Sur La Table Stainless Steel Tri-Ply on Sale

sur la table stock pot

Whenever I teach canning classes, someone asks me to recommend a good jam pan. Here’s what I tell them. Every jam maker has their own favorite piece of cookware, so there’s never going to be a single, one-size-fits-all pan for me to name. Some people prefer copper confiture pans. Others like enameled cast iron. And yet, other folks like stainless steel.

I use all three materials, and choose depending on the size of the batch and which pan is clean and readily accessible. However, my default is stainless steel. The reasons for that are practical ones. Because stainless steel isn’t a reactive metal, I can combine my fruit and sugar in the pan directly (with copper, you have to dissolve the sugar into the fruit prior to putting it in the pan, otherwise you can wind up with some metallic flavor leaching).

The second reason is that if I get distracted and accidentally burn my preserve (it happens to the best of us), I can almost always scrub and soak the burnt spot off the bottom of the pan. I’ve learned the hard (painful, in fact) way that it’s much more challenging to recover from a burn on an enameled cast iron pan.

Once I get through those basics, I then name two pots that make really good jam pans. The reasons I like these two are that they are both stainless steel, hold eight quarts and are relatively low and wide (the more surface area, the better your jam will cook).

sur la table mark

The high end pot I recommend is the All-Clad Tri-Ply 8 Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot. It’s a great pot but constitutes a serious investment of funds. Depending on where you buy it and what grade you get, you’ll pay between $230 and $600.

On the more affordable end is the Sur La Table-brand Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 8 Quart Stock Pot (it also comes with a strainer insert that I use mostly for steaming). It’s not quite as low and wide as the All-Clad pot, but it is far more affordable and still does a really good job.

And here we get to the reason I’m writing this post. Currently, Sur La Table is having their Once a Year Sale and their tri-ply cookware is heavily discounted. Normally, this pot goes for $169.95. Currently, it is on sale for $101.96. That is a great price for a heavy, durable, workhorse pot. It can even double as a Dutch oven, so you can use it for no-knead bread and any other thing you might want to braise low and slow.

So, if you’re in the market for an affordable, really awesome stainless steel pot, consider yourself duly informed that this is a screaming deal on that very item.

Disclosure: Sur La Table did not ask me to write this post and I am receiving nothing for having done so. I wrote it as a service, because I always appreciate it when people clue me in to useful things at a good price.  

One more thing: The reason that there is such a price differential is that All-Clad is made in the U.S. and the Sur La Table pots are made in China. Global dynamics at work! 

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Canning 101: How Long do Home Canned Foods Really Last?

122 | 365

You hear a lot of differing advice from people on the subject of how long it’s okay to keep your preserved food once you’ve canned it. Some people say that it’s a year to the date that it went into the jars. Others will tell you that they recently ate the last of the tomatoes their grandmother canned in the summer of ’99 (1999, that is). I’m here to tell you that it’s somewhere in between.

If you talk to one of the Master Food Preservers out there or folks from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the answer goes something like this: “For highest quality, properly stored preserved foods are best eaten within a year of canning.” (Here’s exactly what the NCHFP says.)

Some people might read that statement and think that it means that they have exactly a year to eat through every last jar. The real answer is a bit more nuanced. You will get the very best flavor and quality from a jar that is in its first year, but there’s no internal self destruct devise inside the jar that goes off on day 366 or 367. Preserves older than a year are still safe for consumption.

Home preserved foods remain safe for eating far longer than their first year, but their quality does decline the longer the jars remain on the shelf (or in my case, under the couch). This means that the jam you made two or three years ago is probably still just fine to eat but it may not taste quite as good as did on that summer afternoon when you first put it in the jars. Chances are good, though, that it will still be more delicious than anything you’re able to buy at the grocery store.

If you have some elderly high acid preserves that you’d like to eat up but are making you nervous, here’s what to do. Pull one off the shelf and take a good look at it. In the case of jams, jellies, butters, and other spreads, look to see if it changed colors radically (a little surface discoloration is normal, but total color alternation or loss is suspect). For pickles, relishes, and whole preserved fruit, look at the quality of the brine or syrup. Has it gotten muddy or opaque? Has the liquid level dropped significantly?

If you don’t see any major change, open up the jar. Look at the surface. Has any mold or scum developed? Give it a good sniff. Does it smells funky, dirty, or boozy (do check to see if you added alcohol to the starting preserve, as then it won’t be a useful symptom of spoilage).

Once you’ve determined that all is well, give it a taste (for spreads that have darkened slightly on the surface, feel free to scrape away that top half inch). If you like how it tastes, dig in and include it in your rotation of open jars. Repeat these steps for each older jar you have in your stash.

Sometimes, long storage will rob a preserve of its flavor, particularly if it was sweetened lightly, or with honey or a sugar substitute. If it doesn’t taste like a whole lot, it may not be appropriate for spreading on toast, stirring into yogurt or serving with cheese, but you can always use up those less delicious jars in quick breads or as part of a braising liquid.

