State Fair Winnin’ Corn Relish

Being that I am a complete and total carb lover, I like to experiment with my starchy vegetables so that I can manage to work them into every dish. In particular, the sweet, tender kernels of corn on the cob have long been something I’ve treasured. But knowing that the longer the kernels sit on the cob after picking, the less sweet the corn kernels become. So when, one year, I bought a slew of corn from a farm stand, I knew I needed to cook all my corn and find other ways to use it besides eating it straight off the cob.

I started with the basic recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Canning, and changed it a little to meet my tastes. The liquid is outstanding, as is the corn, which improves over time. The recipe here is my concoction, so feel free to adjust the taste to fit you!

Ingredients:

  • 18 cobs of corn
  • 1/2 head small green cabbage, chopped finely
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1 green spicy pepper (I used pasilla, but have used jalepeno), finely minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, minced
  • 2 cups sugar (less if your corn is really sweet)
  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar (I use organic with “the mother”)
  • 1 c water
  • 2 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp celery seeds
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

Cook the corn only until it turns bright yellow (I steam mine for about 3 minutes). DO NOT overcook your corn at this point, it would be better raw than mushy! Then I quick roast it, either by broiling it in the oven, putting it on the grill or just over a stove burner, to color some of the kernels. That will give your corn a crunchy texture, as well as a sweeter, smokier flavor. Once the corn is cool, cut the kernels from the cob.

corn after roasting

Add all the ingredients into a very large bowl and stir together. Actually you could just add them all straight to the pot. There you will stir while your relish is cooking and flavors are melding for the next 15 minutes or so. It is now ready for canning!

Ladle the relish into jars (having a funnel REALLY helps). I don’t use a funnel, so my corn ends up all over the place.

relish into jars

Ensure your jars are full to the bottom of the neck with the veggies, and liquid leaving headspace of only 1/4 inch. Wipe your rims clean with a wet cloth, place the lid and screw top and when all your jars are ready, place them in your BIG pot/boiler water canner, and process for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars to cool and seal, and let them sit for 24 hours. If you can let them sit for that long without digging in. Happy eating!

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TIPS for making jam

This is essentially part two of “How to make great jam”. I have included a slew of pictures that show step by step what you may experience, in order of the experience.

I would like to mention that although the recipe provided yesterday was for strawberry jam, it can be adjusted for ANY berry! Different fruits have different natural pectin levels, but as far as berries go, they are all similar in that, as well as the fact that they vary in natural sugar content. So if anyone tells you to measure EXACTLY, DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! Don’t put that pressure on yourself. If you have really sweet fruit and you use the exact amount of sugar, your jam will be too sweet.

There is an easy way to fix your jam if you end up with syrup instead of jam. Reprocess the jars. Or dump them back into the pot and cook it a bit more. That may result in a darker jam, but it will firm up. But before putting yourself through that, you can do a jelling test. When you are finished boiling up your jam, give it a few minutes and put your metal spoon in there. If the jam is slow to come down your spoon and drips off more in globs than thin drips, then it will set. If it’s still runny, just boil it for another minute and then jar and process your batch.

So if you decide strawberry isn’t your thing, or maybe you feel like trying blackberries because they’re super cheap right now, just substitute the same amount of berries! That is truly it – that simple. I made 4 berry jam this morning (pix below) and used about 2c strawberries, 1c blueberries, scant 1c raspberries and 1c blackberries. It was probably more like 2.5c strawberries because I was scooping it in with my measuring cup, rather than really measuring. But it turned out fabulous.

Please take a moment to click on each picture for more details. Happy canning!!

How to make great JAM!

I met the most wonderful woman when I lived in Bremerton WA (the second time). It was 2001 and I had just popped out my second little beauty and was working nights at a local retail store. My routine consisted of coming home just in time to take my older daughter to preschool at the local Lutheran church, and then go home and sleep until she needed to be picked up. Generally I needed more sleep than that so both girls went to daycare for a while.

