The Mason jar, a now-trendy token of creative reuse, has come to symbolize Southern food. We see jars as cocktail glasses, sweating on bar tops from Carrboro to Brooklyn, while Pinterest devotes pages to ways of transforming them into everything from tiny votive candleholders to crafty snow globes.
But preservation is the Mason jar's most reliable and beautiful function, and it takes patience. 'Putting up' sometimes means forgetting to set a kitchen timer and accidentally turning a batch of stove-top orange marmalade into fruit leather. It means waiting three weeks to pop open a jar of pickles. But the reward is a taste of summer, delivered by a jar of canned fruit opened amid the doldrums of winter. And winter has its own edible treasures. These three will enable you to save, and savor, the best of winter.
Yield: 6 half pints
3 pounds blood oranges
6 cups white sugar
8 cups water
3 to 5 tablespoons Angostura bitters
Wash and scrub oranges and place them in a pot. Cover with water and set on the stove over high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover.
Simmer the oranges until the rinds are tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork. Remove the pot from the heat and let oranges cool completely.
When oranges are cool, remove from the pot. Measure 6 cups of the cooking water; reserve.
Cut the oranges in half across the middle. With a spoon, scoop the interior flesh out and into a bowl. Remove the seeds and discard. Cut each half into four wedges and then cut those wedges into thin strips.
In a large pot, combine the reserved cooking water, the pulp, zest, and sugar. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook at a controlled boil, stirring regularly until the volume in the pot has reduced by about half.
Monitor the temperature with a thermometer. The marmalade is done when it reaches 220 degrees F. Right before it reaches that temperature, stir in Angostura bitters.
Pour marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving half-inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the BPA-free lids and rings, and let set in fridge. Or, for shelf stability, process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool for 12-24 hours.
Yield: 4 pints
2 pounds red beets
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
4 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 small jalapeño peppers (cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (chopped)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack in middle of oven.
Wash and scrub beets and put in a baking dish. Add about 1/4 inch of water to the bottom. Cover with foil. Roast for 45–55 minutes. Test for doneness with a small knife—it should slip easily into the thickest part of the beet.
Remove dish from the oven and allow beets to completely cool. Slice a thin layer off the top and bottom of each beet and remove the peel. Cut in half, then into 1/4-inch thick slices.
Meanwhile, in a large pot combine vinegar, water, salt, peppercorns, garlic, peppers, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat for five minutes.
Pack beets into your sterilized jars. Ladle brine and brine ingredients into jars, leaving a half-inch or so of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the BPA-free lids and rings, and let set in fridge. Or, for shelf stability, process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.
Let it pickle for at least three weeks before consuming.
Yield: 6 half pints
750 ml whiskey
2 cups fresh apple cider
Juice from 1 lemon
1 package of liquid pectin
3 1/4 cup white sugar
2 inches of fresh ginger (peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch slices)
In a small pot, combine one cup of apple cider and the ginger slices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer on low-medium heat for ten minutes.
In a large pot, combine all cider (one fresh cup plus the ginger-infused cider), lemon juice, whiskey, fresh ginger, and sugar. Bring to a hard boil over high heat for seven to ten minutes, stirring regularly until consistency has thickened. Add pectin. At this point the bubbles should look shiny and syrupy.
Test the jelly set using the saucer test: freeze a saucer for fifteen minutes, drop one teaspoon of jelly onto a saucer, and place in fridge for one minute. Nudge the edge of the jelly; it should wrinkle if set.
Remove ginger slices and pour jelly into prepared jars, wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and set in fridge. Or process in a hot water bath for ten minutes (see above).
Remove from water bath and let cool on a folded towel for 12-24 hours.
See more at www.puttingupwitherin.com
This article appeared in print with the headline "Putting Up With Winter."