Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Red, White and Blue at the Warren County Fair

I won't keep you in suspense -  I've won a ribbon for each entry in the Warren County Fair! How exciting and surprising. I'm so glad I took a chance.
First place and a blue ribbon for Chunky Mustard Pickles and for Apple-Mint Jelly. Second place and a red ribbon for Pineapple Marmalade and for Peach-Jalepeno Pepper Jelly, and third place and a white ribbon for Plum Jam. 
I'm really proud of them all.  The prize winning recipe for the pickles is in the previous post about Van Vorst Park Farmers' Market.

Second Place for the Peach-Jalepeno Jelly.
Each jar was displayed with the entry tag, recipe and the comment card. Judge's comment for mint-apple jelly, " sealed well, color and taste excellent, make some more".
That was my first time making herb jelly, a little challenging, but worth it. You can use other herbs too.
Here is the recipe, from the Better Homes and Gardens Canning special interest magazine, 2011, page 106
Mint-Apple Jelly
  3 ounces fresh peppermint leaves
  3 cups fresh apple juice
  1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  1 pkg, 1.75 oz, powdered pectin
  4 cups sugar
1. Wash, cut and measure 1 cup mint leaves. 
2. Simmer the apple juice and mint together for 15 minutes. 
3. Strain, reserving the juice, and discard the leaves. 
4. Combine the flavored apple juice, lemon juice and dry pectin in a large pot. 5. Heat to a full boil and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve completely.
6. Return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.
7. Remove from heat, skim foam, fill jars to 1/4 " headspace and adjust lids.
8. Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes, timing when the water boils.
Yields five 8oz jars.

The Concession stand and the Rides behind it.
The Warren County Fairgrounds are about five miles north of Phillipsburg NJ, and the fair is noted for its hot air balloon "inflation". It also features all the usual fun attractions of a county fair: carnival rides, strawberry shortcake; farm animals; quilts; pig races; beauty and baby contests; tractor races, vendors and community organizations, and something new to me "Polish-style hamburgers".There is so much to see and do and a lot of effort is put into it.

A girl and her goats.
I'd like to thank Becky Hummer, of the Warren County Rutgers Cooperative Extension office, consultant for the canning exhibits, who helped me fill out the paperwork and kept my opened jars an extra day so I could pick them up. Exhibitors who enter 5 or more items received a week long pass, and I wish I lived closer so I could take my son-in-law and my grandson to the competitive hay bale rolling and the 4 wheel drive truck pull. Maybe next year...

Next weekend I plan to enter more jams and pickles in the Middlesex County Fair in East Brunswick. Can this city girl win some more ribbons? 

Oh, you definitely want to check out this great article on canning, southern style, in the August issue of Southern Living magazine. Looks like a lot of fun and some new twists on traditional recipes, as well as a quick 3 step description of how to can and properly process your jars. I've been invited to make corn relish and tomato marmalade; and mango jam and Indian pickles; and zucchini sott'olio, sounds like a good time for a party?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jersey City Farmers' Market Exploration #3 - Van Vorst Park

The Farmers' Market at Van Vorst Park is like a little gem tucked inside a secret garden. The market is set up in the center of the square around the gazebo and you walk down shady paths bordered with roses and flowers to reach it. Besides the farmers, there are the knife sharpener, Stella's Argentine empanadas, three tables of baked goods, and Dakota Dog selling the cutest handcrafted toys for pets. It's friendly, small and simply charming.

I needed ingredients to make Mustard Pickles and found them at the stand displaying a wide variety of fresh greens, reds, whites and purples. Their prices for Kirby cucumbers and bell peppers and white onions were a bargain and they had lots of corn, tomatoes, eggplant and nice looking leafy vegetables. Just because there was the “Jersey Fresh” label on the jar, I bought some really good honey made by Trapper’s Honey LLC from Clarksburg.  

