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Urban Preserving: Small Batch Vanilla Rhubarb Jam

chopped rhubarb

I’ve been keeping this blog long enough that I’m starting to repeat myself. This rhubarb jam, for instances, is nothing more than a simplified, scaled down version of the one I posted in the first year I was writing here (there’s also a very similar recipe in my first cookbook).

sugared rhubarb

The honest truth of it is that I can as much for myself as I do to create content for this site, and I very much love this easy little preserve. And so I make it every year or two, each time tweaked slightly. I thought you’d like to see how I do it when I’m only making a little bit.

vanilla rhubarb jam

You could also use this recipe as a starting place for a strawberry rhubarb jam. Either swap in berries for half the rhubarb, or double it (I know that I typically discourage people from doubling small batch recipes, but because this one has a touch of pectin, it scales up nicely).

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Small Batch Strawberry Balsamic Jam

strawberry balsamic jam

Tonight’s live online class was terrific. A small group of diehard canners showed up and interacted with me as I made a small batch of strawberry balsamic jam in my tiny kitchen.

The recipe I made is a slightly lower sugar riff on this strawberry vanilla version. The balsamic and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper give it depth and just a little edge that goes really well with cheese or as a glaze for meat.

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Giveaway: Orchard Road Decorative Series One-Piece Lids

Orchard Road Decorative Series

Before I start talking about these lids, I want to say thanks. I so appreciate your patience with me during the last few weeks, when finishing the book draft made it so hard for me to show up here. I turned the manuscript in last night, so we can now turn our attention to more important things, like mason jar lids with whimsical prints!

Last summer, a new mason jar company entered the canning market. Called Orchard Road, they offered five sizes of jars as well as lids and rings (I first wrote about them here). In the last year, I have the chance to use their jars and lids a number of times and they have performed well and given me absolutely no grief.

Orchard Road lid patterns

This summer, Orchard Road has brought out a line of Decorative One-Piece Lids. They recall the old gingham and flowered lids that Ball used to make back in the day and have been a really fun addition to my canning process. They are one-piece lids, which means that they need to be handled a bit differently than the two-piece lids most of us regularly used. Happily, I have an entire blog post devoted to that topic that you can find right here.

marmalade lids

The nice folks at Orchard Road have offered three sets of their new lids for a giveaway. Each of the three winners will get a one box of each of the new designs (fruit, purple gingham, and daisies). Additionally, for those of you who don’t want to take your chances on a giveaway, you can use the code “DECO25″ for 25% off your order over at Orchard Road. As long as you buy at least one box of lids, it will take 25% off your entire order, including the jars!

To enter the giveaway, here’s what you do:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share something new to you that you’re hoping to can this season.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog soon thereafter.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: The folks at Orchard Road sent me the lids you see here so that I could try them and take some pictures. They are also providing the giveaway units. They have been site sponsors in the past, but are not at this time. No additional compensation has been provided for this post. All my opinions remain my own. 

Resurfacing and Salmon Cakes

cans of salmon

It’s been a little over a week since I admitted my overwhelm and put up a picture of rhubarb. The book manuscript has made great strides since then and I’ve pulled myself together enough that I actually have something to say here! Oh glorious day.

I’m writing about salmon cakes (or patties, depending on your preferred nomenclature) today. They’re not the most glamorous of foods, but they are delicious, can often be made with just what’s in your fridge and pantry, and they make some of the best and most flavorful leftovers I know. And when you’re six days away from a deadline, meals that produce leftovers are absolutely key.

salmon patty ingredients

I’ve been making these cakes for the last four or five years, ever since my neighbor Lucille knocked on our door one evening and asked if we liked salmon cakes. She had made a full batch thinking her daughter was coming over for dinner, but she had gotten the night wrong. Would we like some?

Up until that point, I didn’t have much of an opinion about salmon cakes but I love eating food other people have prepared (because no matter how much I change up the spices, my food somehow always tastes like my food) and so I happily accepted Lucille’s salmon cakes. We ate them for dinner that night and decided that salmon cakes should be a regular player in our dinner routine.

I asked Lucille for her recipe and made them just once as written. I’ve since tweaked and altered the recipe enough that I feel comfortable calling it mine.

finished salmon patties

One of the things I really love about these salmon cakes is that they are best made with canned salmon. If you’ve never worked with the canned stuff before, be prepared for the fact that the filets will come out of the cans with some skin and bones remaining.

I handle this by spreading the drained filets (if you have a cat, save them the liquid and they will love you forever) out on a plate and using a fork to remove the skin and the biggest bits of the bones. It’s fine to leave the tiny pin bones behind because they’ve been cooked to the point of crumbling and are a good source of calcium.

Taking my lunch to go today. Two homemade salmon cakes, farro, pickled turnips, and some sad grape tomatoes, all over arugula. Oh, and a dressing of yogurt and homemade relish for the salmon. #lunch #lifefactory #teamyogurt

Once you’ve picked through the salmon, it’s just a matter of chopping a few things, breaking a couple eggs, and mashing it all together. The cakes are fragile and it won’t seem possible that they’ll hold together, but once you get the first side nice and browned, they will flip and hold their shape nicely.

