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Beeswax Food Wraps from Kentucky Home

This post is sponsored by Kentucky Home (makers of those nifty MasonToGo lids!). To learn more about their new beeswax food wraps, read on!

I started using beeswax food wraps four or five years ago in an attempt to give up my plastic wrap and plastic baggie habit. I was already solidly on the reusable container and jar bandwagon, but hadn’t quite figured out to store food that functioned best when wrapped or swaddled.

When I discovered the beeswax food wraps, I thought my food storage prayers were answered. And while I’ve happily used them from various brands and makers for years, I’ve always struggled a bit with their cost (they can be pricy, particularly if you’re paying for shipping!). That has led to me running a funny mental calculation whenever I’m putting away leftovers or packing food for the road.

I find myself questioning whether the item is worthy of one of my beeswax food wraps. If the item fails to pass muster, I find myself rooting around in the cabinet under the sink for a plastic produce bag to reuse or I pull down the roll of plastic wrap that I’ve been nursing for half a decade. However, thanks to the folks over at Kentucky Home, my beeswax food wrap equation has changed.

Earlier this week, they started selling beeswax food wraps in bundles affordable enough to allow me to simply use them without feeling like I should be saving them for good. Best of all, they’re made right there in Leitchfield, Kentucky by retired farmer Mr. Dale.

So, now that I’m no longer encumbered by worries over cost, how am I using beeswax food wraps? To cover bowls and dishes. While I have plenty of food storage containers with lids, sometimes I just want to throw the leftover grain salad into the fridge in the bowl in which it was made. You just form the wrap around the bowl and then press your hands into it for a moment to soft the wax enough to hold its shape (if you suffer from perpetually cold hands like I do, run them under warm water for a moment to help make the wax behave).

I also now feel free to use them to cover dishes bound for potlucks and other gatherings. While each time I hope that I’ll go home with the wrap I brought, if it does wind up in the trash at the end of the night, I don’t feel the same compulsion to dig for it.

They’re also great to cover cut pieces of fruits and vegetables. Lemon halves, partially eaten avocados, and half-used cucumbers have never looked better or stored more sustainably. If you’re working with a new beeswax food wrap, give it a good crinkling to help work the wax into the fabric and make the surface a little tackier. Then, to keep these bundled bits of produce neatly sealed, give the ends a firm twist and they’ll stay in place for days.

Another way that I like to use beeswax food wraps in to cover sandwiches and snacks that I’m packing for later. One of my errand running tricks is to go first thing in the morning so that the day doesn’t get away from me. When I tackle my to-do list like that, I like to pack a little peanut butter and jam sandwich to bring with me, rather than spend time eating breakfast at home (I’ll also bring a reusable coffee mug so that I can treat myself to a fancy cup without incurring the guilt of a disposable).

Another thing that beeswax food wraps do well is swaddle bread. Whenever I’m deep in a home baking phase, I find myself with needing something to keep my loaves from getting stale. I find that these wraps do a lovely job of keeping a homemade loaf of sourdough fresh for the time it takes us to eat our way through it.

Cleaning the wraps is also a breeze. Just use a little gentle soap and lukewarm water (no super hot water or you’ll start to melt away the wax). Oh, and keep them away from things like raw meat and poultry. When the wraps finally wear out (which they do after about a year of heavy use), they can be composted.

You can buy these affordable beeswax food wraps from Kentucky Home in two different configurations. A 12 pack of 7″ x 7″ wraps (perfect for wrapping up bits of cheese, half sandwiches, and halves of lemons, limes, avocados, apples and more) is just $19.97.

For those of you who want more options in the sizes of your beeswax food wraps, the 7 piece variety pack is your best bet. It comes with one 29″ x 29″ wrap, two 15″ x 15″ wraps, and four 7″ x 7″ wraps.

If you try them, make sure to check back in and share the creative ways you’re using them in your home!

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Honey Sweetened Rhubarb Meyer Lemon Cordial

Celebrating the arrival of summer this holiday weekend? Toast the season with a glass of bubbly water or a fancy grown-up cocktail sweetened with this Honey Sweetened Rhubarb Meyer Lemon Cordial.

A finished bottle of honey sweetened rhubarb meyer lemon cordial.

One of the constants of my culinary calendar is rhubarb syrup. I make a batch or two every spring when those rosy stalks show up at my local farmers market. Some years, I make a basic version with nothing more than rhubarb, sugar, and water. Other times, I’ve spiked my batches with ginger, rosemary, vanilla, or parsley.

