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A Handy Way to Store Your Canning Rings and Lids

bag of canning gear

Here in Portland, it is raspberry season. I couldn’t resist picking up a half flat of gorgeous berries on Saturday at the Beaverton Farmers Market. When I got home, I asked my mom to pull out her canning stuff so that I could make a quick batch of jam. She ducked into the garage and came back in with her shiny stainless steel stock pot and a plastic comforter bag filled with canning jar rings (as well as couple boxes of new lids).

canning rings close up

Using a stock pot and blossom trivet as a canning pot is a trick I taught her, but using an old blanket or comforter bag to corral canning gear was entirely new to me and I was stunned by the simple brilliance of it. At home, I use a pair of two gallon zip top bags to keep my rings in check. However, they’ve always been an imperfect solution because the zippers eventually fail and they’re just not quite big enough. The comforter bag has a real zipper, the plastic is sturdier, it holds a ton, and it does a good job of keeping the dust and dirt out.

If you have one of these bags floating around your house, consider doing like my mom and using it to store your gear.

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MightyNest, 4th Burner Pots, & a Preserving by the Pint Giveaway

4th burner pot

Back in April, I teamed up with my friends at MightyNest for a canning party at a fabulous cooking school in Evanston called Now We’re Cookin’. I made a batch of my honey-sweetened strawberry jam for the gathered audience and signed a bunch of books. MightyNest held on to a small cache of those signed books and is currently giving one away (along with six pretty tulip-shaped Weck jars and a sturdy bamboo cutting board). The giveaway ends today (all this travel has me off my blogging game) and so if you want to enter, please head over to this blog post right now!

Another thing came out of that night in Evanston. The MightyNest team was so taken with my 4th burner pot (I tucked it into my checked luggage and brought it with me on that trip) that they’ve added them to their product line. This is my favorite piece of cookware for small batch canning. I use it as a canning pot. I heat up my pickling liquid in it. I use it as a tea kettle when canning tomatoes and other water packed vegetables. It’s versatile, it’s sturdy, and it only costs $40.

Updated to add: The MightyNest folks just sent me the code for the widget, so you can now enter the giveaway right here!

*Just so you know, MightyNest is a Food in Jars sponsor. However, I loved their products and their team long before they started sending a few bucks my way to help support this site. They are good people.

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Pacific Merchants 10L Pickle Crock + Giveaway

pickling crock square

I made my first batch of sauerkraut in the fall of 2008 (in fact, that single jar of kraut was the first thing I ever wrote about here on Food in Jars). Since then, I’ve done a goodly amount of fermentation, from kosher dill pickles to kombucha to kimchi.

In all the years that I’ve been letting various fruits and vegetables gently bubble away in my kitchen, my vessel of choice has been a wide mouth jar (either a quart or a half gallon, depending on the volume I’m making). And while these jars have served me admirably, there was part of me that always wanted to try out a dedicated pickling crock.

crock overhead

So, when a rep from Pacific Merchants got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their 10L fermentation crock, I said yes.

It is a lovely crock, with thick walls, stone weights, and a gutter that you fill with water for an airtight seal. This crock, along will all the other stoneware vessels that Pacific Merchants sells, was made in Boleslawiec, Poland.

pickling crock open

You can use crocks like this one for all manner of ferments and I’m planning to christen it with a batch of sauerkraut. I’d intended to start a batch in it before this post, but I head out of town next week for nearly three weeks on the road and Scott asked that I not make him responsible for a large-scale ferment. I thought it was a fair request and so will start a batch (with step-by-step pictures for you all) when I get back in July.

pickle weights

Now, for the giveaway. The nice folks at Pacific Merchants are offering one lucky Food in Jars winner a $100 gift card for their website. What’s more, they’re also offering a discount code for their website. It’s good now through June 16. Just type in “foodinjars15″ at check out for 15% off your order.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your fermentation habits. Do you make your own lacto-fermented pickles? Do you have a jar of kimchi in the kitchen right now? Or is your only contact with a fermented vegetable is the tray of warm sauerkraut designed to top hot dogs at the ball park?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 8, 2014
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Pacific Merchants sent me the 10L fermentation crock, along with a pair of 1L Kilner jars, for photography and review purposes. They are also providing the giveaway unit. They have not compensated me beyond that to write this post and all opinions remain my own. 

Pomona’s Pectin on Clearance at Williams-Somona

pomona's pectin

Since the weather has been improving, I’ve been treating myself to an afternoon walk a couple times a week. It’s so nice to get out of my apartment for half an hour, move around a little and generally feel like I’m part of the world.

A couple of days ago, I was on one such walk and found that my feet had taken me right to the front door of my local Williams-Somona (it’s a dangerous thing to have one just six blocks away). I wandered in, promising myself that I was just there to browse (and drool over the new Vitamix S30. Have you seen that thing? I am having serious blender envy).

However, I spotted a deal that was too good to pass up. Pomona’s Pectin reduced to $3.99 a box. It’s not a huge discount, but enough of a price cut that I picked up four boxes, which is more than enough to get me through a couple years of canning (and Pomona’s Pectin never expires, so it’s good as long as it lasts).

