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Guest Post: Sailboat Canning and Mango Chutney from Heather Francis

Galley

Today’s guest post comes from Heather Francis. For the last six years, she and her partner Steve have been sailing around the world. They document their travels and their edible DIY projects on their blog, Yacht Kate. Enjoy! 

I didn’t start canning until I moved into my smallest kitchen ever; the galley on Kate, our Newport 41’ sailboat.
The galley (boat speak for kitchen) is a typical U shape. It would politely be described as compact but I often just say that there is only room for one bum.

When I stand at the stove it feels like I am getting a hug from the countertops. It is designed this way so there are lots of places to hold onto and lean against while we are sailing. The sink, stove, pots, pans, dishes, utensils and ingredients are all within arms-reach, literally. When I cook organization is of the utmost importance and chaos occurs after a few dirty dishes are in the sink.

Teeny Tiny Stove

The first preserve I ever made was Strawberry Jam. Six months after we bought Kate in board in Southern California strawberries went on sale; $10 for 10 pints. The plan was to sail south to Panama and then across the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean to Australia. I knew we wouldn’t be seeing strawberries for a long, long time. I lugged 10 boxes of berries, a bag of sugar and a new case of mason jars across town on the trolley and set to work.

I read a couple recipes, followed the directions loosely (I have a tendency to fiddle with recipes) and in no time had a pot of jam bubbling away on the stovetop. To take my mind off of obsessively checking to see if the jam had set I turned on the oven and made a batch of bread. The cabin became unbearably hot but I didn’t leave the stove. I couldn’t. I was mesmerized by that pot and the sticky, sweetness that filled the air.

Strawberry Jam

By the time I had ladled the jam it into jars and taken the bread out of the oven it was almost dark. I sat in the cockpit with few slices of warm bread and the small bowl of froth I had skimmed off the surface of the jam and watched the sun set.

Before I knew it I had eaten half a loaf of bread and most of the bottle of still warm strawberry jam. It tasted like summer. It tasted like childhood. It tasted just like the jam my Grampy used to make, well almost. That it came out of my little galley was nothing short of amazing.

Preserves

Since then I have made Lemon Lime Marmalade in Costa Rica, Pineapple Passion Fruit Jam in Bora Bora, Mango Chutney in the Marquesas Islands, Sweet Pepper Jelly in the Kingdom of Tonga and recently Tomato Relish and Sweet Mustard Pickles in Fiji. Whenever there is an excess of fruit and some empty bottles you’ll find me sweating next to my little stove.

Sometimes I have to be creative as the standard canning cookbooks don’t usually have recipes that include passion fruit or mangos. Out of necessity I often have to use what I have on hand or what is available in local shops; substituting a bitter orange for a lemon, or using raw sugar instead of the near impossible to find white sugar (in the South Pacific anyway). The results may not look picture perfect but they are always pretty tasty.

Fiji Preserves

I do a lot of cooking and every piece of equipment in my galley does double duty as space on a boat is at a premium. I use my pressure cooker with a standard glass lid for boiling bottles and a stainless steel or well-loved enamel cast iron pot I bought at Goodwill for cooking the preserves.

I do all the chopping, dicing and grating by hand, no matter how tedious. We depend on solar and wind power so except for a small immersion blender I don’t own any electrical appliances. If I have a really big bunch of fruit to use up I either make several small batches or borrow a large pot from another boat in the anchorage. But no one seems to mind me asking when I offer to repay the favor with a jar of homemade chutney.

Mango Prep

I don’t remember what island we were anchored at when I opened the last jar of strawberry jam. Chances are we had been on the move for the last few months and hadn’t seen anything resembling a traditional super market in several weeks. Most likely we were getting bored of eating bananas and pineapples.

I know that it was a Sunday and Steve had made us pancakes as a special treat. And I recall searching deep in the bilge for the jar and feeling like I stuck gold when I found it. We had breakfast in the cockpit and dabbed tiny spoons of strawberry jam onto our pancakes, hoping that the little bottle would last forever. The flavours were bright and sweet and familiar. It tasted like home.

