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Links: Fermenters, Pickles, and a Winner

My food swap offering tonight? Salted butterscotch squares and Italian plum star anise jam.

I spent the weekend in Orlando at the Food and Wine Conference (it’s put on by the team behind Sunday Supper). I gave a short talk, but mostly spent my time catching up with Maggie and Merry Jennifer, and soaking up all the good knowledge and experience that the rest of the presenters and bloggers had to share. It was good and I’m so glad I went. Now, links!

felix doolittle labels

Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter the Felix Doolittle giveaway! The winner is #159/Erin. She said, “Oh what beautiful labels! I would choose the fox branch label.” Happily, you’ll be able to just that, Erin! Enjoy!

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Newsletters, Email Subscriptions, RSS Feeds, and More

How to subscribe to Food in Jars

I realized a while back that some people are totally confused by the various methods of communication I have listed on this site. So, in the hopes of clarifying things a little, I’m writing this blog post to show you the differences in the various methods and how you can sign up for each.

First up is the newsletter. This is an email I send out about once every two weeks. It details my upcoming events, rounds up some of my favorite recent blog posts, and very occasionally includes an exclusive recipe.

Next is the RSS Feed. If you use a feed reader like Feedly or Bloglovin, this is the button for you. You can either follow this link or just paste my URL into the “add content” field in your feed reader of choice.

Finally, there’s the Subscribe via RSS option. If you sign up for this, you will get a copy of every blog post I write delivered to your email inbox. I think that there are lots of you who sign up for the newsletter who are really looking for this option. Now you know!

In addition to these options, I regularly post my happenings, blog entries, and upcoming events to TwitterFacebookPinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. If one or two of those are your preferred channels, please do follow there as well.

If you have any questions about any of this, please do let me know. You can either leave a comment on this post, or you can drop me a line via my contact form.

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Cookbooks: Pick a Pickle and Pickles & Preserves

two pickle books

We are in the thick of the canning season now. Pickling cucumbers are appearing in heaps at the farmers markets and orchards are selling summer stone fruit by the bushel basket. If ever there was a time to add a new recipe or two to your repertory, now is it.

This summer, there have been a few books that keep floating to the top of my stack as I search out a fresh crop of preserves. Two that I haven’t yet mentioned here on the blog are Pick a Pickle and Pickles and Preserves.

pick a pickle splayed

Pick a Pickle comes to us from celebrity chef and regular Top Chef judge, Hugh Acheson (he’s also a spokesperson for Ball). This charming but unwieldy paint chip-style books contains 50 recipes for a wide array of pickles, relishes, condiments, and vinegars.

I like the looks of many of the recipes in this book, but I find it so hard to physically maneuver that I keep getting frustrated and surrendering before ever managing to cook from it. I also find one element of the recipes slightly strange, in that he never gives processing times. Instead, we are told for all canning-safe recipes to, “Cap with lids and bands, cool for 2 hours, and then either refrigerate or process according to the jar manufacturer’s directions.”

classic chow chow

Knowing that processing time varies depending on density, acid content, and the size of the jars, it seems impossible to me that the jar manufacturer would have processing times available for the specific recipes Acheson has included in this book. It’s as if we are not actually expected to preserve from it.

Still, I find the ideas compelling enough that I regularly pick it up, read a few cards (just until inspiration strikes), and then head for the kitchen with a kernel of an idea that was born thanks to Pick a Pickle.

pickles & preserves

Next up is Pickles and Preserves by North Carolina-based food writer Andrea Weigl. Published by the University of North Carolina University Press, as part of their Savor the South series, this slim hardback book offers a carefully edited array of beloved southern preserves. You’ll find everything from sweet potato butter to a flexible batch of vegetable relish, designed to help use up odds and ends from an end-of-season garden.

corn sweet pepper relish

The only flaw that some might find in this book is its lack of photography. However, I found that Weigl is such an able writer that her words painted images enough to illustrate this collection. For lovers of southern preserves, as well as those looking for accessible recipes with a no-nonsense attitude, this book is a good one.

