Archive | cookbooks RSS feed for this section

Cookbooks: Making Dough by Russell Van Kraayenburg

Making Dough Cover - Food in Jars

For the first time in a very long time, I’m cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year. Scott’s family is celebrating the Saturday before the actual day, and my family has a long-standing tradition of gathering the Saturday after. And so, without any plans for the actual holiday, we decided to stay home and make our own.

Making Dough Pie Dough - Food in Jars

I’ve been keeping a running list of tasks that need to be done before November 26 arrives, and making pie crusts is up near the top. It’s something that can be done well in advance and eases the workload in those last days before you heft the turkey into the oven.

Making Dough Maple Danish - Food in Jars

I’ve always been a serviceable pie crust maker, but in all the years I’ve been doing it, my skills have never progressed beyond adequate. So, when I was approached about trying and writing about the pie dough recipe from Russell Van Kraayenburg’s new book, Making Dough, I was happy to embrace the challenge if it helped me improve my technique.

Making Dough Apple Crostata Prep - Food in Jars

The book features twelve different master dough ratios/recipes, includes options to make by hand or using machines, and then offers a generous handful of recipes (both sweet and savory) that utilize the different doughs. I’ve bookmarked a number of different recipes, and have already announced to my family that I’m making the Maple Braided Danish (pictured above) for Christmas morning.

Making Dough Apple Crostata Unbaked - Food in Jars

I didn’t manage to try out Russell’s pie dough recipe before I left Philly last week, so I commandeered my parents’ kitchen earlier today to make a batch of pie dough. The recipe uses both bread flour (for elasticity) and cake flour (for tenderness), along with butter, salt, and water. I opted to unearth my mother’s food processor and it whizzed the dough together in about a minute. I turned it out onto a length of plastic wrap, gently pressed it into a disc, and popped it into the fridge.

Making Dough Finished Apple Crostata - Food in Jars

A few hours later, it was time to turn the dough into something delicious. I went with a free-form apple crostata, because there were apples to use in the fridge, and it seemed like a good thing to eat on a rainy Portland evening. The dough rolled out beautifully, was easy to crimp and fold around the apples, and with a quick brush of milk, turned a lovely golden brown during baking.

Making Dough Back - Food in Jars

My parents’ cat reluctantly shared her spot by the sliding glass door with me.

When I get home, I’ll be using this same recipe to stock my freezer with pie crusts for the upcoming holidays (though I may introduce a bit of whole wheat pastry flour) and I can’t wait to try out some of the other master dough recipes in the future.

For a few tips on rolling out and moving pie crust, make sure to watch Russell’s video, below.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 8 }

Cookbooks: Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han

Wild Drinks and Cocktails - Food in Jars

When I was very young, my family lived in Los Angeles. There weren’t any kids my age on our block, and so I spent a lot of time on my own, exploring our multi-leveled backyard. I’d gather twigs, unripe plums, leaves from the jade plants, and a bark from the towering eucalyptus, heap them in a little plastic bucket, and steep them in water from the hose. I’d offer my “tea” to my mom, claiming it could cure whatever ailed her.

Wild Drinks Rose Water - Food in Jars

Fast-forward 30 years, and Emily Han and her new book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails, are here to teach us all that with a little bit of knowledge, there is much to be found in the natural world (both in LA and elsewhere) to be turned into a vast array of infusions, syrups, squashes (her creations are superior to my childhood concoctions in every way).

Wild Drinks Citrus Squash - Food in Jars

The book is divided into seven chapters. It starts with an introduction to wildcrafting, and offers insight into being a responsible and safe collector of roots, berries, seeds, nuts, and flowers. That section also includes useful information on how to process, preserve, and protect the things you gather.

Wild Drinks Claret Cup - Food in Jars

From there, the book proceeds into the recipes. In Chapter 2, you’ll find the Teas, Juices, and Lemonades (I’ve got Emily’s recipe for Meyer Lemon and Bay Leaf Syrup marked for my annual meyer lemon extravaganza). Chapter 3 is devoted to Syrups, Squash, and Cordials (Rose Hip Whiskey Smash on page 65!).

