You probably know Hugh Acheson as a Bravo Top Chef judge, but the Southern chef is also participating as the host of Jarden Home Brands' International Can-It-Forward Day on Aug. 16. In preparation of the big canning event, the chef spoke to us about the weirdest thing he's canned, what he thinks will be the next mason jar salad, and the biggest mistakes he sees people make when canning.
POPSUGAR: Why should people start canning?
Hugh Acheson: I have a deep love of canning. In the South, canning is just so utterly important to that idea of just saving recipes and expanding culinary knowledge. It's a thing we grew up with. It was our first sensation of being in the kitchen with our grandmothers. To me, it's a gateway of getting people to cook. I want people to realize that canning is a cook's art — not a high chefdom art. It's something that we all can give a big hug to and figure out.
PS: What are your favorite recipes from your new Pick a Pickle swatch book?
HA: For me and the family, the bread and butter pickles are just stellar. The pickled carrots are really good.
PS: What cuisine's pickles really intrigue you?
HA: I'm really into Japanese and Korean pickles right now, like making kimchi from scratch. There's all sorts of fun fridge pickles down in Japan that are just awesome, rice wine vinegar-based pickles.
PS: What's the strangest thing you've pickled?
HA: Pickled tongue is always going to take people by surprise, but it's really good. There's some stranger meat pickles that you'll find. The stuff we are working on right now is more vegetable-based stuff just because it's Summer and everything is so bright and beautiful. It's that time of year.
PS: The latest trend using mason jars is building layered salads. What lesser-known use of mason jars do you think will gain rapid popularity next?
HA: For organizing drawers, grains, and everything like that, mason jars are great. If I get a big bag of farro or rice, I distribute them to a number of different jars and freeze them if I need to keep them really fresh. We brew weigh-out or dose coffee at all of our restaurants in tiny little mason jars.
PS: What are some interesting and unusual uses for mason jars?
HA: I do a lot of coddled eggs at home with mushrooms, sautéed spinach, Aleppo chillies, and an egg or two. Put that in a jar and slowly cook in a water bath with the cover on the jar; then you have a beautiful French item. Most people aren't making things like that. We do a lot of crème brulée and flans in the mason jar. You can do savory custards like chawanmushi, a Japanese custard.
PS: What's the number one mistake people make when canning at home?
HA: Make sure to follow base canning practices, that you follow the directions pretty tightly, that your jars are really clean and sanitized, and you have the lidding on the jar precisely. A lot of people are not processing the jars long enough. They do a five-minute process time and that's not really enough for food safety. All the things are addressed in so many canning guides; Fresh Preserving has got everything you need to walk through the entire canning process.
Source: Jarden Home Brands