Cranberries for Thanksgiving and Beyond

bag of cranberries

I realize that Thanksgiving is mere moments away, but I thought I’d do a quick round-up of my personal cranberry-centric writing, just in case anyone was still searching for a new jam, chutney, or sauce for this year. Additionally, while these preserves are most traditional on the fourth Thursday in November, they also make good accents (and gifts!) throughout the holiday season.

cranberry apple jam

First up are my cranberry-based jams. These spreads can be served on Thanksgiving morning on a toasted scone, or with the turkey later that day. Because cranberries have so much natural pectin, these jams make an excellent filling in thumbprint cookies because they won’t get runny during baking.

molded cranberry sauce

Now for sauces and marmalades. These tend to be a little less sweet than the jams above, but just as delicious

pickled cranberries

The rest of these cranberry items resist being grouped into a single category. There’s my pickled cranberries, which may well be my favorite cranberry preserve ever and pair up best with dark meat. A couple years back, I wrote a piece for Grid Philly that featured cranberries, and the oven-roasted butternut squash and cranberry dish in that article is one I love.

If you prefer cranberries in quick breads, these mini-loaves will please you (of course, they can also be baked in a muffin tin or even a conventional loaf pan).

cranberry clafoutis

Another delicious cranberry treatment is this clafoutis from Yvette Van Boven’s book, Home Made Winter. It works for dessert, or on a brunch buffet.

Finally, I’ve got two Thanksgiving suggestions that don’t involve cranberries, but are so good they require shout-outs. The first is the lentil pate from Kim O’Donnel’s book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations. It hits all the flavor notes that a batch chopped liver does, but without necessitating that you actually deal with liver.

The second suggestion is the sweet potato puree that I wrote about for Table Matters two years ago. The recipe is adapted from one that Heidi Swanson posted back in 2006 and has been a favorite of mine since I first spotted it.

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Giveaway: Preserving Book Bundle

preserving books

Friends, so many good preserving books came out in the last year. Truly, I feel like we’re in a golden age for jams, pickles, chutneys, ferments, and even low acid home canning. For this week’s giveaway, I have a short stack of recent preserving releases that would be a fantastic addition to any DIY library.

Now, just to be clear, this is not my definitive list of the best preserving books to hit the shelves this year. I just happen to have extra copies of all three of these books (thanks to the publishers who helped bring these works into the world) and thought it would be nice to bundle them up and give them away to one of my readers.

Asian Pickles cover

First up in the giveaway stack is Karen Solomon’s excellent book, Asian Pickles. I wrote a bit about this book last June and the longer I have it in my collection, the more I love it. Truly, anyone who wants to expand their understanding of home picking should pick up a copy post haste.

Fermented Vegetables cover

Next is Fermented Vegetables, which has been out just over a month now. Written by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey, this book is one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly books on fermentation that I’ve seen recently. The pictures are beautiful and lend additional clarity to step-by-step recipes that might otherwise be troublesome.

Last month, I used their recipe for brined dilly beans and I was so pleased by the results that I started entertaining the idea of getting myself a mini-fridge so that I could make more.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow's cover

Last in the stack is Cathy Barrow’s much-anticipated book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. This is such an amazing book for home cooks who want to start building up a pantry filled with homemade staples. Sure, it has plenty of boiling water bath recipes, but it also deals with pressure canning, charcuterie, basic home dairy, and smoking. Anyone who likes a food project should have this one on their shelf.

There will be just one winner in this giveaway, who will receive a box with these three books in them. Here’s how to enter the giveaway.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite food preservation resource. It can be a website, book, online video, or person. Share the love so that we can all expand our knowledge.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, November 29, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, November 30, 2014.
  3. Giveaway is open to all.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: All three of these books were received as review copies. No one paid me to say nice things about them. Additionally, Karen and Cathy are both friends of mine. However, they did not ask me to run this giveaway or say these things. I do it because I like to share the good stuff with you guys.  

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Links: Cranberries, Quick Breads, and Winners

Cool vintage jars! If only I had more space!

Last week was the first seven-day period since March when I didn’t have to drive 60+ miles or do a canning demonstration. It was glorious. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love sharing my excitement around food preservation and getting to meet you guys when I’m out and about. I’ve just also found that in order to maintain my appreciation for this work I do, I need some time off from it on occasion. Now, links!

fermentools gear

Big thanks to everyone who took the time to enter last week’s Fermentools giveaway! It was fun to read all about your favorite ferments! The winners are…

And stay tuned. I’ll have a couple different fun giveaways coming this week!

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Cookbook: A Kitchen in France

A Kitchen in France cover

It is the season for big, beautiful cookbooks. Once such new entry into the holiday book gift arena is A Kitchen in France. Written by Mimi Thorisson (who is also the face and voice behind the equally lovely blog Manger), this book is beautifully photographed and gracefully designed and is devoted to Thorisson family as they live, eat and explore in the French countryside.

