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Marinated Carrot Salad for the Fridge

root veg at Union Square

On Saturday, I drove up to New York and spent a few hours at the Union Square Greenmarket, trying to look like a friendly and helpful canning expert. I talked to a lot of people, emptied three pints of jam in samples, and sold 11 books (I had higher hopes for such a highly trafficked market, but the sun was brutal and people kept moving).

Still, I think that the trip was worth it, for the people I talked to and for the fact that the stall I was positioned next to had the most gorgeous array of root vegetables I’d seen in a long time. I must have watched at least 100 people stop to take pictures of those heaps of carrots and beets (they weren’t so interested in the celery).

marinated carrots

Standing in proximity, I started thinking about how much I rely on carrots in my daily cooking. On nights when dinnertime inspiration is low, I turn them into a pureed soup (my favorite is the recipe with toasted almonds that’s in the original Moosewood Cookbook). When I need an easy side, I cut them into sticks and roast them in olive oil. Snacks around my apartment almost always involve a sliced carrot and a tub of hummus.

And at those times when I want something that I can make ahead and keep in the fridge for those moments when hunger strikes, I blanch them lightly and toss them with a quick vinaigrette. It’s a bit like the pickled carrots you’ll find at falafel joints. I originally wrote this recipe for Serious Eats, during my phase as their In a Pickle contributor. Still, it’s a good one and worthy of another moment in the sun.

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Slow Cooker Peach Vanilla Butter

peaches on stove

Last month, when I had all those peaches from the Sweet Preservation folks, I did more than just make spiced peach jam. I also cooked up a slow cooker full of peach butter with flecks of vanilla bean and made a batch of mixed stone fruit jam.

peaches in blender

Because I’ve been running on fumes, I didn’t manage to share either of the two remaining techniques/recipes with you. However, I spent some time at various farmers markets this weekend and was reminded that there are still peaches to be had. And so, I’m trying to get them up while they still have some utility.

blending peaches

When it comes to making fruit butters, it’s important to remember that there are a lot of variables, and so it’s better to approach it as a technique than a strict recipe. Here are just some of the things that are up for grabs with slow cooker fruit butters.

Size of the slow cooker. My favorite model is a 40+ year old four quart cooker that cooks at a very low temperature. You might have a brand new one that has both a larger capacity and a higher cooking temperature.

Yield. Even if you had the exact same slow cooker as I did, chances are that your yield would still vary. That’s because ever batch of fruit is going to have different water and sugar content. If your fruit contains a lot of water, you’re going to have to cook longer to reach your desired consistency. Use your judgement and cook until you like the butter. It doesn’t matter if you have to run your slow cooker for five hours longer than I did, it is still okay.

more peaches

Time. There is just no way for me to predict how long a batch of butter will take in your slow cooker and that’s okay. Just fill the cooker up at least 3/4 the way up with puree and start cooking on low. Stir regularly. If you need to run an errand (or go to bed), turn the cooker off, put a lid on it and turn it back on in the morning. Towards the end, if you want to speed things up, turn the cooker on high and stir every ten minutes or so.

Sweeteners. Because fruit butters don’t depend on sugar for set (they become spreadable thanks to the fiber in the fruit), you can always sweeten your butter to taste. However, do remember that sugar is a preservative. That means that if you don’t use any sugar (or if you use a sugar substitute like Splenda or Stevia), the shelf life will be shorter.

propped slow cooker

Now, let’s talk about peeling peaches. Most of the time, when I work with peaches I take the time to peel them because I just don’t like the texture of the skin in the finished product. But not when I’m making butter with them. I find that if you puree the fruit before cooking in a sturdy blender, and then zap it again at the end of cooking with an immersion blender, you’re able to get a perfectly smooth butter, peels and all. This fact deeply pleases my inner lazy person.

full slow cooker

After reading all that, you might still be wondering how you make peach butter. Here’s how.

Slow Cooker Peach Vanilla Butter

Ingredients

  • Peaches
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • lemon juice (optional)
  • sugar, honey, or other sweetener, to taste

Instructions

  1. Puree enough peaches to fill your slow cooker at least 3/4 of the way up and pour them in.
  2. Scrape a vanilla bean and add the seeds to the puree.
  3. Set the cooker to low.
  4. Put a wooden spoon or chopstick across the mouth of the cooker and set the lid on top of it. This way, you vent the cooking butter.
  5. Cook for 2-3 hours and check. Stir and replace the propped lid.
  6. Keep checking and stirring every hour or two.
  7. If you need to go to bed, turn the butter off and set the lid on the cooker all the way. In the morning, prop the lid again and keep cooking.
  8. When the butter seems quite thick and spreadable, taste it and sweeten it to taste.
  9. Add some lemon juice at this time if you feel it could use a little brightening.
  10. Using an immersion blender, puree the butter so that it is smooth and emulsified.
  11. Funnel the butter into clean, hot half pint jars. Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.
  12. Eat on toast, stirring into yogurt, or baked into quick breads all winter long.
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Giveaway: Roma Deluxe Electric Tomato Strainer from Blue Kitchen Canning

assembled tomato strainer

The time has come for my annual tomato binge. I picked up 75 pounds of seconds and a flat of assorted grape tomatoes yesterday from Three Springs Fruit Farm and I’ve been sorting and stewing since then. The seconds are destined for a life as puree, whole peeled tomatoes, and salsa (both corn and standard tomato). Some of the small tomatoes will go into tomato jam and the rest will get dehydrated into tomato candy.

