Pickled Asparagus

 

019Canning season officially starts at City Boy Hens with pickled asparagus. Around here, it is included in our antipasto, the “topper” to “special events” salads, a great addition to any sandwich or just as a pickled treat with dinner. Chickens2 003

Step 1: Sterilize your jars, lids and rings.

You can use the dishwasher on the high temperature setting, your canner (big pot) for 15 minutes at a “rolling boil” or your oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes to sterilize your jars. Whatever way you choose, remember to keep the jars warm after the required length of time and do not sterilize the lids in any of these ways. The rubber seal may become compromised do to the extended length of heat and may prevent a good seal for your canned goods. For me, the oven is my method of choice.004

For the seals and bands, I find it easiest to put these in a small pot of water and keep them just below a boil. Make sure that you separate all of the lids. They can easily become stuck together and appear as one. The last thing you are going to want is to go through the entire process below and find that you are short one lid because you put two on one jar without knowing!005

Step 2: Fill your canner up with water.

I know it sounds like an easy step, but it is worth mentioning that you need to find the right volume of water. Too much and the water will overflow when you add your jars that are heavy with their contents. Too little and the jars will not be completely submerged which will not allow for proper sterilization of contents. I fill my canner to around 2/3 full in order to accommodate 6 large canning jars. Note: Use hot water to fill the canner. This will help to speed up the process of bringing the water to a boil. Even with doing this, it will still take some time to get this water to a boil so start now!

Step 3: Wash and cut your asparagus.

Asparagus spears are quite long and a good portion of the vegetable must be cut off in order for it to properly fit into your canning jar. I have found that the easiest way to do this is to cut one piece to its designated length and then position each bunch beside your one piece and “chop”. Follow up with a good wash for the asparagus in the sink. Note: Don’t discard the remaining stem of the asparagus. Bend each piece until it snaps and keep the tender end. This can be canned, cooked for the next few meals or made into soup!008

Step 4: Make your brine.

6 cups of pickling vinegar (5% acetic acid)

9 cups of water

9 tbsp. of pickling salt. Iodized salt will leave your brine cloudy.

Bring this to a boil.

Step 5: Pack your jars.

Before I begin packing my canning jars with asparagus, I add 1 clove of garlic (cut into 3 pcs.), 1/2 tsp. of chili peppers and 1 slice of lemon. Feel free to omit any of these ingredients though I highly recommend them all. Now it’s time to pack your jars. I find that it is easiest to lay the jar on its side when it is time to pack the asparagus into the jars. You may be surprised at how many spears you will be able to pack into each jar. I averaged around 35 per jar. This number will vary on the thickness of the asparagus stalks. It is important to pack your jars as tight as you can without breaking off the tips of the asparagus. I find that a table knife works well to help move the asparagus from side to side in order to make room for a few more spears.012

Step 6: Add the brine and seal your jars.

Now it’s time to add the brine to your jars. A large ladle and a canning funnel makes easy work of this step. Make sure not to fill the brine up to the top of the jar. Leave around 1/4″of “head space”. Once this is done, take one of your sterilized seals out of your pot with a pair of tongs and place it on the lip of the jar. Note: make sure to wipe the lip of your jar before placing the seal on the jar. This will ensure that nothing is trapped on the lip which could prevent a tight seal and spoil your asparagus as it sits in your cantina (cellar) for up to 1 year. Once this is done, tightly screw the canning ring onto the jar.015

Step 7: Water bath.

The water bath is debatable and many people omit this step. Some rationalize the omittance by claiming that the boiling brine is enough to kill any bacteria that may be left on the asparagus. I also recognize that this step is a pain in the butt and can be quite dangerous because you are transferring a relatively heavy jar into and out of boiling water. With that said, I feel better eliminating my family’s chance at botulism and using a canning tongs to work the jars into and out of the boiling water. This process should be done for 15 minutes.016

Carefully remove the jars with canning tongs and place the hot jars on a rack to cool. After a while, you will hear the great sound of “SNAP”. That means your jars have sealed. Let your jars completely cool (over night) and then put them in your cantina or cupboard until it is time to enjoy the taste of pickled asparagus.019

Raising Backyard Chickens -Italian Style!