Mango Chutney

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Guest Post: Honey-Vanilla Bean Quince Preserves from Camille Storch

filling jars with quince preserves by Camille Storch

I have a big treat today! A guest post from Camille Storch! Camille is a writer, runner, and canner living with her family in rural Western Oregon. Her blog, Wayward Spark, focuses on small agriculture and sustainable living. Camille’s husband Henry is a commercial beekeeper who manages nearly 300 hives in the Willamette Valley and remote areas of the Oregon Coast Range. Through their business, Old Blue Raw Honey, Camille and Henry sell their unique varietal honeys at local events and online (I’ve tasted this honey and it is spectacular).

bag of quince by Camille Storch

I got turned on to quince a couple years ago when I overheard my friend Ana, a pastry chef, ranting and raving about the fruit’s flavor, texture, and rosy metamorphosis in the cooking process. After getting my hands on some, they quickly became one of my fall favorites, and I’ve since tried out a number recipes including quince jelly and spiced quince leather.

peeled and halved quince by Camille Storch

Quince may seem exotic, and the fruits take a little more work to prepare than an apple or a pear, but the flavor of sweetened (perhaps spiced) quince is unrivaled and almost universally appealing.

simmering quince and lemon by Camille Storch

Starting in late September, quince aren’t too hard to come by at farmers’ markets or even grocery stores ‘round these parts. For the last three years, I’ve had the privilege of visiting and harvesting from the quince orchard at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, OR where more than 200 different quince cultivars from all over the world are planted.

reducing quince by Camille Storch

This year, I put off my orchard trip until almost too late in the season, so only a few stragglers were left on the trees for me to pluck down. Luckily, I made off with just enough fruit for two batches of honey-vanilla bean quince preserves and one quince-boysenberry pie.

jars of quince preserves by Camille Storch

The following recipe was inspired by my friend Lisa who sometimes brings me fresh butter from her dairy cows but on one occasion brought me a jar of homemade quince preserves instead. I popped open the jar immediately, and then we sat around the kitchen table chatting and eating through a stack of pancakes smothered in chunky, rosy, quince-y goodness. Later when I asked for her recipe, I got only a few vague instructions, so I had to recreate her genius more or less on my own. Thankfully, the task wasn’t difficult at all.

half pint of quince preserves by Camille Storch

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Guest Post: Pickled Beets with Honey from Camille Storch

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Oh friends, do I have a treat in store for you today! It’s a guest post from writer, woodworker, avid canner, and mom of two, Camille Storch. She writes about ecology, agriculture, community, and the reality of her family’s joyful, off-the-grid life in rural Western Oregon on her blog, Wayward Spark.

She also designs and crafts natural edge cutting and serving boards and sells them in her Etsy shop, Red Onion Woodworks. I recently added one of her boards to my kitchen and it’s quickly become one of my most loved and used tools. Enjoy!

beets

My mom canned a lot when I was a kid, but like most activities my parents enjoyed, I had no interest in participating in her steamy kitchen exploits. My parents were big gardeners/small farmers who sold their vegetables and baked goods at the local farmers’ market starting the year I was born (and continuing to this day). I enjoyed hanging around the action of the market, and I always loved to eat pretty much any kind of fruit or vegetable, but I never once sowed a seed or pulled a weed unless I was coerced or bribed into doing it.

In a strange and unexplainable turn of events, I got my first real job when I was still in high school working on an organic vegetable farm, and even more surprisingly, I really liked it. I tackled thistles, harvested sweet cherries, and cleaned fresh garlic for days on end. I got a couple of gnarly sunburns, I learned to speak Spanish, and for the first time in my life, I developed real working muscles. And my love for fruits and vegetables reached a whole new level.

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When I moved out of my parents’ house at 18, I would regularly eat giant piles of kale (before kale was the phenom that it is today) over brown rice for dinner, and in the summer, I’d feast on unmarketable-but-still-delicious cracked heirloom tomatoes out in the fields with sprigs of basil as chasers. Farms and food became a way of life for me during my college years, and I’d show up to class in dirty Carhartt’s, like they were some sort of badge of honor.

