lid is flat.  If any of the jars failed to seal, keep the jar in the fridge to use as a fresh product.

Once the jars are cool enough to touch, use a Sharpie to label the lid with the contents and date.

Finally:  Grill hot dogs.  Top with sweet relish.  Repeat throughout the year!