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A Good Book For the Can Jam (or anytime!)

Canning & Preserving with Ashley English

Goodness, the time has been flying lately. It’s been nearly a week since I posted (although, I’m firmly of the belief that the Pear Cake deserved every moment of its time in the spotlight) and this fresh, new month is a full seven days old. That also means that the deadline for this month’s Can Jam is rapidly approaching (just two more weeks)! If you’re still stumped for ideas as to how to incorporate herbs into a canning recipe, I’ve got the perfect book for you!

Canning & Preserving with Ashley English

Canner, chicken keeper, cheesemaker and all-around homesteading renaissance woman Ashley English has written a beautiful book devoted to the art of canning called (of all things) Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English. It contains all you need to know to transform you from an absolute canning novice into a someone deeply comfortable with the many aspects of food preservation.

Canning & Preserving with Ashley English

What’s more (and this is where the Can Jam comes in), many of her recipes tweak the old classics with the addition of fresh or dried herbs. That Meyer Lemon and Lemon Verbena Curd sounds pretty spectacular (please excuse the blur, I was speedily trying to photograph the book before the last afternoon sunlight slipped away).

Canning & Preserving with Ashley English

For the pucker fans in the crowd, this Herbed Pickled Asparagus sounds pretty delightful. She’s even included many herbs in her basic pickling brine recipe, which means you could take it as a starting place and head off in any number of directions. Personally, I’m thinking of swapping in rhubarb in her Peach and Lavender Butter.

If you can’t swing a new book purchase right now, make sure to check out Ashley’s blog, Small Measure, as well as her weekly column over on Design*Sponge.

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The Blog Aid Cookbook Now Available

Much to the delight of everyone involved, the Blog Aid Cookbook is now available! So many thanks go out to Julie and her team of volunteers who helped transform an idea into beautiful reality. As it stands now, since the ordering site went live on Blurb just before midnight last night, nearly 400 copies have been sold. Thanks to the generosity the project partners (West Canadian Graphics and Blurb.com) and their matching funds (up to $10,000), those sales means that over $20,000 CDN have been raised for Red Cross and Doctors without Borders.

The book can be ordered in either paper ($25) or hard back ($50) here (or you can get to it by clicking the Blog Aid image in the right rail). Whichever cover you choose, you’ll get a 7 x 7 book, with 110 pages of recipes and full-color photos.

And, if you’re not yet tempted by this lovely book (and my three recipes), consider all the other contributors. Chef Michael Smith, Dana McCauley, Emily Richards, Catharine from Weelicious, Cheryl from Backseat Gourmet, Julie of Dinner with Julie, Jeannette of Everybody Likes Sandwiches, Nishta from Blue Jean Gourmet, Lauren of Celiac Teen, Charmian from Christie’s Corner, Shaina from Food for my Family, Shauna and Danny from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, Lauren from Healthy Delicious, Alice from Savory Sweet Life, Tara from Seven Spoons, Jess of Sweet Amandine, Helen from Tartelette, Gail from The Pink Peppercorn, Pierre of Kitchen Scraps, Tim from Lottie and Doof, Tea from Tea & Cookies, Jamie from My Baking Addiction, Lori from Recipe Girl, Melissa from The Traveler’s Lunchbox, Brooke of Tongue-n-Cheeky and Aimee of Under the High Chair.

So, what are you waiting for? Buy this book!

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Marmalade and Blog Aid

Sealed jars

Marmalade is lovely stuff (just ask the English) and it is best when it’s homemade. Thanks to the January Can Jam, the internet is full-to-bursting with different riffs on this classic citrus spread. However, I’m sure there are still some of you out there who are a little bit intimidated by the idea of taking on a homemade marmalade project. But, if you live in the Philadelphia area, those of you with marmalade anxiety are in luck. I’m teaching a how-to class on Saturday, February 13th from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Foster’s Homewares. Click here to sign up!

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Last month’s earthquake in Haiti was a worldwide tragedy. I watched the unfolding devastation with tears on my cheeks and a feeling of helplessness, because beyond sending a bit of spare money and offering thoughts/prayers, what was there that could be done?

In recent days, I’ve been shown that there was actually quite a lot that could be done and I am grateful for the fact that while I was mired in despondency over the catastrophe, others were spurred to action. Food writer Julie Van Rosendaal is one such actor.

