A vast array of condiments adds harmonies of color, flavor, and texture to Lowcountry meals—scuppernong jam, dilled green beans, homemade mayonnaise, spiced peaches, pickled watermelon rind, fig conserve, pear chutney, and various mixed pickles and relishes such as achar and chow chow. Older recipes for pickles, relishes, and preserves sometimes call for huge quantities of Jerusalem artichokes or peaches. Look at the Indian, Caribbean, and Mediterranean influences in this chapter, attesting to the colony’s long involvement with the slave and spice trades as well as to the diversity of its settlers.
Preserving really isn’t difficult, and the rewards—shelves full of the harvest’s bounty—are deeply satisfying. Read through these recipes well before beginning. Remember that for many of these recipes you will need special equipment. I recommend a kitchen scale; weight measurements are given. If you don’t weigh ingredients, chances are the recipe simply won’t work. You will also need a large open kettle canner with a rack. Jars must be sterilized before they can be filled. Most of these recipes need only ten or fifteen minutes of processing.
To process, always begin with new metal lids for screw-type jars (such as Ball and Mason brands) and new rubber rings for clamp lids. Sterilize all equipment, including jars, lids, and funnels, by placing them in a boiling water bath in the canning kettle. Make sure the water returns to a boil to ensure sterilization. Turn off the heat, but leave the jars in the hot water until the ingredients are ready to be canned. Remove the jars and lids from the hot water, draining out the water as you remove them. Make sure all jars are free of chips and cracks. Return the water to a boil.
Fill the jars with the prepared recipes to within a half inch of the tops, then run a thin spatula down around the inside of the jars to dispel any air bubbles. Wipe the top of the jar with a clean cloth. Place the lids on the jars (with the rubber ring in place on clamp lids and the screw band loosely tightened on the metal lids). If your kettle’s rack can be raised and hooked onto the edge of the pot, raise it and be careful while placing the jars on the rack, two at a time, opposite each other, so that one side of the rack does not slip down into the kettle, splashing boiling water up on you. Lower the rack carefully into the water, making sure the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Process, or allow to boil, according to the recipe. The self-sealing metal lids are sucked down by a sealing vacuum. If some of the lids do not seal, simply store the condiments in the refrigerator and use them within two or three weeks.
Traditionally, the very sweet Lowcountry preserves were not processed in a boiling water bath. Forget tradition in this case. Go ahead and process the recipes for pickles and preserves. Nothing is more disheartening than finding a spoiled jar of preserves that you spent hours preparing. Only the spiced peaches lack this extra step.
And, finally, in an effort to preserve your preserves, use only clean utensils to remove condiments from their containers. A finger in a jar of pickles or a buttered knife in the jam invites early spoilage.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.