About Marisa

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Facebook, Twitter + Waffles

jars

Many months ago, I set up a Facebook fan page for this blog. You see, I do some social media stuff for my day job and so figured that if I was learning about it for work, it might be a good idea to also apply that information to the project that fills my free time. But then, life intervened (as it so often does) and I let that fan page lay fallow. Or so I thought.

Last weekend, I was prompted by a comment on the blog, asking me if I wouldn’t please post notifications on the fan page when I published a new post, to take another look. I was startled to discover that my empty little page had a number of wall comments and more than 50 fans. So I decided to dust it off, get a a snazzy URL (www.facebook.com/FoodinJars) and pay attention to that space. So, if you happen to be a Facebook-minded person, feel free to head over there and become a fan of Food in Jars. I’ll make a point of checking in daily to answer questions and post blog updates.

If you’re more of a Twitter person, I’ve also started using the account (@foodinjars) I created lo those many months ago, to send new post notifications. Click here to get to that account. My personal Twitter handle is @marusula* and if you’re so inclined, you can follow that account as well.

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top view

This blog regularly gives me the opportunity to put my jar obsession on public display. Thing is, I actually do have other culinary preoccupations. Case in point? My waffle iron collection. However, thanks to Dan at Waffleizer (one of my new favorite blogs), I’ve been given a chance to put my waffle irons on display.

Sadly, these days, I have but three. In past years, the number crept up as far as five (I’ve been known to give them away, when I find a waffle aficionado who I know will put the iron to good use). To see the full set of waffle iron photos I took that day, click here. If you suddenly find yourself struck with a waffle craving, this pancake mix also makes a mean waffle. I think I might make a batch of these waffled hash browns to go with. Just because I can.

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*Marusula is a nickname my sister gave me years ago and somehow, it’s become my handle for most social media things. Had I known how identified we would become with these handles, I might have chosen something slightly more dignified. But it’s too late to change now. And really, that’s okay.

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Find Food in Jars at OpenSky

One of the challenges I faced when I first started canning more seriously was finding the right tools to do the job well. Though the act of putting food in jars has been growing in popularity, most urban grocery stores don’t make a practice of carrying canning supplies, particularly year round (and I’m a firm believer in the idea that there are food preservation projects to be done every month of the year). And my very favorite wide-mouth half-pint jars? Impossible to find in stores, even on a trip out to Lancaster County, a mecca for home preservation enthusiasts.

Of course, there’s always the internet. However, I’ve found that it’s way too easy to buy a stinker of a product when you’re purchasing sight unseen and without trusted recommendations (I don’t know about you, but I read reviews obsessively). So awhile back, I began to look for a way to gather all my favorite canning tools, supplies and books up into a single place, to make it easy for you guys to get the good stuff, no trial and error required. And happily, I’ve found that place in OpenSky.

You may have heard about OpenSky already from some of your (other) favorite bloggers. Ruhlman recently announced his shop and Nick at Macheesmo opened up last month. Essentially, the goal at OpenSky is to give people that old-time shopping experience, in which buyers can engage with trusted shopkeepers and make purchases in confidence, knowing that they are being pointed to the very best products.

Right now, my shop has just over a dozen items in stock. But I promise you, the selection will grow. I’m working with OpenSky to get those wide-mouth half-pints in stock, as well as the quilted 12-ounce jars, as they’re just perfect for pickled asparagus (and oh happy day, asparagus season is coming!).

instant read thermometer

One thing I do have in stock right now is this instant read thermometer/timer from Taylor. Scott and I got ours as a wedding gift, and it is now one of my most used kitchen tools. It is magnetized so that it can live on the refrigerator and thermometer probe cord is nice and long. The thing I most adore about this gadget is the fact that it has a temperature alarm. This means that when you’re making a batch of jelly or marmalade, you can set the alarm to ring when the pot reaches 220 degrees.

