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Gift Guide 2016: Things for the Canner Who Has Everything

gift-guide-canners-everything-1

This week, I’m running a handful of short gift guides featuring some things you might like to give or get this holiday season. I’m kicking off the series with a couple things that you could give to your favorite canner who already has every other canning tool and gadget imaginable.

You might look at this guide and think it’s really short. And it is. You see, I’ve recommended a lot of gear over the years and you just don’t need me to suggest the same things over again (I’ve linked to those prior gift guides below, if you do need more ideas). But these are two things that a canner who has everything he or she needs might just enjoy having.

  1. Wusthof Epicure 2-Piece Prep Set – This lovely knife set is a gorgeous and useful upgrade for anyone who spends lots of time in the kitchen. I’ve had these knives in my tool kit since the spring and I reach for them all the time. The wooden handles are comfortable to hold and just get more gorgeous over time.
  2. GIR Ladle – I’ve used a lot of ladles in my life and this is the best one I’ve encountered. The bowl is made of flexible silicone. That means that you can scrap every last drop of jam out of the pot. It also holds a full cup, which is just enough to fill a half pint jar.

For more gift giving inspiration, check out some of my gift guides for years past. You’ll find favorite tools, good gear for cooking and canning, and my favorite mason jar drink lids.

And finally, because it’s Monday and the folks at Wusthof are kind and generous, I have one of the knife sets you see above to give away. Let’s do it the old fashioned way this week.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me share something you’re looking forward to giving this holiday season.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, December 10, 2016. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, December 11, 2016.
  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: Wusthof provided the knife set you see pictured above, and is providing the giveaway unit, both at no cost to me. GIR also provided the ladle as a review unit. However, my opinion remains entirely my own. I both am sent and buy a lot of kitchen gear every year, and these are stand-outs! 

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Food in Jars Favorites: Earlywood Tasting Spoons

earlywood tasting spoons - Food in Jars

I first discovered Earlywood and the gorgeous wooden tools that Brad Bernhart makes thanks to a post on the blog, Dig This Chick nearly five years ago. As a lover of wooden spoons and spatulas, I was powerless in the face of her recommendation and ordered myself a large saute tool and a scraper.

earlywood handles - Food in Jars

Since then, Earlywood tools have become something I buy myself when I reach a milestone or am in need of an inexpensive splurge. For instance, when I turned in the manuscript for my third book, I bought myself a ladle. I’m at the point where most of the wooden tools in my kitchen started their life as a hunk of wood in Brad’s shop.

earlywood spoon bowls - Food in Jars

A few months ago, Brad sent me his tasting spoon set (you can also buy them one at a time), curious if I thought they might have particular application in a canning kitchen. After living with them for a while, I’ve come to find that I reach for them all the time, though not necessarily for tasting.

I’ve found that they’re a fabulous tool for poking air bubbles out of jars (I use both the bowl of the spoon and the handle, depending on the location of the bubble) and for ensuring that jam flows evenly into jars with shoulders. They are beautiful, useful objects and really, you can’t ask for more than that!

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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?

Continue Reading →

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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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