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Plum Conserve with Golden Raisins and Toasted Walnuts

This plum conserve is a condiment that veers a bit of the more commonly tread canning ground. However, once you try it, I’m certain it will become one of your regular pantry players.

A jar of plum conserve with golden raisins and walnts

Italian plums are one of my favorite things to come out of late summer. Sturdy, sweet, and with a flavor that improves upon cooking, they are a fabulous primary ingredient for all manner of jams, spreads, and compotes.

Finished plum conserve in the pot

This particular conserve (it’s the addition of dried fruits and nuts that turn a basic preserve into a conserve) is a good gift giving, serving at holiday gatherings, and eating with a spoon when you’re craving something sweet.

A detailed look at a single jar of plum conserve

I canned my batch in a collection of mismatched pint jars (we’re getting to the end of the canning season and I’m starting to run short on smaller jars), but because a little goes a long way, you’d be better off opting for half pints.

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Cookbooks: Modern Cider

We’re nearing the end of September, but it’s still blazingly hot and swampy here in Philadelphia. One way that I’m coping with the unseasonable weather is by pretending that it’s more like autumn outside than it actually is. To that end, I’ve been making pots of soup (though I’m choosing ones that can be eaten at room temperature for the sake of our sanity), knitting hats and hand warmers (while the air conditioning chugs), and diving into books that put me in the proper state of mind no matter how it actually feels outside.

One such book that I’ve been glancing at when the mercury soars is Emma Christensen’s new one, called Modern Cider. Emma is the queen of small batch home brewing and is also the author of True Brews and Brew Better Beer. You may know her work from her years as recipe editor at The Kitchn or her current gig as managing editor of Simply Recipes.

Emma is incredibly good at taking an intimidating concept or technique and making it feel approachable and appealing. I was still a novice home brewer (though my brews are still mostly confined to regular batches of kombucha), when I took a couple of the recipes from True Brews out for a test drive for Table Matters back in 2013. and she made it seem entirely doable.

If True Brews was Emma’s survey course, and Brew Better Beer was designed for the beer lover, Modern Cider is the book for anyone who has been intrigued by boozy fermentation but doesn’t consider themselves a big beer drinker. It’s for someone who wants a home brewing starting place that speaks to a wide range of experience levels. And it’s for anyone who wants to learn the science behind home brewing from a friendly, knowledgeable voice.

The first 60+ pages of the book feature cider lessons. In this initial section, you’ll learn about variations in ciders, choosing apples, crushing and sourcing (she gives you permission to use bottled juice from the store if that’s all you can manage), acidity, and the gear you’ll need to get started.

From there, the chapters are as follows: Beginner Ciders, The Cider Family, Modern Ciders, Ciders for Beer Lovers, Soft Ciders (some entirely free of alcohol!), Apple Wines, and Traditional Ciders. There’s also troubleshooting and resources sections, in case you need more guidance.

While it’s probably too early to start thinking about the holidays, if you have someone on your gift list who loves cider and has expressed interest in learning how to make it at home, this is the perfect book for them!

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Submit your Fruit Butters for the September #fijchallenge

Happy end of September, canners! Yet another month that has gone flying by with record-breaking speed! I hope everyone is enjoying the transition from summer to fall (though here in the Philadelphia region, it feels like it’s going to be summer forever).

With the end of the month comes times to wrap up another skill in our year-long Mastery Challenge. We focused on fruit butters this time around. If you haven’t yet made a batch, there’s still time. Consult the intro post for inspiration and get to simmering!

If you want to be counted in the September tally and included in the round-up, please use this form to submit your project by Saturday, September 30 . The form is below! If you can’t see it, you can also reach the form right here.

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Giveaway: Rachael Ray Lazy Spoon and Ladle

No matter how many spatulas and spoons I have, I can almost always make space for one more in my utensil jug. I swear, it’s not because I’m a hoarder (I get rid of my fair share as well). It’s because I’m forever on the lookout for excellent new tools. This explains why, when I spotted the new Lazy Spoon and Ladle set from Rachael Ray, I had to get them. Because what if that ladle was the perfect thing for scooping jam into jars? This inquiring mind had to know!

