Tag Archives: canning

Best.Antipasto.Ever.

I waited until the weekend for this project because it’s just soooo much chopping.  Granted, the recipe makes 26 pints, and I could very easily make just half a recipe, but where’s the fun in that?  Besides, this stuff disappears so quickly that it just makes sense to make lots once you’ve gotten started.

My husband was shocked that I was going to share my mom’s recipe for antipasto.  We’ve both eaten a lot of antipasto over the years, and this recipe has always just consistently been the best.  Tart yet sweet, tangy yet mellow, crunchy veggies with killer sauce.  Thing is, though, I guess I just feel it needs to be shared.  To not do so would be horribly selfish….the world deserves this recipe.

I know some people think antipasto should be finely chopped, like a relish.  Perish the thought.  Some like it with chunks so big you can only fit one piece of each veggie into each jar.  That’s just plain silly.  I like a conservative, middle-of-the-road approach.  I know…who’da thunk? I want the chunks to all be identifiable yet be able to fit a bit of several things on  one cracker.  I want to see beautiful, miniature cauliflower florets, perfect inner-tubes of green olives still stuffed with bits of melt-in-your-mouth pimento, and crunchity little rounds of baby dill pickles.  So, if you’re going to make this recipe, banish your food-processor or mechanical chopper to the pantry.  To use it here would be nothing short of blasphemous.

I do recommend getting comfy for this.  A TV table in front of a good movie is a nice way to go.  I totally can get into the zen of this project.  A good, sharp, pointy paring knife is a must.  I do the beans first, cleaning them and chopping them into approx. 1/2″ diagonal pieces and then blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes before dropping into cold water.  While those are cooling I chop the cauliflower and peppers.  The recipe calls for green, but substitute whatever kind you like, as long as you keep the weights constant.

At this point you will add the ketchup, vinegar, and oil to the peppers, cauliflower, cucumbers and beans and bring to a boil, then boil gently for 10 minutes.  If you’re using pickles instead of plain cukes, hold them until the next step.  Chant the whole “double double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble” thingy if you like.  You may as well, as it takes a long time for this to boil.  Stir as often as necessary to prevent sticking….I keep a VERY close eye on it.  You may wish to check and see if you’re alone before cackling madly though.  I don’t bother checking, but you might want to.

Now…let’s talk tuna.  Please, please pleeeease do NOT buy flake tuna.  I like a chunky tuna, and then I break it gently into smaller chunks with my fingers.  Flake tuna is just….well….flakey.

Add your tuna and all remaining ingredients and stir.

Return everything to a boil.

Now here’s where things get tricky.  If you read the info on canning low-acid foods such as olives and fish, many of those writings will say that this is not safe for home-canning in a water bath or pressure cooker.  Therefore, I will hereby recommend you freeze your antipasto.  They have pretty little plastic jars that look just like canning jars that even come with colorful plastic tops.  That is my official recommendation for processing this recipe.

That said, I canned mine, as I, my mother, and everyone I’ve ever given this recipe to has done for the last 40 years, processing for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath.  You should do the method you consider safest.  The Bernardin website http://www.bernardin.ca/ has tons of info for people who want to do home canning.

As with all pickle-type recipes, this is best after it’s aged 4 to 6 weeks.  It’s then best eaten on buttery crackers like ritz, with a schmear of cream-cheese. Absolute Nirvana.  Thanks Mom!!

I like to do lots of different jar sizes for this recipe.  This makes a great hostess gift or all-round present so I like to have lots of options…big jars on their own, little jars with other goodies in a basket or gift-box….the possibilities are endless and positively delicious.

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We Be Jammin’….

Sick or not, it’s been a busy week.  I’m loving how the blog is motivating me.  I’m particularly loving how many of you are following along with me on this journey.  Your being here makes this whole thing that much better.  My most humble thanks for lending me your time.  After all, I know how busy you all are.

In-between the projects you’ve seen posted this week, I’ve been making jam.  My poor plum tree was so out-of-control it was drooping to the ground.  We trimmed it back….well….we basically bonsai-ed  it.  It’s terribly cute now, but, alas, we found very little fruit.  I had told one of my neighbours to pick some of the fruit off it.  Apparently they did….lots and lots of fruit.  No worries though.  My neighbour on the other side of the fence has a plum tree and he told me to take as much as I wanted.  I told him I’d bring him jam.  We’re both happy.

Jam is one of those funny things that seems to either work  or not based upon some kind of celestial whim.  One batch can be perfectly gooey and thick, while the next one the same day can be, well, pancake syrup.  I know it’s all about the pectin, and whether or not there is enough in the fruit and whether or not you’ve cooked it enough to get it to gel, and whether or not you’ve cooked it so much you’ve passed gel-state and, of course, whether or not Cerridwen, Goddess of the Harvest, and therefore Goddess of Jam, chooses to smile upon you.  I also know Cerridwen is a moody wench.

So, long story short, 3 batches later I’m batting 2 out of 3.  Batch 3 got a box of good old store-bought pectin added at the last minute to rescue it.  It’s all good.

So here’s my recipe for the most basic jam you can make.  No added pectin, just cook cook cook.  Give it a try.  It’s easy. Just make a mess.

4 lbs. (1.8 kg) Italian Plums

1 1/2 (375 ml)cups of water

4 Tbsp. (60 ml) FRESH lemon juice (yes it matters that it’s fresh)

Peel of 1 lemon, pared off in one long strip

6 cups (1500 ml) granulated sugar

Yield:  8 250 ml jars or 8 half-pints.

Wash, pit, and chop plums.  I quarter each half.  Place into large, heavy-bottom stainless steel saucepan.  Add water, lemon juice, lemon peel and sugar.  Stir to dissolve.  Bring to a boil then cook over medium heat, keeping bubbling, for 20 minutes, always stirring as often as necessary to keep it from sticking.  You may add 1/2 teaspoon of butter or oil to keep the jam from foaming or skim foam as you go.

Check for gel after 20 minutes.  To check for gel, place a spoonful of hot jam on a plate that’s been thoroughly refrigerated.  Place in freezer until jam has reached room temperature and run your finger through the puddle.  If the puddle doesn’t fill back in, you’ve reached gel stage.  If it’s gelled, remove the peel and proceed.  If it’s not gelled, keep cooking, checking for gel at 5-minute intervals.

When gelled, ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2″ (1 cm) of head space.  Remove air bubbles using a non-metallic item (I use the handle of a wooden spoon) and re-adjust head-space if needed.  Wipe rims of jars with hot water to ensure they’re clean.  Top with a snap lid and twist on ring until it’s finger-tight.  Do not over-tighten.  Process in a canner with jars completely covered with boiling water for 15 minutes.  If your altitude is above 3000 feet to 6000 feet, add 5 minutes to processing time.  Let stand undisturbed 24 hours and check for seal.  Snap lids pull downward in the middle if they’ve sealed.  If you’re unsure of seal at all, refrigerate your jam and use quickly or re-process.

I’ve even made some labels for you.  Just right-click them, copy and paste them onto the template for Avery shipping labels, available at avery.com or print them on card stock and cut them out, punch a hole in the corner, and tie them onto jars full of autumn goodness.

I’m off now to chop some veggies.  I’ve already chopped cucumbers, beans, and peppers.  I’m about to chop cauliflower.  Can you guess what I’m making  next?  If you can, email me with your guess at justmakeamess@gmail.com.  If more than one person gets it right I’ll put the names in a hat and draw a winner.  There’s even a prize….a yummy one….happy guessing!!