Canning and apple butter

Flat beans and cans (not flat cans)

Oh, how I do love Googlable headings. SEO genius, right here.

I am still romanced by weird foods and techniques on a regular basis, even though I don’t get a chance to write about them as often as I once did. So even though it may not come across in super-regular blog posts, take comfort in the fact that my family still sniffs everything I put in front of them, and that they get extra terrified when they see the camera come out. Don’t you wish you were married to me? So as a result, I have two blog posts backed up that I’m going to mash together today (I won’t mash together the ingredients, although I bet that may even work this time!).

So post #1 — flat, or “romano” beans.

Romano beans

These long flat lovelies are also known as Italian beans, Italian pole beans, helda beans, “seem” (in Bengali)… If you’re cooking a fancy dinner, call them Romanos, if you’re sending your kid to the store to get some, send them for the flat ones. 

Figuring out what to do with these should have been easy, because you basically treat them like green beans. Except that the first time I made them, I messed them up. Yes, even when you know how to cook, you can mess up something as easy as green beans.

I wanted to make them into big green-bean fries, to take advantage of their cool length. But the recipe I used said to parboil them first, dredge them in egg and panko, and then fry them. And the panko didn’t stick. 

bean fries recipe, panko fries

And after all that cooking, the beans went limp. No one likes a limp bean. Even my friend’s son Eddie, the kid who’s the opposite of Mikey from Life, who hates everything 

Of course Eddie game them a try, but shockingly returned the remainder of his bean to the plate.

IMG_2988

I was determined to make these guys winners, even though I couldn’t find them again (I think they’re local and seasonal, yay), so I tried a new recipe with regular green beans, telling myself it will be easy enough to try with the real thing when I find them again next year. No one gets rejected by Eddie and takes it lightly. I found a tempura recipe and served them with store-bought dip to my nieces and fam at the cottage a few weeks later. 

Romano bean tempura

  • Romano/flat beans, ends trimmed, beans dried carefully
  • 4 inches vegetable oil in your fav heavy pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 1/2 cups very cold water

Directions: Heat oil until 325 degrees. If your oil smokes, it’s too hot. In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and sesame oil. Add very cold water. Important: do not overmix — should still be lumpy. Dip your beans in the batter (recipe I linked to above says to parboil beans first, but I like them crunchy, so didn’t). Fry ’em up, spaced apart, for about 2 minutes, turning carefully. Dry on paper towels and sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve with your favourite dip. Quick and easy! Eddie wasn’t there, but trust me, he wouldn’t have dissed the tempura version. Even Mikey would have eaten them as a Life-cereal side dish.

Vegetable tempura recipe

Green beans tempura recipe

Kid food

Kid food! Not A#1 on the health scale, but they ate all their beans. Rating: 3 Yums. I won’t be afraid of those long flat lovelies when I get to try them next time.

Still with me? Let’s move on to recipe #2. 

Last week, my mom’s group, the “slummy mummies” (we like our wine) went to a cooking class at “The Cookery” in our neighbourhood where we learned how to can.

How to make pickles

Aren’t they so cute?

Even though I feel like canning is quite Canadian (FYI, it’s cold here, and people used to have to, like, eat, all winter long) I didn’t know how to do it. And I was always afraid I would poison people because bacteria are invisible. And they kill people. Imagine teeny tiny invisible bears and sharks that kill you from the inside? Yup, scared me too.

Thanks samanthastephens.com

Thanks samanthastephens.com

But I had no reason to be afraid. With the coaching of chef Michael Kirkwood, I learned that canning was pretty straightforward, and that you don’t even need much special equipment (but we all know I love special cooking equipment so I bought some anyway, SO THERE). Plus the results make pretty, tasty little gifts to give to your friends as a how-ya-doin (reminder — I am Canadian).