While I don’t recommend turning your back on a boiling pot of jelly, this does mean that you can do quick clean-up tasks while the pot works toward set-temperature without fear of overcooking (in this case, it’s best to use a really big pot, so that you’re not worried about boiling over). I also rely on this guy when making yogurt (and I’ll be featuring that technique soon).

Really, I can’t speak highly enough about this thermometer, particular if you’re a fan of making summer jams without added pectin.

I’ll occasionally be letting you all know when I post new items in the shop. I hope you all find this useful!

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Summer Gardening + Seed Giveaway

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For the last eight years, I’ve lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the 20th floor of an apartment in the middle of Center City Philadelphia. I realize that some might see this as an enviable position, and really, I do recognize the many perks to my home (the block and a half commute to work is a particular joy).

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Nonetheless, I itch for outdoor space. For a deck on which to drink coffee in the summer and to feel the gentle heft of early morning sun, while still in my pajamas. For the ability to use the outdoors as extra refrigerator space in the winter. And for a little patch of dirt in which to grow my own tomatoes, cucumbers and climbing pole beans.

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Last summer, I chatted my way into a plot in a community garden (truly, I was at a happy hour and, over specialty cocktails, managed to mention to the the very right person how I yearned for growing space). It was about a mile and a half from my apartment and yet, it was heaven to have a bit of dirt to call my own. You see, I come from people who habitually plant edible things and so existing in a state of no backyard vegetable garden has been an unfamiliar and awkward position for me, even after all those years without.

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Happily, I’ll be returning to my twin bed-sized plot again this year and I couldn’t more delighted (even the profusion of mosquitoes can’t keep me away). This year I’m going to keep it simple, just tomatoes, kale and a number of herbs (last year, those damned vine borers destroyed my promising zucchini and cucumber plants. I can’t deal with that kind of disappointment again, so I’m skipping those plants for ones I know can survive the space).

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I realize that lots of you have started to plan your gardens (and your canning) and may have already placed your seed orders for the year. For those of you who haven’t, I’ve got a giveaway for you. I’ve have one set of Survival Seeds* from Hometown Seeds to send off to a lucky gardener. These are non-hybrid seeds, which means that you can save the seeds from your harvest and plant them again next season. They come packaged in a sealed mylar bag and are designed to keep for years (so even if you can’t use them this year, you can pop them into a cool, dark place and plant them next spring).

For a chance to win these seeds, leave a comment sharing a memory of a garden. I’ll select a random winner on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 11:59 p.m.

*For the record, I want to say that I do not preserve food or garden out of fear or a sense of impending doom. I know that there are lots of people out there who are motivated to acquire these skills because they believe some sort of global cataclysmic is imminent. Not me. I believe in hope and the ability of love to to triumph over fear and hate. I grown food because I appreciate the sense of renewal that it offers. And I preserve because it brings me joy (sun-ripened tomatoes in January!).

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Orange Jelly Recipe

orange jelly

Until recently, I had never made jelly. I thought it was below me, designed for children and eaten only until chunkier preserves were palatable. However, having made this recipe three times now (once to test it, once for a class and a third time just for fun), I feel a bit ashamed that I’ve been so snobbish towards jelly.

I’ve eaten the results of this recipe on toast, in a sandwich with peanut butter, and thinned down as a glaze for chicken and it has been consistently delicious. It recalls a classic orange marmalade, only without all those bits of peel. It’s perfect for the person who likes the bright, familiar flavor of orange, but doesn’t do so well with the bite of marmalade. What’s more, it’s refreshingly easy, as you begin with a half gallon of freshly squeezed orange juice. Sure, you could juice your own, and if you live in those warmer climates where oranges abound, I recommend it. But up here in the chilly east, I cheat and I don’t feel a moment of guilt about it.

