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In My Toolbox: Gear for Traveling Canning Classes and Demos

Gear for Canning Events - Food in Jars

One of the things that often surprises people is the fact that when I go on the road to promote my books, I bring everything I need for my classes and demonstrations with me. While I occasionally find myself teaching in spaces that have fully stocked kitchens, more often that not, I’m working at farmers markets, bookstores, and other impromptu venues.

The upside is that one quick stop at a grocery store and I have everything I need to make a recipe from my book. The downside is that I do not travel light. Happily, it’s a trade-off I am most willing to make.

Pots for Canning - Food in Jars

The Cookware

For Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, I’m traveling with two pieces of cookware. A low, wide, non-reactive pan in which to cook the preserves and a small canner. When I was promoting Preserving by the Pint, I swapped a 12-inch skillet in for the larger pot.

I have a few different pieces that serve as the preserving pan, but my very favorite is low, wide 8 quart All-Clad stockpot pictured above. I’ve had a version of this pot for nearly seven years now and it is beloved in my kitchen. I was never able to take mine on the road with me, because the model I had didn’t work with an induction cooktop. Thankfully, the kind folks at All-Clad took pity on me this year and sent me one that works with my traveling induction burner.

My trusty 4th burner pot serves as small batch canning pot during my traveling demos. If I need a larger canning pot for on-the-road classes, I make arrangements to borrow one, as I just can’t fit a giant stockpot into my suitcase (one has to draw the line somewhere).

Induction Burner - Food in Jars

The Cooktop

Outside of the cookware, the thing that takes up the most space in my suitcase of canning gear is my burner. I travel with a portable induction burner because all it needs to work is an electrical outlet. I’ve had two of these Duxtop burners for the last five years and they’ve been incredibly reliable and sturdy (though sadly, one did get destroyed on a recent flight. The TSA opened my suitcase, didn’t secure the wrappings around the burner well, and it cracked).

I also make sure to tuck a short extension cord into my travel bag. This one is a ten footer, which is enough to reach an outlet in most situations (and if I know that I’m going to need more length than that, I make arrangements ahead of time).

various tools - Food in Jars

Tools and Utensils

The rest of the gear is an assortment of small tools and utensils, chosen for their ability to pack small and work hard.

Oh, and they’re not pictured (because I left them in Portland), but I also always tuck a pair of Blossom Trivets into my suitcase as well. All this gear makes for a jangly suitcase, but having this stuff with me means that I always have what I need.

Disclosure: In case it wasn’t clear earlier in the post, All-Clad gave me the 8 quart pot you see pictured above in exchange for promotional consideration. I bought everything else featured in this post. 

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Giveaway: New Products from Ball Home Canning

New Ball Jars - Food in Jars

For the last several springs, Jarden Home Brands (maker of our beloved Ball Jars) has brought out limited edition colored jars as part of their Heritage Collection. The first year, they released pint sized blue jars with a regular mouth. In year two, we got green jars, in a wide mouth quart and a regular mouth pint. Last spring delivered purple jars in wide mouth quarts and regular mouth pints.

New Ball Product Line 2016 - Food in Jars

Sometime back in the fall, I’d heard that there wasn’t going to be a Heritage Collection this spring. I took that to mean that there wasn’t going to be any new products at all. Happily, I was very, very wrong. Late last week, two giant boxes filled with jar goodness landed on my doorstep. I’ve been looking forward to sharing the fun with you all, so let’s dig in.

New Blue Jars from Ball - Food in Jars

First up is all the new jars. I was delighted to see the new Collection Elite Color Series Jars, which currently come in blue and are available in regular mouth half pint, wide mouth pint, and wide mouth quart. What’s particularly exciting is that these jars are here to stay. They’re not a limited release like the previous Heritage Collections were. They’re sold in cases of four and the price ranges from $7.99 to 9.99.

New Half Gallon Ball Jar - Food in Jars

Next up is the Super-Wide Mouth Half Gallon Jar (the round jelly jar is just there to give you a sense of scale. We’ll talk about those in a minute). Much like the gallon version that’s been available for the last few years (I have two of them!) this jar is designed to be used for food storage, as a design element, and in crafting applications.

