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Sweet Hots



Those of you from the Cleveland area might be familiar with Tony Packo's Sweet Hots (correction: Tony Packo's originates from the Toledo area! Thanks to everyone who got here from tastespotting who pointed this out to us.); the pickles are crisp and tangy, sweet and spicy, and there is just a hint of dill. For a while, our local grocery store stopped carrying them so I tried to whip up something similar. It's a pretty close fascimile, although I think I would cut down on the garlic next time. The only bad thing about this recipe is that you have to wait 8 weeks before you can have any!

Sweet Hots
Makes 4 quart jars

2 lbs pickling cucumbers
2 cups white vinegar
8 cups water
1/3 cup pickling salt (or kosher)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 habanero pepper, thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh dill weed
3 oz of your favorite hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1 lb white sugar

Wash the cucumbers and soak in ice water (with plenty of ice) for two hours. Sterilize 4 quart jars and lids in boiling water.

In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, hot sauce and sugar and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place 1 sprig of dill, a few slices of habanero and a half a clove of garlic in the bottom of each jar, and fill with cucumbers. Pour the hot brine over the pickles, make sure the rims are clean, and seal the jars.

Process the sealed jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Allow the jars to cool, and store in a cool dark place for at least 8 weeks before consuming. Refrigerate after opening.

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Strawberry Jam Two Ways



Have you ever heard of Weck? They originated in Germany, and make the proshest canning jars. The sealing mechanism is a little different from the Ball jars that you usually see; The lid and jar are made of glass, and there is a non-reusable rubber ring that fits between the two. You fill the jar up as usual, and use a pair of clamps to hold the lid onto the jar while the cans are processed. The jars must cool completely, and then you can remove the clamps. If a vacuum formed, you should be able to pick up the jar by the lid alone. The tongue of the rubber gasket should point down a little, too. To remove the lid, you just pull on the tongue. You should hear a little psssst sound as the vacuum is broken. More detailed instructions are available on their website, along with order information.

We took advantage of the break in the heat wave last weekend and went strawberry picking. It was a perfect day for picking - overcast and the temperature was just right!



This year, we held back and only picked 10 lbs! It made about 12 8oz jars of jam. I decided to tweak last year's recipe; this time, I made two batches. I substituted a combination of 1 tbsp lemon juice/2 tbsp balsalmic vinegar for the straight lemon juice of the original.

I added 6 mint leaves and 10 grinds of black pepper to the second batch near the end of the cooking time, removing the mint leaves before I ladled the jam into the jars (inspired by Chocolate & Zucchini's recipe).

The balsalmic strawberry jam added a deeper flavor to the jam. The mint and pepper can only just be tasted, and lend a fresh and midly spicy taste to the jam. It's really very good - don't let the mint scare you away!

Strawberry Jam

3 lb. ripe strawberries (4 1/2 pints), rinsed and hulled
3 cups sugar (you can use a little less if the fruit is very ripe)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Special equipment: eight or nine 8-oz canning jars with lids, funnel, clamp or tongs

To wash the berries, gently scoop them into a sink filled with water. Swish them around a little, and let them sit for a while. The dirt should fall to the bottom of the sink.

Hull and quarter the berries. Put them in a deep pot made of non-reactive material (stainless steel works well). Make sure that there is enough room in your pot! If there is less than 5" between your berries and the top of your pot, you might have a rather anxious time of it. When the jam boils, lots of air bubbles are trapped in the dense liquid, which will begin to rise very quickly.Pour on the sugar and lemon juice, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover the pot and let the berries macerate for about two hours. If you like your jam smoother, you can mash them with a potato masher instead.

While the berries macerate, wash your jars and set them in the oven. They should be in there for at least half an hour. Wash the lids and rings, and set the rings aside. Put the lids in a pot of boiling water to sterilize them, and to make the rubber around the edges a little more pliable.

Bring the pot of strawberries to a full boil (you need to boil off the liquid to achieve a jammy consistency). Make sure to stir often (with your wooden spoon) and skim off any foam from the surface. The foam will make your jam cloudy if it's left in the pot, although you can eat it separately.

