Preserver extraordinaire |

Preserver extraordinaire

Dan BurkhartCarol Glad, one of the Nevada County Fair's all-time cooking winners, prepares strawberry jam in her Nevada City home Thursday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

It’s fairtime. To my son, that means lots of cotton candy and rides that make him nauseous. But to me, it’s a chance to really connect with the heart and soul of this community.

I wander through the kids’ artwork and the canned preserves shimmering like precious jewels with a deep appreciation for the creativity that goes into each jar, cake and photograph. I am particularly in awe of cooks who tackle the exotic and esoteric field of canning and jam-making. And no one is more awe-inspiring than local preserver extraordinaire, Carol Glad.

Like many dedicated fair people, Glad turns fairtime into an extended party. She has entered her preserves and baked goods in the county and state fairs for more than 20 years, and a wall of ribbons attest to her success. This year, she entered some 30 jams, jellies and conserves at the Nevada County Fair. Sixteen garnered first place, and only five of her entries did not place at all.

While Glad says baking is her first passion, now that her son and daughter are becoming involved in the fair, she has turned her attention to preserves. As she points out, that is something she can do year-round. Then she gives her preserves as gifts all year long.

“There’s something so cool, so traditional, about canning,” Glad said. “You tend to learn it from someone else and then make it your own.”

She emphasizes learning by example: “The directions will tell you to invert the jars, and that’s the most dangerous thing you can do. That doesn’t ensure a seal.”

So what’s her secret? First of all, she is very, very careful to put up her fruit when it is at its peak. And she buys locally. For example, she gets her strawberries from only one place, Randy Smith Produce, always in the third week of July. She gets what she calls a Halloween peach in October from a grove in Grass Valley. And she has learned that it is best to pick blackberries in the heat of the day, when they are at their plumpest and sweetest.

She freezes very little of her fruit. “I try to keep it as fresh as possible,” she said. “My kids can tell you it gets very hot in (the kitchen) in July.”

Over the years, Glad has learned some of the tricks of the trade when it comes to winning ribbons.

“The judges will mark you down for too much space between the preserve and the lid,” she said. “They judge on consistency and flavor, but you have to have the jar right.”

To that end, she said, she shines the jars once they’re filled and makes sure the designs on the lid and jar line up. She also makes sure there are no dents or scratches on her lids.

To keep things challenging, Glad plays around with recipes or enters new categories. This year, she made jelly for the first time. She has been experimenting with making preserves with honey or without pectin. Preserves made with honey are difficult to store, she said, because they tend to have more air pockets and thus are more liable to spoil.

Glad also entered three cakes this year, although her focus on baking has dwindled considerably. She said she spent seven years chasing an elusive blue ribbon for baking powder biscuits before learning the secret: lard. “It took its blue ribbon,” she said with satisfaction.

“It took me 20 years to come up with a winning pie crust,” she added. The recipe she finally won a first prize with is from “The Pie Bible” and is made with cream cheese and cider vinegar.

Since I am hopeless at making pie crust, I asked her for a few tips.

First, she said, cut your butter into small pieces and freeze it. After you mix your dry ingredients, place them, too, in the freezer for about one to two hours. Knead your dough in a bag, flatten it out to about3/4-inch thick and put it in the refrigerator for about four hours. Then it will be easy to roll out.

Liz Kellar of Union Hill has cooked at brew pubs, four-star bed-and-breakfast inns and university dining halls. She has catered intimate dinners for 20 and barbecues for 2,000. Write her at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

Plum Relish

(Ball Home Canning Corp.)

8 cups coarsely ground, pitted, ripe plums

1 orange, seeded and ground

4 cups sugar

Dash of cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

1/2 cup vinegar (5 percent acidity)

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)

Prepare home canning jars and lids according to instructions.

Combine all ingredients except nuts in a large saucepan; cook until thick. Remove from heat and stir in nuts. Carefully ladle hot relish into hot jars, leaving1/4-inch head space; seal while hot. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Yield: about 4 pints.

Wild Blackberry Jam

Prepare home canning jars and lids according to instructions.

Wash and pick over blackberries. Crush one cup at a time. Measure berries and juice. Heat through in a heavy saucepan, adding1/4 teaspoon of butter to prevent foaming. Add3/4 cup sugar for each cup of berries and juice. Simmer rapidly, stirring constantly, until thick (about 20 minutes).

Skim off any foam before pouring into sterilized jars, leaving a1/4 -inch head space; seal while hot.

Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Peach and Cherry Jam

7 cups of peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into small pieces

7 cups of cherries, pitted, and cut in half

12 cups of sugar

1 lemon, seeded and ground

Prepare home canning jars and lids according to instructions. Crush fruit lightly and heat through. Add lemon, sugar and1/4 teaspoon of butter to prevent foaming. Simmer rapidly, stirring constantly, until thick or desired consistency.

Skim off any foam before pouring into sterilized jars, leaving a1/4-inch head space; seal while hot. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Berry Syrup/Sauce

(For blackberries, strawberries,

raspberries, etc.)

Prepare home canning jars and lids according to instructions.

Prepare “berry juice” by washing and picking over fruit. Slightly crush them in small amounts. Measure 8 cups berries and juice. Place in a heavy saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain mixture in a jelly bag or cheese cloth. Discard fruit for syrup. Retain some of the fruit if a sauce is desired.

21/2 cups of berry juice

31/2 cups of sugar

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Bring juices to a full boil. Add sugar. Boil hard exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Skim off any foam before pouring into sterilized jars, leaving a1/4-inch head space; seal while hot.

Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Recipe can be doubled.

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