Giveaway: Fresh Herb Keepers from Ball Canning

fresh herb keeper

This week, the giveaway is simply about sharing a pair of Fresh Herb Keepers that landed in my possession last summer. I was doing a canning demo at a local farmers market, funded by one of Ball Canning’s Discover You Can grants.

In addition to giving this particular market a little bit of money to help with canning education, they’d also sent a bunch of materials, including cutting boards, handled drinking jars, coupons, and several boxes of these herb keepers. The organizer had given away most of the gear but there were still a few of these herb keepers left after the crowds has dispersed, and so I went home with a couple, always intending to share them here.

Now, months later, here we are. I have two of these very clever herb keepers to give away. They make it possible to vastly extend the lifespan of your fresh herbs, which is a nice thing. Essentially, it’s an updated version of the glass of water and plastic bag approach that my grandma (and probably yours) used to use, only this one doesn’t leak all over the place if you jostle the glass.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post share one way you’ve been incorporating herbs (either fresh or dried) into your cooking lately.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, March 7, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, March 8, 2015.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: I got these herb keepers for free, but no one is really sponsoring this giveaway. The Ball Canning folks don’t know I’m doing it. I just thought I’d share the wealth. 

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Links: Cheese Boards, Hamantaschen, and Winners

February 28

What a good weekend it was! A dear friend from my early days in Philly came to town. We ate Indian food, shopped the Italian Market, and hit one of South Jersey’s best thrift stores. On Saturday evening, we put out the cheese and cured meats we’d bought earlier in the day, raided my fridge for pickles and preserves (and you better believe, there was a lot to choose from) and laid everything out on the coffee table. Another long-time friend came to join us and spent six hours catching up, drinking wine, and eating our spread. It was joyful.

iLid header

Time for the winners of last week’s iLid giveaway. Thanks to our friendly neighborhood randomizer, the two lucky folks are #192/Kathleen and #274/Corrie. I’ll be in touch with both the winners shortly to get your information.

For those of you that didn’t win but were tempted by the iLid design, make sure to look for them at your local co-op or order them online!

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Citrus Salt and Makrut/Thai Lime Simple Syrup

mixed salt and zest

I’m at that point of the book writing process where I’ve canned something everyday this week, but I can’t share a single glimpse of it with you. However, I have made a couple simple little things from book testing remains that I thought might merit a peek.

zested oranges

The first is a batch of air dried orange salt. I was working on a recipe for an orangeade concentrate (it’s delicious!) and was juicing oranges four pounds at a time. Wanting to get the most out of my citrus dollar, before I squeezed those oranges dry, I took the time to run them over a microplane to salvage all that flavorful zest.

orange zest

When all was said and done, I had about a 1/2 cup of orange zest (don’t be fooled by the markings on the measuring cup, it wasn’t entirely full). I measured out an equal amount of coarse grey salt because it was what I had. Any coarse or flaky sea salt works beautifully here.

grey salt

I rubbed it all together (my hands smelled like oranges even after a thorough wash), spread it out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and let it sit on my dining room table for a day. I’ve already used it on a warm salad of roasted butternut squash, shallots, pickled cauliflower, and Israeli couscous and I will rub it all over the chicken I plan on roasting on Sunday afternoon. It would also be delicious sprinkled over a pan of warm brownies (now that I’ve written that, I may have to make some brownies).

thai limes

The other thing I made was a little jar of Makrut lime simple syrup. I’m on my second box of Meyer lemons of the season and like the first box, Karen tucked a few fragrant Makrut (or Thai) limes in with my lemons. I didn’t have enough for marmalade, but there was enough to lend flavor to some syrup.

thai lime syrup

This one couldn’t be easier. I combined equal parts sugar and water (a cup of each) in a small saucepan and added the zest and juice of my three little limes. I simmered it for a few minutes and then strained it into a jar (I didn’t want the bits of zest in my finished syrup). I use this one mostly to spice up sparkling water, but if you’re a creative cocktail person, it would make a very nice addition to your bar.

What have you been doing with your citrus lately?

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Canning 101: Why Do Colors Change in Home Canned Foods?

Packing jars

It happens to all of us at some point in our canning careers. You go to retrieve a jar of precious, brightly colored jam, only to discover that the once vibrant color has gone muddy and dull. Once you get over the disappointment, you start to wonder two things. What happened to cause the loss in color and is that jar of jam (or pickles, jelly, fruit butter, relish, fruit halves or tomatoes) still safe to eat?

There are a number of reasons why a preserve has lost its color. Let’s dig in.

Weather Conditions During Growing – The opportunity for discoloration starts while the fruit is still on the tree. Fruit that’s grown during really hot, dry summers has a tendency to turn pink once in the jars. If you experience this kind of discoloration, worry not. While it can’t be avoided, it won’t impact the flavor, texture or safety.