Here is the equipment I used. You can probably Macgyver some of it, but I found this selection made things easy:

  • a big-ass pot (big enough to sterilize jars in)
  • another big-ass pot or dutch oven (to cook the goods in)
  • tongs. I bought specialty ones at Canadian Tire (reminder — I am Canadian) that are grippy to hang onto jars
  • a magnet stick to easy grab the lids and rings out of the boiling water
  • a rack to cool the jars on so that your don’t leave big holes in your counter. I used my cookie cooling rack
  • a ladle
  • mason jars and lids and rings (Michael said that sometimes these even come pre-sterilized, but mine didn’t say that, so I sterilized them)

During the class, we made:

  • pickles
  • daikon radish and zucchini pickles. This was my and my friend Trish’s little project. Trish is Eddie’s mom (and it all comes together), and I was quite proud that we got the only dangerous food. Here is antique Trish on a daikon phone

Daikon radish pickling

  • corn relish
  • strawberry jam
  • pickled watermelon rind

Cool, eh? LMK if you want the recipes, but this post is getting to be damn long, so I included what we did to give you ideas — you can use my techniques below and Google for your fav recipe versions of any of the above.

So of course I got home and had to apply what I learned and make something. In the meantime, my “spirited” Eastern-European neighbour (who once had a break-in and unhappily told me that if she ever caught the guy who stole her son’s cell phone she would cut his f’ing head off, you get the picture what she’s like, but somehow I’m on her good side). Anyway, she brought over a big bag of bruised, warty apples from her tree for me (“100% organic, but free, Ann, free for you, and 100% organic”) that weren’t really edible straight-up, but were great raw materials for apple butter.

Apple butter recipe

It was retro-canning fate. I found this recipe (that I liked because it used ginger) and gave it a go, making…

Pain-in-the-arse Ginger Apple Butter

It really is a pain in the arse. You have to stir it for a long time. But it meant I got to buy more tools. Check out my new corer.

apple corer

Ingredients

  • a big bag of apples. I don’t weigh things, but there were probably 30 small apples that I peeled and cored. Ugh
  • 2 lemons, halved and squeezed over the apples (in case you need to take a break, as well as for taste)
  • about 2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into large hunks, and another 1 inch piece peeled and grated, reserved
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp cinnamon (I increased this from original recipe as I like lots of flavour)
  • 3/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/3C packed brown sugar

Directions

  1. Sterilize your jars and lids. Boil in a big pot in a medium boil, then remove with your swanky tongs and magnet and put on your cooling rack.
  2. Peel and core, peel and core, putting all apple hunks into your dutch oven with the 1/2C water with the squeezed lemons, peels, and hunks of ginger. Boil gently for about 30 minutes, until all apples are soft and falling apart. I still had hunks at this point, so then I ran the whole thing through my Kitchenaid meat grinder. Think about mouth feel, and use the appliance you feel would best suit. If you don’t want to peel and core, you can buy a retro “food mill” that is part sieve, part masher, but I had reached my appliance limit.

IMG_8413

Now if you hadn’t already reached your pain-in-the-arse limit, here it comes:

3. Add remaining ingredients, and simmer and stir the apple sludge for 60-90 minutes until dark and thickened. You have to stir basically all the time because otherwise the boil spits all over your kitchen. But then your mixture goes from this, to this:

IMG_8412

Dutch oven slow cooked apples

4. Ladle your mixture into your jars, leaving space where the rungs are. Put lids on mostly tightly (but not Superman tight) and then boil them full in your big pot again over medium boil for 5 minutes (we’re talking smaller jars here, if you’re doing bigger ones it will take longer). Remove them with your tongs to your cooling rack. When they’ve cooled enough to touch the lids, poke them in the middle and make sure there’s no give in the centre of the lid. If there is, tighten the lid and boil it again.

Done!

If you’ve stuck with me to the end of this post, you definitely deserve some of my pain-in-the-arse apple butter. I gave a jar to my spirited neighbour and haven’t had feedback yet, but let’s hope it’s good enough to keep me on her good side. Gotta grease those wheels every so often, know what I’m saying? Rating: 3 yums. I think this would be great on a cracker with creamed cheese, or dolloped into oatmeal. Apple pie filling in a jar.

And hey, canning is puurrrdy. Nearly as purdy as the slummy mummies (who also happen to have great cans).

Canning and apple butter

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