You could use these jars for refrigerator pickles and fermentation, but the lid isn’t designed to be in contact with acidic ingredients and would eventually corrode. I find these do best with dry goods or tea bags. This jar typically retails for $9.99. [Ball | Amazon]

Round Jelly Jars - Food in Jars

Now, to the round jelly jars, brought back by popular demand. Their official name is the Ball Collection Elite Design Series Jam Jar and this jar wasn’t been in production since 2006 (though you can often find them in thrift stores and at rummage sales). They hold 8 ounces of product, have a cheerful fruit-themed embossed exterior, and are sold in packages of four for $5.49.

Pour and Measure New Lids - Food in Jars

Also new to the product line this season are lids. You’ll find blue metallic lids and bands in the Collection Elite Color Series (in both regular and wide mouth) as well as a nifty new Pour & Measure Cap. I’m especially excited about the Pour & Measure Cap, because it offers a new way to serve from a mason jar.

The bottom half of the cap remains screwed onto the jar and the top half pulls off with a gentle tug, revealing two pouring options. I can see using it for milk (when you need room and so pour the remains of a bulky container into a smaller one) or homemade yogurt. The only thing I wish is that it had a silicone seal, to prevent any chance of leakage.

The blue lids and bands retail for $3.99 to 5.49. The Pour & Measure Cap costs $3.99 when purchased independently or $5.99 for a cap and jar combination.

Pour and Measure Cap - Food in Jars

Thanks to the good people at Jarden Home Brands/Ball Canning, I have one set of everything you see pictured in this post up for giveaway. You’ll get all the new blue jars, the super wide mouth half gallon, the round jelly jars (I’ll have another chance for you to win some of those in the coming weeks, as well), the blue metallic lids, and the pour cap to give away to a very lucky person. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and me which item in this post you’re most excited about
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, March 19, 2016. A winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, March 20, 2016.
  3. Giveaway open to United States only (so sorry!). 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: Jarden Home Brands sent me everything you see pictured here for photography and review purposes. They’re also provided a second set for the giveaway. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

Single Skillet Pasta in Viking’s Stainless Steel Casserole Pan

Finished Skillet Dish Viking - Food in Jars

I’ve been cooking dinner on a near-nightly basis for the better part of the last two decades and over that time, I’ve come to understand a few essential things about myself. The most primary is that at my core, I’m a lazy cook. I’m not trading quality over convenience, but I am always making choices that I hope will make life just a little bit easier.

Viking Stainless Steel Casserole - Food in Jars

My inclination to reduce dishes and avoid unnecessary steps means that whenever possible, I opt for soups, stews, and other dishes that only require a single vessel. I will often cram things into a single pan when they might have been better off cooked separately. And any recipe that requires browning in batches is summarily discarded.

Skillet Pasta Ingredients - Food in Jars

Last month, a piece of cookware came into my life that has both encouraged my lazy ways and upped my nightly game. It’s a stainless steel casserole that holds just over six quarts. It is sturdy, has a low, wide profile that makes for quick evaporation, comes with a tight-fitting lid, cleans up beautifully, and it made by Viking (until they reached out about this pan, I didn’t realize they did more than large kitchen appliances). It’s the Viking 3-Ply 6.4 Quart Casserole Pan.

Sautéed Veg - Food in Jars

This pan has been on my stove top on a near-constant basis since it arrived. I’ve made a number of skillet chicken dishes in it (brown chicken in a single batch. Remove. Add onions and veg and cook until wilted. Return the chicken, add a little liquid, cover and braise until the chicken is cooked through). I’ve used it for pancakes, turkey bacon, and a large batch of eggs poached in tomato sauce.

Fire Roasted Tomatoes - Food in Jars

However, I think that the very highest calling for this pan is this skillet pasta dish. The original inspiration for this recipe is the single skillet pasta recipe from Martha Stewart that took the internet by storm a few years ago. This one isn’t quite as simple as just heaping all the ingredients in a pan and heating for nine minutes, but it’s pretty darn close.

Skillet Dish Without Pasta - Food in Jars

You start by heating a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. When it shimmers, add some chopped onion, garlic, red pepper, and kale and cook until all the veg is tender. Then you add some cubed chicken sausage (I used some that was already cooked through), a cup of liquid (white wine, chicken stock, or water) and a couple cans (or jars, if your pantry runs to such things) of fire roasted tomatoes and get it bubbling.

