Other People’s Preserves: Department of Sweet Diversions

The Suite Surprise

Other People’s Preserve is my opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the very delicious jams, pickles, and preserves being made by dedicated professional canners. If you spot one of these products in the wild, make sure to scoop up a jar.

This week’s featured preserve maker is the Department of Sweet Diversions. Based in Los Angeles and run by Virginie and Thomas, the Dept. uses traditional jam, jelly, butter, and marmalade techniques combined with modern flavor profiles in order to create a tasty little product line.

Dept of Sweet Diversions

I had a chance to dig into a jar of their The Suite Surprise. It’s a nicely textured, highly spiced apple butter that’s sweetened with agave nectar instead of sugar. It’s a good one for stirring into plain yogurt or spreading into a peanut butter sandwich.

apple butter top

Thomas, one half the Dept. of Sweet Diversions team, recently took the time to answer a few of my questions about their preserves business. Read on to learn a little bit more!

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Cookbooks: Honey & Oats

honey & oats cover

I have been interested in cookbooks for nearly as long I can remember. I picked up the habit of reading them cover to cover when I was eight or nine years old and haven’t stopped since. One aspect of this blog that brings me an awful lot of pleasure is that it grants me the opportunity to share particularly good cookbooks with all of you.

honey & oats spine

Since mid-March, I haven’t done as good a job as I would have liked with this cookbook sharing. Shepherding my own cookbook through the world took up a goodly amount of my attention and just didn’t leave me with a whole lot of energy with which to pore over the new cookbooks that find their way into the unsteady stack by my desk. I’m finally starting to work my way through the pile and I’m going to be better about writing about the best of the books that find their way into my life.

honey & oats interior

One book that I’ve been itching to share is Honey & Oats by Jennifer Katzinger. It’s a book devoted to baking with whole grains and natural sweeteners and it couldn’t be a better fit for the way I like to eat. The featured grains are oats (obviously), einkorn, wheat, barley, buckwheat, spelt, kamut, teff, and tapioca. The sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, and sucanat.

buttermilk biscuits

There are 75 recipes in the book and they are divided into six sections – Scones & Muffins, Cookies & Bars, Quick Breads, Yeasted Breads & Crackers, Pies & Tarts, and Cakes & Frostings. Ten of the recipes are vegan and another ten are gluten-free. If you have a strictly GF household, this probably isn’t the book for you. However, if you occasionally find yourself needing to product a GF bread or dessert option for a party or potluck, it would definitely be a good addition to your library.

sweet potato skillet cornbread

I have marked a number of recipes to try. In the very near future, I’d like to make the Pear Ginger Muffins with Streusel Topping (barley flour, einkorn flour, and sucanat), the Buttermilk Biscuits (kamut and einkorn flours), Snickerdoodles (teff flour and sucanat), the Applesauce Currant Snack Bread (buckwheat flour, einkorn flour, and maple syrup), and the Sweet Potato Skillet Corn Bread (kamut flour, cornmeal, and honey).

barley walnut boule

As far as the look and feel of this book, it’s entirely lovely. It’s a sturdy, hardbound book that lays flat and open with just a firm press of the pages. The photography stays tight on the food and makes it easy to imagine the various breads, cookies, and pies in your own home. I do wish that a few more of the recipes had images, but knowing how much time, energy and money it takes to produce good food photography, I understand why there aren’t more pictures.

If you like to bake with whole grain flours and less refined sweeteners, you will love this book.

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Preserves in Action: Pumpkin Carrot Bread with Pear Vanilla Preserves

pumpkin carrot bread breakfast

I realize that no one really needs me to suggest spreading jam on bread. It is a deeply familiar application and one that requires little in the way of imagination. But, when you find yourself in possession of a very special loaf of bread, it feels like the best way to go.

pumpkin carrot bread

The bread in question is the Pumpkin Carrot from High Street’s new Fall bread line. A crisp crust is coated in pumpkin seeds. The interior is vibrantly orange and studded with sweet currants. And while it’s perfect all on its own, spread with a little salted butter and some smooth pear vanilla jam (recipe coming next week), it made for simple, special breakfast.

pumpkin carrot bread with jam

For those of you who don’t live close enough to get your hands on a loaf of this bread (sadly, High Street has just one location here in Philly and they’re not sharing the recipe), don’t fret. Find a bakery in your town that is using sour dough starters, long rising periods, and interesting flours. Or if that isn’t available, make yourself a loaf of no-knead bread. Open up a jar of jam. And have your own simple, special breakfast.

