Monday, March 21, 2011

I Can Can

Learning how to can seems like a skill from the days before refrigeration, but it has been growing in popularity recently as a way to maintain a commitment to local produce year-round.  But as the bounty of summer gave way to the slim pickings of the winter market, I thought I had missed my canning window.  But then we moved to Texas, home of these beauties.

The Texas Rio Star Grapefruit
As I think about what types of canning recipes are worth my time, I really want things I can't find at the grocery store.  So simple orange marmalade wasn't good enough.  The salmon-blush of grapefruit marmalade, however, can rarely be found on a supermarket shelf.  I found this recipe online at the cosmic cowgirl's very cute blog and set to work.

I love the smell of grapefruit, but I find it can be too bitter for me.  I also decided that I wanted to cut the amount of sugar in the jam so I added additional low-sugar pectin.  In the end, I removed almost all the peel  to reduce the bitterness and ended up with four jars of mildly bitter, but sweet and bright jam.

Look how pretty!!
Of course, there is no better use for freshly made jam than spreading it on warm, homemade bread.  Luckily, I've been baking two loaves a week so I always have some on hand.

Realizing that it will take me months to get through the jam one tablespoon at a time, I decided to incorporate it into a BBQ sauce for a shredded pork shoulder.  The sauce was delicious - just a little sweet with a good bit of heat and a deep, rich flavor.  I piled the meat onto homemade buns (definitely worth the extra effort) and paired it with a feta coleslaw inspired by the BBQ truck that parks at the farmer's market each weekend.  If you want to try them (and I think you should), I've written out my recipes below.

You can decide whether or not you want to take an artistic still life of your ingredients before you begin.
Fruity, Spicy BBQ Shredded Pork

This makes a pretty spicy sauce - feel free to reduce the chipotle chiles to taste.  My local market had pork shoulder cut into large chunks labeled "carnitas meat," but a bone-in shoulder would work just as well with an increased cooking time.  If you don't have grapefruit jam, I'm sure orange marmalade would be almost as good.

     3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 6 pieces
     1 small onion, finely diced
     4 cloves garlic, minced
     3 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
     1/2 c. grapefruit jam
     1/2 c. hoisin sauce
     6 oz tomato paste
     3 T balsamic vinegar
     2 T wochestershire sauce
     2 T chili powder
     1 T cumin
     1 T salt

Mix all ingredients together and coat pork in the crock pot.  Cook on low 4-6 hours (during which time, you should make the buns and watch KU win an NCAA tournament game).  Remove pork and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Meanwhile, let sauce continue to simmer in crockpot to thicken.  Shred pork and return to sauce.  Serve on soft buns, with pickles if you have them.

Feta Slaw

     1/2 head cabbage, green or red
     2 carrots, grated
     1 red bell pepper, julienned
     5 green onions, thinly sliced
     6 oz feta, crumbled
     1 T canola oil
     1/4 c red wine vinegar
     1 t dried oregano
     salt and pepper

Shred half a head of cabbage (I made a stirfry with the other half, but you'll do as you see fit) and toss with grated carrots, julienned bell pepper, and green onions.  Whisk together oil, vinegar, oregano,  several grinds of pepper, and a pinch of salt.  When ready to serve, mix vegetables and feta with the dressing.

My first run at canning was really time-consuming (the better part of two nights).  But it was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to making super-garlicy pickles, our own house-blend of salsa, and more jams and fruit butters as the farmer's market options grow.  I may even go pick my own berries for preserves

Hank Likes to Help in the Kitchen

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