My first forays into canning on my own involved farm excesses including ugly tomatoes, windfall apples, and a whole box of scarred nectarines that couldn’t be sold. I spent a fair bit of time on the phone with my mom or tracking down USDA hot water bath guidelines, but it wasn’t long before the rhythm of washing, sterilizing, peeling, stuffing, lidding, and boiling was familiar and comforting.

cipollinis

I moved into a rental house with a new roommate in May at the end of my junior year in college, and I saw my roommate’s eyes grow wide as I schlepped box after box of empty canning jars up the steps and into the kitchen. A month later, I bought my first chest freezer and moved that into the house, too. I’m fairly certain my roommate thought I was completely off my rocker, but by the end of the summer, I had canned, frozen, or dried enough produce to feed a small army.

Over the years, I’ve pared down my canning experiments to include more or less just what my family can and wants to eat in the off season: a few jars of jam, some applesauce, a lot of cold-packed whole tomatoes, and a few extras just for fun or for gifts (plus a freezer full of blueberries and other staples). The fact that canning and preserving is really “in” right now is kind of funny to me because it’s been a part of my own life for so long now that it doesn’t feel too special anymore. That said, I’m all in favor of any activity that brings folks closer to their food and the farms that produce that food.

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When I stumbled across this new fangled group called the Portland Preservation Society on Instagram, I was intrigued. When I went to my first meeting, I was hooked. The PPS is a loose collective of Portland area food enthusiasts that meets monthly to swap (mostly canned) food items. (Be sure to check out PPS founder Brooke Weeber’s crazy cool vegetable illustrations in her Etsy shop, Little Canoe.) Every meeting is a showcase of the possibilities in food preservation from jellies to pickles to spreads to infused alcohols, sweet and savory alike.

The April PPS meeting was the perfect excuse for me to dust off my trusty pickled beet recipe. I first ordered a big bag of beets from my vegetable alma mater, Gathering Together Farm, and then I stole a few onions from my parents’ root cellar. I used honey instead of sugar in this recipe because my husband is a beekeeper, so we almost always have honey on hand, and I’m all about keepin’ it local. I spent a pleasant afternoon stuffing jars and perfuming my kitchen with steam from the sweet and tangy brine. In the end, I discovered that my fellow PPS members are just as enthusiastic about pickled beets as I am, but luckily I held back a couple jars to enjoy at home.

pickled-beets-fij

There are beet lovers and beet haters in the world, and well, I love ‘em. Pretty much any style of beets suits me just fine, especially if the earthy roots are paired with a bit of creamy chévre or salty feta. These pickled beets are honey sweetened but not overly so and seasoned with onion (cipollini if you can find them) and a bit of pickling spice. The preservative power comes from the all-important ratio of 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water, so if you want to halve or double this recipe, be sure to retain that balance.

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Guest Post: Pickled Green Tomatoes

green tomatoes

Since January, Olivia has been helping make Food in Jars even better. Her family has a tradition of pickling green tomatoes and so we scared up some out-of-season tomatoes (thanks Fair Food Farmstand!) and made a batch. If you can’t get your hands on green tomatoes right now, remember this one for late summer. Eaten on a slice of Italian bread, these pickles are downright blissful. – Marisa

I know very little about canning. I do have copious jar love—mason jars are scattered about my room to hold sea glass, flowers, and pencils, or simply to be put to use as glasses to drink out of — but I don’t often use jars for their intended purpose.

When I first started interning for Marisa, I was overcome by the sheer amount of jars in her apartment, all the lovely shapes and sizes and fillings, and I began to long to can something. I quickly became nostalgic for the one food I’ve ever canned: green tomatoes.

ingredients

I’ve grown up around good food all my life. Once I made it to college, I realized that I had been spoiled with homemade corn chowder and minestrones, panko-breaded chicken cutlets and oven-roasted vegetables, stuffed breads and antipastos, and, of course, the classic sauce and meatballs nearly every Sunday night.

My mom even makes her own croutons and ice cream cake when she is “feeling ambitious.” In fact, many of my friends have said that they’ve never had a bad meal at my house. Overall, my mother raised me with a slightly picky, but well-versed palate. I’ve been vegan for just over a year now, a decision I came to by observing my brother and roommate—both vegans—and doing a little research on the health benefits.

drained tomatoes

Despite the limits most people think a vegan diet imposes, I feel my tastes and love of food has only grown since I’ve begun to explore new dishes and revitalize old favorites: I’ve learned to work with tempeh to create burgers, mock tuna salad, and some great stir-frys; I’ve made vegan versions of my mom’s corn chowder, panko chick’n, and baked mac and cheese; I also make a mean vegan pizza, complete with cheeseless pesto, artichoke hearts, olives, peppers, and sliced tomatoes.

