When I first started canning, I started small. A batch of salsa, a batch of strawberry freezer jam. I always seemed to go through it too quickly, and I was usually out of my homemade preserves by Christmas.
As the years went on, I preserved more and more each year. In addition to our home’s pantry staples of pickles and salsa, I started making interesting recipes for conserves and chutneys that looked so similar to the ones I’d see at the farmers markets for $6 a jar. They’re some of the easiest things to can too – but sometimes I go a bit overboard with some of these preserves. This past summer, I had to keep myself from making new batches of chutneys as I still had some of my peach barbecue sauce and red currant chutney left over from last year. (Ok – I didn’t quite quit making savoury preserves altogether – I did make some spicy red currant and jalapeno jelly and some fennel zucchini relish).
This summer I met Meredith Bell , proprietor of Ma Bell’s Country Condiments at the Hubbards Farmers Market and I couldn’t help salivating over her amazing preserves. Her philosophy about her preserves were that they were ingredients rather than simple condiments to top off a meal. I’ve started taking this philosophy to heart, and have been adding chutneys, relishes and savoury jellies to everyday meals, and I’ve been bringing my enjoyment of winter seasonal eating to a new level as a result. So for all of you that have a jar or two of fancy preserves you opened over the holidays that are languishing at the back of your fridge, or even if you received gifts of preserves this Christmas or that you’re saving for a special meal, please consider these easy ways to incorporate these tasty treats into quick every-day meals.
– Spread some savoury chutney over the bottom of a pita and layer thinly sliced fresh veggies on top. Sprinkle some walnuts and goat cheese over the top and broil until veggies begin to get tender. In summer I liked using thinly sliced zucchini, but a mixture of grated carrots, onions and parsnips would taste good too!
– I like cooking haddock fillets in parchment paper with lemon and butter. I’ve found this is even tastier with some of my fennel zucchini relish spread over the fish before packaging it all up for the oven. When it’s cooked, I add a little more relish for serving at the table.
– Make some fancy appetizers! My rule of thumb is that any kind of chutney generally tastes great with any type of soft cheese. Try topping a baked brie with cranberry chutney, or making some phyllo pastry stuffed with goat cheese and blueberry chutney, like Marla did for New Year’s Eve 2011!
– Couscous is a super quick side dish, but I find it can be a bit bland on its own. Try adding some sauteed veggies and a bit of chutney for an exotic pilaf.
– Be creative with substitutions. I’ve posted the recipe for my favourite pumpkin/squash bread before, but I recently found myself short of the proper amount of pureed squash in the middle of making the recipe. The recipe calls for 2.5 cups of pureed squash, and I only had 2 – so I made up the remaining 1/2 cup with a sweet and spicy cranberry chutney. Because the chutney was fairly sweet, I cut down the amount of sugar in the recipe from two cups to 1.5 cups. The final result had exactly the same texture as the original, but with a mysterious spicy flavour that made it extra special. My only regret is that I’ll never be able to make it exactly the same way again!
These are just a few of my favourite ways to use my many jars of chutney, relish and preserves. What are yours?