CityBoyFamily2 (2)

 

 

What started out as a short video about raising backyard chickens really grew into an elaborate production from its inception 18 long months ago.  In the fall of 2012, I asked my cugino Davide (cousin Dave)  if he wanted to make a short video on raising backyard chickens. He not only accepted, but took the project to a level that I had never imagined.  What follows is a 9 minute video on how to raise backyard chickens – Italian Style.  Why Italian style?????????????  Well…….I’ve got Italian blood runnin’ through my veins; though it has been thinned out over the generations and I thought that some humor would bring a bit of flavor to the topic.

If you are just starting out with backyard chickens………… than I hope I can help you along the way.  If you’re a seasoned veteran…….well……… I hope I can bring a laugh to you day!

Thanks to cugino Davide for making this video.  You did a fantastic job!  Thanks also to cugino Dino for playing the mandolin, accordion and drums in the opening number.  You are a multi-talented musician.   Thanks to cugino Damiano for his rendition of an old family folk song at the close of the video.  That song still cracks me up!  But most of all, thanks Nono for the memory of those backyard hens you kept when I was a small boy.  Who would have thought that this childhood memory would have grown into City Boy Hens!!

I hope you all enjoy!

City Boy Cartoon

CB

How To Make Italian Plum Jam

028The Italian Plum or Prunus cocomilia is native to Southern Italy.  It is said that the plum may have been one of the first fruits domesticated by humans and that it’s remnants were found in Neolithic age archaeological sites dating back 10,000 years ago.  Over the years, this ancient fruit  has been used in cakes, preserved in alcohol, dried to make prunes and……made into delicious jam.  Right now in Southern Ontario, Italian  plums are in abundance and last weekend I honored my daughter’s request and make some Italian Plum Jam.  I don’t mind saying it turned out pretty darn good!

Makes 10 -250 ml (8.4 oz. or half pint) jars of jam

Ingredients:

4 lbs. of Italian plums ( 6 cups crushed)

8 cups granulated sugar

1 package of pectin (57 g /2 oz.)

Directions:

003Weigh, wash and cut plums in half.  Discard pit.

Either finely chop plums by hand or pulse in a food processor.  The second choice is much easier & faster. 005

Fill your canner up with hot water to the height of the jars that you will be using for your jam. It will take a while to get this volume to a boil so you better start now.  If you get ahead of the game, you can always turn it down later.

Fill a medium pot with water and add the seals and screw rings.  Bring this to a gentle boil.005

Sterilize your jars in the oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit  for 10 minutes.  Continue to keep them warm in the oven until they are needed.

Combine mashed plums and pectin in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.012

Add all the sugar.  I add 1/3 at a time and stir in order to dissolve all the sugar and not have it stick to the bottom.

Note:  Make sure you use a LARGE pot to make this jam.  The volume will really INCREASE when the jam begins to boil.  The last thing you are going to want to happen is have this sugary mixture bubble over in the pot and catch FIRE on your burner.  Been there and done that!

Once the sugar is dissolved, return to a hard boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat. Stir and skim for 5 minutes.  This step is crucial in order to get a foam free jam (skimming part) that doesn’t have the fruit rising to the top of the jar (stirring part).014

Pour jam into warm sterilized jars to 1/4″ from rim.018

Wipe the lip of the jar with a wet paper towel in order to ensure that no jam is on the rim of the jar.  This could prevent a good seal from happening.  Cover with sterilized lids and tighten the screw rings.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars with canning tongs and cool on a rack over night.  Soon you will hear the sound of success as those lids start popping and ensuring a good seal.025

Complimenti (congratulations)!  Now tuck some of those jars into your cantina or cold cellar and wait for those cold days of Winter when you’ll need a warm reminder of some late summer tastes!025