Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February Canning Workshop

Last Sunday's canning workshop was another great success. We made red-onion/red wine relish--a wonderfully simple condiment made with just that, red onions, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. As I was preparing for the class, collecting ingredients, and typing up the recipe, I kept being almost slightly embarrassed at teaching something so simple. After teaching a class on marmalade (a notoriously difficult thing to make properly) last month, and one on mincemeat--with its impressive list of ingredients--the month before, the onion relish seemed too unchallenging. But as the class began, and I started talking about acidity necessary for water-bath canning, the caramelization of onions, and possible ideas for using the relish, I realized that I just may have chosen this relish for its simplicity. As the relish comes together, there is a subtle playfulness among the ingredients: the sweetness of the onions and wine; the complex acidity of the wine and vinegar; the flirty pepperiness of it all is quite nice. And the simplicity of the relish allowed me to focus on more aspects of canning, as I wasn't just focusing on supervising the process of what we were making. I got a chance to channel a little Julia Child, too, as I talked about the importance of quality ingredients, and demonstrated (unintentionally) how to recover from a minor mistake when canning.
I love teaching these workshops not only because I get a chance to share canning with others, but also because of the group of people that comes together. We had some great discussions about growing food--both successes and failures. Sunday was the perfect day to spend canning: it was a warm day, and the hum of imminent Spring was in everything.

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