In Chapter 4, Emily digs into Oxymels, Shrubs, and Switchels. The unifying force of this section is the balance of sweet and tart, and these recipes are for everyone who wants to start using their collection of exotic vinegars.

Grapefruit and Sage Water Kefir - Food in Jars

All of the Infusions, Bitters, and Liqueurs are in Chapter 5. There’s so much in this section that I want to make, but I think I’m going to start with the Winter Gin on page 115 (the thought occurs that it would make a mighty fine holiday gift for a certain subset of my friends and family).

Chapter 6 is all about Wines and Punches. As the weather cools, there’s nothing like a fortifying mug of Mulled Wine (page 157). And finally arrives Chapter 7, with it’s Fizzy Fermentations (yes, please!). Once my travel schedule quiets down again, I’m going to try to start my own Ginger Bug Soda Starter (page 162).

Wild Drinks and Cocktails Back - Food in Jars

Emily has kindly allowed me to reprint her recipe for Classic Switchel and you’ll find it after the jump. It combines molasses, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and water for a bracing tonic. I like to dilute a little in a mug of hot water when I feel under the weather, but it can also be combined with cold water, fizzy water, or used in a cocktail. It’s a most versatile creation.

Oh, and one last thing. I’ve got one copy of this book to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share a favorite homemade drink.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, November 14, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, November 15, 2015.
  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: Fair Winds Press sent me a copy of this book for review purposes, and is also providing the giveaway unit, both at no cost to me. All opinions remain my own. It’s a good book.  

For more about Wild Drinks and Cocktails, as well as her classes, follow Emily Han on social media.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Continue Reading →

Comments { 119 }

Cookbooks: My Pantry, Brew Better Beer, Homemade Vegan Pantry

three book stack - Food in Jars

I have been gazing at this particular stack of three books for at least a month now. I set them on the edge of my desk sometime in early October, thinking that they made a nice little collection, and then got lost in a hurry and busy of life. Read nothing into my delay, all three of these books are worthy contenders for your eyeballs and wish lists.

cover of My Pantry by Alice Waters

Alice Waters is a woman who needs no introduction. As the founder of Chez Panisse and the author of many, many cookbooks, her influence on our culture’s understanding of food has been vast.

My Pantry is her newest volume and is relatively slim in comparison to some of her earlier works. However, as someone who takes great pleasure from making my own pantry staples, I am entirely charmed by this book. It is a trip through Alice’s favorite homemade condiments, simple soups, preserved meats, sweet preserves, and simple cheeses. It’s like a peek into her fridge and cupboards, and there’s much here that I’ve bookmarked for future days of making.

cover of Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen

I’ve never brewed beer. There are a couple things that have stopped me from trying my hand at it. First is the issue of storage (I’m already at capacity with my preserving habit). Second is the fact that my body hates it when I drink more than a few sips and tortures me with headaches if I venture beyond my paltry tolerance.

And yet, despite all that, thanks to Emma Christensen’s Brew Better Beer, I still want to give it a shot someday (I’ll just have to give most of it away, which should make me very popular with my neighbors). Her instructions are clear, the flavor combinations are hugely appealing, and I so appreciate the fact that the recipes are scaled so that you can brew your batches in either 1 or 5 gallons. If you have a burgeoning home brew enthusiast on your list this holiday season, you should get them this book.

cover of Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner

In a sea of books devoted to making pantry staples from scratch, Miyoko Schinner’s Homemade Vegan Pantry, is unique for its plant-based approach. I know several vegans who have already come to depend on this volume for the nut-based cheeses.

However, don’t think you should skip this book if you take a more omnivorous approach to your diet. There is still plenty here for you. The soup concentrates (tomato! mushroom! cream of broccoli!) alone earn this book a spot on my shelf. The crackers are pretty special as well. And I’m really curious about the flax seed meringues!

Are there any cookbooks that you guys have been enjoying lately?

