A Dash of Class

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Some secrets to canning in the summer kitchen

By Nora Sweat


Summer in the Vaillancourt household meant much more than mowing the grass and going to the ballpark. Mom and I spent many hot summer days in the kitchen preserving the food either grown in our garden or bought at orchards and fruit stands. Foods involving blanching, (dipping in hot water to remove the peel) such as peaches and tomatoes, took extra care. But having tomatoes and peaches in the winter that tasted fresh was well worth the effort. My mom and I also froze corn, peas and broccoli, and canned tomatoes, tomato juice, chili sauce, green beans, peaches and applesauce. We also made pickles and fruit preserves. There is no telling how many jars of blackberry jam and jelly we made in one summer. Of course, picking blackberries on our farm is another story. After marrying into a family that also preserved a lot of garden produce, it was only natural that Mike and I would continue these Sweat-Vaillancourt traditions. Our most industrious project was canning small potatoes. These were the potatoes that you normally throw away or to the side when digging potatoes. Yes, we actually peeled and canned those tiny little potatoes. We got the idea from our brother in law, Rich O’Malley. Even though it was labor intensive, they were the most delicious little potatoes. They could be warmed and served as they were or added to a pot roast, but we didn’t do that for many years. We also have made pepper jelly that always receives compliments when we serve it or give as a gift. One dear friend even eats it on toast for breakfast. Our frozen corn is always a hit and I never will forget when our dear friend, Andy Zagar, came to help process corn that we had picked from our garden. It seems he didn’t arrive until all the “shuckin” and “silkin” was done and the corn was heating on the range. But he did arrive in time to eat a cereal bowl of that delicious corn and then ask for another. Of course, you never would think of starting a food preservation project without the help of the “bible” of canning and freezing and that is the Kerr Cookbook. University of Kentucky Extension Service also has a wonderful booklet on canning and freezing. Today, I want to share with you some of my favorite recipes for preserving garden produce. Nora Sweat is a lifelong resident of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She now works at Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center and can be reached at nora.sweat@thenewsenterprise.com     Strawberry Freezer Jam Crush strawberries and measure 4 cups. Add 8 cups sugar. Stir well and let stand for 10 minutes. Cook 2 packages of Sure Jell and 1½ cups water until boiling. Boil hard for one minute. Pour over crushed berries. Stir for three minutes. Fill clean jars, allowing for expansion after freezing. Store in refrigerator or freezer.   Green Pepper Jelly 2 cups chopped green sweet peppers 1½ cups white vinegar 6½ cups sugar 1 bag liquid pectin (Certo) Place green peppers and vinegar in food processor or blender and puree green peppers. Pour into saucepan, add sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for three minutes. Add pectin; boil for one minute longer. Remove from heat and let stand for five minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized jars; seal.   Zucchini Bread 3 eggs 2 cups sugar 1 cup oil 2 cups grated, unpeeled, raw zucchini 1 tablespoon vanilla 3 cups self-rising flour 1 tablespoon cinnamon 1 cup chopped walnuts or raisins (coat in flour before adding) Beat eggs, sugar and oil. Stir in zucchini and vanilla. Add flour and cinnamon. Stir in walnuts or raisins. Pour into greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees until it tests done with a toothpick.   Freezing Corn Shuck and silk ears of corn. Wash ears and cut corn kernels off with a very sharp knife into a large saucepan. After cutting off the kernels, take knife and scrape the cob. Bring the corn to a boil and boil for one minute. Place saucepan of corn into iced water in sink. Keep changing water and adding ice until corn is cool. Place corn in freezer bags and store in freezer.   Canning Green Beans Break and wash green beans. Pack in quart jars. Add 1 teaspoon canning salt and enough boiling water to cover beans. Process in pressure canner according to canner directions.