Stalks of rhubarb for honey sweetened rhubarb meyer lemon cordial.

This year’s version (which I’m officially calling Honey Sweetened Rhubarb Meyer Lemon Cordial) is made from diced rhubarb, honey, and thinly sliced rounds of Meyer lemon (regular lemon would also work).

( Chopped rhubarb for honey sweetened rhubarb meyer lemon cordial.

One of the things I love about making rhubarb syrup is that it barely feels like work. It takes no time to chop the rhubarb, slice the lemon, and measure out the water and honey. As long as you remember to reduce the heat to medium-low after it comes to a simmer, you hardly even need to stir it.

Rhubarb and lemon slices in a pot for honey sweetened rhubarb meyer lemon cordial.

After about 20 minutes on the stove, I turn off the heat and let it cool just long enough that there’s no chance that I’ll burn myself as I pour it through a strainer. In the past, I’ve used cheesecloth for an extra-smooth syrup, but these days I cannot be bothered with the mess that it causes. In this case, fully embrace the path of imperfection.

Straining cooked rhubarb for honey sweetened rhubarb meyer lemon cordial.

Once the syrup is fully strained, it goes into a bottle and into the fridge. Rhubarb is acidic enough that one could can the finished product, but I find that I prefer to make this in small enough batches to be used up within a few weeks. I add it to sparkling water, drizzle it over bowls of fruit salad, and combine it with white wine vinegar and olive oil for a quick salad dressing.

Side view of straining honey sweetened rhubarb meyer lemon cordial.

How are you preserving and transforming rhubarb these days?

Honey Sweetened Rhubarb Meyer Lemon Cordial

Yield: Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces rhubarb (about three cups chopped)
  • 12 ounces/1 cup honey
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lemon (ideally a Meyer, but any lemon will work), thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Combine the rhubarb, honey, water, and lemon in a sauce pan. Place over high heat and bring to a bubble. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a bare simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rhubarb has fallen to bits and the lemon is quite soft.
  2. Let the cooked rhubarb and its liquid cool for a few minutes. Then, position a fine mesh sieve over a medium-sized mixing bowl and strain out the cordial. Work the pulp with a spoon or spatula in order to release as much liquid as possible.
  3. Transfer finished cordial to a jar and refrigerate. It will keep 3-4 weeks in the fridge.
  4. To can, funnel into prepared jars and process in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes.
http://foodinjars.com/2017/05/honey-sweetened-rhubarb-meyer-lemon-cordial/

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Summer Class Spotlight – HGS Home Chef

I’ve taken a slightly different approach to my teaching schedule this summer than I have in past years. Instead of saying yes to everything and hustling to fill every moment of the canning season, my strategy is to teach fewer workshops in the hopes that I won’t feel entirely broken by the time the weather turns chilly.

So instead of having long lists of events appear here on the blog each week, I’m going to shine a spotlight on individual classes. First up is a pair of workshops at Hillsdale General Store Home Chef that I’m teaching on Sunday, June 11. This lovely cooking school is located on the main street of Hillsdale, NY, across the street from the General Store location. They carry cookware, cutlery, homewares, cookbooks, and offer a robust schedule of cooking classes.

I taught a single class at HGS Home Chef last summer and was delighted by the community that they attract. This year, I’m teaching two classes. From 11 am to 1:30 pm, I’m teaching a water bath-focused class in which we’ll make traditional strawberry preserves and sweet and savory strawberry chutney.

Then, from 2:30-4:30 pm, I’m teaching a pressure canning workshop. I’ll demonstrate how to make a tasty onion and rosemary jam as well as how to safely preserve it (and other low acid foods) in a pressure canner.

Participants will leave these classes with knowledge, useful handouts, and sample jars of the preserves made in the workshops (I’ve also heard rumors about peanut butter and jam sandwiches). For those of you within spitting distance of Hillsdale, I’d love to have you join me!

Hillsdale General Store Home Chef
2635 Route 23
Hillsdale NY 12529

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Cookbooks: Green Plate Special by Christine Burns Rudalevige

The first time I met Christine Burns Rudalevige was at a potluck held in honor of the release of the New York Times Cookbook. Christine had driven in from Carlisle, PA to join the party and fit right into our crew of giddy, early career food writers, all bursting with excitement over the fact that we were there to meet Amanda Hesser.