Comments { 6 }

Giveaway: Alana Chernila’s The Homemade Kitchen + Prize Pack

The Homemade Kitchen

Last spring, I spent the better part of four days tucked into a tiny cabin near Neumann University, working on my natural sweeteners book. I took a cooler full of food, a pile of cookbooks to use as reference when my own inspiration failed me, and a few things to read simply for fun.

THK Contents

Included in my pleasure reading was a PDF of Alana Chernila’s book The Homemade Kitchen, provided by her editor in the hopes that I might write a sentence or two of praise. After my first day of writing was over, I warmed some soup for dinner and settled down to read.

How to Cook a Vegetable

My original intention had been to read just a bit that night and then go to bed early. Instead, I sat at that little, formica-topped table and hungrily took in every word. Friends, I devoured this book.

Queen Garlic

Now, I had a feeling I would like The Homemade Kitchen before I even opened up the document. I am a fan of Alana’s writing and always feel a moment of anticipatory pleasure when I discover she’s posted something new on her blog. What’s more, since we met four or five years ago, Alana has become a dear friend. We don’t get to see each other too often, but whenever I find myself passing through Western Massachusetts, I point my car in her direction.

Reusables in the Kitchen

The reason I tumbled head first into these pages is that they bring together everything I want from a cookbook. It’s got appealing food, smart and sensible kitchen advice, wonderful writing, a glimpse into the author’s life, a pretty design, and glorious pictures.

The Kitchen in the Morning

When the physical book landed in my mailing box late last week, I was reminded of my time with that PDF all those months ago. While I haven’t cooked anything from it yet, I’ve broken the spine in half a dozen places and have littered the pages with post-it notes.

Just a few of the recipes I’ve marked include Broccoli Raab with Cheddar Polenta (page 61), Roasted Salmon with Yummy Sauce (page 163), and the Congee with Chicken and Greens (page 202). I’m hungry just listing them out.

prize pack pic

I would have written about this book whether or not there was a giveaway attached, but happily, I have a few copies to share with you guys. One lucky winner will get The Homemade Kitchen prize pack, which includes a tote bag featuring a quote from the book, a fancy knife, and a signed copy of the book. Two more winners will get copies of the book.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your favorite potluck dish.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, October 17, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, October 18, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States and Canadian residents.
  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 nice folks at Clarkson Potter sent me a copy of this book for review and photography purposes and are providing all the giveaway gear. No additional compensation was provided!

Cookbooks: The Canning Kitchen, Preserving, Preservation Society Home Preserves, and Preserving the Japanese Way

stack of four 2015 preserving books

One of the things I find intriguing is that when I’m deep in the process of writing a book, I have a very hard time digging into cookbooks by other authors. I’m not sure if it’s fear of inadvertently borrowing a line or concept, or if it’s simply that my brain is so entrenched in my own ideas that there’s no room for others.

Whatever the reason, over the last six months I’ve really struggled to engage with new cookbooks. However, as I come to the end of the editing process with Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, I’m suddenly once again hungry for the words and recipes of others. These four preserving books have all come out during this foggy period of mine, and now that I’m seeing more clearly, I’m so delighted by them. I think you’ll be as well.

The Canning Kitchen

The Canning Kitchen by fellow blogger Amy Bronee, came out back in May and is a sturdy paperback, filled with homey, family friendly preserves.

The book is divided by kind of preserve and includes delicious sounding things like Lemon Raspberry Jamalade (page 54), Coconut Lime Marmalade (page 93), and Chipotle Cherry Tomato Relish (page 130). Every recipe has its own picture and Amy shot all the images herself (a feat I could never dare replicate).


Preserving was originally published in France in 1948 under the title, Je Sais Faire les Conserves (I Know How to Make Preserves), by famed French food author Ginette Mathiot. The book has been updated and translated by author and food blogger Clothilde Dusoulier and is now accessible to a new generation of home cooks.

This comprehensive volume offers its readers guidance on how to dry, salt, cure, jam, confit, and otherwise put up the fruits of the growing season for the colder months. While there are some recipes that might be seen as relics of an earlier age, like the Stuffed Goose Neck (page 90), even the quickest glance through the book reminds me how much of the book’s knowledge is still relevant today.