After half an hour of boiling, your jam should be just about ready. Don't boil the jam for more than 40 minutes, however, otherwise the pectin in the fruit will break down and the jam will turn dark.You can test the consistency of the jam by chilling a plate in your freezer. Spoon a little bit of jam onto the plate, and check the thickness of the jam once it has cooled.

Take a jar out of the oven and ladle the jam in until within 1/4" of the rim. Wipe any jam off the rim with a damp towel, and use tongs to take a lid out of your pot of boiling water and put it on the jar. Quickly screw a ring over the lid (it has to be tight enough to hold the lid onto the jar). Repeat this process until you fill up all of your jars.

Put the jars into a deep pot filled with boiling water; make sure the water reaches above the rim of the jar lids. Cover, and let the jars boil for ten minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. The lids should begin to pop within minutes. If you have any lids that didn't seal, throw them out or eat immediately.

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Strawberry Jam



When working with fresh produce, a less-is-more approach usually produces better results than trying to follow a complicated recipe. And what could be simpler than making jam with berries, sugar, and lemon juice?

[I have to put in a warning here. This was my first time making jam, and having 16 pounds of strawberries to use up, I decided it would be better to make all the jam at once. It didn't hit me until my jam was merrily boiling away at the half-hour mark that the smaller surface-area-to-volume ratio of my giant batch would make my jam much, much runnier than it should have been. Luckily, my jam came out okay (a little on the runny side), but making larger batches than a recipe recommends is a big no-no when it comes to jam making.]

Strawberry Jam

3 lb. ripe strawberries (4 1/2 pints), rinsed and hulled
3 cups sugar (you can use a little less if the fruit is very ripe)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Special equipment: eight or nine 8-oz canning jars with lids

To wash the berries, gently scoop them into a sink filled with water. Swish them around a little, and let them sit for a while. The dirt should fall to the bottom of the sink.



Hull and quarter the berries. Put them in a deep pot made of non-reactive material (stainless steel works well). Make sure that there is enough room in your pot! If there is less than 5" between your berries and the top of your pot, you might have a rather anxious time of it. When the jam boils, lots of air bubbles are trapped in the dense liquid, which will begin to rise very quickly.

Pour on the sugar and lemon juice, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover the pot and let the berries macerate for about two hours. If you like your jam smoother, you can mash them with a potato masher instead.



While the berries macerate, wash your jars and set them in the oven. They should be in there for at least half an hour. Wash the lids and rings, and set the rings aside. Put the lids in a pot of boiling water to sterilize them, and to make the rubber around the edges a little more pliable.

Bring the pot of strawberries to a full boil (you need to boil off the liquid to achieve a jammy consistency). Make sure to stir often (with your wooden spoon) and skim off any foam from the surface. The foam will make your jam cloudy if it's left in the pot, although you can eat it separately (a la Marcel from Top Chef). After half an hour of boiling, your jam should be just about ready. Don't boil the jam for more than 40 minutes, however, otherwise the pectin in the fruit will break down and the jam will turn dark.

You can test the consistency of the jam by chilling a plate in your freezer. Spoon a little bit of jam onto the plate, and check the thickness of the jam once it has cooled. I've found that the jam tends to thicken up a little more than this test might indicate once you've sealed and refrigerated the jars though, so don't think it's the end of the world if your jam is a little runny.

Take a jar out of the oven and ladle the jam in until within 1/4" of the rim. Wipe any jam off the rim with a damp towel, and use tongs to take a lid out of your pot of boiling water and put it on the jar. Quickly screw a ring over the lid (it has to be tight enough to hold the lid onto the jar). Repeat this process until you fill up all of your jars.

Put the jars into a deep pot filled with boiling water; make sure the water reaches above the rim of the jar lids. Cover, and let the jars boil for ten minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. The lids should begin to pop within minutes. If you have any lids that didn't seal (the lid makes popping sounds when you press down on the middle), throw them out or eat immediately.



This jam will keep in a cool, dark place for one to two years. If you haven't already eaten it by then. We can go through a jar of this stuff in a day!

Inspired by this recipe from Gourmet, 1999.

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