If you have a Williams-Sonoma and use Pomona’s Pectin, I recommend picking up a box or two.

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Giveaway: New Blue and Green Lids From Ball

boxes of lids

Several years back, I had a small stash of red and white checked lids and rings that I’d picked up at a close-out sale. I rationed them carefully, using them on preserves I planned on giving as gifts or featuring her on the blog. Every time I posted a picture, someone would comment to ask where I’d gotten then. I hated always having to disappoint people by telling them that they weren’t available anymore.

colored lids

Happily, Ball recently released a new option for those canners who are itching to dress their jars up with something other than a basic silver lid. Called the Design Series, these new lids come in either metallic blue or green and are sold with matching rings. They come in boxes of six and currently retail for $5.95. Just like their silver siblings, they are BPA-free and are good for a single trip through the canner.

colored rings

I realize that these lids and rings are a bit pricier than the regular ones. If you can many hundreds of jars a year, they might not be the ones you reach for. What they are is a fun option for people who focus on small batches, are canning for an event (a wedding, perhaps?), or just want to give a few select jars a little extra sparkle. They also match up really nicely with the limited edition blue and green jars.

lids on colored jars

Thanks to the nice folks at Ball, I have five sets of these lids to give away. Each winner will get one of the green ones and one of the blue (each box holds six lids and rings, so each winner will receive a dozen lids and rings in total). Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me one thing you’re looking forward to canning this season.
  2. Comments will close at 12 noon on Sunday, March 2, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog later that day.
  3. Giveaway open to US 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: Ball gave me a set of these lids for photography purposes and are providing the giveaway units as well. No money has changed hands and my opinions are, as always, my own. 

Ball FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System

Ball® FreshTECH

Sometime yesterday, Jarden Home Brands added a new Ball branded appliance to the Fresh Preserving online store. Called the Ball FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System, this device takes the place of a traditional water bath in the processing of jars for shelf stability. A couple weeks ago, I went up to New York for a media event at which the FreshTECH Automatic Canner was demonstrated and was intrigued by its potential (though just to be clear, I also have a number of reservations about it. We’ll get to those later).

Instead of submerging the jars in a pot of water, it works with just a few inches of water. The device uses that water to create steam and a small amount of pressure to ensure safely processed and sterilized jars. For those of you who are made nervous by the talk of pressure, know that this canner doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of pressure that your average pressure cooker or canner reaches. It goes to just 3 psi, in order to get the temperature to between 215 and 218 degrees F.

image

The capacity of this canner is three quart jars, four pint jars, or six regular mouth half pints. They don’t recommend stacking jars inside the canner, so if you were to use wide mouth half pints, it would only be able to hold four.

The way it works is that you put your full, closed jars of product in the canner and punch in a code that corresponds with the recipe you’ve used. It will slowly heat and build pressure. Once it has reached the appropriate temperature and pressure setting, it sings a little tune and the processing period begins. When the time is up, the canner then cools and depressurizes. The period the jars are in the canner are often longer overall than in a traditional canning, because of the necessary heating and cooling. However, it’s all hands-off time. You don’t have to tend a canning pot or check to ensure that it’s maintaining the proper boil.

Hugh Acheson

Southern chef Hugh Acheson demonstrated the FreshTECH canner at the media event. I was amused by the fact that he cracked some of the same canning jokes that I typically make in my classes. Canning geeks, unite!

I haven’t had my hands one of these FreshTECH Canners yet, but am expecting a review unit in the next week or so (I’ll follow up with first-hand thoughts after I’ve had a chance to use it). But from observation, here are some of my initial thoughts.

It could be a great device to get nervous beginners acclimated to canning. It may also be a boon for people who want to can but have small kids or work responsibilities that makes it hard to tend a canning pot. You put the jars in, set the machine and it processes them without another thought. You just have to stay close enough to open it and remove the jars once the time is up.

One thing that gives me major pause is the fact that the manufacturers currently recommend that you only use this device with their recipes and they have no plans to offer instruction as to how you can adapt it for use with your favorite recipes. I can understand that they don’t want to be responsible for preserving projects gone awry, but to my mind, if a recipe is safe for boiling water bath canning, it should be safe for use in the FreshTECH Canner. The fact that it seems like they’re trying to create a closed system of recipes and products makes me hesitant.

Ball FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System

The other thing that concerns me is what the FreshTECH communicates to the canning uncertain. I spend a goodly portion of my life calming the fears of beginning preservers and so am well acquainted with the level of anxiety that canning carries. Because this device uses a small amount of pressure to elevate the temperature a few degrees over the boiling point, I worry that some will interpret that to mean that the boiling water bath (the gold standard of high acid canning) is no longer good enough and that an elevated temperature is necessary for all products.

All that said, I am still curious about it and am looking forward to seeing first-hand how it works. My best case scenario is that it becomes a useful appliance in a home canner’s toolbox (though at $299.95, it will be a pricy tool).

What do you all think? Is this something you’d use?

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