Adding Pasta - Food in Jars

Then you add eight ounces of uncooked pasta. I used whole wheat elbows, but any short cut variety you have in the pantry does the job. Cover the pan and cook until the pasta is tender. It will absorb the liquid in the pan, making for flavorful pasta and less clean-up for the cook.

Finished Skillet Pasta - Food in Jars

I’ve written the instructions out in an organized fashion for you, but this is more of a technique than a recipe that must be followed to the letter. You could do a version with braised fennel bulb and a pound of pork fennel sausage. A batch with artichoke would also be nice. The options are endless!

What would you make in a Viking casserole like this one?

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2015 Gift Guide: DIY Kits and Sets

Third in a series of concise gift guides for the 2015 holiday season. Up today is a collect of kits and sets that will help kickstart your DIY mojo.

DIY Kits - Food in Jars

A couple years ago, I decided to start knitting. I’d learned when I was a kid, but it had been years since I’d picked up yarn and needles and needed some help finding my footing. I bought myself Kat Goldin’s Knit Camp kit, and dove in.

It was that kit (plus a wide array of helpful video tutorials on YouTube) that helped me build confidence enough to pick out yarn and projects and start making. Here’s hoping that these culinary kits (and one discovery set for kids!) can help do the same for you or someone on your holiday list!

  1. Mori-Nu Make-Your-Own Tofu Kit – This kit allows you to make both silken and molded tofu (and includes everything you’ll need to do so). It’s a fun project to do with kids, particularly if you’re trying to convince them of the deliciousness of tofu. Read about my experience using the kit.
  2. Hobby Hill Farm Fresh Cheese Making Kit – This kit includes enough rennet, citric acid, and cheese salt to make 40 batches of cheese (talk about the gift that keeps on giving!). I took this kit out for a spin back in September, here’s my step-by-step tutorial.
  3. Maureen Abood’s Heavenly Hummus Kit – I’ve made a lot of hummus in my days, but never have I had a more delicious batch exit my food processor than the one I made with this kit.The secret is the pre-peeled chickpeas! Pair this kit with a copy of Maureen‘s book, Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, and you’d have a killer gift.
  4. Ferment’n Kit – I picked this sweet little kit up at Portland Homestead Supply when I was out there last month, and love its form factor and utility. It comes with a ceramic pickle weight and a nifty two-piece plastic airlock that has a very low profile. If there’s someone on your list with a tiny kitchen, this might be the perfect fermentation kit for them.
  5. Cultures for Health Kombucha Starter Kit – Looking to get started making your own kombucha in the new year? Cultures for Health’s Kombucha Starter Kit will set you on the road to scoby greatness!
  6. reCAP Explore Bug Catching Kit – This isn’t a culinary kit, but it is a fun one for kids (and involves a jar!) so I’m squeezing it in. The folks at Mason Jar reCAP have taken their new Flip Cap and added a magnifying lid to it, so that kids can collect and examine things from their natural world.
  7. FARMcurious Starter Kits – There’s so much to choose from over at FARMcurious. There’s the classic Fermenting Set I wrote about recently, the All-Inclusive Set (which includes a jar), or their Ultimate Fermenting Kit. A gift for every level of fermenter!
  8. Masontops – Last up is a trio of fabulous products from the folks at Masontops. Pair their glass fermentation weights with a Pickle Packer and a set of Pickle Pipes, and all your recipient needs to do is add veg, salt, and a jar!
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2015 Gift Guide: Travel Mugs and Drinking Jars

Second in a series of concise gift guides for the 2015 holiday season. On the docket for today? Things that transform jars into travel mugs and water bottles, as well as one actual travel mug.

Drinking Jar Gift Guide - Food in Jars

For a brief time in the mid-2000s, I worked a horrible admin job at a local university (this was the situation that convinced me that it was time to go to grad school). In order to save money, I packed both my breakfast and lunch up in a trio of mason jars nearly every single day. Coffee was stashed in a regular mouth pint. A breakfast smoothie was contained in a pint & half jar (which was a rare bird indeed back then, well before Ball reintroduced that size). And most days, I brought soup for lunch in a wide mouth pint jar.

I tell you all this to say, I have done my time in the mason jar traveling circus and these are some of the best toppers, drink lids, and other accessories out there.

