Giveaway: New West Knife Works Paring Knife

NewWest vertical

It used to be that when I traveled for the holidays, I would always take care to pack a sharp knife or two into my checked luggage. No matter where I was spending Christmas, I knew I’d end up doing some cooking and would inevitably be frustrated by their array of slicers and choppers.

Thankfully, I don’t have to chance my favorite knives to the whims of TSA anymore, because a few years back, I started a personal campaign to improve the situation in my parents’ and sister’s kitchens. That way, when I go to visit them, I don’t end up moved to tears by the state of their cutlery.

NewWest paring knife

If you find yourself in similar straits when traveling to visit family, consider doing your part to improve the state of their knife drawer. If they’ve got good knives gone dull, a simple sharpener like this one will help save your sanity.

If their knives are just plain lousy, consider giving them one well-made knife. You’ll save your own sanity and take care of the gift list in a single swoop.

NewWest handle

One such maker of beautiful, present-appropriate knives is New West Knife Works. Their blades are light, strong, and hold and edge. The Fusionwood handles are lovely to look at and to hold (do know that the factory that made their handles burnt down earlier this year, so if you like the looks of the Fusionwood, make sure to get one soon as inventory is low).

Because it’s the holiday season, I have one Fusionwood paring knife to give away to one of my readers. This is the last giveaway of 2014, and I’m so happy to be able to offer such a good one! Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your favorite holiday and/or end of year tradition. Do you make the same cookie each year? Do the latkes get cooked in the same pan? Is there a solstice ceremony you particularly love? Do you gather with the same people to watch football on New Year’s Day?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, December 20, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, December 21, 2014.
  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: New West Knife Works is the sponsor of this giveaway and they have provided two paring knives. One for me for photography purposes and another for the winner. Additionally, they are currently a Food in Jars sponsor. However, all opinions expressed in this post remain entirely mine. 

One last thing! The folks at New West Knife Works have a sister brand called MTN Man Toy Shop. If you are still looking for the perfect gift for the mountain man in your life, it’s worth a gander.

Comments { 413 }

Pickled Cranberries for Ball’s 25 Days of Making and Giving

pickled cranberries pint

I am a devoted to the belief that when it comes to holiday giving, a homemade gift (preferably edible), is best. I come by this attitude honestly, as my parents have a tradition of pairing my mother’s homemade jams with quart jars of my dad’s famous pancake mix to share with their friends, family, and neighbors.

I’ve been filling little flat rate boxes to send off some of my favorite far-flung people, and when my local family gathers on Saturday for our annual Hanukkah party, I’ll be carrying a sturdy crate full of jams and pickles so that everyone can pick their favorite.

pickled cranberries pint horizontal

This year, I’ve teamed up with Ball Canning to share a seasonal recipe as part of their 25 Days of Making and Giving campaign. All across the internet, bloggers have been posting their favorite gift in a jar creation to help inspire your handmade holiday. For my part, I’ve decided to share an updated and improved version of my pickled cranberries.

I initially wrote a recipe for pickled cranberries back in the days when I was writing about pickles for Serious Eats. However, I’ve found that the yield wasn’t perfectly consistent and readers sometimes struggled to find some of the ingredients I called for. This new and improved version makes exactly 4 pints of preserves (which you can either can in pint jars, or spread across half pints, for an increased gifting yield) and uses things you should be able to get at the grocery store or local spice shop.

pickled cranberries

The finished pickle is a lovely thing to serve alongside roast meat or with a cheese plate, and if you’re going to pack it up in a box to ship across country, I highly suggest that you include a note telling the recipient to stir the liquid into sparkling water or a gin and tonic.

Win Canning Supplies during Ball Canning’s 25 Days of Making and Giving

This recipe is part of Ball Canning’s 25 Days of Making and Giving—each day throughout December, Ball will be sharing a new gift-in-a-jar recipe or tutorial designed for holiday giving Make sure to check back each day throughout the month for a new, fun way to handcraft your holiday gifts. You can also follow Ball Canning on Facebook or Pinterest to stay on top of the daily posts!

During the 25 Days of Making and Giving, Ball is giving away daily prizes to those who enter on the contest website (you can enter every day)! Each daily entry is also included in the grand prize drawing for a FreshTech Automatic Canning System.

Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with Ball Canning. However, all the thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely mine.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 8 }

Links: Bourbon, Linzer Bars, and Winners

I've got three different ferments going on in this lunch!