I was happy to see a farmer advertising cheese and eggs for sale, Ed Huff of Central Valley Farms of Asbury NJ. His third generation family farm began years ago as a dairy farm, selling milk. Then, uncertainties with processing and marketing the fluid milk led to a change in direction, to making fresh artisanal cheese.

 Central Valley Farm's cows are grazing in green pastures all spring and summer - only this milk is used for the cheeses. Their booth displays beauty shots of the cows and the hens, giving them their due. Today the table has a smaller selection of produce, but coming soon are 30+ varieties of heirloom tomatoes and peppers Central Valley Farm rotates to Union Square (NYC) and an uptown market, plus a CSA. 

Bon Appetit' magazine has tips on shopping at a Farmers' Market. It's worth the look.

This is the batch of pickles I’m taking to the Warren County Fair. It's a quick and easy recipe which will be submitted in the category “Any other pickle”. 
Chunky Mustard Pickles
Yield: Six Pints, One Halfpint, and a Quart of Extra Pickle Juice 
Ingredients: the pickle solution:
   5 cups white vinegar
   ¼ cup prepared yellow mustard
   3 ½ cups sugar
   1/3 cup salt
   2 TBS celery seed
   2 TBS mustard seed
   ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
   ½ teaspoon whole cloves
 The vegetables:
     5 lbs Kirby cucumbers
     3 large white onions
     2 large green peppers
     4 medium stalks celery

1. Scrub all vegetables thoroughly in running water. Seed (if seeds are large) and cut the cucumbers into chunks.
2. Dice the green peppers, onions and celery.
3. In a large stockpot combine the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and spices.  Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, salt and mustard.
4. Add the chopped vegetables to the pot, and heat until almost boiling, about ten minutes. Then reduce the heat to very low. Have clean hot pint jars ready.
5. Fill the pint jars with vegetables, and cover with vinegar solution to ½ inch of the rims. Using a canning funnel helps so much.
6. Wipe rims clean with a paper towel, adjust lids, and process in a water-bath canner, using a lower heat pasteurization method, of 30 minutes at 180-185 degrees.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cherry Conserve

Don't you love cherries? Fresh cherries are here and gone in a matter of 2 or 3 weeks. I found them at the Grove St Farmers' Market on Monday and bought as much as I could carry. Ort Farms had a table of early stone fruits, along with the cherries, there were two varieties of plums and some peaches. Truth to tell, the cherries were grown in Washington state. Ort Family Farms is located in Long Valley NJ and has family friendly activities and offers a CSA program too.  They sell at several other markets around here.

I've been wanting to make a conserve. Here is how the Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving describes it: "Conserves are jams garnished with nuts... and sometimes with dried fruits." This is their recipe for Cherry Hazelnut Conserve, adjusted slightly, substituting pineapple for the orange.

2 lbs of sweet cherries, about 3 baskets
2 ½ cups of sugar
½ lemon
1/2 lb pineapple
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
¼ teaspoon citric acid

1. Wash and pit the cherries, yielding 4 cups.
2. Wash the lemon and remove the yellow rind, slicing it into very thin pieces.Discard the white rind and chop the lemon pulp.
3. Chop the pineapple coarsely, about 1/3 cup
4. Mix all the fruit with the sugar, and let it stand for a few hours or overnight. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved. Taste the mixture for balance of sweet and tart, and if it is not tart enough, add the citric acid.
Homemade Cherry-Pineapple Conserve
5. Pour the fruit and juice into a tall stockpot. Bring to a rapid boil of high heat. Set the time for 15 minutes. As it cooks, the water evapor-ates and the foam rises threateningly in the pot. 
6. Stir to prevent scorching and lower the heat slightly if the jam is sticking. Observe when the color darkens and the liquid becomes syrupy and shiny. 
7. Turn off the heat and pour in the chopped hazelnuts.
8. Stir steadily 4-5 minutes, to release more steam and distribute the fruit and nuts evenly.
9. Ladle into hot jars, wipe the rims, adjust the lids and rings, and process 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Yields four halfpint jars.