Summertime Canning

zesty salsa - thekarpiuksThis week I got the itch to can again. It may have been the plethora of pins I’ve seen on Pinterest lately, (Is it canning season? There seems to be an awful lot of canning pins right now) or a blog post about canning spiced peach jam by a friend of mine from high school, but I decided once again to can some jam (and try salsa this time) for Christmas gifts. Oh yeah, it’s JULY and I’m already working on/finishing up some Christmas gifts. Look at me go!

When I was picking out recipes, Lucas and I talked about our last canning experience, which we thought was just a year or two ago. Then upon looking up the old blog posts, we suddenly realized it was nearly four years ago now! (Where has the time gone?!) Back in the fall of 2009, right after we had moved back to the states, we made concord grape and peach jam for our family and friends, which turned out well. It was time to do it again!

First up: watermelon jam
watermelonjam_thekarpiuks01I was leaning towards another peach jam recipe, but a pin I came across on Pinterest for watermelon jam seemed too good to pass up. What’s funny is I don’t even really like watermelon. The fruit, that is. I like artificially flavored watermelon candy and gum just fine, but for some reason I’ve never been a fan of eating fresh watermelon. I still couldn’t resist trying this jam, though. Based on some user comments and my fear of watermelon being too watery once pureed that it would never set properly, I modified the recipe slightly to be 4 cups of pureed watermelon and 2 cups of pureed peaches for texture, instead of just 6 cups of watermelon. I also used 4 cups of sugar instead of 5, and selected a seedless watermelon. I still had a lot of little white seeds to remove, which was tedious, but totally worth it. We ended up with seven 8oz jars when all was said and done, and it turned out beautifully! Though watermelon is not my fave, there is no doubt that this jam is the essence of summertime in a jar, and I think it’ll make perfect Christmas gifts this winter. It was sweet and delicious; not overpowering, but I also didn’t taste peach at all, if you’re wondering. It was absolutely divine on toast! We’ll definitely be making this again. (It was even good with peanut butter on the PB&J sandwich I had for lunch today!)

Next up: “zesty” salsa
zestysalsa_thekarpiuks03I like salsa as much as the next person, but Lucas really likes his salsa hot and spicy. He adds his own hot sauce to even the “spicy” varieties of salsa he buys at the store. (To be fair I don’t think any of the salsas at the grocery marked “spicy” are truly that spicy to begin with. If I can handle them, trust me, they’re not.) Then I realized that most of the men in my life also prefer spicy foods, like Lucas, my dad, and my brother. It seemed like a good idea to try making and canning homemade salsa, too. I picked out this “zesty” salsa recipe, also found on Pinterest, which had rave reviews. I followed the directions down to the letter, but feel like I maybe should have left the jalapeno seeds in instead of removing them as the recipe instructed, because Lucas tried a little of the salsa already and it wasn’t very zesty. I’m hoping that after sitting for a few months in a cool, dark place – all those jalapenos mingling and settling in with the tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers – that it’ll heat up. The recipe yielded 8 pint jars for us, and was a four hour affair! It seems like a simple recipe, but slipping skins off of a dozen tomatoes and chopping 23 cups of veggies took some time. The flavor was nice, I just wish it had truly turned out as zesty as it implied by its name; I even used the full 2.5 cups of jalapenos, while the recipe mentioned that for mild salsa you’d want to go nowhere near that much. If this batch stays mild I’ll probably make more salsa between now and Christmas and use more jalapenos and leave the seeds in for extra heat. (I’ll also wear gloves next time, because 7 hours after making salsa my hands were still stinging. Live and learn!)

While I don’t see me canning too many other things, I did have fun making jam and salsa this week. I should definitely do it more often! There’s something incredibly satisfying about enjoying your own homemade jam on toast. I hope it reminds everyone of this moment in time – summertime – when they eat and enjoy it this winter. I know I will!