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Dilly Beans

dilly beans

String beans are one of my favorite vegetables around. My idea of a perfect easy summer meal is a tangle of lightly steamed string beans, dressed with a bit of butter and salt, along side some scrambled eggs and a sliced tomato. A couple of summers ago, I ate that for dinner three or four times a week for at least a month. Of course, that was before I had to think of Scott’s likes and dislikes when making dinner and sadly, he is a string bean hater. So my perfect little meal has been relegated to a once-in-a-while, solo experience (however, it’s a trade-off I happily make for love).

Thing is, I still find myself buying string beans like they’re a four times a week vegetable, which becomes a problem when trying to keep the refrigerator eco-system balanced. That is where the dilly bean comes in. It’s a gentle, zippy little pickle that preserves my green beans for months to come (well, if they last that long) and maintains the dinnertime peace.

One thing to note about string beans. They are perfectly safe to can in a boiling water bath when you’re making pickles out of them. They are NOT safe to can without the brine unless you’re using a pressure canner. One of the few documented cases of botulism that occurred last year was because a family ate some poorly preserved green beans. So if you want to preserve your beans but you don’t want to pickle them, either get yourself a pressure canner or blanch and freeze them.

Enough safety warnings, on to the recipe…

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Beer in Jars + Jars on Blogs

beer in jar

Last night, Scott and I had headed down to Headhouse Square for the fifth annual Good Food, Good Beer evening. It’s a fundraiser for our local Slow Food organization and it’s the third year in a row that we’ve attended. It’s a fun event, because you get to taste five different small plates from local restaurants and drink a whole bunch of beer (nicer for me than for Scott, as he’s not a beer guy) for $32 (no worse than what you’d pay for any other night out).

I made a point to bring my own glass, because otherwise, I end up tossing a whole bunch of plastic tasting cups. And, because it’s me, my to-go glass was actually the wide-mouth pint jar you see above (pint jars also work nicely as a reusable cup for iced coffee. Just sayin’). I feel refreshed just looking at it!

And on to the jars on blogs…

Cherry tomato jam (as well as a nod at canteloupe jam, but no recipe. I’m intrigued!).

Canning apricots and cherries (although not in the same jar).

Hello cajun pickles! Oh, and three takes on the same pickle brine.

Pickled zucchini. Pickled radishes. Pickled bing cherries.

Apricot compote with Scotch whisky. I am dazzled.

I used my mint syrup to make a quart-sized mojito last Friday night. Here are a couple more homemade cocktail syrups.

And a couple of canning safety questions. Re-nest looks into whether there’s BPA in your home canned goods and Rebekah Denn ponders the safety of home canning.

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Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

two loaves zucchini bread

I made my first loaf of quick bread when I was seven years old (under very close supervision from my mother). It was from the back of a children’s book called Cranberry Christmas and it quickly became a holiday tradition (I still make it, with just a few alternations to this day).

Twenty plus years later, quick breads are still one of my favorite things to bake (I have several beloved banana bread recipes, as well as that delicious yogurt loaf). This time of year, when the zucchini plants threaten to take over garden plots and summer squash can be gotten for pennies, the quick bread is most decidedly a good friend to the gardener and cook. This recipe is easy to stir together, makes quick work of a nice-sized zucchini and is amazingly moist. It’s also fairly healthy, packed with whole grains and containing just one stick of butter between the two loaves.

One thing to keep in mind when making this bread. It’s not a super sweet loaf, and I’ve made it that way by design. I like to eat it for breakfast, and at that time of the day, I don’t want to be eating cake. However, if you want a more assertively sweet flavor, I’d add another 1/2 cup of sucanat or sugar (or just spread your slice with a bit of peach or apricot jam).

Go forth and bake!

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Winners + Linkage

blue book picture

Wow. There were a lot of you who wanted this book. Unfortunately, I have but two copies to pass along (I calculated it out, and it would have cost more than $500 to send each one of you a copy. Until I become independently wealthy, that’s just not in the budget). I turned to the very handy Randomizer to pick the winners and it spit out numbers 9 and 43. That means that the lucky recipients are Pat and Meghan. I’ll be in touch with the two of you posthaste.

