Having made it through one year without poisoning G., myself or any of our friends or relatives with a food-borne illness, I’m going professional. I just got my own labels to mark my jars.
I got the idea from Canning & Preserving for Dummies, which recommends MyOwnLabels.com. I checked that out, and a number of other sites too. None of them were right for three reasons. First, I make a lot of different things, so I didn’t just want labels that said Strawberry Jam or Tomato Sauce. I also wanted to be able to write the date on my labels so that I would have an idea of when the jars should be used. And, I wanted to use the photo on my blog and have the label look something like the blog header.
I emailed her and between exchanges about the design, we talked about our gardens. Hers was sabotaged last year by a very bold gopher. He took a bite from each of her tomatoes and then sunned himself on her deck. I told her about the heard-but-never-seen rodent that ate our sweet potatoes.
We commiserated over the fact that one of the most expensive aspects of canning is the jars lost to friends who promise to return the empties, but never do. I told her that’s how people qualify for my gifts now: those who return empties receive seconds.
Last week, I made cranberry sauce partly because I needed to use the remaining cranberries in our freezer and partly because I wanted an excuse to use my new labels. I told Alison about it, and she asked if homemade cranberry sauce is better than the kind you can buy in stores. The answer is, yes, yes, yes! I never ate cranberry sauce before I made my own because the gelatinous mass that slid out of cans and into side dishes at Thanksgiving always repulsed me. Homemade cranberry sauce has a lumpier texture, but it’s not slimy and it doesn’t ooze liquid onto your plate.
G. eats the homemade version out of the jar with a spoon. Here’s one variation:
Cranberry Sauce with Vanilla and Cardamom
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon citric acid
Put the water in a saucepan. Slice open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the water. Then toss the pod in. Add sugar and heat over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves.
Add cranberries and heat until they pop. Cook about 15 minutes more. Add cardamom and citric acid. Cook about 5 minutes more.
Remove vanilla pod.
Put into prepared half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Seal in rolling water bath for 15 minutes. (I do 20 just to be safe.)
This will make about six half-pints.