All that said, if you feel at all uncomfortable about something you canned, it is still always better to toss it than eat something that gives you pause. If you cringe every time you reach for a particular jar, it’s time to empty it out and move on.

Additionally, sometimes people try new recipes and then determine later on that they just don’t like them (not every recipe is for every person). If you made something and you just don’t like it, either give those jars away to someone who will appreciate it or dump the jars. There’s no reason to torture yourself with something you just don’t like.



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Tiny White Turnips, Fermented

baby white turnips

The Saturday before last, I didn’t manage to get over to the farmers market until 20 minutes before closing. By that point, the pickings were very slim. I had been hoping for some kale, or a head of frost-sweetened cabbage, but the only produce on offer was a few crates of apples, fresh mushrooms hauled in from Kennett Square (the self-proclaimed mushroom capital of the world), and a single pint of tiny, white turnips without their greens.

I had stocked up on apples the previous week and still had plenty left. While I love mushrooms, Scott is entirely turned off by their texture, and so I buy them rarely. But the turnips, they gave me plenty of ideas and so I traded a couple crinkled singles for that lonely pint. I’d forgotten to bring any small produce bags, and so the vendor decanted them into the only bag she had, an enormous plastic shopper, best suited for carrying two pillows or a down comforter.

In the past, I have happily made quick vinegar pickles from little turnips such as these (in fact, there a recipe for exactly that in Preserving by the Pint). However, I’ve been feeling increasingly excited about fermented lately (and by lately, I mean the last six or so months), and so wanted to treat these little guys to a salt brine process.

fermenting white turnips

I spent a meditative 15 minutes at the sink, rinsing off the dirt and trimming away the skinny roots and the remains of the leaves. It was quick, satisfying work and reminded me of why I like little batches so much. You can work slowly and carefully, and still have the bottom of the colander appear in no time flat. If I’d bought any more turnips, I might have started to resent them before I came to the end of the prep. And nothing spoils my enjoyment of a preserve faster than resentment.

The washed, trimmed, and quartered turnips went into a squeaky clean pint and a half jar. I covered them with salt brine (made earlier in the day by dissolving 1 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt in two cups of boiling water and then letting it cool to room temperature). Then I sat a quarter pint jar in on top of the veg and filled it up with brine, so that it could serve as a weight and keep the turnips fully submerged.

I’ll confess right now that these pickles aren’t quite done yet. The turnips spent a few days in the fridge between the time I brought them home and the moment I was able to get them into the brine. But I know that in another day or two, they will be crunchy, tangy, and perfect eaten on avocado toast, or alongside roasted root vegetables (it’s always nice to have a crisp, punchy counterpoint to sweet, soft, warm foods).

What are you bringing home from the farmers market these days?

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Links: Rosehips, Muffins, and Winners

January 17

I feel like my biggest accomplishment this week was making a small pot of chicken stew entirely out of things I already possessed. It included two different half jars of salsa that were taking up space in the fridge, the last jar of black beans from this project, and half a bag of withered kale. We ate it topped with cheese and were happy. Now, some links.

purple pints and quarts

Wow. You guys are really excited about the purple jars that Ball Canning is releasing this year! The two winners of my giveaway were #368/Denise and #1033/Barbara Logan. Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter! I hope you all have purple jars in your life soon!

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Other People’s Preserves: Jolene’s Jars

Jolene's Jars Pickled Za'atar Cauliflower

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.

I met Jolene and her jars a couple years back, when she emailed me to offer me some of her pickles and ask for a bit of canning advice. We met up and, as two people with a shared love of pickling so often do, fell into easy conversation and friendship (it didn’t hurt that her pickles were awesome).

Jolene's Jars Za'atar

Since those early days, she’s expanded her line of pickles, added some spice blends, and moved her whole operation from the Philadelphia suburbs to Delray Beach, Florida.

Jolene's Jars Pickled Za'atar Cauliflower top

Now, everything Jolene makes is really delicious, but when forced to pick just one thing to spotlight, my thoughts immediately went to the Pickled Za’atar Cauliflower. These florets are tangy, crisp, and fully infused with the ground herbs and toasted sesame seeds in the za’atar spice blend.

They are still available at some locations around Philadelphia and you can meet Jolene herself at the Delray Beach Green Market on Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm.

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My Other Favorite Cookbooks from 2014

Favorite 2014 Cookbooks | Food in Jars

Last month, I wrote about all the terrific canning, preserving, fermenting, and food books that had come out in the last year. In that post, I mentioned that I also had plans to write another post dedicated to all the other 2014 cookbooks that I had known and loved. Today is that day and here is that list.

Please know that this is an imperfect collection, gathered from the piles of books around my desk. Some I bought, some were sent to me by publishers. I am absolutely certain that were a number of excellent books that came out in 2014 that I somehow missed. But these were books I particularly enjoyed and think you might too.