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Good Things to Preserve in Late October

sugar pumpkin

It is a cool, rainy day in Philadelphia. I’m back to drinking hot coffee or tea in the morning, after months of wanting my caffeine doctored with ice. The summer fruits and vegetables are all gone from the markets and have been replaced by apples, pears, cauliflower, and massive bundles of leafy greens.

For many, this change in the season means that it’s time to put the canning pot away. I firmly believe that there’s still plenty to preserve this time of year (and hallelujah for that. I had a busy summer and still have far too many empty jars kicking around the apartment).

Here are some of my favorite jams, butters, pickles, and chutneys that are perfect for autumn preserving.

Pears

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I love making jams and chutneys with pears. I am smitten with their slightly grainy texture and delicate flavor. They are good on their own, but also play nicely with any number of herbs and spices.

  • Pear Vanilla Jam – This is, by far, my very favorite pear preserve. Look for a smooth, small batch approach on the blog next week.
  • Pear Cranberry Jam – Good on toast, even better with a turkey dinner.
  • Pear and Chocolate Jam – This version uses bits of a dark chocolate bar and is quite rich. Look for a lighter, cocoa powder-based take in Preserving by the Pint.
  • Pear Cinnamon Jam – For deepest flavor, use Vietnamese Cinnamon.
  • Pickled Asian Pears – This recipe is from Karen Solomon’s wonderful book, Asian Pickles. I love them tossed into baby arugula salads.

Apples

apples

Apples are just the best thing ever for a dedicated autumn canner. There’s just so much they can do, including playing a starring role in jams, butters, sauces, and chutneys. Get yourself a half bushel and go to town.

  • Honey Lemon Apple Jam – It’s bright, sweet, and perfectly spreadable. The secret is that you cook the apples down with the lemon juice before adding the sugar and honey.
  • Spiced Apple Butter – The slow cooker does all the work for you in this delicious preserve.
  • Apple Pie Filling – With a couple of pie crusts in the freezer, dessert will practically make itself.
  • Apple Cranberry Jam – For even more flavor, add a little cinnamon, ginger, and allspice to the cooking jam.
  • Apple Cider Syrup – Good in a mug of hot tea, great in a bourbon cocktail.

Pickles and Chutneys

peach chutney

What are you canning this time time of year? (My most recent fall preserve was this batch of Apple Pear Sauce for October Unprocessed!).

 

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Canning 101: An Applesauce FAQ

pint of applesauce

When it comes to my own canning, I like to make a mix of fun things and pantry staples. That means that while I make plenty of highly spiced jams and fancy pickles, I also make a point of putting up a goodly amount of tomato puree and applesauce each year. I stir applesauce into oatmeal, bake it into cakes, and eat it straight from the jar when lunchtime pickings are slim.

One would think that applesauce would be a fairly straightforward thing to preserve, but it can be surprisingly tricky, particularly for new canners. After getting a number of questions about applesauce recently, I thought I’d put together a list of commonly asked applesauce questions and my answers, in the hopes of putting many minds at ease.

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What is the best kind of apple for sauce?
I don’t really think that there’s any one apple that makes the best sauce and truly, the best apples to use are the ones you have. I have cooked any number of apples into sauce and it has always been delicious. I would advise that you start with apples that taste good to you and that are relatively free from damage or rot (cutting around a bad spot or two is totally fine).

If you’re working with relatively sweet apples, you can always add a little lemon juice to balance the flavor. If the fruit is quite tart, a little sugar or honey will help adjust the sweetness.

apples

What is the best way to make applesauce?
Your apple saucing approach depends on the gear you have in your kitchen. For basic batches, all you really need is a peeler, a paring knife, and a potato masher. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Dump them into a big pot with a little water to prevent burning, and cook them on low until they are soft. Use the potato masher to smash them into a chunky sauce.

If you have a food mill or a tomato press with a saucing screen, you can skip the peeling process and put the cored and quartered apples right into your pot. Add a little water, over the pot, and simmer until the apples are tender. Then, work them through the food mill or tomato press. You’ll end up with a peel-free sauce with a uniform texture.

If you want to include the skins in your finished product, core and quarter the apples. Put them in a pot with a little water and cook until soft. Once they’re tender, work the apples through a blender in batches, pureeing until the apple skins are integrated. This works best with a high speed blender, like a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja, but can be accomplished in regular blenders or with an immersion blender if you’re persistent.

I personally like a chunky applesauce, so often use an approach that blends the first and second techniques. I core and quarter my apples, but leave the peels on. I simmer the sauce until it’s tender. Once the fruit flesh has started to separate from the peels, I stand over the pot with a pair of tongs and pull the skins off the fruit. I work those peels through a food mill, to catch any bits of sauce, and then mash the remaining naked apples with a potato masher. You get the color and some of the vitamins from the peels and still retain the chunky consistency.

