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Ball Fresh Preserving Products Secret Santa – Soup Mix Jars

Most years, much of my holiday giving to friends, neighbors, and colleagues falls into a pretty predictable pattern. I buy a bunch of plain brown paper kraft bags and then fill them up with mix and match assortments of jam and pickles. Sometimes I really shake things up and add a jar of granola or some scone mix.

However, this year my habitual patterns are getting a big old shake up, thanks to my friends at Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. They asked me to come up with a delicious, crafty gift for a Secret Santa program that made good use of their Sure Seal Bail Storage Jars. Since these jars aren’t designed for canning, I couldn’t rely on my stable of friendly canning recipes.

I did some soul searching and came to the realization that I wanted to make soup mixes and I wanted them to be in the spirit of those classic Manichewitz soup mix tubes that my mom always kept in the pantry when I was growing up. Nostalgia and a dinner time helper, all in one handy package!

And so, I got down to work. I borrowed inspiration from the contents of those Manichewitz tubes and from this post on making five bean soup kits over on Wholefully and ended up with three soup mixes I am delighted to send off to my Secret Santa swap partner and share with you guys.

There’s split pea and barley, triple bean and rice, and red lentil and pasta. I also included a spice packet in each jar to make the process of cooking up a pot of soup as easy as possible. Each jar also comes with a slip of paper that walks you through how to go from jar to a steaming bowl of soup (I do recommend that folks start the cooking process with some fresh onion, celery and carrot for maximum deliciousness).

I used a scale to portion out my soup ingredients to ensure consistency. If you don’t have a scale, you can eyeball the quantities as you divide them between the jars.

If you’re shipping your soup mixes, make sure you have a sturdy box and plenty of packing material. In the picture, I make it look like I relied entirely on packing peanuts, but after I took that photo I had second thoughts. I ended up swaddling each jar in a length of bubble wrap, to ensure that it arrived safely.

And while it’s good to gift, it’s also delightful to receive. My Secret Santa sent me a DIY Bread and Butter Pickle kit. I was charmed by it, though I do wish they’d have identified themselves in the box! Alas, it remains a mystery!

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Glazed Turkey Breast and OXO Roasting Gear

A month or so ago, I signed on to participate in a blogger campaign with OXO that had a roasting theme. My intention was to use the goodies and get the post up well in advance of Thanksgiving, because that would have made a whole lot of sense. Best laid plans.

Instead, there was a dab of travel. The cookbook I’m working on continues to expand and absorb my every waking hour. And I’ve been fighting a cold that will not end. So I am behind.

Instead of throwing in the towel or trying to find something else to roast before the campaign deadline, I am going to talk about apricot-glazed turkey breast. A few days after Thanksgiving. Perfectly appropriate, right?

My argument is that there are plenty of roasting opportunities still to come in the coming weeks. And I firmly believe that turkey breast is a really good option for holiday parties and gatherings (easier than a whole turkey! But just as festive and delicious!). At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Before I dig into the roasting and glazing technique, let’s talk about the OXO gear. They sent…

For the juiciest and most flavorful finished roast, you want a whole, bone-in turkey breast. This isn’t something you typically find in the poultry case, but it’s something specialty butchers will have and you can always have your grocery store arrange one for you. Here in Philadelphia, you can almost always get a bone-in turkey breast at Godshall’s in Reading Terminal Market.

Now, if you’ve struggled with roasting turkeys in the past, know that you’re going to have a much easier time when you roast just the breast (the big issue with whole turkeys is that dark meat needs more time in the oven than the white meat, making it hard to get white meat that isn’t woefully overcooked).

You just salt the turkey breast well, pop it on the roasting rack, and get it into a 325F oven. It roasts for about two hours, until the skin is crisp and the internal temperature is around 150F. Once you reach that threshold, you paint on a generous layer of jam (I used apricot, but peach or cherry would also be good).

The temperature gets reduced to 300F and you roast for another 25-30 minutes, until the internal temperature is close to 165F (you want the final temp to be 165F, but the turkey will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven, so you want to remove it a few degrees shy of that).