Favorite 2014 Cookbooks Part 1 | Food in Jars

On the very top of the stack is Fully Belly. Written by my dear friend Tara Matazara Desmond (while she was pregnant with her twins), this book takes all the nutritional advice often given to pregnant women and translates it into usable, delicious recipes. Next time you hear that a friend is expecting, buy a copy of this book for them. (Amazon | Powell’s)

For those in search of healthy, flavorful food, look no further than Molly Watson’s Greens + Grains. You’ll find soups, salads, a few breads (green whole wheat flatbread!), and main dishes appropriate for every season. The recipes are wholesome, hearty, and were written by someone who has no time for nonsense and just loves food (Molly’s a friend, too). (Amazon | Powell’s)

A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus by Renee Erickson (and Jess Thomson) has gotten a lot of love lately and it is all well-deserved. It’s a beautiful book, full of stories, beautiful pictures, and the most stunning recipes. There are even a few perfect preserves, including a Pickled Fresh Plum Jam that I will be making when summer comes. (Amazon | Powell’s)

One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero is a kick. It shows you how to make 16 different kinds of cheese (with plenty of step-by-step pictures), all in no more than an hour. She also includes recipes that include your fresh cheeses. No book has demystified home dairy more. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Vegetarian for a New Generation is the third book in Liana Krissoff’s “New Generation” series (previous installments dealt with canning and whole grains). For those (like me!) who adore Liana’s writing and clever flavor combinations, this book will not disappoint. (Amazon | Powell’s)

I met Kimberley Hasselbrink in early 2012 at a book party in New York. In the course of our conversation, she told me about the book she wanted to write. It went from glimmer to reality and Vibrant Food even better than the vision she described. The food is clean but not precious, and the photos make me want to live in her world. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Favorite 2014 Cookbooks Part 2 | Food in Jars

The only cookbook I sat down and read cover to cover in a single sitting last year was The B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery Cookbook. Written by grocery store founder Alexe van Beuren, it is a gorgeous book and a compelling story. Oh, and the recipes are pretty darn good, too. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Part cookbook and part travelogue, In Her Kitchen features grandmothers from around the world, in their kitchens, making their signature dishes. Written and photographed by Gabriele Galimberti, it’s a lovely way to get see food and home kitchens from every corner of the globe. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Flourless by Nicole Spiridakis is focused on gorgeous baked goods and desserts that all just happen to be gluten-free. What makes it particularly special is that she has managed to make every recipe feel like a treat instead of a sacrifice.  (Amazon | Powell’s)

I love everything that Jennifer McLagan writes, and Bitter is no exception. It celebrates foods like coffee, dandelion greens, orange zest, and even burnt toast to appealing effect. (Amazon | Powell’s)

I like a big, beautiful cookbook as much as the next girl, but when it comes daily cooking, there is no better handbook than Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner: The Playbook. It bills itself as a guide to the family meal, but it’s got plenty to offer for even the smallest household. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Much like the original Flavor Bible, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page is an incredible resource for home cooks. Every conceivable veg friendly food has an entry that offers a tremendous amount of detail. You’ll get its season, basic flavor profile, best techniques for prepping/cooking, relatives, and suggested flavors that would pair well. If you subscribe to a CSA or farm share and occasionally find yourself with new and unknown edibles, this book is invaluable. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Favorite 2014 Cookbooks Part 3 | Food in Jars

Nigel Slater is a master at writing about food and cooking in a way that is both inspirational and entirely approachable. His new book Eat offers up hundreds of simple recipes and ideas for quick, solid meals, with all his trademark appeal. Plus, the book just feels good in the hands. (Amazon | Powell’s)

As someone who has long played around with oat, teff, and millet flour, I’ve been totally delighted by the recent cluster of books dedicated with making the most from flours made from grains other than wheat. Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours is a new entry in this category and it’s just wonderful.  (Amazon | Powell’s)

Okay, so Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman didn’t actually come out in 2014. It was among the group of books that came out in the very last days of 2013 and I included it in this stack because I don’t think it got enough love last year. This is a glorious baking book for fall and winter, which is actually the time of year when you want to be running your oven. (Amazon | Powell’s)

If you live in the New York region, you’ve probably heard of Red Jacket Orchards. Owner Brian Nicholson teamed up with author Sarah Huck and created this gorgeous, seasonal cookbook called Fruitful. I like it because it includes some interesting preserves, but you’ll also find fruit-focused savory dishes, sides, and desserts. (Amazon | Powell’s)

We eat a lot of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and cauliflower in my household, and I am always on the lookout for novel ways to prepare all this cruciferous veg. Enter Laura B. Russell’s Brassicas. It’s got gorgeous, moody photography and more than 75 recipes for making the most of stalks, florets, leaves, and stems. (Amazon | Powell’s)

I dedicated a blog post to Megan Gordon’s Whole Grain Mornings last February, so I will be brief. It’s a beautiful, approachable book that will have you downright excited to get up in the morning an make a meal. I’ve continued to use it and love pulling it off the shelf with each change of season. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Last book on the stack is Ashley English’s Handmade Gatherings. This is a book-length love note to the art of entertaining casually and inclusively. If you’re looking to up your dinner party and potluck game, you will so enjoy it. (Amazon | Powell’s)

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