Many of these things I wouldn’t have tried two years ago, but being vegan has taught me to say “yes” to new experiences and view eating as an adventure, and a rewarding one at that.

chopped

Green tomatoes are a tradition in my family. It all begins with my Noni, my grandmother on my father’s side who emigrated from Pescara, Italy to the U.S. (living in various parts of Connecticut during her lifetime) when my father was just five years old. I fondly remember her watching cheesy game shows, especially with the “handsome Bobby Bark,” playing bingo and blackjack for spare change, and working in the kitchen–as long as she could do so sitting down.

Though her tomato-preserving sessions were before my time, I can clearly recall the days of working in the kitchen with Noni, rolling three baking sheets of meatballs and listening to her sing sweetly in both Italian and broken English. She passed away when I was in fifth grade, so I missed her cooking prime, but my family is well-versed with “Noni Stories,” which has made her somewhat of a celebrity among our friends.

stirring

Food was a way for her to remain close to her culture. She helped run a restaurant when she first came to the States and all her meals, both at work and at home with her five children, employed methods she learned growing up on a farm and incorporated characteristically Italian and Mediterranean flavors. The only exception was when she would indulge in spicy, un-authentic, Chinese delivery food in her later years.

close up of pickles

Every September, Noni, with help from my aunts and my mother, would gather up all the green tomatoes from the summer garden and can a dozen jars of pickles. They did this after putting up more than three hundred jars of ripe tomato sauce, just enough to get the family through the year. Noni would get the grandkids to help, too, each putting a sprig of basil in the jars and lining them up on the table.

prepared jars

The canning crew would start out by slicing the tomatoes and letting them sit in a bowl, covered in salt, for a few days. When it was time to rinse the tomatoes just before canning them, Noni used to put them in a clean pillow case and into the washing machine on a rinse and spin cycle.

My parents say she would lean on the washing machine when it spun them out to stop it from hopping across the floor. This process is NOT recommended, obviously; she broke a few machines doing this, much to the chagrin of my Nono, who would angrily have to make his way to “Sees-a-Robuk,” or Sears and Roebuck, to buy a new washer.

filling jars

I was not brave enough to try the green tomatoes until my teens, years after my Noni had passed away. I was never really big on tomatoes in any style or form, but once I tried them, I was sold. My taste buds were electrocuted and enlightened by the cold, pickley flavor and the crisp crunch of the tomato.

When I was in high school, I began jarring these tomatoes to use in holiday gift baskets, usually paired with a good wine (which my mother picked out) and a ciabatta or baguette (because in my opinion, great bread makes a meal). The pickles were a hit midwinter, but also took the spotlight at summer picnics, the quickly-emptied ball jar glistening in the sun.

packing jars

My mom and I have since updated the recipe, adding olives and eggplant to the original, which strictly called for tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery, and occasionally red bell pepper (my aunt sometimes uses green peppers, but red peppers add a nice spark of color to the jar). We were forced to adapt regardless, as my Noni never properly measured anything out — using a coffee cup, a spoon, or the ever-cumbersome “pinch” to explain her recipes to her grandkids, who tried desperately to figure out the conventional measurements.

Though we’ve cheated in making these tomatoes in the past, using already canned tomatoes to concoct our recipe, I’ve been itching to try canning these fresh, as well as perfect my technique so that the oil doesn’t seep out of the lids and ruin my gift baskets. To preserve the taste and texture of this pickle, and because balsamic vinegar is less acidic than others, it is best to store these in refrigerator.

pouring olive oil

I’m thrilled to share a bit of my family with all of you and to get to join the can-fam as well. Recipe and instructions after the jump, enjoy!

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Blog Update and Meet the Intern

adding vinegar

For the last few months, I’ve had an intern helping me make some updates to the blog. She has done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes and so we thought it was time to introduce her! In her post below, she details some of the updates she’s made to the site. Check back tomorrow for her grandmother’s pickled green tomato recipe! – Marisa

Hello Canners!

