Thursday, July 26, 2012

Canning in Brasil

A fraction of Iguacu Falls
We just got back from vacation.  Today.  After 24 hours of travel.  We spent the past 2 weeks in Brasil, partly on our own and partly visiting my friends who go home every summer to be with their family.  It was:  lovely, foreign, chaotic, hot sometimes, cold sometimes, wet sometimes, friendly, loud and wonderful.  We spent 4 nights in Rio de Janeiro, 3 nights at Iguacu Falls, and 7 nights with our friends in small places that aren't even in the travel guides.  In that week we rented a car and drove on some roads that really shouldn't have little tiny VWs on them.  They require trucks with 4 wheel drive.  But, somehow, I managed to stay on those roads, over the rickety bridges of death, to see some beautiful farmland, fauna in the form of livestock, rheas, macaws, vultures, toucans, an owl, and other birds, and meet even more of our friends' extended family.

Cooking with Wilma
While hanging out with our friends, I gave the matriarch some homemade jams and jellies I'd lugged across Brasil which, miraculously, didn't break.  I made sure to bring things they don't have there:  violet jelly, wild blueberry jam, and the apricot-ginger-mulberry jam.  I brought 2 others for my friend's sister, who hosted us for 4 of the 7 nights - black locust flower jelly and strawberry margarita jam.  In return, I acquired a jar of very spicy peppers preserved in oil and a lesson in making doces (sweets) - including papaya-pineapple jam (Mamao-abacaxi, if you speak Portuguese.  I made some improvements in my language skills, but it still comes out more like Spanish).  Overall, the food was very tasty and the coffee was fabulous.

Wilma, one of many cousins I met, taught me to make 2 doces:  the mamao-abacaxi jam and a pineapple-coconut sweet.  The latter involves cooking fresh pineapple cubes with sugar, water, clove, cinnamon and shredded coconut in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes then letting it cool and boiling it some more just on the stove.  The former required 1 pineapple and 1 slightly firm papaya, they were shredded into a pot and 400 g of sugar were added.  This was cooked and cooked and cooked until it cooked down and became jam-like in consistency; clove and cinnamon were added at the last minute.  Then we put them in jars.  In general, they don't really do the whole boiling-water canner thing.  They put their sweets in recycled jars, and just flip them over and let them seal (or hope that they do).  The reason I didn't come home with a jar of the pineapple and coconut sweet was that the jar didn't seal.  Which is a bummer.  That was good.  There's another doce I like, it's pumpkin and coconut and you wouldn't think it would work, would you.  It totally does.  I did not learn how to make it, but I might try to figure it out.

I double-ziplocked the jars I did bring home, which was a good thing, because the peppers did leak a little, but I think they will be ok.  You can smell how hot they are when the closed jar is well over an inch from your nose!  The jars made it without breaking, well padded by clothes and paper towels.

Today we got off the plane, my father picked us up and brought us home, where my mother had very kindly gotten the house in order and made us a lasagna.  What a great re-introduction to reality!  It had been a long, long, series of flights and we were tired.  (Boston to Miami to Rio, then Rio to Foz do Iguacu, then Foz do Iguacu to Sao Paulo to Sao Jose do Rio Preto, then Sao Jose do Rio Preto to Sao Paulo to New York to Boston, with a 5 hour layover in NY.)  Then I dropped everything and went to the farm to pick up the share.  Between that and a few things in my own pots, I had the makings of a very fresh salad:  lettuce, arugula, cucumber, peas (they were from my pots, and a little old, but they were all we were going to get from those plants), bell pepper, strawberries and nasturtium flowers.  There's more to the farm share, but I'm hoping to have some posts on that in the next few days.

Brasil was wonderful, but it's good to be home, too.


  1. I'm wondering how in this day and age you managed to take and bring back foodstuffs without problems.
    Sounds like you had a great trip!

    1. If it's a liquid, like jams and jellies and the like, it needs to be in checked luggage, and for that I pad them with paper towels, put them in ziplocs, wrap them in my clothes and hope that they make it (neither broken nor stolen). I did declare that I was bringing food into each country (theirs and ours) and they never asked for more detail. Anything store bought is generally fine.


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