In other news, have you heard about the Can-volution? A bunch of us jar-crazy folk are putting together a coast-to-coast canstravaganza for the weekend of August 29th and 30th. The goal is for people to get together in groups and do a whole bunch of puttin’ up. I’m actually going to be heading out to Seattle that weekend, to attend a canning party with a few of my favorite bloggers and hopefully teach a canning class. Leave a comment if you’re interested in participating and I’ll do my best to hook you up with other canners in your area.

Also, I did an interview with Jen A. Miller (aka Jersey Shore Jen) recently in which we talk about canning, preserving and fresh produce. She posted it to NJ Monthly earlier this week and you can find it here if you’re inclined. .

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A happy jar encounter + giveaway

jars as target

I am always on the lookout for canning supplies. Whether I’m at a grocery store, hardware store or rummage sale, I constantly scan shelves and displays for jars, lids, pectin and more. It’s not that I’m in need of these supplies (I am quite well stocked at this point). I just like being aware of what’s out there, what new products Jarden Home Brands is releasing and the general availability of canning gear.

Last Sunday, I was seriously disappointed by both an Acme and a Giant out in Delaware County. We were on an errand out that way and stopped in to both grocery stores, looking for canning stuff (for me) and Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper (for Scott). We left both stores empty-handed on both fronts. However, the canning universe redeemed itself in a big way tonight. On a quick, post-dinner trip to Target tonight, I discovered a holy mother lode of preserving paraphernalia (unfortunately, I don’t see any of this stuff on Target.com). I practically danced with joy, right there in the main aisle of the South Philadelphia Target.

They had products I’ve never even seen before, including a freezer container that had knobs on top that allow you to indicate the date of freezing with a few clicks and a giant, one-gallon Ball storage jar, produced to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Ball company (yes, that’s me in the picture above, cradling the huge jar and grinning like I’ve just won the lottery).

The other thing the had tonight were copies of the very hard to find Ball Blue Book of Canning (the 100th anniversary edition, no less). Because I know just what a pain it can be to lay hands on this most useful little book, I bought two copies to pass along to a couple of Food in Jars readers. If you want one, leave a comment between now and Friday at 5 p.m., when I’ll pick winners.

And happy canning!

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Rhubarb Chutney

rhubarb chutney

After going completely crazy for rhubarb back in the spring, I took a bit of a break from it in June (with all the other summer fruits and vegetables coming into ripeness, there was plenty to keep me occupied). However, during that fallow time, I still had rhubarb that needed to be used, tightly wrapped and tucked into the bottommost corner of my left-hand crisper drawer. When the 4th of July weekend rolled around, I decided to have a weekend of many canning projects. I made multiple batches of pickles (bread and butter & dilly beans) and jams (apricot), and finally did something with that neglected rhubarb.

Though the ends of the stalks were a bit worse for the storage time, the rhubarb was still in acceptable shape and more than good enough to be turned into something wonderful. Back when I made that batch of grape catchup (has anyone tried that recipe? It’s okay if you haven’t, it is sort of a weird one), I also noted two rhubarb recipes in close proximity. One was a recipe for rhubarb butter and the other was a rhubarb chutney. I headed into my canning extravaganza with every intention of making the butter, but on that Friday night, when I finally got around to dealing with the rhubarb, I had just finished making six pints of apricot jam, and I was weary of all those sweet notes.

My fingers flipped to the chutney recipe and wouldn’t you know, I had every single ingredient the recipe called for right there in my kitchen. It was fated (or I have a ridiculously overstocked kitchen. I think Scott would argue for the latter) and so I made chutney from my beloved New York Times Heritage Cook Book.

Thing is, I don’t really come from chutney people. We McClellans like our condiments just fine (I grew up dipping steamed broccoli in mayonnaise and roasted potatoes in mustard), but my mother has never been a sweet-and-savory-in-the-same-bite kind of person, so I grew up unaccustomed to the ways in which a good chutney can transform a dish. And I must say, this simple recipe is fairly transformational (at least for this chutney innocent).

It’s quite tasty (although I think if I make it again, I’ll make it just a bit spicier) and I have plans for it to encounter a nice slab of chevre sometime in the very near future (my latest party trick, when called upon to bring a contribution to a potluck or evening of in-home drinks with friends is to bring jam, goat cheese and crackers. It is so simple and people are completely impressed). If you’ve got some rhubarb to use up and you are tired of jams, cobblers, slumps and crisps, this is a good way to go.

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