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Microplane Winner

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It’s just after midnight and entries for the Microplane Ultra Coarse Grater giveaway are closed. The Randomizer has picked a winner and it’s lucky number 88, Carolyn! Congratulations (I’m sending you an email for mailing info).

For the rest of you who are overwhelmed by zucchini (and other summer squash), make sure to take another peek at the comments section on the giveaway post, there’s a ton of wonderful advice there. I’m also thinking that this Chocolate Zucchini Cake might just be another good way to make use of a zucchini surfeit.

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Preserving Zucchini + Giveaway

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Had it not been for the destructive maws of the squash vine borer, my fridge would be bursting with zucchini at the moment. Sadly, all of my squash plants (zucchini and patty pan) succumbed to the evil ministrations of that pesky bug, so my entire summer yield was just a single, 12-inch zucchini. However for those of you who are currently awash in squash, let’s talk a bit about how to preserve that which you can’t possibly eat right now.

This might shock you, but my favorite way to “put up” squash does not include a jar or a trip through a boiling water canner. Nope, when it comes to the summer squashes, I turn to a sturdy grater, zip top bags and my freezer. I roughly grate the zucchini, press out a bit of its liquid and measure it out into two and four cup portions. Packed into bags and labeled, that squash then becomes part of quick breads, soups, pasta sauces and even zucchini fritters all throughout the year.

I’ve always relied on a basic box grater for this type of task, but recently, the nice folks at Microplane got in touch to say that they were making a new Ultra Coarse Grater and did I want to try it out. I said yes, as I’ve been enamored of Microplane products since I first tried their basic rasp about six years ago. They make the best graters and zesters I’ve used.

Almost immediately upon arrival in my kitchen, this new coarse grater became my favorite tool for squash shredding (it also works nicely on potatoes, harder cheeses, carrots and apples). It’s easy to use (a rubber strip keeps it stable on the cutting board), it’s super-sharp and its flat design makes it so much simpler to clean than the box grater. I am in grater love.

Happily, I have one of these Ultra Coarse Graters to give away. Leave a comment by Friday, August 21st at 11:59 pm to enter. I’d love to hear your zucchini recipes and preservation tips if you’ve got ’em!

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Seattle Canning Class Update

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About a week and a half ago, I mentioned that I’m headed out to Seattle for the Canning Across America weekend on August 29th and 30th. One of the reasons I’m going out there is to teach a canning class at Starry Nights Catering and Events on the 30th. I’ve been really excited about this class, but right now, it looks like it may not happen as there’s only one person signed up for this class.

In order for this class to go forward, I need more people to sign up for this class. I’ve set up an event registration page at Brown Paper Tickets to make it easy for folks to sign up (tickets are now available for purchase online! except that it’s not yet live, feel free to leave a comment if you want to sign up and I’ll follow up with you). I would so love and appreciate it if you could all help me spread the word (many thanks to Shauna who included my class in her preserving post last week). Tell your Seattle-area friends and family to come and spend an afternoon learning about canning with me! All the details are after the jump.

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

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Just after I graduated from college, but before I moved to Philadelphia, I spent a period of four months working as a personal assistant for a very wealthy woman who lived in Portland’s west hills. I sort of tumbled into the job, in the synchronous way that I typically do (true thing, I rarely look for jobs, for better of for worse, they just appear) and while it wasn’t always a rousing good time, I picked up a slew of useful life lessons. One thing I saw demonstrated again and again was the fact that money is rarely the key factor in a joyful life.

My boss, who lived in a gorgeous home, had a doting husband and everything she could possibly want (in the material sense) spent her days in misery. When she wasn’t actively unhappy herself, she was doing everything she could to stir up dramas among her friends and spread a sense of unease and insecurity in others. In stark contrast was her maid. Teresa was working for her on a tourist visa from Mexico and spend her days scrubbing that 7,000 square foot house from top to bottom (about every third day, she came to the end and then turned around to start the process again) and cooking food for my boss and her husband. In the evenings, she sat alone in her room, watching TV and working on needlepoint.

And yet, she was never anything but completely cheerful. We spent a lot of time together during the four months I was there. She didn’t speak any English and all I had to offer was my high school Spanish. And yet, we became friends. She taught me how to find my way around the house, a handful of new words and how to be happy no matter what the situation. And she taught me how to make this tomatillo salsa.

Sometimes she blanched the tomatillos and sometimes she roasted them. I liked the roasted salsa better. We’d eat it quesadillas, with a bit of shredded chicken and pepper jack cheese. So delicious. She never used exact proportions for the salsa, instead she just cooked by feel and adjusted the seasonings at the end to make sure everything was balanced.

With tomatillos showing up in abundance at my local farmers markets lately, I thought this might be a good recipe (and story) to share. I also thought we could all use a break from the boiling water canner (I know I need a short rest from chopping, picking and jamming).

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Garlic Dill Pickles

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I grew up in a household that appreciated a good garlic dill. As a kid, one of my very favorite after school snacks was a chunky pickle. I would fish one out of the jar with a fork, stabbing until I could get get traction and then drop it into a plastic cereal bowl. I’d slowly nibble away at the pickle over my book of the moment, until all I had left was the stem end of the cucumber and wrinkly, vinegar-scented fingers.

We also believe that no good sandwich is complete without a pickle. My parents take sandwich construction very seriously, and often buy jars of pickles that have been pre-sliced lengthwise just for this purpose (prior to being stacked between the lettuce and the cheese, these pickles are blotted on papertowels, so that the sandwiches aren’t made soggy by too much additional liquid).

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However, up until recently, the idea that a homemade pickle was actually the best kind of pickle didn’t occur to any of us (even taking into account the fact that my father has spent the last 30 years hunting for a pickle to replicate his beloved Polski Wyrob that he hasn’t been able to find since they left Chicago in 1978). I began my pickle enlightenment sometime back in the early spring, when I first started combining asparagus with a vinegar-based brine. I’ve been spreading the pickle gospel out west to my parents in Oregon for sometime now, and it appears that the indoctrination is complete.

My mother and I just spent the last hour on the phone and more than half our conversation revolved around homemade pickles (she now keeps a jar of brine in the fridge, and consistently replenishes the cucumber supply). I can’t tell you how proud I was tonight when she said, “I don’t think I’ll ever buy another jar of pickles again, when making them at home is so easy and so much better.” She’s also got her sights set on making these zucchini pickles (I admit, I sent her the link with a note suggesting they’d be a good way to use up the stampede of garden squash that is coming her way).

And, while I don’t think that my dad will ever find a pickle to compare to the Polski Wyrobs of yore, these garlic dills may just give his taste memory something to get excited about.

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Fresh Preserving Kit Winner

fresh preserving kit Okay kids, we have a winner in the Fresh Preserving Kit giveaway! At 11:59 p.m. last night, the random.org reached deep down into it’s bag of digits and came back with the number 5. That means that the lucky gal who will get her very own canning kit and Ball Blue Book of Preserving is Meryl.

Oddly enough, Meryl was just blogging about canning tomatoes on her site, My Bit of Earth, so while the kit may not reach her in time for this batch of tomatoes, here’s hoping it will get there in time for her next big round of preserving. Congratulations Meryl!

If you didn’t win my giveaway, make sure to head over to Canning Across America, they still have a few copies of the Ball Blue Book to give out to people who are hosting canning gatherings on the weekend of August 29th and 30th.

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