I’m Olivia, Marisa’s intern. Most people call me some sort of version of Liv or Livie Dee. I’m a junior at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, but hail from Milford, Connecticut, and thus have permanent ties to the beach and its the soothing sound of waves on walks and car rides (I’m a little lost in big, bustling Philly).

I’ve grown up shaped by a strong sense of family, friendship, and creativity — my mother nearly always had a book in hand, my father a paintbrush, and my brother an instrument. I’m studying both English and Communications at SJU, where I work as a tutor in the Writing Center. I’m still trying to figure things out, but I know I’ve never been happier doing anything else. I get stressed easily, but I try to take pleasure in the little things, work hard for what I want, and keep a smile on my face.

Initially I was interested in interning with Food in Jars because it combines two of my greatest passions—writing and food—while also allowing me to get some WordPress and social media experience under my belt; I’ve also been in limbo with the idea of starting a vegan food blog and was hoping I could take away a clearer understanding of what it takes to run a food blog as a hobby, as a business, or as just one of the many things in the balancing act of life.

There are some new things going on here at Food In Jars. If you direct your focus to the top of the webpage, you’ll see that our menu has changed a wee bit. Although it may look as though some things have disappeared, they have merely been moved to a drop-down menu of an already existing page. This allowed us to organize things more clearly and remove the clutter that the new pages would have caused.

Yes, I said new pages.

You will now find under the “Canning Resources” menu header that there is a page called  Canning 101. This is a neat little compilation of all Marisa’s Canning 101 posts that offer tips, explanations, general instructions, etc. For those of you who own the Food in Jars Cookbook, there is a new Food in Jars Errata page under the “Cookbook” menu, which lists all the errors in the various printings of the book.

I hope these changes are helpful. Feel free to explore the site and look for my guest post, coming tomorrow!

Keep canning, Livie Dee

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Guest Post: A First Time Canner Makes Blueberry Jam

I don’t often run guest posts, but I do find that it’s nice to occasionally include a voice other than my own. Today’s guest writer is Todd Van Patter from the blog Foodie’s Arsenal. He is an able cook but a very new canner. This is his account of his first preserving experience (aided by my cookbook!). Thanks so much for making one of my recipes and writing about it, Todd! 

For whatever reason, I’ve never tried canning before. I realize that in our convenience culture it’s more of a niche skill or a hobby for the culinarily ambitious, so I’m not exactly alone in my cluelessness. But I have every reason to be all about canning, and it just hasn’t clicked until now.

I grew up in a family of good cooks and pretty good gardeners; my wife and I care a lot about our food and are always looking for ways to simplify our lifestyle; I have a food blog where I write about such important things as being better foodies and learning skills to get more out of your food on a frequent basis. I even grew up in Central Pennsylvania, come from Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, and have a surprising number of Mennonite friends. But still no jars. So I guess my canning destiny has been a long time coming.

The final push I needed came from Marisa and her awesome book. She didn’t ask me to promote it or anything, but I’ll happily do so because it’s my kind of cookbook. Laid back, thorough explanations, enticing recipes and pictures, and just a little nerdy– it’s exactly the kind of canning book I would have pictured if I knew I wanted one so bad. So I’m really glad to have Marisa’s guidance be my gateway into the canning world.

Anyway, I gave it a shot, and I’m hooked. Right now is the perfect time to learn to can if you’re interested in it, with summer gardens headed toward harvest and farmer’s markets bursting with color and variety. The couple of jams and fruit butters I’ve tried so far have turned out well, and since I’m lucky to have a strong gardening/preserving culture here in Harrisonburg VA, I know that I’ll continue to learn great ways use this new skill in my own food adventures.

I decided to share my debut canning experience with you all using Marisa’s Blueberry Jam recipe from the Food in Jars cookbook, since blueberries are one of my top favorite things on the planet. Thanks to you all for hosting me here and letting me add my voice to the mix, and I hope that you’ll also come follow along at my blog, Foodie’s Arsenal, where there will soon undoubtedly be a lot more canning recipes popping up.

Todd’s annotated version of my blueberry jam recipe is after the jump. Thanks again, Todd! 

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