If you feel like you’ve seen these spoons before, you are correct. The lazy spoon concept is one that was originally marketed successfully by Jonathan’s Spoons. Rachael Ray liked the concept so much that she licensed the form factor and started producing plastic and silicone spoons in the image of those original wooden spoons.

At this point the question is, how do I like these spoons now that I’ve had them in my kitchen a couple months? I like them very much. They do not line up perfectly with my ideal spoon and ladle, but they’re darned handy when you’re dealing with sticky stuff that you don’t want to drip all over your stove or countertop. I wish that they were a little lighter and a little more supple (despite the silicone coating, they don’t have much give), but all in all, they’ve earned their spots in the utensil jug.

Now, for the giveaway. I have one set of these handy tools to give away to a lucky Food in Jars reader. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your favorite kitchen tool.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Sunday, October 1, 2017. Winners will be chosen at random and this post will be updated with the winner.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Both the set pictured here and the giveaway set were provided at no cost to me by the PR team that handles the Rachael Ray line. No additional compensation was provided. 

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Upcoming Events: Haddonfield! Greensgrow! Morris Arboretum! And More!

Wednesday, September 27 (Haddonfield, NJ)
I’ll be at the Haddonfield Public Library, making a small batch of low sugar plum jam. I’ll have copies of my books for sale and will happily answer all your burning canning question. 7-8:30 pm. The event is free, but they do ask that you register, so they have an idea of numbers.

Saturday, September 30 (Philadelphia, PA)
I’m returning to Greensgrow (Philly’s oldest urban farm) for a class on canning without added sugar. I’ll show you how to make both applesauce and pear butter that are delicious and totally safe for canning without a grain of additional sweetener. 12-2 pm. $40. Register here.

Tuesday, October 10 (Strafford, PA)
I’ll be at the Tredyffrin Public Library from 7-8 pm, demonstrating how to safely make and can a batch of low sugar Pear Vanilla Jam. This preserve is a terrific one for autumn, because it transforms often humdrum pears into a fragrant and appealing spread. It’s a particular favorite for holiday giving. The event is free, but they are asking for pre-registration, so that they set up the right number of chairs.

Thursday, October 12 (Pennington, NJ)
I’ll be at the Pennington Public Library from 7-8:30 pm, demonstrating how to make honey-sweetened Pear Vanilla Jam (a slight variation on the recipe from earlier in the week). This event is free.

Thursday, October 19 (Mullica Hill, NJ)
My last library demo of the year is at the Mullica Hill Branch of the Gloucester County Library System. This time, you’ll find me demonstrating my trick for making satisfying and tasty jams using frozen fruit. This is a huge boon if you didn’t make all your holiday gifts during the summer growing season. I will also have books on hand for sale and signature. 7-8 pm. Free (but they ask that you sign up here).

Sunday, October 22 (Chestnut Hill, PA)
I’m returning to the Morris Arboretum for another class that is perfect for canners of all skill levels. In this hands on session, I’ll teach you how to use a basic ratio to build a batch of jam, the things to keep in mind when choosing additional flavor elements, and how to process it in a water bath canner for shelf stability. Everyone will go home with a jar of jam made in class. 1-3 pm. $40/45. Register here.

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Honey Sweetened Mixed Fruit Compote

For the last several weeks, I’ve been fully immersed in the end-of-season canning frenzy. This time of year, there’s not a lot of nuance in my preservation activities. I’m simply doing my best to get the food into the jars in the simplest way possible before the produce spoils.

One technique I use a lot this time of year is this one for mixed fruit compote. It’s the thing I call on when there are lots of odds and ends that need to be used up. As long as the fruits you use are all high in acid, you can mix and match as you see fit (this means, skip the white peaches and nectarines, figs, asian pears, mangos).

I use a variety of sweeteners in these compotes, but in this particular variation, opted for honey (mostly because there was a half empty jug on the counter that I wanted to use up). Because this preserve is sloshy by design, I use a fairly low amount of whatever sweetener I’m calling on. Typically, it ends up being a ratio of four parts fruit to one part sweetener.

These are the preserves I call on to sweeten plain yogurt, to wake up hot cereals, and to serve as a fruity layer in baked oatmeal. Gather up the dregs of the stone fruit (this batch included some of my Canbassador nectarines), throw in a few diced pears, use some berries from the freezer, and get to boiling.

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