Yes, she can can

I am reading a new book and planning my summer pastimes. It’s not a travel book, though. It’s a canning book.

IMG_3119I was canning before canning was cool, when most people looked it as something their grandmothers did, and far too much trouble. Now, it’s hip. Young singles haunt canning sites on Facebook and see the delicious value in making their own items. Chefs boost their eat-local stock by canning their own sauces and relishes.

So any new book about making pickles, relishes, jams and jellies needs to walk a line between the classic favorites – I dare you to feed me something better than good-old homemade bread and butter pickles – and new-wave creativity. “Pickles and Preserves: A Savor the South Cookbook” by Andrea Weigl (University of North Carolina Press, $18) does that.

Classic Dilly Beans and Fig Preserves are next to Soft Refrigerator Honeysuckle Jelly and Salt-Pickled Cucumbers with Shiso, providing basics for those new to canning and intriguing combinations for experienced canners. None of the recipes are so far out as to intimidate, and the variety will amply stock a pantry.

Many people are frightened off canning by the possibility of giving botulism as holiday gifts. But home canning is not difficult, and if you follow simple guidelines and use the proper equipment, perfectly safe. Weigl, who is the food editor for The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., carefully offers well-researched information on the process, along with what not to do and why. (I can’t believe anyone has seriously tried to process canned goods in a dishwasher but the answer from Weigl, and me, is: Just don’t.)

Full disclosure: I contributed a recipe to the book, and have written another in the Savor the South series. I have also begged for figs from Weigl’s neighborhood and intoxicated a book club with Brandied Peaches from her book.

On Wednesday night, March 12, Weigl will talk and sign copies of the book at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, on March 25 at the Barnes & Noble in Cary, and at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on March 19. Other signings are listed here.

Canning Week

Relish….a lot of relish. My friend Brenda and I get together every year for Relishmania. We give most of it as

vegetable relish

vegetable relish

gifts and her family has been known to have relish fights. On the way over, she found out he’s in hot water (hotter than the canning kettle) because her mother discovered he’d been holding out on her. He hid his gift relish for his own use.

This is not chow-chow. I have never liked chow-chow dating all the way back to when my mother made it, and I think it’s because of the cabbage that’s traditionally in it. I like kimchi just fine, and the hotter the better. But something about the cabbage in chow-chow just turns me off. Our relish is tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, bell peppers, just a hint of hot peppers, and a sweet-sour liquid.

As we considered our post-relish lunch, an unexpected call came in: A neighbor is overloaded with figs. Figs are my treasure. Fig jam my canning grail. I finally found a spot in my shady yard that’s is, I hope, sunny enough for the fig I planted there to bear fruit, but that answer will come. For now, I still must depend on the kindness of semi-strangers.

Figs are now in the canning plan, along with the original Friday adventure: My friend Linda and watermelon-lemongrass jelly.

Food news roundup

People tend to call every kind of homemade Southern relish chowchow. When someone refers to my homemade vegetable relish as “chowchow” I must correct them, and confiscate their jar, if they’ve received one. My relish is not chowchow. An article in The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer and The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) points out that my friends and I aren’t the only ones confused about chowchow. But it’s, basically, a melange of vegetables in pickled form that uses up what’s in the backyard garden. I happen to believe that it typically includes cabbage, which is where my problem lies – I don’t care for pickled cabbage unless it’s masked in the fire of kimchi. Read more here. And if you want my relish recipe, you’ll have to ask nicely.

Also in the Charlotte Observer, a great idea: a food book club. Read more here.

How does someone go from volunteering with the Black Panthers to making organic cookies? Find out in the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) here.

About 250 people attended the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal’s Slice of Summer tomato tasting and voted on their favorites. I believe any home-grown tomato is the best tomato, actually. But find out who the winners were here.

For 57 years, an event involving the cooking of tons of Alaskan salmon has been drawing food fans – 4,200 of them this year – to a small Utah town. Find out about it in the Salt Lake Tribune, here.

NestMeg conquers chicken and biscuits and proves you can put the Southern in a Yankee girl. (By the way, hire her; she’s looking for a job.)

Finally, personal validation. The always-interesting Eatocracy explains that you can drink red wine cold, and they don’t mean Cold Duck.

Over at KitchenScoop, they’re chilling with sorbets using figs. Ummm…..figs. I must have figs. Give me all your figs.