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. 

 

Links: Apple Butter, Pear Vodka, and Winners

light in the dining room

After nearly two weeks of congestion and exhaustion, the cold fog has finally started to lift. I made some excellent potato soup for dinner late last week, but beyond that, nothing of particular value has come out of my kitchen. I’m trying to clear out an email backlog and finish unpacking from my trip. I have a two pound bag of cranberries in my fridge at the moment, so expect something appropriately seasonal later this week. Now, links.

cuppow gear

A couple weeks back, I hosted a giveaway sponsored by Cuppow. I had five sets of Cuppow lids, BNTO adaptors, CoffeeSocks, and Mason Taps to share with you guys. The winners are:

Thanks to everyone who took the time share how they could envision using the Mason Tap in their kitchens. All those creative solutions just prove that it’s a winner of a product!

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Preserves in Action: Jam-filled Turnover

unbaked jam tart

Oh friends. So far, this month has been a doozy. Travel and sickness have kept me away from this space and I’ve missed it (and all of you!). Instead of recounting every detail of woe, I’m just going to dive back in and get things started again.

We are entering the season of pies. In my family, pumpkin and apple are traditional for Thanksgiving (it’s just two weeks away!) and are always homemade. From the time I was old enough to help, I’d be right there during pie making time. Sure, I was interested in how the pies came together, but mostly, I wanted first dibs on the leftover crust.

Once the pies were in the oven, my mom would let me roll out all the scraps with my tiny rolling pin, fill them with jam, and bake them off in the toaster oven. I thought my little tarts were the best thing ever.

baked jam tart

Fast forward to today, and I still love to fill leftover scraps of pie crust with jam. Any time I find myself with a little extra dough, I rummage through the fridge, looking for an open jar that will serve as filling and make an impromptu hand pie/crostada/tart thingie. If can spare an egg, I’ll whisk up an egg wash and paint it over the top so that it bakes up glossy and burnished.

I’ve included my favorite pie crust recipe here, in case you don’t have one that you love. If you’re on pie duty this holiday season, might I suggest making a couple of batches for the freezer this weekend? It will ease the way when you’re making pies a day or two before Thanksgiving and will bring a jam-filled tart within easy reach.

How do you guys use up your extra pie crust?

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November Sponsors: Cuppow, Spice Ratchet, Fillmore Container, Mrs. Wages, Blue Kitchen Canning, MightyNest, Fermentools, and The Vintage Pearl

A well-stocked canning section just makes me happy.

It’s the beginning of November and that means that it’s time to dedicate a blog post to the sponsors who help make this site possible. Please do take a moment to read this post and if they offer something that clicks for you, I know they would so appreciate your business.

First up is jar accessory maker Cuppow! They are the creator of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box.

Next up is Spice Ratchet. They make the blossom trivet that I use as a canning rack, and just recently, they released a line of silicone Blossom uCaps for mason jars. They are available as a storage cap, a sipping cap, and a flower frog.

Our friends at Fillmore Container are back as well. They sell all manner of canning jars and lids, as well as a handful of books and jar accessories. They’re a family-owned business based in Lancaster, PA and they happily work with home canners and commercial producers alike. Make sure to check out all the fun programming they’ve lined up for their booth in the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.

Mrs. Wages is also back for another month of canning goodness! I’ve written for them for the last three summers and this year, we’re teaming up for an official partnership. They make all sorts of pectins and canning mixes. Make sure to sign up for their newsletter for monthly installments of canning goodness.

Blue Kitchen Canning is up next. They’re an online shop that sells all manner of canning gear. If you’re in the market for a new canning pot or you want to invest in a pressure canner, make sure to check them out!

Our friends at MightyNest are back for November as well. They are an amazing resource for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families and recently added my beloved 4th Burner Pot to their stock.

New to the sponsorship list is Fermentools. They make a brilliant fermentation starter kit that involves a heavy-duty glass pickling weight, an airlock, a lid with a reusable rubber seal, and mineral-rich salt. I’ll have a giveaway from them later in the month, so stay tuned!

Last on the list is The Vintage Pearl. They make beautiful, hand stamped jewelry and are offering all Food in Jars readers $15 off a purchase of $75. Just use the code “FIJ15.”

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