  1. iLid Drink Topper – A one-piece lid with a slider that can cover or reveal the drink opening. It’s not leakproof, but if you hate fussing with two pieces, it’s the way to go.
  2. Joco Cup – I know. There’s no jar here. However, if you are looking to give someone a travel mug this holiday season and they think that mason jars are entirely too uncivilized, this is the one I recommend. It’s made of glass and silicone, is quite sturdy, and feels nice in the hand.
  3. Cuppow Glass Travel Mug – This is the complete mason jar mug system. You get a wide mouth mason jar, a Cuppow topper, and a coozie made from recycled soda bottles. I use mine all the time and love the little loop on the coozie.
  4. EcoJarz Pop-Top and Denim Holster – I’ve paired two of EcoJarz products together for the perfect smoothie toting combo. The Pop-Top lid seals tight and the cute denim sleeve keeps your jar from clanking around your backpack or lunch bag.
  5. Mason Bar Company Bamboo Tumbler Lid – A bamboo lid that screws directly onto a jar and has a hole just the right size for a glass straw. It’s the most stylish jar sipping set-up I know.
  6. reCAP Mason Jar POUR – Most people use these pour lids for salad dressings and maple syrup. However, they just happen to also make a good drink lid, particularly if your goal is quick access to water.
Comments { 1 }

2015 Gift Guide: Kitchen Utensils

The first in a series of concise gift guides for the 2015 holiday season. Today, let’s talk about cooking utensils!

Gift Guide Utensils - Food in Jars

I first started collecting cooking utensils when I was in college. Any time I spotted a vintage spatula or a sturdy wooden spoon at a thrift store for a quarter, I’d add it to my basket. In those days, I wasn’t really buying for utility. I mostly selected based on age, price, and quirkiness.

Once two friends and I moved into an off-campus house, my motley collection of spoons, tongs, and spatulas were pressed into service in the kitchen. Rapidly, I developed opinions about what I liked and what needed to be returned to the flow of used goods. Now, nearly 15 years and three cookbooks later, I’ve become something of a utensil connoisseur. Here are the ones that I think are most worthy of your time, money, and gift list.

  1. Microplane Zester – Sturdy, sharp, and speedy, I reach for mine any time I need to grate citrus zest, nutmeg, or hard cheeses.
  2. GIR Perforated Spoon* – Though I have a number of slotted and punctured spoons available, this one feels best in the hand and has become the one I reach for first.
  3. Earlywood Classic Ladle – This ladle has heft and makes even a basic pot of soup feel special. It’s also one of those tools that gets better with time and use. Handmade in Montana.
  4. Perfect Masher – This masher has pointy cutting blades that make a world of difference when you’re pressing cooked apples into sauce or smoothing hunks of stonefruit into jam. I also like their pastry blender.
  5. KitchenPro Silicone Tongs* – I use tongs a lot and since this pair landed in my utensil jar, it has occupied the number one spot. They have just the right amount of resistance and the silicone-coated heads are gentle on cookware, serving bowls, and your food. Use the code “PFVBE9VI” for 10% off your order.
  6. GIR Mini Spoon* – I thought this little spoon was sort of ridiculous until I realized I was using it every day. I reach for it any time I make a single serving of oatmeal or heat up leftovers for lunch. Cute and useful is a potent combination.
  7. Koe Premium Silicone Utensils* – The flat-headed spoon you see here is part of a set (this one is my favorite of five) of high quality silicone tools. It’s a vast step up from the nylon cookware sets so often for sale at department stores and would make a very nice gift for a beginning cook.
  8. Mastrad Silicone Spoon Spatula – If I was forced to pick just one utensil to use for the rest of my days, this would be it. It is flexible yet sturdy. Easy to clean (and dishwasher safe). And the unibody means that you never develop mold under the head. I have at least four in my utensil jar at all times.
  9. Utility/Petty Knife – Nine times out of ten, when I have a quick prep job to do, I reach for a utility knife rather than a smaller paring knife. It’s the perfect marriage of maneuverability and durability. If you’re ready to splurge, the one from New West KnifeWorks* is gorgeous and keeps its edge for ages. On the low (but still excellent) end is the OXO 6 Inch Utility Knife.

And now, for the fine print. Most of the links above are affiliate ones, meaning that I earn a few pennies if you happen to use the above link to make a purchase. Anything marked with an asterisk initially came into my life as a review sample. Everything here is worthy of your time and money.

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