The jam will darken into a gorgeous, sticky, flavorful crust. It makes a lovely addition to a holiday party spread (pair it with slices of good bread and homemade cranberry mustard for DIY sandwiches).

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How to Make Homemade Quince Butter

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is here today with a recipe for homemade quince butter. Quince is one of my favorites and I loved this glimpse into her process! -Marisa

quince for homemade quince butter

Quince is one of my favorite fruits to preserve — and where I am in Pennsylvania, it’s also one of the hardest to find.

Luckily, I happened on a farmers’ market in Old City Philadelphia recently where Beechwood Orchards, the only farm I know to offer quince at retail, happened to have a single crate on their stand. After sending out a quick alert over social media — quince spotted! — I promptly bought several pounds.

Peeled and chopped quince for homemade quince butter

It may seem silly to go so wild over a fruit that, when grown in a temperate climate, you can’t even eat raw, although its floral scent will perfume any room in which you stash your fruit. Quince flesh is dry, tannic, and unpalatable until you poach slices in syrup or cook it down with sugar into a thick paste, when it becomes tender, toothsome, vibrant and bright, with that unmistakable floral note.

The traditional way to prepare quince is as quince paste, or membrillo — cooking down the mixture so long with sugar that it becomes a firm, sliceable brick after refrigeration, still tender in texture but more like a fruit cheese than a spread.

quince puree for homemade quince butter

But knowing that I might not come upon quince again for another few years, I decided to find a way to can it, with visions of giving some away for the holidays. It’s delightful to serve on a cheese board alongside aged wedges made the traditional way. I found a Williams-Sonoma recipe for inspiration and set to work.

While parts of the recipe were really out-of-whack — the quince were supposed to redden in 20 minutes, according to the recipe, but this took closer to three hours in my kitchen, and resting the pot off the heat didn’t help redden them at all — I ended up with a dreamy finished product.

pink quince puree for homemade quince butter

It isn’t a chunky jam nor a runny compote, and it’s not a firm-set fruit cheese more reminiscent of membrillo. The best way I can describe it is quince butter — despite the sugar added.

It’s lush, smooth, and stands up on a spoon in a way that’s reminiscent of my favorite long-cooked, no-sugar butters made with sweeter fruits. Spread it on a thick slice of toast with good cultured butter, drizzle it over drop biscuits with whipped cream or ice cream, or spoon an artful dollop onto your next cheese board.

finished homemade quince butter

While it might take a little effort to track down quince in your area, those of you in the northeast may still be able to track some down (I assume you may also have luck in California, though I’m not sure of the fruit’s season out there.) I’ve also seen specimens grown overseas at Asian markets here in Philly. But once you get your hands on some and get a taste , you’ll know if was worth it.

My four pounds of quince cooked down into six pints of supple, rosy butter over a few hours on low heat, but you should be able to halve (or double) this recipe without issue. I canned mine in a mix of half-pints and quarter-pints, perfect for gifting or bringing to a party — or hoarding all to yourself.

finished homemade quince butter

I also swapped out the spices in the original recipe with a few long sprigs of rosemary from my garden. I might add another the next time I make this, hopefully sooner than later.

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Fig Meyer Lemon Marmalade Recipe

This Fig Meyer Lemon Marmalade is a flavor combination made possible by California Figs and Lemon Ladies Orchard. While this isn’t a sponsored post, all the fruit was given to me by west coast friends.

Two stacked jars of fig meyer lemon marmalade

Back in early September, the folks from California Figs sent me some figs. And when I say some figs, I don’t mean they just sent a few. They sent me an abundance of figs. A delightment of figs. A true embarrassment of fig riches.

Sliced meyer lemons soaking in a bowl of water for fig meyer lemon marmalade

I took some to a friend’s party that was happening that very night. I packed up some and brought them with me to the Omega Institute for my weekend long canning workshop (we turned them into this Chunky Fig Jam). When I got back, I simmered and pureed a bunch into a version of the Gingery Fig Butter from my Naturally Sweet Food in Jars book (I used vanilla bean rather than ginger).

