Yes, we CAN!

The great thing about having access to an amazing rooftop garden like Alison’s is all the fresh, organic produce we get to eat, cook and enjoy.  The difficult thing is figuring out what to do with it all.  Or, maybe that’s one of the great things too.

Canning, when done with care and creativity, is not simply about preservation.  It’s about producing a delicious item that can be combined with others as is, or eaten on its own.

And you “can,” too!  So, if you’ve got some excess produce kicking around from your summer harvest, consider the “fresh herb” method we like to put into practice.  It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  Canning with fresh herbs infuses the primary item with essential oils and aromatic compounds in an air-tight environment (much like the process of sous-vide cookery) yielding bold, and fresh-picked flavors even months later.  They maintain their integrity and fresh flavor by avoiding the rough handling and excess oxygen incurred during most cooking processes, and come out tasting bold and brand new.

Take, for example, our canned tomatoes.  One of my first childhood sensory/food memories was picking tomatoes in my Uncle Tom’s garden back East.  I didn’t even particularly like the taste of tomatoes then, but I loved getting lost in the vines and hunting for the ripe red ones.  I just liked to pick them for the sake of picking them, and the release of the herbaceous and slightly citric aroma was a bonus that I didn’t appreciate until years later. That scent, and that memory tied to it, still sticks with me now, so we wanted to simulate a similar experience to boost up a boring jar of tomatoes.  Here’s what we did:

First these guys are blanched, and peeled.

Then, the peels and basil stems are combined into the blanching water with salt and sugar.  This cooks down a bit until we have a nice, flavorful brine.

 We then add fresh basil leaves to the jars with the blanched tomatoes, fresh sliced garlic, and here’s the kicker: Fresh tomato leaves!  That’s right, leaves.  You thought they were poisonous right?  Check this article out.

They bring a fragrant, herbaceous, fresh-from-the-vine aroma with them.

   We then cover with the brine and seal ‘em up for a nice 20-minute boiling hot jacuzzi.

 When that jar is reopened at a later date (say for an upcoming dinner like Italian Summer Harvest) it’s like we are right back in the vines picking that tomato all over again.

Chow.

-X

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