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Preserving Resolutions


Happy New Year, all you canners and jar lovers!I hope you’ve all had a lovely holiday season and that you were on the receiving end of a few lovely edibles in jars (I got two separate jars of peach jam, one spicy and the other scented with rosemary. I’m looking forward to opening them both in due time).

It’s that time of year when bloggers all across the nation announce the ways in which they’re going to grab hold of the shiny, fresh new year and achieve! great! things! I’ve written up a few more personal resolutions over on my other blog but I figured this blog needed a few goals of its own. So here we go…

1. Offer up one new recipe a week. Be it a jam, pickle, preserve, chutney or more, it’s going to be a wonderful year of delicious foods in jars.

2. Participate (without fail) in the Tigress Can Jam. I admit, this is more of a pleasure than a hardship, but still, I wanted to publicly declare my participation.

3. Make sure to eat and enjoy all the wonderful things I put into jars last summer and fall. I sometimes get so wrapped up in the pleasure of having those colorful jars tucked away, that I forget that I need to be pulling them back out and enjoying them. To that end, I promise to do a better job of sharing how I integrate all those preserves into my cooking routine.

4. Teach more classes. Well-meaning friends often ask me why I don’t get into the business of selling my jams and pickles. My reason, I tell them, is that I don’t want to become a producer of artisanal foods (it’s a wonderful thing for lots of people, it’s just not for me). My goal is to teach people how to make all these lovely things for themselves, so that more and more folks can have a hand in the things they eat on a daily basis. It’s not about paying $8 for a jar of dilly beans, it’s about making a dozen jars for that price and then feeling a deep sense of accomplishment for having produced something delicious and tangible.

I already have two classes on the books for 2010. The first is a Homemade Condiments Class on January 16 and the second is a Marmalade Class on February 13. Both are at Foster’s Homewares (their new location, at 33 N. 3rd Street). However, I’m up for more. If you want me to come and teach a class in your area this spring or summer, let’s talk. All I need is a venue (community centers and churches/synagogues often have usable spaces) and enough people to cover the cost of time/travel/supplies. If you’re interested setting something up for the coming year, shoot me an email at foodinjars@gmail.com.

Since we’re talking preserving goals, I’d love to hear what the rest of you are planning for 2010!

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Dark Days: Chicken Soup on New Year’s Day

new year's day dinner

For New Year’s Eve this year, Scott and I hosted a little party. It wasn’t anything fancy. In fact, the idea for it sprung out of a simple desire to have people over to help us drink up some of our leftover wedding champagne (truly, a tough problem to have). I made cheese fondue (not much local there, with west coast wine and Trader Joe’s cheese), a big green salad and roasted a chicken (bought from Meadow Run Farms) for those in need of animal protein.

We sat around for hours with a living room full of friends, eating, drinking and laughing. Our guests brought wonderful things to share like a jar of trail mix (I’m planning on eating a handful on top of my oatmeal tomorrow morning), handmade marshmallows, home fried tortilla chips (with freshly chopped salsa) and some truly miraculous chocolate cookies (each topped with a single, toasted pecan).

I roasted the chicken in my oval Staub dutch oven, sauteeing several fat leeks (chopped in half moons and triple-washed) in the bottom of the pot first, then browning the bird on all sides, before sliding the whole thing (lid on) into a 300 degree oven for about three hours (lid off for the last 45 minutes, to get some nice browning). I served it on a big platter, drizzled with the leek-y juices from the roasting pot and we made seriously quick work of it. Scott actually had to leap in and keep a helpful friend from tossing out the carcass when it looked like there wasn’t a morsel of meat left to nibble (he knows me so well!).

Friday morning, after sleeping until noon, we made the decision that we weren’t going to set foot outside all day long and so I started investigating what we might eat throughout the day. Lunch was some of the frozen appetizers we’d forgotten to heat up for the party (delicious, but very greasy and not at all local) and for dinner, I started a pot of chicken broth. I used the rescued remains of the roasted chicken (all the juicy remains from the roasting pot too), as well as some frozen chicken feet (they make the best stock/broth), an onion, several cloves of garlic (both from the Fair Food Farmstand), a few sprigs of rosemary (plucked from a friend’s garden more than a month ago, they’ve remained green and fragrant wrapped in plastic and refrigerated) and two fat carrots, purchased at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market before I left for the holidays. I had no celery, so I left it out (it felt oddly thrilling and rebellious, I NEVER skip the celery).

The soup/stock/broth bubbled away all afternoon. An hour before we wanted to eat, I pulled out a dutch oven and browned a minced onion and a couple more carrots. Several ladled of broth went into keep things from burning. Cubed potatoes, some turnips from the bottom of the crisper (remnants from my CSA, which ended the second week of November!) and shredded brussels sprouts (I’d typically use cabbage, but I didn’t have any). More broth. The bits of chicken, picked out from the solids that I’d strained from the broth making. Salt and pepper.

Once the potatoes were tender, we feasted on this local soup, dipping in hunks of day old baguette from Philly’s Metropolitan Bakery. A perfect way to welcome 2010, if you ask me. (And lest you think that there wasn’t a jar in sight, I nibbled on some dilly beans plucked straight from their vessel in between bites of my soup, just for a bit of pucker.)