Every Sunday night, I sit down to write up these links and marvel at the fact that a whole week has passed. The pace at which time passes leaves me absolutely dizzy. This weekend flew by in a whirl of grocery shopping, holiday errands, and Ikea trips (my mother-in-law moved to an apartment just 15 minutes away from us last week and as it goes with any move, she needed things to make the new space work for her). It was close to 8 pm when we returned home from assembling her new furniture. Never in my life have I been more grateful for take-out burritos. Now, links!

to go jar stack

The winners in last week’s ToGoJars giveaway are:

Comments { 2 }

The 2014 Class of Preserving and DIY Books

stack of 2014 preserving books high res

A couple weeks ago, I gave away a short stack of preserving books and promised that I’d be back soon with a more comprehensive list of this year’s canning, pickling, and DIY books. Today is the day for that post and as I went through my bookshelves to pull the various volumes, I was reminded that this has been an incredible year for books in this category.

This year’s list features 20 books, some of which I’ve written about previously and others that haven’t gotten any blog love as of yet. Some I bought, and some came to me as review copies (and honestly, at this point I really don’t remember which is which). For each book, you’ll see that I link to both Amazon and Powell’s (because my liberal guilt is such that I can’t only offer a corporate behemoth option). The Amazon links are affiliate ones, the Powell’s links are not.

2014 preserving books 1

  • On the top of the stack is Hugh Acheson’s funny little book, Pick a Pickle. The recipes are good and interesting, the instructions for sealing jars are not (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • Next up is Leda Meredith’s book Preserving Everything. Leda is a wild edibles expert and has created an exceptionally comprehensive book that offers instruction on canning, fermenting, pickling, freezing, and more. (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • The Put ‘em Up! Preserving Answer Book came out this spring and is final volume in Sherri Brooks Vinton’s excellent canning trilogy. It has a tremendous amount of detail and would make an excellent gift for a nervous new canner.(Amazon | Powell’s)
  • Quench, Ashley English’s seventh book, came out this fall and opened up a new world of homemade beverage possibilities. It runs the spectrum of soft and hard drinks, and includes a guest recipe from me!(Amazon | Powell’s)
  • If you were to judge a book by it’s cover, you might skip Andrea Weigl’s Pickles & Preserves (at first glance, it seems like a quiet little book). However, that would be a mistake. This slim volume contains fifty classic Southern preserves and should be in every canner’s collection. (Amazon | Powell’s)

2014 preserving books 2

2014 preserving books 3

  • I learned to make shrubs thanks to Michael Dietsch’s 2011 Serious Eats piece on the topic. As far as I’m concerned, he was one of the primary instigators of this trend and knows more about the world of delicious vinegar-spiked syrups than anyone out there. I’ve been eagerly awaiting his book, Shrubs, since hearing he was working on it and am so delighted to have it in hand. It does not disappoint! (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • My sister started drinking kombucha a decade ago. She’d offer me sips and I’d decline with a shudder. However, over the years, I’ve gone from a kombucha hater to someone who makes batches of it at home on a weekly basis. Kombucha Revolution by Stephen Lee and Ken Koopman has been a most helpful addition to my brewing flow. (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • Fresh & Fermented by Julie O’Brien and Richard Climenhage is another book that strives to help you go beyond simply making fermented foods to incorporating them into all manner of recipes. (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • Kirsten and Christopher Shockey’s Fermented Vegetables is such a great guide to home fermenting. I love the step-by-step pictures, coupled with stories from their lives. The best pickle I made this summer (brined dilly beans!) came from this book. (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • Asian Pickles is the ideal book for anyone who wants to start expanding their pickle repertory. Written by Karen Solomon, this book wraps its arms around whole continents worth of pickles. (Amazon | Powell’s)