sauce chute

Because this is my tomato week, it is also the perfect time to offer up a Roma Deluxe Electric Tomato Strainer from Food in Jars sponsor Blue Kitchen Canning. I first got my hands on one of these electric tomato presses last summer and quickly succumbed to its charms. Instead of requiring constant cranking, the electric motor does all the work. All you have to do is cut the tomatoes into quarters and heap them in the hopper.

working tomato strainer

Before we get to the giveaway, let me tell you a little bit about Blue Kitchen Canning. It’s a online shop run by long-time Food in Jars reader Emma Bates. She opened up shop earlier this year and sells all manner of canning gear, dehydrators, juicers, slicers, and other tools to help make your work in the kitchen as easy and productive as possible.

finished jars of sauce

Emma also has a blog component to the shop and regularly posts recipes and tutorials. This one about how to make pressure canned baked beans looks particularly intriguing! She’s offering all FiJ readers a discount of 10% right now. Just use the code FIJ10 at check-out.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite tomato preserve. My favorite pantry filling basic is tomato puree. The most delicious is tomato jam.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, September 13, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted on Sunday, September 14, 2014.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: Blue Kitchen Canning is a Food in Jars sponsor and is providing the electric tomato press for this giveaway. 

Links: Figs, Peaches, Tomatoes, and Winners

It's tomato week round these parts. I've got 75 pounds of seconds to work through!

This last week was something of a strange one for me. I got back from Fayetteville on Monday evening, planning to have an intensely productive week. But then, on Tuesday my computer took a glass of water to the logic board and all bets were off. My husband set me up on an old machine so that I could work some, but the whole thing threw me for a major loop.

I think there were some good lessons in there about slowing down (maybe that would have prevented the accident in the first place) and giving myself a break (I am notoriously bad at relaxing), but it was an uncomfortable way to learn. Happily, the computer is back from the Apple spa and I feel like I’m cooking with gas (technologically speaking, at least). Now, links!

blossom ucaps

The winners of last week’s Spice Ratchet Blossom uCap are…

Congratulations to all the winners! And for all of you who didn’t win, stay tuned. I’ll have another fun giveaway up tomorrow!

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Sponsored Post: Vegetable Gardening Class Giveaway from Craftsy

vegetable gardening title card

This post is the next installment in my sponsored content partnership with Craftsy. This time, I took Doug Green’s Vegetable Gardening class. It has left me determined to find a community garden plot next year! Read on for more!

Though backyard gardens all across the country are still pumping out tomatoes and zucchini, a smart gardener knows that now is actually the best time to spend a few minutes evaluating this summer’s gardening effort and begin thinking about next year (of course, I’m one to speak. I have no gardening space whatsoever).

One way to help prepare for next year’s abundance is to take a class to help you sharpen your skills. Craftsy’s Vegetable Gardening is one such class (and can be taken right from your own computer!).

Click here to enter for a chance to win Vegetable Gardening!

veg gardening potting plant

Taught by long time gardener Doug Green, this course starts with information about how to build raised beds (or improve the ones you’ve already got). Once your foundation is set, he walks you through the sets of starting seeds, transplanting those seeds, and the fine art of keeping those seedlings alive and kicking.

He also touches on various composting systems, soil improvements, sowing seeds, methods to keep your plants protected, crop rotation, ways to plant multiple varieties together for best results, and even tips for keeping the pests away.

This class is a valuable resource for both new gardeners and those with a handful of seasons under their belt.

plastic wrapped tomato cage

Because they want to help spread the word about this most excellent gardening class, the folks at Craftsy are offering up one registration for giveaway to a Food in Jars reader. Just click the link below to enter (it will take you over to Craftsy, where you’ll create an account with them in order to toss your hat in the ring).

Click here to enter for a chance to win Vegetable Gardening!

All photos in this post are printed here courtesy of Craftsy.

For more about this series of sponsored posts and my year-long partnership with Craftsy, please visit this post.

Official disclosure statement: This is sponsored post from Craftsy. I was compensated for this post. However, all opinions remain my own.

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Canning 101: How to Shuck Corn Easily

shucked corn

Two years ago, I made a triple batch of roasted corn salsa (the recipe is in Food in Jars). It is my husband’s favorite preserve and I like it a whole heck of a lot as well. We eat it with rice and black bean bowls in the winter, and over chicken fajita salads once the weather starts to warm. It’s also a nice topper for homemade nachos (as you can see here).

As much as I enjoy eating this salsa, I’ve never enjoyed the process of making it. That’s all changed now that I’ve discovered the secret to easily shuck the corn and remove most of the corn silk. I now roast the corn at 400 degrees F in its husk for about seven minutes in a hot oven before attempting to shuck it. Once the time in the oven is up, I pull the corn out and let it cool for ten minutes or so.

oven roasted corn

Once it is cool enough to handle, the husk comes off cleanly and leaves only a strand or two of corn silk behind (and those strands are easy enough to wipe away). This little trick has transformed a job I dread into one where I can clean two dozen ears of corn in just a few minutes without feeling in any way irritated by the task.

I do have a word of warning about this trick. Corn husks are flammable. Make sure to keep the husks and silk well away from the flame or heating element. I like to stack the ears on a rimmed cookie sheet so that I can move them quickly if something starts to singe. I also take care not to stray far from the kitchen when I’m roasting corn like this so that I can keep a close eye on the happenings.

PS: If you have an outdoor grill, I bet you could use that instead of your oven. I don’t have access to a grill, so stick to the oven approach.

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