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Dark Days: A local snack

ricotta cheese and a fuji apple

I spent last night on an airplane, struggling to get comfortable in a narrow seat, in the very back row. When I got back to Philly earlier this morning, on very few hours of sleep, my brain was slow and I felt a little squishy in the stomach. After a shower, I headed into work and proceeded to spend the rest of the day gazed blearily in the general direction of my computer.

I haven’t done much in the way of cooking since Christmas day, and I’m certainly not in any state to be operating a cooktop right now (I’m not to be trusted with a stove on less than four hours of sleep). But knowing that I wanted to keep up my Dark Days participation, I wandered into Sue’s Produce on my way home and bought three lovely local apples (that one up there is a Fuji) and a scant pint of wonderful, creamy ricotta cheese.

However, this isn’t just any ricotta. This is Claudio’s ricotta, made daily in their Italian Market cheese factory (it’s made with Lancaster milk, just blocks from my own 20th floor home). It is luscious cheese, and when combined with slices of apple, becomes something akin to a tangy whipped cream. Putting out a generous bowl of this ricotta along with slivers of sweet-tart apple is one of my favorite party food tricks (just make sure to toss the apples with a bit of lemon juice first, to keep them from browning badly). It is incredibly easy and is so, so good to eat.

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Holiday Wishes

my mother's jars

I’m a few days behind in wishing you all a very happy holiday season (I’ve spent very little time in front a computer while out here in Portland. It’s been a much needed break), but wanted to send my message of love, appreciation and joyful times out, no matter the belatedness. I hope that your holiday (whether you celebrate Hanukkah, solstice, Christmas or Kwanzaa) was chock full of family, fun and, yes, food in jars.

(Those shelves you see up there? That’s my mom’s assortment of nuts and grains. It certainly gives you an idea of where I got the jar bug.)

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Dark Days: Local Beans, Holiday Chaos


When I was still in Philly, anticipating this vacation I’m currently on, I imagined that I’d rise early (being an east coaster out west), snag a car and spend a couple of hours each morning at a coffee shop with my computer. I figured keeping up with the blog would be easy, given all that concentrated time I’d have, communing with the internet.


Of course, the best laid plans rarely see the light of day. I have not been waking early. Instead, I’ve been sleeping until 10 or later, gobbling up nearly 12 hours of sleep a night (my candle was fairly well burnt by the time I boarded that plane last week) and allowing myself to flow with the chaos that is family during the holidays.


I did manage to sneak away on Saturday for a couple of hours, in order to wander the final PSU Farmers Market of the season. I bought mountains of sweet potatoes, onions, beets, tiny red potatoes (for Christmas dinner), brussels sprouts, garlic, apples, pears and a beautiful orange squash for pie. I wandered for a bit with Sarah, chatting while she bought some local beef and mushrooms.

Sarah, buying meat

Knowing that I wanted to try to cook my Dark Days meal even though I was away from my normal vendors and sources, I searched out a main dish that would keep everyone in my parents’ tiny house happy (my mother doesn’t eat pork, my sister avoids red meat entirely and her friend Jamie is a vegetarian). I wound up with some gorgeous local pinto beans, purchased by the tin scoop (I felt delightfully like Laura Ingalls Wilder as I ladled up my beans into a crunchy paper bag).


I cooked three cups of them with twice as much water, a pungent chopped onion and several mashed garlic cloves until they were tender (towards the end of cooking, I added a bit of chili powder, salt and pepper). For dinner tonight, we set up a bar of tops and bottoms and let everyone compile their own dream bowl of beans. I ate mine with some toasted local bread and cheese. The rest of the house paired theirs with some tomatoes (the last from my parents’ garden, picked green and ripened slowly in the garage), chopped red onion, brown rice, tortilla chips, avocado, cilantro and sour cream.

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Gift in a Jar: Handmade Spice Blends

mixed pickling blend

Back in the summer, I went through a period during which I made approximately seven pints of dill pickles a night for at least a week (I now have a lot of pickles in my coat closet). While I worked my way through at least a bushel of pickling cukes, instead of opening up each individual container of spice for every batch, I’d mix up a spice blend and add a couple of teaspoons of the mix to each jar prior to packing the cucumbers in.

pickling blend in layers

During that pickling frenzy, I toyed with the idea of mixing up a extra-large batch of this spice blend and selling it in a little Etsy shop. While I never followed through with that thought, homemade spice blends do make excellent gifts for the right person. The following measurements fill a half-pint jar: 4 tablespoons dill seed, 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon mustard seeds. Two teaspoons of this blend can be substituted for the spices in this recipe (everything else stays the same).

bbq rub

If you’re not making gifts for canners (I realize that not everyone is as crazy for home preserving as I am), but you like the idea of a handmade spice blend, how about a barbecue rub? I mixed this one up for a 4th of July cookout last summer and used it on a nice, big brisket (that was a good food day!).

This rub comes from Elizabeth Karmel’s terrific book, Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned: A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the Grill. It’s called the Barbecue Circuit Rub and the recipe is after the jump. However, if that one doesn’t look good to you, definitely check out her book, there are more than 20 rub recipes in there, so you’re sure to find the right one for your bbq lover.

Ty's spice blends

These spice blends were a most thoughtful wedding gift from Ty (my friend Shay’s mom). She makes all manner of these blends from the herbs she grows in her backyard (Ty was also the source of that 2-gallon bag of basil I got last summer). For those of you who like to think ahead, consider planting an expanded herb garden next summer and harvest the herbs for holiday giving.

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