Picking and Storage – Produce starts to break down as soon as it comes off the tree, plant or bush. Heat and extended storage can lead to faded color. However, as long as the fruits and vegetables were still in edible shape when it went into the jar, the product is still safe to eat.

Oxidation – This one is the bane of all canners. As soon as you start cutting up fruit and exposing the flesh to air, it starts to brown. During prep, you can stave off oxidation by submerging the fruit in acidified water (a couple tablespoons of bottled lemon juice in a bowl will do the job). But even when you think you’ve done everything right, you sometimes have some browning on the surface of the finished jam (peach, nectarine, and apricot are particularly prone to this) or, in the case of whole fruit, anything peeking up out of the syrup may discolor. Still safe, though some people prefer to scrape the browned layer away.

Light Exposure – Anytime something with color is exposed to ultraviolet light, it will fade. The reason is that those UV rays weaken the chemical bonds of the color particles over time, causing them to break down. We experience this as color loss. Light-faded products are still safe to eat, but they may not be as delicious as they originally were.

Reduced Sugar – Sugar helps maintain color because it absorbs water and acts as a buffer. The more you reduce sugar in a preserve, the more prone to color loss that product will be.

Exposure to Reactive Metals – Reactive metals like copper, aluminum, and cast iron can leach small amounts of metal into your preserve during cooking, which can lead to darkening and a bonus metallic flavor (yum!). It’s best to keep highly acidic foods out of cookware made with these metals (the exception is high sugar preserves cooked in copper. The sugar prevents the metallic leaching). These preserves aren’t unsafe, but they don’t always taste good.

Use of Salt with Additives – This applies primarily to pickles, but it’s a good one to know. The reason recipes typically call for pickling salt is not just because it dissolves quickly. It’s also free of iodine and anti-caking agents, both of which can cause pickles to yellow or darken.

The basic takeaway here is that most forms of mild fading or browning don’t impact the safety of your finished product. As long as the seal is good, the preserve don’t have any mold growing on the sugar, and it doesn’t bubble when you open the jar, it’s really okay (just to be clear, we’re talking about high acid preserves here). For best quality, keep your canned goods out of direct light and in a place between 50 and 70 degrees F.

Information for this post came from the following sources: Bernardin FAQ, NCHFP Pickle Problems page, Fresh Preserving, the Library of Congress and my brain.

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Giveaway: iLids Drink and Storage Lids for Mason Jars

iLid header

Last summer while promoting Preserving by the Pint, I spent a couple days in Portland. During my stay, I made a stop at one of my favorite grocery stores on the planet – the New Seasons Market on 33rd Avenue – and discovered iLids. I snapped a quick picture, posted it to Instagram, bought one to take home with me, and made a mental note to look up more information about iLids as soon as I had a spare moment.

Thanks to the interconnectedness of the internet, before I had a chance to do more research, Traci from iLids found me. A few days later, I was in Seattle doing an event at the Book Larder and she dashed in to introduce herself and hand off a few iLid samples.

iLid on jar

I’ve been using the lids ever since. They come in both a solid, one-piece storage lid and a one-piece drinking lid (and both are available in either regular or wide mouth sizes). I use the storage lids for leftovers and lunch packing and they are satisfyingly airtight and leakproof.

The drink lids are equally sturdy. They are fitted with a sliding tab that you can use to block off the drinking hole (just like the ones that many traditional travel mugs have) and when you lid the tab back, you can either sip directly from the lid or slip a straw into the space (it has a thoughtful bump-out designed expressly for a straw!).

iLid with straw

iLids come in nine colors, are made in the USA and are free of BPA, BPS, or phthalates. You can order them directly from the company or seek out one of their retailers. You can also enter today’s giveaway. Thanks to Traci at iLids, I have two sets of lids to give away. Both winners will get four lids apiece, one of each size and function. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share something jar related. New accessory discovery? Have you finished your summer tomatoes? Did you recently break a favorite jar? I’m feeling open-ended, so go for it.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, February 28, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, March 1, 2015.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry!).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: The nice folks at iLid gave me some free lids for photography purposes and are also providing the lids for the winners of this giveaway. They are not currently Food in Jars sponsors and no money has changed hands. I simply like these lids and am happy to share them with all of you. 

Links: Apple Butter Pulled Pork and Desperation Pie

Whole wheat baguette, goat cheese, smoked salmon, and dilly beans.

Late last week, I had my first anxiety dream about the book I’m currently working on. The first draft is due in just 10 weeks, and it’s all starting to feel very real. With each book, it gets both easier and dramatically harder to get it all done. Back to work!

beans in the jar

I don’t have a winner in the Mighty Nest giveaway because the giveaway is still! going! on! If you haven’t done so already, use the widget below to enter.

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