Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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Garlic Barter

It’s no secret that I’ve been making lots and lots of Jam. Taking stock last week, depending on how you count, I have about 70 jars of jam (jelly, syrup and fruit butters) in the pantry, most of which are 8oz. The goal has always been to use these jars as inexpensive, heart-felt, homemade gifts for holidays and as party favors and things like that. All the jars I can keep out of my gaping maw, anyway. Of course there’s another use for this trove of homemade treasure: bartering [1].

A colleague from work maintains a pretty large garden compared to my little plot, and he has had a substantial garlic harvest. I mentioned that I was going to buy some garlic heads to plant this fall and he suggested something even better: Trade some of his home-grown garlic for some of my homemade jams.

In exchange for three 8oz jars, I got two cloves each of the following garlic varieties:

…for a total of 10 heads. A similar amount from a farm or garlic supplier would have cost me 20$ or more, plus shipping. He has so much to spare (and the amortized per-head cost comes down so far due to multiplication) that the trade makes good sense all around.

Assuming at least 6-8 suitable cloves per head (more or less), and assuming they all do well in my little plot, I could end up with around 60-80 heads of garlic next year. That’s more than enough for us to use in 2014, to replant for 2015, and pass along a few heads to the next interested gardener thereafter.

These heads are all from the “Porcelain” and “Rocambole”  garlic families, both of which are hard-neck and winter hardy. I live right about on the cusp of where winter-hardy garlics are a requirement. The garlic I grew last year came from sprouted leftovers of supermarket garlic, unnamed softneck (probably “artichoke”) varieties from California and China. There are a few other garlic types I would really like to try my hand at eventually (Asiatics, Turbans and Creoles), but this is a very good start for 2014.

Notes

  1. I have to double-check the relevant laws and regulations, but I don’t think I can legally sell my homemade products in PA. Not without some sort of licensing, inspection and lab testing. Considering the size batches I typically work with, it would cost me more in terms of money and effort to get approved for commercial sales than I would probably earn in profit from the whole enterprise. For now, if you want my stuff you have to offer something else home-made in return (and promise not to sue me if you get sick from eating it, which definitely won’t happen).


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Apple Halves in Light Cinnamon Syrup

Last year when I first started canning, I quickly got overwhelmed with the sheer bulk of things. We picked so many apples at the farm that we started running out of recipes to use them in. I made apple sauce and apple butter, apple pie (and filling), apple jam and even apple bourbon. When we still had apples left over and they were starting to reach the edge of over-ripeness, I made a desperate play and put up two pint jars of apple halves in syrup. Here’s a picture of the apples in syrup, next to a jar of apple sauce (we still have 1 of these), apple butter and caramel apple jam.

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My thought, at the time, was that I would find something to do with them eventually. False. They sat in the pantry, unused and unremembered all year. If I hadn’t found them while taking inventory recently, they would still be buried.

Until opening this jar I had no idea how they would taste. My expectations were not too high. I expected the apple flavor to leach out and dilute in the syrup and the powerful cinnamon flavor to overwhelm everything. When we finally opened the can up for a taste, we were pleasantly surprised.

I mentioned these in a post long ago, but never went into details. Today I’ll give the recipe and finally share the results.

Apple Halves in Light Cinnamon Syrup

  • Apples, peeled, cored and halved [1]
  • Prepared Syrup [2]
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Lemon Juice [3]

Okay, here’s the deal. I never wrote this recipe down and I have no real memory of exactly what I did. The general process is relatively simple, so I’m going to extrapolate.

Pack the apple chunks into the jar, up to the shoulder (not too high). Put 1 cinnamon stick in each jar. Pour in enough syrup to cover, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Results

The apple chunks have taken on a bit of a brownish tint. I don’t know if it’s an oxidation issue or something having to do with the recipe (I’m looking at you, cinnamon!) or just a result of being stored for a year.

The texture of the apple chunks is pretty soft, but they aren’t falling apart. They aren’t mushy, but they don’t take a lot of effort to cut or chew. A good firm apple, or even one slightly under-ripe might be perfect in the future. The Gala apples we used were good enough, but a softer apple wouldn’t be.

What about the flavor? This was the part I worried about the most. Would the apples taste like bland sugar syrup? Would the cinnamon flavor be too intense and overwhelming? The answer to both questions is a resounding “No”. The apples have plenty of flavor and the cinnamon  is very gentle and pleasant. It is  simple and delicious.

The syrup that the apples are floating in is fantastic all by itself. It’s a cinnamon apple flavor, and because I used a light syrup recipe it isn’t overly rich.  I suspect it will be amazing on pancakes or mixed in to cocktails.

Now that I know the results are good, I’ll definitely do this again.

Notes

  1. For the life of me I can’t remember how I got the apples into the shape they are in. I suspect I must have done the whole thing—peeling, coring and slicing—by hand with a knife. This was before I bought my apple peeler contraption. I’ve also seen slices and other shapes be popular on the internet. We used Gala Apples.
  2. See the National Center for Home Food Preservation website for information on different syrup recipes and technique. We used a “light syrup“, which turned out perfectly although the website appears to suggest a medium syrup instead.
  3. don’t remember if I used lemon juice in the original recipe. I imagine I must have. It certainly can’t hurt to replace some of the water in the syrup recipe with lemon juice, to be double-certain that botulism is dead.