Preserving and pickling the best of summer's produce

Now that the canning season is here the roadside stands sing their siren song of preserving and pickling.

Eggplants glisten darkly to promise a winter's worth of caponata, there are beautiful local plums and pears to poach with a vanilla bean for next January's desserts.

Cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, and wonderful peppers are ready for pickling.

One main criteria for what to can is determined by what is left in last year's bottles and jelly jars. Seckel pears still down there on the shelf or mint jelly waiting for a roast of lamb surely tell you something.

My experience tells me to select things we like and can't get often enough, like chutney. The best imported mango chutney is stunningly priced, so a supply of homemade plum or apple chutney will be a fine variation. Plum or Apple Chutney 2 pounds plums or apples 2 large cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup raisins 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced 1 teaspoon curry powder 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup cider vinegar

Quarter plums if large, or halve if small and cut out the stone. Combine ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn heat to moderately high , and cook uncovered until fruit is soft and syrup has begun to thicken slightly.

Check often to make sure it is not sticking on the bottom. This will take about 10 minutes. Pour immediately into hot sterilized jars, cover, and cool. Wash in warm, soapy, water if jars are sticky and store in the refrigerator.

To make apple chutney, peel, core, and slice about 2 1/2 pounds of tart apples as you would for apple pie. Proceed with the recipe. The results are less beautiful than plum chutney, but equally delicious. Makes about 4 cups. Taco Sauce 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped 1 large onion, coarsely chopped 1 jalapena pepper, canned or pickled, finely chopped, or 1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies for a milder sauce 1 teaspoon paprika 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

This is a starter recipe - a small amount to taste and then juggle the hotness until you discover the most amicable proportions. Some recipes call for 2 jalapena peppers to 2 pounds of tomatoes.

Place all ingredients except vinegar in a 2-quart pot, bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Add vinegar and cook 10 more minutes.

Pour into hot sterilized jars, seal and cool before storing in the refrigerator. Makes 3 cups. Cauliflower Chow Chow 1 medium cauliflower 1 large green pepper, cored, seeded, and cut in 1-inch pieces 1 large onion cut in 1-inch pieces 6 large cloves garlic 6 cups water 6 tablespoons salt 1/4 cup flour 2 tablespoons dry mustard 1 teaspoon turmeric 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 2 cups cider vinegar 2 tablespoons sugar

Trim cauliflower and separate into florets, cutting large pieces into four. Dissolve salt in water in a glass or earthenware bowl, add cauliflower, green pepper, onion, and garlic and soak in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 6 hours.

In 2-quart saucepan, mix flour, dry mustard, turmeric, ginger, allspice, and sugar. Whisk about 1/2 cup vinegar into dry ingredients until smooth, and whisk in remaining vinegar.

Bring to a boil, add drained vegetables, and cook, stirring often for 4 minutes. Fill hot sterilized jars with chow chow, seal, cool, and store in the refrigerator until needed. Makes about 2 pints.

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