Normally we eat these cakes as-is, but last night just as we were sitting down to eat, my husband asked, “Do we have any relish?”

Now, if you know me, you’ll know to be amused by that remark. Of COURSE we have relish. I pulled out a jar of last summer’s batch of this cucumber and green pepper relish. He stirred a forkful into a generous dollop of mayonnaise for a slapdash tartar sauce. We ate our cakes over greens with Scott’s sauce and all felt right with the world.

A note: I use parmesan cheese in these cakes instead of the more traditional bread crumbs. The reason for that is that Scott is often on a low carb diet. Plus, the parmesan melts a little during cooking and helps hold the cakes together really nicely. However, if you want to reduce the amount of fat in these cakes or make them a little more affordable, feel free to use bread crumbs. Just make sure to add some salt. I don’t use any because the cheese adds plenty.

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Jar Storage: Sheet Pans and the Space Under the Couch

living room couch

This is my couch. It once belonged to my grandparents and family lore dates it back to around 1960. When I was very young, it was covered in a burnt orange upholstery. Sometime in the mid-eighties, my grandmother had it recovered in the very pink fabric you now see.

under the couch

Some might thing that after 55 years of service, it would be time for a new sofa, but I disagree. I am never getting rid of this couch (though it may well get another upholstery job sometime in the new future). It is impossibly comfortable (it is ideal for napping, sleeping even my 6’4″ husband comfortably), is built like a beast (our Pottery Barn loveseat is falling to pieces after two years. This one has served for a half-century), and best of all, has magical storage space underneath.

sheet of jams

I’ve had boxes of jars and preserves stuffed under this couch for years now, but it was always a haphazard arrangement. It was hard to keep track of what was down there and fishing out the exact box I was looking for was forever an exercise in frustration. A couple times I drove myself crazy looking for jars from a particular batch of chutney, finally discovering they were tucked away in the far corner under the couch.

jars overhead

Then a solution fell in my lap. I ordered a lot of seven old sheet pans from eBay in my on-going search for good photo backdrops (well-worn metal being a prized surface among food bloggers). My original intention was to keep just one or two. However, once they arrived, I started wondering what other role they might be able to serve.

sheets of jars

In a flash of genius, I realized that I could pull all the boxes out from under the couch and replace them with the sheet pans. It would be easier to slide the jars in and out and since I already label my jars on the lid, I’d be able to find the exact jar I was looking for with a single glance.

jars under the couch

And so, I started pulling my various jar storage mechanisms apart. It was one of those projects that felt insane halfway through. I had boxes and jars all over the apartment. I categorized, purged elderly jars, and even found a couple preserves that had lost their seal. My husband made a comment about productive procrastination (I do have a book manuscript due in just six weeks), but endured the days of chaos without complaint.

butters sheet

What I have now is a really workable storage system for half-pint jars (my couch isn’t quite tall enough to accommodate anything larger). They’re sorted into jams, pickles and chutneys, butters and marmalades, and jelly, syrups and whole fruit. While this doesn’t house the entirety of my pantry, it’s a goodly chunk and for that, I am grateful.

Tips to Implement Something Similar

  1. New sheet pans are expensive, but old ones can be had relatively cheaply if you know where to look. I paid $40 for seven on eBay and there are more to be had for similar prices. You can also call your local restaurant supply store. Often they sell new and used gear, and might have a stack of used pans that they’d be willing to part with for less than brand new retail.
  2. One of the reasons this works is that my floors are carpeted. If you have floors made of scratch-prone material, I’d suggest putting some felt pads on the bottom of the pans. These will help them slide and will protect your floors.
  3. Make sure to label the pans. This storage method is going to serve you best if you know where various categories of preserves live. My groupings might not make sense for you, but make sure you create some order within the chaos.
  4. If you don’t have a similarly cooperative couch, consider using this same approach with the space under a bed or dresser.

Now, it’s your turn. What creative approaches do you use to keep your homemade pantry organized and contained?

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Links: Marmalades, Bread Crumbs, and Winners

Engaged in a slightly insane jar reorg project involving sheet pans, my label maker, and the space under my couch.

I hope everyone has had a nice weekend! Mine was focused on work related to the new book and spending a little time with a friend who was in from out of town. In other news, I’ve restarted the Food in Jars newsletter, after letting it sit fallow for most of the winter. I’ll be sending it out twice a month from here on out, so if you want to join in on the fun, sign up here. You can also see the latest edition here. Now, links!

Ecojarz Giveaway

Time to announce the winners of last week’s EcoJarz giveaway! They are #14/Monica, #79/Julie, and #124/Anna B. I’ll have another fun jar accessory giveaway up tomorrow, so check back for that!

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