Another thing that has me enamored of this jelly is that it is blank slate for a number of flavors. Unadulterated, it is good (and yes, perfect for kids who don’t like assertive flavors). But it’s amazing with a dash of cinnamon or spiked with a few tablespoons of ginger juice. Want a mimosa flavored jelly? Replace some of the juice with some champagne (or white wine, if you don’t want to open a bottle of bubbly just for jelly making). Steep some chai spices in your orange juice for an earthy bite.

I do believe that this is just the beginning of my jelly days. Look for more (maybe a rhubarb jelly?) in the coming days.

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Summer Canning Classes + More!

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Though it’s still only March, the summer canning season is just proverbial moments away. And since it’s going to be here before we know it, I thought it was time to tell you about the classes I’ll be teaching at Foster’s Homewares (in Philadelphia) in May, June, July and August. We’ll be offering six classes in all, three focusing on jams and chutneys and three on the pickle-y pucker-y side of things. Classes run from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., cost $39 a pop and all students leave each class with a small jar of whatever we made that day.

Pickled Asparagus
Saturday, May 1

Apple-Rhubarb Chutney
Saturday, May 15

Strawberry Jam
Saturday, June 12

Peach Jam
Saturday, July 10

Dilly Beans
Saturday, July 24

Cucumber Dills
Saturday, August 7

I am also currently working on getting a couple of more hands-on canning workshops scheduled for the summer and I will let you all know when I have more details. Those workshops require slightly longer time commitments and more student involvement than the Foster’s classes, but have a much higher pay-off in terms of the amount of foods in jars that you end up with at the end of the day (depending on what we make, you’ll leave with three or four jars of food you helped preserve).

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I recently started writing for Grid Philly, a local magazine devoted to helping foster a more sustainable Philadelphia. My first article is in the April issue, which hit the streets in the last couple of days. If you live around these parts, you’ll find Grid at a variety of independent restaurants and retailers. If you don’t live here, you can check out my article, extolling the virtues of rhubarb, here. To see the actual layout, flip to pages 22 and 23 of the digital edition.

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As you regular readers know, I really love to talk about seasonal food and the many ways to preserve it. So, when reporters reach out to me, needing some canning information, I’m always delighted to talk to them, because I’m crazy for this stuff. However, rarely do these conversations turn into much. However, a recent chat I had with food writer Jeff Houck turned into a nice, juicy article in the Tampa Tribune that hit the internet earlier this week and will appear in the Sunday edition of that Trib. So fun!

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Mourning the End of a Jar

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One of the most powerful taste memories I have from my childhood years in Southern California is of freshly picked plums. My family’s home in Eagle Rock wasn’t particularly big on the inside, but sat on the flattest part of a extensive, terraced yard. We had three purple plum trees in the side and back yards, and every other year, they produced bumper crops of the most juicy, tender-fleshed plums I’ve ever eaten.

Several of the fruit-producing branches hung low enough for my seven year old self to pick the plums without parental aid and so during their season, I would entertain myself underneath the plum trees. I would pretend that I was Laura Ingalls, helping “Ma” by picking wild fruit into my little bent wood basket. My own mom would sometimes make runny jam with the plums I brought her, or just tuck one into our lunches.

This morning I reluctantly finished a jar of jam I made back in August. I’ve so enjoyed this particular batch, because it tasted so much like our LA plums. The tart flavor of the skin wasn’t obscured by the sugar and the clean, gentle flavor of the plum’s interior was perfectly present as well. Each bite was balanced, fresh and so, so summery.

I wish I had more of this batch, but the rest was given out as favors at our wedding. The only reason this jar stayed with me was that it didn’t seal (darn Quattro Stagioni jars) and so ended up in my fridge instead in the gift stash. I don’t regret that though. I’m actually delighted that so many of our friends and family ended up with jam from such a good batch.

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It seems that we’re finally heading into the waning days of winter. For those of you who spent some time canning last summer, what have been your favorite things to eat from your home canned stash? For me it has been this jam and all the tomatoes I did in those frantic spare moments before the wedding. Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your winners!

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