The sweet heat of summer is long gone. With it, all the fresh peaches, melon, squash and berries we have grown used to picking up at the Downtown Lodi Farmers Market have vanished.
But some Lodi foodies put their preserving skills to work at this time of year to wrap up summer in jars and freezer bags. In January, when the rest of us are dreaming of juicy strawberries purchased at a roadside stand, those who thought ahead will be spreading homemade jam on their toast and adding locally grown berries to their smoothies and salads.
Manuel Martin, of Lodi, preserves strawberries by making jam.
“They’re really easy to keep chunky during the boiling process. As you add sugar, it brings out the natural flavors,” he said.
Cut the berries into small chunks for the jam, and add pomegranate juice for tartness. If your recipe calls for three cups of water, substitute one cup for pomegranate juice, he said.
The biggest challenge is the balance of pectin, sugar and acid so the jam sets correctly. Throw one element off balance, and you’ll have a syrup or a brick. If the process is done right, the jam will keep for two years.
Martin boils chicken with water and strawberry jelly. When the water boils away, what’s left is a sweet syrup. Add red pepper flakes for spicy, sweet chicken. The jelly can also be used to marinate pork or as a flavoring for steamed asparagus next spring.
Julie Govette of Lodi uses a water bath canning method to preserve tomatoes, peaches, pears, peppers, pickles and beets. These combine to make sauces, relishes and jams.
Her advice to those new to canning is to have all the supplies set out and ready before slicing a single piece of fruit.
“If you are halfway through cooking a batch of jam and realize that you don’t have enough lids, you end up with lots of jam that needs to be consumed quickly,” she said. Also, have good music playing.
The items last at least until the following summer, when Govette gives away anything left on the shelf. Then it’s time to start again.
Most of all, Govette uses preserved tomatoes, especially in her fresh roasted tomato basil soup.
“It carries with it such a fresh taste that can’t be duplicated in store-bought condensed soups,” she said.