I forced myself to attempt canning this year. I am intrigued by all the canning, preserving, drying and curing that were so critical to survival not too long ago. People figured out ways to make their food last, to use methods to keep food not only safe but sweet and/or savory. It impresses me that the chemistry and artistry of food culminates so inherently in the act of canning. I am fortunate to capture the essence of just farmed foods as a privilege, rather than a necessity. I like the idea of keeping this skill alive, if just in my own life, to honor the many women who preceded me, to appreciate their labors of love, and the time they spent preserving food. Of course my efforts pale in comparison but it was a treat and remains a privilege to make preserves of my own.
For me, preserving is an opportunity to enjoy bites of summer in the dead of winter. Opening a jar of chutney provides a moment of kitchen zen when ‘dinner is served’ out of a homemade jar and saves me loads of time when I am trying to put dinner on the table in a hurry. I love canned chutneys and jams, butters and relishes because they make the most amazing hostess gifts. Just last week I was enjoying dinner with my extended family and brought 2 jars of blueberry chutney to serve with pork chops. It was so easy to transport, and all of the loving prep had occurred months in advance!
Pork Chops & Blueberry Chutney
(I use 1/2 inch pork chops, but 1 inch pork chops from the BBQ or a pork loin would work well too).
4 pork chops (more or less depending on how many mouths you are feeding)
garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt & coarse pepper (KS&CP)
Olive oil & butter (OO&B)
Blueberry Chutney (recipe follows)
Pat dry and rub both sides of pork chops with 1 tsp garlic and small pinch of KS&CP. Warm 1 T each of OO&B over medium high heat. Brown both sides of chops 1 minute. Place chops in oven for 10 minutes just to cook through or until instant thermometer reads 140. Serve with blueberry chutney on side.
(Hats off to Christina’s for this just-altered recipe, a famous chef who satisfies palates daily on Orcas Island (part of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State). She is an icon in our corner of the country):
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweet white wine
2 cups chopped red onion
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried red chilis
1 cinnamon stick
3 tsp peeled, grated ginger (I use a microplaner—love it!)
1 T whole coriander seeds
5 cups blueberries
1 cup golden raisins
Bring all ingredients—except berries and raisins—to a boil. Reduce and simmer 30 minutes. Add berries and raisins and cook gently for 10 minutes. Can, freeze or refrigerate. Makes 6 pints, serves as many meals with no hassle.
Note: try with roasted or grilled turkey breast as well, maybe pass around the table on Thanksgiving as an alternative to cranberry sauce. Great on day-after turkey sandwiches! Christina serves it with fish; it keeps well in the refrigerator for 3 weeks, but feel free to freeze it in jars for longer! I used standard canning procedures; a proud lineup of blueberry chutney adorns my pantry shelves.