Preserving with Mrs. Wages Pickled Okra and Vegetables Mix

This post is written in partnership with my friends at Mrs. Wages. Hope you enjoy!

This is it, friends. The last big push of the summer canning season. This is the time of year when I do things like make big vats of peach butter (cooking down as I type), scramble to get my hands on the last of the tomatoes, and I take canning help wherever I can get it.

Recently, one of my favorite canner helpers is the Pickled Okra and Vegetables spice mix from Mrs. Wages. It came to my rescue last week, when I was short on time and creativity, but had produce spilling out all over my kitchen.

The beauty of a mix like this is that is allows me to put myself on auto-pilot and just follow the instructions written on the back of the packet.

With this recipe, you prep all the veg. I used carrots, okra, cauliflower, and peppers, just like the instructions told me.

While you’re working breaking down your vegetables into pleasingly similarly sized bits, you pour a bunch of vinegar into a large pot and bring it to a boi.

Look at those peppers! Aren’t they pretty?

This packet makes seven quarts of pickles, so make sure you have a canning pot warming and your jars are prepped.

When your veg is chopped, your jars are warming, and they vinegar is boiling, add the spice mix to the pot.

Now it’s time to make some pickles. You can either toss your vegetables together in a big bowl and pack them into jars, or you can heap them into the brine and warm them up a bit (this transforms the pickle into a hot pack preserve, and helps you squeeze a bit more produce into your jars).

Once the veg and brine is divided between the prepared jars, you wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process. And boom, seven quarts of colorful, delicious pickles (I took a jar to a party last week and they were a big odl hit).

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Giveaway: Slow Cook Modern by Liana Krissoff

These days, electric pressure cookers are the hot culinary appliance. And while I love the ability to cook and braise quickly, slow cookers will forever be at the top of my kitchen helper hit parade (as I type this, I have two running in my kitchen).

Happily Liana Krissoff, one of my favorite cookbook authors, is also a devoted slow cooker fan. Her brand new book, Slow Cook Modern, is the most useful and practical take on making dinner in the slow cooker that I’ve ever seen. It’s also a ridiculously beautiful book.

There are a lot of things that are brilliant about this book. First is the fact that all the slow cooker recipes are designed to cook for 8 hours. That means, you can set up your slow cooker in the morning, go to work, and actually come home to a meal (if you have a long commute time, make sure to use a slow cooker that will switch to ‘Keep Warm’ after a pre-programmed amount of time). So many slow cooker recipes are written to cook for 3-4 hours, which is not at all useful for people who work outside their homes.

The second thing that’s really inspired about this book is that every soup, stew, braise, and roast comes paired with a side recipe, as well as suggestions for other sides in the book that would go nicely with that dish. These sides are worth the price of admission alone.

All the recipes are organized by what you need to do the in the morning and what you’ll do just before serving. There are pages with ideas for what to do with leftovers. There are a handful of recipes for slow cooker stock. There’s a chili base that I want to make this week. There’s even a recipe for slow cooker quark that I’ll be sharing on Friday! So much goodness!

I feel like this is a book that I could spend the next couple years work through and exploring. I can’t wait to dig in (and the two eggplants in my fridge mean that the Eggplant Tian on page 28 will be happening this week).

Thanks to the lovely folks at Abrams, I have a copy of this brilliant book to giveaway this week. Let’s do this one the old school method.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite slow cooker dish.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Sunday, September 17, 2017. Winners will be chosen at random and this post will be updated with the winner.
  3. Giveaway open to United States and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Abrams provided both review and giveaway copies at no cost to me. No additional compensation was provided. 

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How to Make Fresh Tulsi Tea

Even though 2017 isn’t over yet — and it’s been a pretty big year already — I know I’ll remember it as the year I met tulsi.

I was introduced to this mesmerizing plant through the yearlong monthly herbal medicine class I’m taking with a clinical herbalist and teacher here in West Philly, Kelly McCarthy of Attic Apothecary.

I meet with her and around 15 other students one full Sunday per month at historic Bartram’s Garden, where we also maintain raised beds and learn to grow herbs from wilderness gardener (and herbalist) Mandy Katz from seed to harvest.

I think it was the second class, sitting outside with our notebooks on a balmy day this April when we studied the nervous system. We learned about adaptogens, plants that contain compounds that can help the body and mind deal with stress.

There are several, like ashwagandha root, as well as some fungi, like prized reishi mushrooms. But tulsi — also known as holy basil — piqued my interest, since I already dry and brew my own blend of culinary basil varieties for tea.

Kelly has said that if she could recommend one herb to everyone, it would be tulsi — that if everyone just got their daily dose of heady, stress-relieving tea, we’d all feel a little better.

And after taking it daily as a tea made from the dried herb (purchased through Mountain Rose herbs), I have to agree with her: during difficult, stressful times, my regular tulsi habit did seem to help make life a little brighter, a little easier to deal with.