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Preservation Dinner at High Street on July 22

High Street course 1

Back in May, Chef Eli Kulp and I decided to team up for a series of dinner at High Street that would feature seasonal preserves. The first dinner was on June 3 and was a riot of delicious courses that all highlighted fresh, seasonal preserves. The second dinner in our series is Tuesday, July 22 and with summer produce beginning to reach its zenith, it is going to be well worth attending.

(The pictures in this post are from that June meal. Please forgive the focus issues, the room was quite dim).

High Street course 2

The way the night works is that you come in, get settled at a table and order a drink if you so desire. Sometime after the first course is served, I’ll come around to your table to say hi and see how you’re doing.

Soon after the second course shows up, I’ll say a few words about canning, preserving, and some of the delicious things that are currently in season. I’ll have copies of Preserving by the Pint with me and am also entirely delighted to sign copies you already own.

High Street scallops

The cost is $25 per person (plus beverages, tax, and gratuity). The menu will be released at 12 noon, the day of the meal and service begins promptly at 9 pm. Reservations are highly recommended, and you can make them by calling (215) 625-0988.

And if you can’t make the dinner next week, mark your calendar for September 30. That’s the night of the final dinner, which

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Canning 101: The Easiest Way to Peel Tomatoes (Peaches Too!)

tomatoes in a bowl

Let’s talk about my favorite way to quickly peel tomatoes and peaches. I mention this technique a lot when I teach classes, and even wrote about it in this post in the context of peeling peaches, but as I broke down a few pounds of tomatoes today, thought it might just bear repeating.

tomatoes in a pan

Instead of bringing a big pot of water to a boil in order to blanch and peel tomatoes before turning them into a preserve, when I have a relatively small batch to peel, I do this. I trim away any soft spots, remove the cores from the tomatoes and cut them in half. Then, I arrange them cut side down in a heat proof baking dish.

tea kettle

While I’m prepping the tomatoes, I fill up my trusty tea kettle and bring it to a boil.

pouring water

When the water comes to a boil, I pour it over the tomatoes. You don’t need to fully submerge them, but you do want enough water in the pan so that it doesn’t cool down too quickly.

pan over tomatoes

Then, I slap a cookie sheet over the tomatoes to trap the heat and leave the whole thing alone for 10 or 15 minute, until the tomatoes have cooled down enough to handle.

peeled tomatoes

Drain the tomatoes and peel. The skins should slide right off and leave you with perfectly peeled tomatoes, ready to be turned into salsa or cooked down into a small batch of pizza sauce (that recipe is in Preserving by the Pint!).

peeling tomatoes

Of course, this technique really only works for smallish batches. If you’re prepping ten or more pounds of tomatoes sauce, heating up the big old blanching pot is still going to be your best bet.

What tricks do you guys have for easily prepping summer fruit for canning?

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Sweet Cherry Chutney

sweet cherries

I spent last Friday evening at the Whole Foods Market in Devon, PA, teaching a group of lovely ladies how to make and preserve a small batch of sweet cherry chutney.

Because it takes a bit longer than jam to cook down, I don’t often choose chutney for my classes and demos. But it happened to fit nicely for this particular class, and I’m so glad it did because it reminded me of just how good this particular preserve is.

chopped sweet cherries

I went home on Friday night with a stash of cherries from the sale and spent a chunk of time over the weekend pitting the cherries and slicing them into quarters (because I’m insane like that). I ended up making a larger, slightly tweaked version from the one we made in class, but it was no less delicious.

finished chutney

Once you get through the pitting of the cherries, this chutney couldn’t be simpler. It’s really just a matter of getting the ingredients into the pot, bringing them to a boil, and then cooking until the ingredients marry and the liquid evaporates. There’s no need to monitor the temperature or check for set. It’s done when it doesn’t look watery anymore.

Another nice things about making a preserve like this is that you can break up the cooking time. While my batch was simmering, Scott and I decided that we wanted to go for a walk. I just turned off the stove and slid the pot to a cool burner. When we got back, I brought the chutney back to a low bubble and finished it off.

Oh, and one more thing. If you don’t have the mental fortitude to pit and chop 4 pounds of cherries, try making this chutney with plums. It works just as well and isn’t as tedious.

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