Instead of feeling sad and moving on, she decided to launch Blog Aid and create a cookbook that would raise funds for Haitian relief. She called on fellow food writers and bloggers for the recipes and photos and now, just two weeks after inception, the cookbook is nearly ready to go.

If you’re curious about how the proceeds from the book will benefit Haiti, here’s what Julie has to say about that:

The proceeds from book sales will go straight to Haitian relief via the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, and get this: both West Canadian AND Blurb are matching the dollar amount of the proceeds raised, to TRIPLE those dollars going to Haiti. And of course until February 12th, the Canadian government will match that.

The book will be available for order sometime this week and it includes recipes from some of my favorite bloggers. I contributed three recipes to the effort, including one for Pear Ginger Jam (truly, one of the best jams I’ve made recently). It’s a recipe I’ve never posted here, so if you want to get a peek at it, you’ll have to get a copy of the book (I will post here as soon as it’s available for order).

I am so appreciative to have gotten to be part of this project, as it has reminded me that cooperation and love can thrive, even in the face of the most horrifying ruin.

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Pressure Canned Ham Stock

ham hocks

This year, for my 30th birthday, my fiancé gave me a pressure canner. Some might look at this gift as decidedly unromantic, but it was actually exactly what I wanted. In fact, I started telling him it was what I wanted sometime back in February, more than three months ahead of time, just in case he got it into his head to get me jewelry or some other impractical bauble.

However, since my birthday back in May, the only thing the canner (a 16-quart aluminum Presto) has been doing is look pretty while sitting quietly under one of my dining room chairs. You see, while I understood the basics of pressure canning intellectually, the reality of it still scared me a bit. So I let the canner sit, satisfying my canning needs by making batch after batch of preserves and pickles, that needed nothing more than a good, hot water bath to set to shelf stable rights.

beginning of stock

But then, a couple of weeks ago, Joy Manning and Tara Matazara Desmond, co-authors of the cookbook Almost Meatless invited me to participate in their blog potluck (Joy is blogging about all the potluck dishes over at her blog What I Weigh Today if you want to check out some of the other recipes). As we talked back and forth about which recipe of theirs I’d tackle, it became clear that this blog and I were best suited to try out a stock recipe, as stock is cannable. In a pressure canner. It was finally time to conquer my pressure canner nerves once and for all.

I decided to make the recipe for Ham Stock that’s found on page 136 of the book. While it’s not a main event on its own, it’s an incredibly useful cooking cast member to have on hand, as it gives you the ability to boost the flavor of many a meal while still keeping them light on meat. Not having the remnants of a ham laying around, I got my hands on a couple of nice, meaty ham hocks with which to make the stock.

one jar in pressure canner

As soon as I fired up the stock pot, a wonderfully smoky/porky scent began to fill the apartment. Scott and I sat around, enjoying the aroma and becoming increasing hungry as the broth bubbled away. After it had cooked for two hours, I fished the hocks out of the pot with a pair of tongs, removed the meat to a plate and returned the bones to the pot for another hour+ of simmer for “maximum gelatin extraction” (a tip offered by Tara that isn’t included in the book).

By the time the stock was done, it was late Sunday evening (and I’d had a stomach ache all day, I’m a trouper I tells ya!). Had I had a spare bit of room in my fridge, I would have put the stock away for the night and returned to pressure can another day (this is actually the recommended technique, as it allows you to completely defat the stock prior to canning). However, being me, my fridge was full to bursting and so I needed to push on. I strained the stock through several layers of cheesecloth to get out the finest of particulate matter and returned it to the pot in order to bring to a boil.

filling jars

While all this stock processing was going on, my quart jars were in the pressure canner heating up. Once the stock had return to a boil, I began the process of removing a jar, filling it, wiping the rim, applying the lid/ring and returning it to the pot. Instead of creating an assembly line, I processed each jar one at a time, in order to keep the jars and stock as hot as possible (part of pressure canning best practices). I’d been told by Doris of Doris and Jilly Cook that it’s important to really get those rings on there tight when pressure canning stock, as otherwise your stock will “siphon” (the official canning word for when the liquid in your jars bubbles out from underneath the lid), so before I returned each filled jar to the pot, I used a dish towel to hold it in place as I muscled the ring into place.

