Canning your own blue ribbon products

Pickled cucumbers in jarIf you are an avid canner and enjoy the process and take pride in your work, you may want to consider exhibiting your home-canned foods at the local county fairs or at the state fair.  I have judged both and in many cases the competition can be fierce.  At the same time, many local fairs are seeing the number of exhibits dropping – so you might consider helping increase the number of local exhibits!

If you consider showing your products, make sure you have read the rules of the show first.  To choose products to show, they should be attractive, labeled with the product name and date of preservation, and the jars should be standard canning jars.  Remember after the canning process, remove the rings and wash the outside of the jars to remove any food debris and lime scum on the outside of the jars.  Bright shiny jars of food make the best display.  Some fairs ask that the rings be left off – as I said, read the rules.  I would, however, transport the jars with the rings on to avoid accidental opening of the lids. Continue reading

Blue Ribbon Judging

ScaleImage2.aspxMrs. Wages is putting out its State Fair editions of its newsletters over the next few weeks, so I thought it would be helpful to share an insider’s point of view on judging these great food contests.

This is a piece I wrote for the Preserving the Harvest Newsletter a while back on judging. While following these tips won’t guarantee a winner, they will help you understand what a judge is looking for among the dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of entries in a local, county or state fair competition.

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Canning Shallots and Garlic

A friend on Twitter sent me a question (@AskShirleyCamp) about preserving garlic and shallots (their fancy French cousins) …

@AskShirleyCamp Can you preserve garlic and/or shallots using the water bath method?

This question raises an interesting point – canning isn’t the only way to preserve fresh foods. And in some cases, like garlic and shallots, it’s not really recommended at all.

2423074_origIn fact, would not be safe using a boiling water bath since they are low acid foods. Also preserving them in oil is not recommended.  This document from the UC Davis website should be helpful.

Garlic will keep if hardened off and hung to dry. Also chopping the garlic/shallots and freezing in portions for recipe use would be acceptable.