Techie or no, you ‘can’ preserve tasty treats

Here’s an update on preserving valley goodness as the Mesa County Fair this week exhibits the food preservation talents of our valley, and as we look forward to the Palisade peach recipe contest on Aug. 16, followed by the Fruita Fall Festival’s food contests in September. Look in today’s Sentinel for the peach recipe contest entry form with details on new challenges to win prizes. 

There’s a growing trend in the U.S. and beyond, according to Sarah Page, chef for Jarden Home Brands, makers of Ball fresh preserving products. It’s the desire to know where our food comes from, what’s in it, how it’s grown and how to capture the flavor and goodness of local and seasonal foods now and to enjoy in future months. Sarah is the first culinary chef hired by Jarden to foray into the culinary aspects of preserving foods.

Sarah says Ball is continually coming out with new food preservation tools and appliances to meet the needs and desires of all consumers. Examples include new appliances like the high-tech canner and jam maker developed for a growing number of consumers who are perhaps intimidated by the traditional canning process, and also for those who now can or would like to get back to it. 

There’s a nostalgic feel afloat, as we remember being in the kitchen with Mom, Grandma and other family members along with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that said “homemade.” We want that!

Whether you’re a first-time or experienced food preserver, you can join the trends in the traditional methods, maybe with a few new tools or by going high-tech. Check them all out at http://www.freshpreserving.com and notice all the recipes! These got my attention.

What would the Ball brothers, who came out with their first canning jars in 1884, think of the following? I’d love to know. 

The FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System is Ball’s first-of-its-kind appliance that makes it easier than ever for new preservers, as well as the rest of us, to savor favorite seasonal foods year-round. It’s perfect for small-batch canning and less time-intensive, no matter how many batches you make, while taking up less room for small households. This appliance works automatically with the push of a button, taking guesswork out of canning, for perfectly preserved fresh jams, jellies, pickles, fruits, salsas, tomatoes and sauces.

Dual temperature sensors and seven built-in features keep temperatures controlled to ensure process time at the correct temperature, note altitude, customize temperature and time based on the recipe, and keep the kitchen cool. Recipes are preprogrammed.

The auto canner takes up to 30 percent less time and uses 60 percent less energy and 85 percent less water than traditional techniques, according to Ball.

Ball FreshTECH Automatic Jam and Jelly Maker came out a couple years ago and creates delicious homemade jam in under 30 minutes. Friend and longtime canner Jill Fasken and I found we could actually be preparing fruit for a second batch while the jam maker was doing the stirring and timing for the first batch. Recipes include regular, low or no-sugar recipes. It also makes sauces. Pectin comes in jars for easy measuring for small or large batches.

Ball has also come out with a Culinary Herb Series to preserve herbs, following a growing interest in using fresh herbs in main dishes, drinks, desserts, salads and more. The series includes:

■ A fresh herb keeper to hold and keep the freshness and life of herbs.

■ A pair of five-bladed, stainless steel scissors to chop herbs quickly. A blade cover doubles as a blade cleaner.

■ Herb shaker lids for Ball’s 4-ounce jars;

■ Frozen herb starters. These are flexible, BPA-free silicone trays designed to make cubes (larger than ice cubes) to fill with meal starter seasonings, such as herbs, butter, oil, water, broth and more. Page has developed many recipe ideas for these blocks. Trays have a lid to prevent freezer burn. 

Speaking of our food preserving heritage, those colored jars are back. Remember Ball’s traditional are always available. How many of us have the Ball Blue Book on our shelves?

This is a great time to capture local freshness.

MEXICAN PESTO

Yields 1 1/2 cups

4 cups cilantro leaves, loosely packed

4 cloves garlic

3 scallions, roughly chopped

1/4 cup lime juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp. salt

2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce

Puree cilantro, garlic, scallions and lime juice in a food processor or blender until smooth. While processor is running, slowly pour in olive oil and add salt and chipotle chili peppers. Pour pesto into the Ball frozen herb starter tray, cover and freeze until ready to use. To thaw, remove cubes from tray and defrost in refrigerator or at room temperature. To quickly thaw, place in a microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave on high 15-20 seconds until softened. 

 

RECIPE IDEAS

■ Fajitas and tacos: Use as a zesty sauce base for fajitas. Simply sauté your favorite meat, shrimp and veggies in a small amount of oil until almost done. Melt 1-2 cubes of Mexican Pesto into skillet.  Remove from heat and stir in a tablespoon of sour cream to finish.  Serve in warmed tortillas with guacamole and lime wedges.

■ Guacamole: Stir together 1 cube Mexican Pesto and 1 ripe avocado to make super flavorful Instant Guacamole!

■ Mexican pesto pasta salad: Combine Thawed Mexican Pesto cubes with mayonnaise to make a delicious base for Pasta Salad.  Customize to your liking by tossing in black beans, cooked corn, sliced grilled veggies, chopped tomatoes and/or black olives.  Serve it with sliced grilled chicken to make it a meal!

 

POULTRY SEASONING HERB CUBES

Yields two cups season butter or nine herb starter cubes

1 1/2 cups salted butter

2/3 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as sage, thyme or rosemary

Melt butter in small saucepan. Divide chopped herbs between Ball Herb Starter Cubes and pour melted butter over herbs to cover; freeze. To thaw, remove cubes from tray and defrost in refrigerator or at room temperature. To quickly thaw, place in a microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave on high 15-20 seconds until softened. Rub over poultry and under skin before roasting, or use to season stuffing, rice or vegetables.


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