Once all the jars were full, I locked the pressure canner lid into place and began the process of venting the air out of the canner. After ten minutes of venting, I popped the weight onto the vent stem and watched as the pressure began to rise. Quarts of stock need to process for 25 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure (that is, if you have a gauged canner like mine. If you have a weighted canner, you process at 10 pounds of pressure).

I only have six heat options on my stove (and that includes ‘off’) so I was never able to get the canner at exactly 11 pounds, it hovered around 13 pounds for most of the canning session. However, I knew from what I’ve read that it’s okay for the pressure to be a bit over (it can lead to overcooking, which isn’t a concern with stock, but could be a problem if you were working with fruits or veggies), as long as the pressure doesn’t drop below 11 pounds during the 25 minute processing time.

filled jars

I’ve never been so delighted as I was when the timer beeped to announce that the 25 minutes were up. I danced to the kitchen to turn off the stove and wait until the pressure had dropped enough for me to remove the lid. Nearly every jar pinged  the moment I lifted it out of the water, and I’ve never had lids that have so vigorously sealed. Those things are seriously concave.

canner at pressure

So now I have seven quarts of homemade, shelf stable stock (in my insanity, I also made a batch of chicken stock – from chicken feet! – the same day I made the ham stock. In for a penny…) in my pantry. I’m particularly in love with the ham stock though, and am already dreaming of making a big pot of rice with it that I will then turn into a vege-ful fried rice. Such flavor!

The Ham Stock recipe from Almost Meatless can be found after the jump and is reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press and the authors. Make it!

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Winners + Linkage

blue book picture

Wow. There were a lot of you who wanted this book. Unfortunately, I have but two copies to pass along (I calculated it out, and it would have cost more than $500 to send each one of you a copy. Until I become independently wealthy, that’s just not in the budget). I turned to the very handy Randomizer to pick the winners and it spit out numbers 9 and 43. That means that the lucky recipients are Pat and Meghan. I’ll be in touch with the two of you posthaste.

In other news, have you heard about the Can-volution? A bunch of us jar-crazy folk are putting together a coast-to-coast canstravaganza for the weekend of August 29th and 30th. The goal is for people to get together in groups and do a whole bunch of puttin’ up. I’m actually going to be heading out to Seattle that weekend, to attend a canning party with a few of my favorite bloggers and hopefully teach a canning class. Leave a comment if you’re interested in participating and I’ll do my best to hook you up with other canners in your area.

Also, I did an interview with Jen A. Miller (aka Jersey Shore Jen) recently in which we talk about canning, preserving and fresh produce. She posted it to NJ Monthly earlier this week and you can find it here if you’re inclined. .

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The Ball Blue Book of Preserving

Books, mostly about canning

Last night, I found myself in a Twitter conversation with an acquaintance about canning books. She was looking for something to take her beyond the simple freezer preserving she did last summer into something more ambition and jar-based. I first told her to check out the cookbooks she already had. Any edition (even the most recent and modern volumes) of the Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks will detail the basic steps of canning. If you’re good at following written directions (admittedly, not everyone is), there’s enough there to get you started. You’ll find sensibly written instructions with a nice-sized collection of recipes.

After recommending that she check those all-purpose cookbooks out, I gave her list of some of my favorite canning, pickling and preserving books. However, I inadvertently left one of the best (and cheapest) canning resources around off the list. The Ball Blue Book of Preserving, which has been continually published in yearly editions since 1909, is a terrific book for someone who wants to expand into more exotic recipes and pickling techniques. It typically costs somewhere between $4.95 to $8.95, depending on where you buy it, which keeps it fairly affordable. It’s also often sold right in the grocery store next to the canning jars, lids and pectins (if you live in the city, I warn you that you’re going to have a harder time finding an in-store copy. I found mine at Giant in Lancaster).

One thing to keep in mind about any canning instructions you follow is that it’s always a good idea to cross-check the details with the latest safety recommendations, like those that you can find here.

And, if you’re curious, some of the other canning books I recommended last night were Putting Up: A Seasonal Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition, Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods, The Joy of Pickling, Revised Edition: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market (although I have the older edition), Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects and So Easy to Preserve, a plastic-bound book out of the University of Georgia’s extension service that has a bit of folksiness that hearkens back to the days of truly useful community cookbooks.

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