However, tea made from dried tulsi, while pleasant to drink, is somewhat unremarkable: dark in color, earthy and tannic, and only slightly reminiscent of the pungent, bubblegum-sweet essence of the fresh herb.

It wasn’t until I was regularly harvesting it from my garden this summer that I really got to know this herb — and I had to learn to remake my daily tea all over again.

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Bake a Difference with OXO For Cookies for Kids’ Cancer + Oatmeal Muffins

It’s that time of year again, when the folks at OXO host a blogger campaign for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. The goal is to help raise both awareness and funds for childhood cancer research. For every blogger who dedicates a post to the topic, they donate $100 to the cause.

I participated last year, sharing my story of losing a friend to cancer when I was in middle school, and making a batch of tasty cookie bars from Dorie’s Cookies.

This year, I’m offering up a batch of muffins rather than cookies, thankfully, I’m told that they’ll still count. And if you missed Shianne’s story last year, consider hopping over to that blog post to read it.

OXO sent me their Non-Stick Pro 12 Cup Muffin Pan, a dozen Silicone Baking Cups, and Baker’s Decorating Tool and told me to be creative. I spent a little time worrying about doing that decorating tool justice before realizing that one should always write what they know (as it were).

And so I opted to adapt a simple oatmeal muffin recipe from the classic and invaluable King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and use the filling tip on the decorating tool to give them a plum butter center. It worked better than I’d even hoped. Next time I’m invited to a brunch potluck, I know what I’ll be bringing!

I’m not someone who typically goes in for fancy decorations on baked goods of any stripe (I’d be a terrible contestant on the Great British Bake Off), and so it was my first experience using a decorating tool. I was happy to discover that it was really intuitive to use and fun to booth. I predict that there will be more jam-filling and piped frosting in my future thanks to this devise.

Oh, and if you don’t have a nifty tool for filling your muffins with jam, they would be equally good if you split them and simply gave them a healthy dollop.

Disclosure: OXO sent me the tools you see above. No additional compensation was provided for this post. 

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Fruit Butter for the September Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

It’s September and that means it’s time to explore another food preservation skill in the crazy journey we know as the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. This month, we’re digging into fruit butters. For the purposes of this challenge, we’re including butters made from winter squash and sweet potatoes, provided that they are made for the fridge or freezer (since they are too dense to be canned). It can be sweetened in any which way you want and can even be made without additional sweeteners.

Remember that the goal of this challenge is to help you expand your skills while creating something that you’ll actually use. So choose an approach or recipe that will satisfy both your own learning and help you make something delicious.

What is a fruit butter?

A fruit butter is a product that is so named because it mimics the smooth spreadability of softened butter. It is made from a puree that is cooked low and slow for a number of hours, in order to evaporate the excess liquid, concentrate flavors and intensify the innate sweetness in the fruit. Thanks to this concentration, it typically contains a minimal amount of additional sweetener.

How do you make fruit butters?

The basics of making fruit butters are these. You puree some fruit. You cook it down slowly until thick. You add sweeteners, spices, and acid (to balance the flavors) to taste and preserves.

There are three standard approaches to making fruit butters.

  1. Slow Cooker – This is my favorite method for making fruit butters because it is relatively hands off, can be done outside of the kitchen (great for busy cooking days), and is produces the steady, low heat that fruit butters love. Just remember to prop the lid to allow for the steam to vent.
  2. Stove Top – When you’re in a hurry and you have the time to tend the cooking puree, small batches can be done on the stove top. Just keep stirring to prevent scorching.
  3. Oven – Another beloved technique. I often start with whole fruit when making fruit butters, roast them until soft, smash the fruit in the pan, and then continue to cook, stirring regularly. The best part of these oven roasted butters is that they develop a rich, caramelized flavor.

The Recipes

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August Mastery Challenge Round-Up: LTP and Steam Canning

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Hello canners! So sorry for the delayed August report. I came down with the flu on August 31 and it really threw off my work plans. Happily, I’m better now and back with a little round-up. I say little, because on the whole, a lot of you did not like this month’s challenge and so participation was super low. I get it. Not every technique is for every person. Hopefully we’ll all get back on track with fruit butters in September (they’re fun! and versatile! and so tasty swirled into yogurt!).

In August, 32 die hard canners reported their participation in the Mastery Challenge. Of those 32, 25 people tried their hand at low temperature pasteurization and seven took a stab at steam canning.

As is often the case, people reported feeling uncertain about the skills prior to trying them, but once they’d tackled them, those feelings improved. Here are the charts for LTP.

And here are the feelings about steam canning.

These numbers look a little wonky, because only seven people said they tried steam canning, but more are reporting here. I feel like we can probably safely discount four people who said they felt negatively after trying. Though I’m no statistician.

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Here’s what people made!

And that’s it for the round-up for this month!

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