One particularly useful technique is the one for Flattened Apples (page 220). It instructs the reader how to prepare, dry, and store whole apples, so that they can later be rehydrated and included in stews and tarts. I am confident that there are many out there in possession of an apple tree who would find it incredibly useful.

Preservation Society Home Preserves

It is always interesting to see the differences between preserving books written by home cooks and those written by folks who make a living by making jam. Preservation Society Home Preserves is a book firmly in the latter category. As far as I can tell, having a wider audience for their preserves often leads the professionals down a more varied range of culinary trails and I’m often surprised and delighted to see where those paths lead.

Written by Preservation Society founder and head preserver Camilla Wynne, this book definitely pushes well beyond the traditional array of flavor combinations and leaps right into the edible creative fray. The book features an array of intriguing things, including Fig Jam with Secrets (page 22), Sea Buckthorn Jelly (page 68), pickled Maple Chile Onions (page 117), and Pickled Raisins (page 118).

Another nice element of this book is that it includes a small section towards the back that offers insight into how Camilla likes to put her preserves to use. Onion Jam Poutine, anyone?

Preserving the Japanese Way

Last up in the stack of books is the beautiful and immersive Preserving the Japanese Way, by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. Nancy is a native Californian who married a Japanese farmer and has spent the last two and a half decades living, raising children, and feeding a family in rural Japan.

Over her years in Japan, Nancy has made a point to learn many of the traditional making and preserving skills, both to preserve the knowledge and because the resulting sauces, pickles, pastes, and other preserves are so much more flavorful and delicious.

As I type these words, I feel like I’m only just skating around the edges of this book, as it is a huge volume, both in the number of pages and in the sheer mass of information it offers. When I approach it, I feel much the same as I do when I open one of Sandor Katz’s books. I know that I can dip in and find the information I need to proceed in that moment, but that the words and concepts on the page deserve more than a quick visit. I look forward to finding the time to dive more deeply into this one.

Disclosure: I received copies of The Canning Kitchen, Preserving, and Preservation Society Home Preserves for review. Preserving the Japanese Way, I bought.

Comments { 7 }

Books: Stir, The World on a Plate, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and Orchard House

four books August 2015

Between canning classes, multiple cross-country trips, and processing piles of produce, I’ve managed to read my way through a tidy stack of books this summer. Here are four food-related volumes that I really enjoyed and think some of you might also like.

Stir by Jessica Fechtor – This memoir-with-recipes is the story of Jessica Fechtor’s brain aneurism at the age of 28, and her grueling but hope and love-filled recuperation. An avid cook and joyful eater prior to the aneurism, the book is the story of her recovery and the ways in which food brought her back to herself as her wounded brain and body healed. Jess is a honest, thoughtful writer and I devoured the book in just a day and a half back in July.

The World on a Plate by Mina Holland – A fun and well-researched volume, The World on a Plate isn’t a book to read straight through. Instead, it’s one to dip into when you crave fresh flavors and a easy visit to another land. Every time I open it up, I add another recipe to my to-make list.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – This novel wraps around Eva Thorvald (a girl and then woman with a singular palate), home cooking, foodie culture, and (of course) the Midwest. The characters are well-defined, quirky, and human. It was a delight to read.

Orchard House by Tara Austen Weaver – On its surface, this is a book about rebuilding a neglected garden. But really, it’s about building community, healing a family, and embracing life as it comes. It is beautifully written and contains moments that will break your heart with sweet sharpness of life. When I opened up my copy to write about it here, I found myself pulled back into its pages and found myself again lost in Tara’s words.

Now, for some disclosures. The first is that all four of these books were sent to me for review. However, I only share the really good things with you guys, so know that the opinions expressed here truly are my own. 

The second disclosure is that I know both Jess and Tara. We’ve shared meals, talked shop, and swapped preserving tips. Still, the kind words I’ve written are deserved. These two women have written truly remarkable books. You should read them. 

Comments { 3 }