Sugared figs for fig meyer lemon marmalade

The remaining portion because this Fig Meyer Lemon Marmalade. Around the same time that these figs arrived, my friend Karen (owner of the Lemon Ladies Orchard) sent me a handful of late season lemons as encouragement to get well (I’d had a rotten cold and a bout of the flu in rapid succession).

Sliced lemons and figs ready to become fig meyer lemon marmalade

After making myself a series of bracing honey and lemon drinks to combat my various ailments, I had enough lemons to make this preserve. Much like the sweet cherry version I made earlier in the season, I approached this recipe over the course of a couple of days.

Finished fig meyer lemon marmalade in the pan

I sliced, deseeded, and soaked the lemons overnight at room temperature. I also quartered the figs, mixed them with sugar and let them macerate overnight in the fridge (it was still hot then and I didn’t want them to turn boozy while I slept).

Six jars of fig meyer lemon marmalade

The next day, I combined the soaked lemons (and their water), the figs, and the sugar and brought it to a rapid, rolling boil. After about 35 minutes of cooking and stirring, the marmalade was sheeting off the spoon nicely and was approaching the critical 220F.

Close-up of jars of fig meyer lemon marmalade

In the end, I was left with six half pints of marmalade that marries the qualities of the two fruits beautifully. The fig flavor sings and the lemons bring more than enough acid to supplement the figs lower levels. This is one that I am only sharing with my very favorite people and I’m doing my best to hold onto at least two jars (I tend to be quite generous with my preserves).

Should you find yourself with similar sets of ingredients (this may only be possible if you live in California), I highly encourage you to try a batch.

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Hot Pepper Hoagie Relish

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops in this week with a recipe for sweet and spicy pepper hoagie relish (for those of you not in the Philadelphia region, hoagies are our version of a sub sandwich). I can imagine lots of delicious ways to serve up this spread! -Marisa

Egg sandwich with hoagie relish

As a kid, I was weird about sandwiches. I didn’t like mayo, and I didn’t like tomatoes. My sandwich of choice in middle school was wheat bread, yellow mustard, and Tofurky slices, with nothing else.

Fast forward 20 years and my tastes have changed — partially, I suspect, because I now live in a city with a strong sandwich culture. Hoagies, whether you get them from Wawa or the corner store, are standard fare here in Philly.

And while I’ll still pick off (or ask my sandwich artist to omit) slices of sad, pink, industrial tomato from my sandwiches, I’ve come to appreciate the components of a good hoagie: slices of tender turkey and cheddar cheese, sweet onion, a ruffle of lettuce, just the right amount of tangy mayo. And those juicy sweet and hot peppers, which add a ton of flavor and set off the other ingredients perfectly.

When a whirlwind of late summer travel meant that I had three weeks’ worth of sweet and hot peppers from my Taproot Farm vegetable CSA stashed in the fridge, I knew I wanted to make something that would help recreate my typical sandwich order without walking the 200 feet to my corner deli.

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Roasted Seedless Grape Jam

Our intrepid contributor Alex Jones is back with a recipe for roasted grape jam. Just reading this post makes my mouth water!I can’t even imagine how good her kitchen must have smelled during the roasting process! -Marisa

I didn’t taste a Concord grape until I was in my late 20s and buying them from local Pennsylvania farmers to share with members of the Greensgrow CSA. And once I had — while I finally understood what “grape” flavor is meant to emulate — I just couldn’t get down with the seeds. They were too much work to snack on compared to the fat, juicy table grapes I’d grown up with as a kid in California.

So imagine my delight when I found out that when Lem Christophel, a Mennonite who runs Eden Garden Farm in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, brings grapes to my local farmers’ market, they are completely seed-free.

I love them for snacking (these days, I try to leave the California produce as a special treat to help me get through the depths of winter), and last year, I made possibly the most delicious raisins I’ve ever had by steming a few bunches and throwing them in the dehydrator. But I’d never canned them before.

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