Since then, Christine has moved from Pennsylvania to Maine. Thanks to the wonders of social media, we’ve stayed in touch and I’ve followed her progress as she began writing a weekly column on sustainable home cooking. More recently, she published her very first cookbook, which is what I’m here to share with you today.

Called Green Plate Special (and published by Islandport Press), this lovely book is built on the foundation of Christine’s columns and is dedicated to helping all of us making our home cooking and eating just a little bit greener. Instead of my regular tour through a cookbook, I’ve got a short Q&A with Christine to share with you all.

FIJ: Could you tell us a little about Green Plate Special?

CBR: The book, a spinoff of the weekly column I’ve been writing for three years in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram’s Source, a section dedicated to living and eating sustainably, helps home cooks navigate the mountains of information available regarding eating sustainably in the modern age and then apply that information in a practical way in their own kitchens.

Many people want to eat in a way that ensures there will be good, healthy food for future generations, but have limited time, money and energy to put toward that goal. My book breaks down dozens of sustainable tenets regarding sourcing, cooking and not wasting food, explains them in a down-to-earth fashion, and demonstrates each point with a great recipe.

FIJ: What does sustainability mean to you?

CBR: It means shopping, cooking and eating in such a way that I am not harming the environment or taking more than my fair share of natural resources. And, the critical point of my book, taking on these measures as habit at a rate you can sustain over time. You don’t have to be homesteading to be part of the sustainable food movement.

FIJ: How did your time living in Europe impact your food philosophy?

CBR: When we lived in England, where the price of food is almost twice as much as it is here in the United States, I really honed my skills for not wasting a morsel of food while still making interesting meals.

When we spent a semester in France, where meat products are most often pasture-raised and the prices reflect a fair price for the farmer, I found myself “right-sizing” my omnivore family’s meat portions to reflect both the higher price and the stronger flavor. There, we learned we needed less meat to be satisfied if it was sustainably raised.

FIJ: I first met you when you were living in Pennsylvania. Did your family’s move to Maine change how you cooked at all?

CBR: Living in Central Pennsylvania was a just a fully on feast because the vegetable and fruit farmers kept me in gorgeous produce year-round. In Maine, we’ve got a shorter growing season, and to my dismay, very few stone fruit trees. But our state’s 400-miles of coastline give us access to fantastic seafood.

It’s been a learning curve to understand which fishes make the greenest dishes, but I’ve had a delicious time working that all out. People know Maine for lobsters, but there are certainly a whole lot more fish in the swimming in the sea at sustainable levels.

It’s important to know that if the seafood in the fishmonger’s case in Maine or in Pennsylvania was caught in American waters, it was done so within the confines of very strict fishery management plans. Eaters should buy more seafood and feel good eating it because they are supporting the rock star fishermen who are reeling it in according to the rules.

FIJ: What’s one easy change that people can make to help them make their culinary lives a bit more sustainable?

CBR: Be flexible. If you’ve gone to the farmer’s market looking for spinach, but the farmer only has chard left, understand that it’s a great substitute, one that supports your farmer. Don’t go to the fish market fixed on buying cod, but keep an open mind, knowing that any white flaky fish will work just fine. And if you have a hectic day that ends with a meal less green than you’d like, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.

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Submit your May Mastery Challenge Projects!

We’re well past the midway point of May, which means it’s time to get serious about completing this month’s cold pack preservation challenge! If you’ve already finished up your project for this month’s Mastery Challenge, please use the form below to record your information and be counted in the final tally. If the embedded form isn’t working for you, click here.

If you’ve not yet tackled the cold pack skill, consider whipping up a batch of spicy pickled green beans, pickled rhubarb, or some pickled okra. If you need to see the skill exercised in person, head over to Facebook and watch my recent livestream on the topic (toward the end, you’ll even see how I keep my cool when a jar breaks in the canner).

To be counted in the final tally, please submit your projects no later than Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day).

Oh, and if you do post to social media, make sure to use the #fijchallenge tag to help spread the word of our preserving activities!

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Small Batch Pickled Okra Recipe

Earlier tonight, I did a live pickle making demonstration over on the Food in Jars Facebook page (you can watch it any time you want right here). In it, I made a small batch of one of my favorite pickles – pickled okra.

Now, before you wrinkle your nose and announce that you don’t like okra, know that pickling it reduces its slime factor quite radically. I find that people who normally dislike okra find much to appreciate about the pickled version. Even my mother, who is disinterested in okra on a good day, can really dig into a jar of the pickled version. I highly recommend that you try it.

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