2014 preserving books 4

  • Ivy Manning’s Better from Scratch is a book that hasn’t gotten nearly enough love this year. It contains sweet preserves, savory salsas, a few cured proteins, crackers, and more. It’s a good gift for DIY dabblers who don’t want a single-subject book. (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • Arranged by month, The Farmer’s Kitchen Handbook by Marie W. Lawrence is bursting with recipes that will help you put up and use up the bounty of the season. Just know that if you need your cookbook to have lots of full page photography, this one isn’t a good fit for you. There are lots of images, but they’re thumbnails. (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther isn’t solely devoted to pantry staples, but it has a lovely chapter towards the back called “From the Larder” that includes a terrific selection of pickles, relishes, and preserves that is worth the cost of admission. (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • I can’t say enough good things about Cathy Barrow’s long-anticipated book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. It is THE book for people who want to do a deep, thorough dive into building a from-scratch pantry. (Amazon | Powell’s)
  • Finally, Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade by Rachel Saunders. A meticulous preserver and writer, Rachel has written the definitive book for people who stare at their pantry and wonder, “what else can I do with this besides smear it on toast.” A must-own for an avid canner. (Amazon | Powell’s)
Comments { 9 }

Holiday Giving: Oven Toasted Caramel Corn

jar of caramel corn

Back in the days when we were still allowed to bring homemade treats to school for holiday parties, my mom would make honey butter popcorn. She would pop enough corn to fill a clean brown paper grocery bag, and boil brown sugar, honey, butter, and vanilla extract together.

When it was thick, she’d pour the hot syrup over the popcorn, tossing vigorously with a long handled wooden spoon. The popcorn would also get a generous sprinkling of salt as she stirred the syrup in. As soon as the coated corn wasn’t molten hot, we’d be allowed a few tastes.

popping corn

When it was cooled enough to handle, but not entirely firm, she’d portion it out into plastic sandwich bags and tie them off with the colored ribbon that you could curl with a scissors blade. I was always excited to share that popcorn with my friends at school, thinking it the very best offering possible.

These days, I still think that crisp, sweet popcorn is one of the very best treats around. It’s one of those things that I love to make but only cook up a batch when I know I can move most of it out of the house immediately. My self control wanes when there is caramel corn within reach.

caramel popcorn sheet tray

Last Saturday, some dear friends had their annual holiday party. It’s an event that features a wide array of delicious, sugary, holiday-themed confections and I needed something worthy to add to the spread. After a quick appraisal of my pantry stores and the amount of time left before we needed to leave for the party, caramel popcorn was the winner.

These days, I use an approach that marries how my mom would make hers, with the low heat toasting that Molly Wizenberg wrote about some six years ago. It results in a crisp, deeply caramel-y corn that keeps its texture best if you stash it in jars or zip-top bags the moment it is cool.

top of caramel corn

This popcorn also makes a terrific addition to holiday cookie plates and gift bags. If you’re mailing out treat boxes, a quart bag of this corn bulks out your offering without increasing your shipping costs much. It can also serve as an edible cushion for more fragile baked goods and jars. Pair it with a bag of Eleanor’s roasted Chex Mix, for the pinnacle of sweet and salty.

Before we get to the recipe, a note. There is a suggestion in the very back of Food in Jars that you infuse flaky sea salt with vanilla beans. If you’ve made it and have a jar kicking around, make sure to use it on this popcorn. The subtle hint of vanilla you get from the salt makes a darned fine addition to the popcorn.

Oh, and just one last thing. If you are looking for a good way to make stove top popcorn, may I suggest the Whirley-Pop? It is definitely a unitasker (forgive me, Alton Brown), but I love mine with an unreasonable amount of passion. If you are a popcorn lover looking to break your dependence on the microwave stuff and have a sliver of spare storage space, you should get one.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 11 }

Giveaway: ToGoJar Lid and Connector

to go jar single

This week, I’m giving away three ToGoJar lids. These nifty jar lids/connectors allow you to screw together two jars. This is one of those products that I wish has been around when I was packing my lunch up into jars each morning (a jar of soup with an accompanying stash of crackers leaps to mind as a good use for these).

to go jar with lid

The lids don’t themselves provide a liquid tight seal, but they’re designed so that you can settle a regular jar lid into the top, which when well-tightened, will protect from most leakage.

to go jar stack

Right now, these lids are available only through a Kickstarter campaign (it wraps up in nine days), so if this is something you’d find useful, make sure to hop over there and support them (getting some lids in the process).

I have a three of the ToGoJars to share with you guys. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite holiday treat. Linzer cookie? Gingerbread? Homemade caramels? I have handmade treats on the brain and I want to hear about yours.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, December 13, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, December 14, 2014.
  3. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: JarToGo sent me a bunch of these lids for review and giveaway. I am keeping two and giving the other three away. They did not provide any compensation.