I had noticed a lady that walked to the church, pushing a baby girl in her stroller, to pick up her daughter from preschool. One day we started chatting and she invited me to come over to her house to chat. Being somewhat shy (most of my friends will say this is not true, but it is), I declined and after she asked me three times, I had to say yes. So over we went.

Long story short, or at least less long, she taught me how to make jam. I used a recipe until two years ago. Ha! That first year I entered my jams in the Kitsap County Fair, and lo and behold, won three first place ribbons! Since then I have expanded what I can, beyond jams. Last year, I entered my goods in the Texas State Fair and won 3rd place for my dilly green beans, 2nd place for my corn relish, and 1st place for my whole blackberries and whole blueberries. OK so now that you have my credentials, let’s get to the good stuff!

There are 3 easy ways to make jam (real jam, not freezer jam): 1. Look online for recipes. 2. but the Ball Blue Book of Canning. 3. Use the little fold out inside the pectin box.

If you just want to make good ole’ strawberry jam, just use the booklet inside the pectin. I would recommend the book if you are looking to expand beyond basics, and looking online if you really want to get creative. But there are a few secrets that those sources won’t tell you…

Let’s start simple: Strawberry Jam

Ingredients:

  • 3 quarts strawberries, hulled and chopped (should be 5 cups)
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 box pectin (I prefer Ball or Kerr, the basic stuff, or all natural)
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp butter

Tools:

  • soup pot
  • big spatula for stirring
  • small plate
  • metal spoon (like dinner spoon)
  • ladle
  • clean jars, and the lids and screw caps
  • big BIG pot, half filled with water
  • small rack to fit inside the BIG pot (if you have one) so the jars don’t rest on the bottom
  • tongs
  • towel
  • wet washcloth

OK, to prep, put all your stuff out on the counter. Your BIG pot with water is how you’ll seal your jars, so you may want to see how many will fit in there. When the jars are full, you’ll need the water to come an inch over the top of the tallest jar. To the side of the stove, put the towel on the counter and your jars atop the towel. Put your jar tops and screw bands to the side. Put the wet cloth nearby the jars.

Put your strawberries, lemon juice and pectin in the soup pot and turn up the heat. Stir with your big spatula and ensure the pectin dissolves. Add butter (it reduces foam). Once your fruit starts to boil, turn your heat down to minimize foam and stir constantly for about a minute. Begin adding the sugar. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT ADD ALL THE SUGAR AT ONCE! THIS WILL CREATE TONS OF BUBBLES WITHIN YOUR JAM! Either use your ladle or sprinkle it straight in from the bowl, but only add as much as you can stir in. Once it is all incorporated, turn your heat back up and get it to a boil again, continuously stirring. Once it boils constantly, turn the heat down and count to 60. Take the pot off the heat. Use your metal spoon to skim foam off the top and onto your little plate. Go ahead and turn up the heat under your BIG pot of water.

Now, you will want to ladle the jam into the jars, and you can do it all at once or one jar at a time. How do you know when it’s full? Well, you need to leave “headspace” so the vacuum can be created inside your jar, so don’t fill it all the way up. You need to leave about 1/4″ headspace in the jar. If you have a little extra that doesn’t fill a jar, just stick it in the fridge and use it first.

Once you get your jars “full”, use your wet cloth to wipe the rims. They won’t seal if the yummy jam is in the way. Screw on the lid, but not tight, then the air won’t be able to excape to seal the jar. Be careful – your jar will be hot at this point. Repeat this with all your full jars.

Use your tongs (or if you have a jar lifter, even better) to carefully put the jars into the water. Once the water boils, count ten minutes and turn off the heat. Use your tongs again to remove the jars from the water and place them back on the towel. Don’t worry if any water stays on top of the jar. Now comes the hard part. You have to leave the jars alone for 24 hours.

This should get you on your way my friends! Happy canning!