A Kitchen in France onion tart

When I first opened a copy of A Kitchen in France, I expected to find a lovely book that would give me the opportunity to escape into world different my own. What I didn’t expect was that the book would also contain a goodly number of recipes that I would want to immediately flag for my own to-make list.

A Kitchen in France butternut gratin

Now that the days are getting downright bone-chilling, I found myself most drawn to the soups, gratins, and stews. Anything to warm us up from the inside out appeals right now. So far, I have the Harvest Soup (page 158), Garlic Soup (page 242), and Beef Cheek Stew (page 261) on my to-make radar. Thank goodness Scott doesn’t ever get tired of eating soup for dinner!

A Kitchen in France back

I have cooked one thing from this book so far and it was a winner. When I was down in Austin last month, I made the Butternut Gratin on page 195. I took pictures of a few recipes that sounded good (so that I could try them while traveling without bringing an eight pound book with me). My sister had half of a giant squash in her fridge and some heavy cream in her fridge, so the pieces just fell into place.

A Kitchen in France spine

This recipe has actually gotten a lot of play on various websites recently, being that it’s the type that would work on a Thanksgiving table. And while that’s true, having now made it for a weeknight dinner (and pared it with turkey burgers and steamed broccoli), I think it’s one that shouldn’t be overlooked for humbler occasions.

butternut squash gratin

Most of the work is in prepping the squash, but if you have a sturdy peeler and a sharp knife, even that goes fairly quickly. I won’t reprint the recipe here, because it’s already so many places on the web (including Food52 and Leite’s Culinaria) When I made it, I used about 3/4 pound more squash than the recipe called for, and topped it with a mild grated cheddar and seasoned bread crumbs out of a cardboard canister.

Even with those humbler ingredients (used because that’s what was available), it was delicious. There were four adults and one pre-schooler eating dinner that night and we didn’t leave a drop leftover.

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Urban Preserving: Pear Vanilla Drizzle

pears in a bowl

There a short list of canning recipes that I think of as my greatest hits. They are the preserves I come back to again and again, and are also the ones about which I’ve gotten the most feedback from readers and friends. This tomato jam is one. The roasted corn salsa in Food in Jars is another. And this time of year, I always make a batch of apple cranberry jam to share for Thanksgiving.

chopping pears

Another recipe that tops the greatest hits list? Pear vanilla jam. It’s a recipe I first made in early 2011 and I’ve since done it so many times that I can produce it entirely from memory. It’s a jam that works equally well on peanut butter toast or as part of a fancy pants cheese plate (try it with Delice de Bourgogne) and is always makes for a welcome hostess gift.

pan of cooked pear jam

Recently, I’ve been taking a slightly different approach to this jam. I start with just two pounds of pears, cut the proportion of sugar down a hair, and then, when it’s all done cooking, I scrape it into a heat-proof measuring cup and puree the heck out of it with an immersion blender.

pureeing jam

What the pureeing does is that it transforms it into a sweet, sticky glaze that retains a bit of the pear’s wonderful graininess. I call it a drizzle, though if the jar has been in the fridge, it can harden slightly past the drizzle point. I’ve taken to spreading micro-thin layers on toasted and buttered whole grain pancakes (I try to keep a stash in the freezer) and really like an afternoon snack that includes rice crackers, goat cheese, and little dabs of this sweet pear goo.

pear vanilla jam drizzle

It’s not a flashy preserve, but it’s one of my favorites. Maybe it will become one yours too!

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Giveaway: Fermentools Starter Kits

fermentools set-up (1)

Whether you are a dedicated fermenter, or it’s something you’ve just been considering doing, you’re going to like this week’s giveaway. It comes to us from Fermentools, a company that make a fermenting set-up that is designed to make it nearly foolproof to make all manner of brined pickles and preserves.

fermentools gear

Their basic kit consists of a pre-drilled lid, rubber gasket, glass weight (that fits perfectly into a wide mouth mason), air lock, and two stoppers for the jar (one has a hole for the air lock and the other is solid).

Fermentools also sells a starter kit that includes all the gear in the basic kit, along with a bag of very finely milled Himalayan salt that dissolves like a dream.

fermentools salt

Now, you might wonder why you need a kit like this to ferment. Truly, you can happily make a batch of brined pickles or sauerkraut without anything more than a jar, salt, and vegetables. But if you struggle with fermenting (and I’ve heard from you guys and I know that it’s a challenge for some), using a kit that includes an air lock can help you better control the environment and ensure that it turns out well.

fermentools lid

Thanks to Matt at Fermentools, I have three of their starter kits to give away this week. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post. Tell me about your favorite ferment. Are you all about the half sour? Or do you have a crock of sauerkraut going as we speak? It doesn’t have to be something you’ve made either, just something you like.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, November 22, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, November 23, 2014.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents only (so sorry, further-flung readers).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: Fermentools is providing the kits for this giveaway. They also provided a set for photography and testing purposes. What’s more, Fermentools is a Food in Jars sponsor, but they did not provide any additional compensation beyond their sponsorship purchase. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely mine.