Apple-Pear Sauce

Do I have to add anything to my applesauce to make it safe for canning?
Nope. Because apples are naturally high in acid, you don’t have to add a thing to it to make it safe for boiling water bath canning. What’s more, apples also have a goodly amount of sugar, so they keep well once canned.

Can I add things to my applesauce?
Yes! You can add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, citrus zest, citrus juice, sugar, honey, or maple syrup (though use maple syrup in conservative amounts. It is lower in acid than other sweeteners and if added in large quantities, can impact the finished acidity of the applesauce.

How long do I process applesauce in a boiling water bath canner? 
If you live under 1,000 feet in elevation, you process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes. If you live above 1,000 feet, your processing time adjustments can be found here. Times and pressure amounts for processing a pressure canner can be found here, though it is not necessary for safety and can often lead to product loss.

apples

I just took my jars of applesauce out of the canner and they are leaking! What did I do wrong?
First of all, know that applesauce almost always siphons like that. It’s hard to prevent it entirely, but you can do a couple of things to help minimize it.

The first is to minimize the amount of air you work into the apples during the saucing process. Apples pushed through a food mill or tomato press can take on more air than those mashed with a potato masher. The air isn’t the end of the world, but it will expand during the processing, which will then force some sauce out of the jar.

The second thing to do is to let the jars cool gradually once the processing time is up. The worst siphoning typically happens in the moments just after you pull the jars out of the canner, when they’re still really hot. Instead, let the jars sit in the canning pot for 10-15 minutes after the canning process is done. Once your timer goes off, you slide the pot off the burner and remove the lid. Let the jars cool slowly in the pot. After the 10-15 minutes are up, pull the jars out. They may start to siphon some, but it will (hopefully) be less than you’ve experienced in the past.

apples for pie filling

If my jars siphon, but the lids eventually seal, is my sauce still safe? 
Yes! No matter how much they leak, if the seals are nice and tight, they are still safely shelf stable.

The surface of my applesauce has turned brown! Is it still safe? 
It is! That is normal oxidation. You can either scrape off the brown layer or just stir it into the rest of he sauce.

If there is mold on the outside of my applesauce jars, is it still safe? 
Yes! Sometimes you end up with a little bit of residual applesauce on the outside of the jars because of the siphoning I mentioned up above. It’s that applesauce residue that is molding. As long as the seal is still good and firm, the sauce inside the jar is perfectly safe.

There are some air bubbles in my finished, sealed jar of sauce. Is it still safe? 
As long as those air bubbles aren’t moving around, they are fine. You can read more about air bubbles in finished products in this post.

If you have an applesauce question that you don’t see here, please make sure to leave a comment and I’ll update this post.

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Giveaway: A Kitchen Box + Discount Code

a kitchen box front

One trend that I’m very much enjoying these days is the rise of the curated subscription box. It used to be that subscriptions were limited to books, magazines, music, and occasionally, cheese. These days, you can sign up to receive all manner of items on monthly or quarterly basis.

A Kitchen Box is one such subscription box company. They focus on products and recipes designed to inspire you in the kitchen and they make sure to include something to see, taste, learn, and try in every box.

Recently, I teamed up with the folks at A Kitchen Box on a Food in Jars-themed box and it turned out even more beautifully than I could have imagined.

a kitchen box

The box includes a gorgeously printed copy of my recipe for Orange Tomato and Smoked Paprika Jam, a pretty picture postcard of that jam, a packet of Sweet Smoked Paprika from Whole Spice, two Le Parfait 324 ml French Jam Storage Jars (you treat these like any other lug lid jar), canning labels, music downloads, and a grey flour sack towel. They also donate $1 from each purchase to Rogue Valley Orphanage Outreach.

Brooke and Ang from A Kitchn Box have offered one of these Food In Jars Box for this week’s giveaway. Additionally, they’re offering all Food in Jars readers $10 off the first month of any new AKB Subscription, along with a free Mini Box (while their limited stash lasts). If you want in on the deal, use the code ‘foodinjars’ in the coupon field at check-out.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about either something to which you subscribe, or something you wish you could subscribe to (I once had a subscription to toilet paper through Amazon. It was an amazing way to never run out).
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, October 25, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by the end of the day on Sunday, October 26, 2014.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: A Kitchen Box sent me one of the Food in Jars boxes for photography purposes. No additional compensation was provided. 

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