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Millet in Jars and Muffins

Millet Muffins

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that one person’s staple grain can be totally exotic, foreign or just plain unnecessary to the next person. For instance, my mom always has some Cream of Wheat in her pantry rotation. That’s one I skip, preferring steel cut oats or hull-less barley for breakfast (although lightly buttered and salted Cream of Wheat with a poached egg on top is one of my beloved childhood comfort foods).

In the last few years, millet has crept into my grain rotation and is now a very definite canning jar staple (along with short grain brown rice and quinoa) in my kitchen. The thing I love about millet is that it has a multitude of applications. When it’s steamed, it become light and fluffy, a cross between polenta and broken rice. When toasted, it becomes a nutty addition to pancakes, waffles, muffins and scones.

Millet in a jar

It was the Metropolitan Bakery (Fork You toured their factory last summer, here’s the video from that day) that opened my eyes to toasted millet and the ways in which can add the perfect gentle crunch to baked goods. They make an amazing millet muffins, and it was those muffins that inspired me to add toasted millet to anything that would stand still.

Toasting millet is really easy. Most of the time, I do it in small batches in the toaster oven, cooking it at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes on a dry baking sheet. The only thing to remember is that to get the best crunch from your millet, you need to make sure you toast at least half an hour prior to stirring the millet into the batter, so that it has time to cool and firm up. Also, don’t worry if it looks like it’s smoking, it’s actually steam that occurs as the moisture inside the millet dries and escapes (of course, if it’s starting to look blackened, then it is smoke. Use your judgment).

If millet is one of your staple grains, how do you like to use it? For those of you for whom it’s new, do you have any questions?

My adaptation of Metropolitan Bakery’s millet muffin recipe is after the jump…

These muffins are particularly good with a dab of Honey Lemon Marmalade.

Just sayin’.

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Tip: Labeling Storage Jars

cane-sugar-picture

When I was as senior in high school, I took advanced biology. I can’t say that I’ve retained much from that class, particularly since once I got to college, I eschewed the sciences in order to focus almost entirely on literature, sociology and politics. However, there is one thing that sticks with me from that class, and it’s a tip that’s entirely useful when you use glass jars to store dry goods.

The tip is this: Sharpie ink will write on glass smoothly and easily, but then erases completely with a single alcohol swab. We used that trick in that science class to label test tubes and beakers, and I’ve continued to use permanent markers to clearly mark my jars full of food. I find that it’s particularly useful to mark jars with the date as well as with the contents, so that you know just how long it’s been around the pantry. I’ll even mark on the jar things like “use this first” or “millet, cook or toast” to remind myself of usage. I also like this method better than putting sticky labels on the jars, because it keeps them free of residue.

How do you guys store and label your dry goods?

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Loving jars

tea-in-a-ball-jar

I love jars. Now, when I say that to most people, they cock their heads and look at me as if I’ve got a couple of loose marbles upstairs, as jars aren’t something most people spend a whole lot of time thinking about. However, it’s an entirely true statement. I use canning jars to store leftovers and carry my lunchtime soup to work. I stash grains, teas, candies and condiments in them. I often turn to a wide mouth 16 ouncer when my water bottle is stinky and in the summer I carry that same size in case an iced coffee craving hits me (I hate using disposable containers, I can’t help but imagine them lasting forever in the landfill). There’s also something so satisfying and solid about drinking out of a jar as opposed to a flimsy paper cup.

My favorite jar in the world is the discontinued wide mouth 20 ounce glass freezer jar. I haven’t been able to track down when Ball stopped producing these babies, but they are a rare and precious commodity. About six months ago, I bought a dozen of them on eBay so as to bolster my stash. I gave several to my mother for Christmas. She was delighted to have them, as she was the one who originally turned me on to that particular size and understands just how hard they are to find.

I trace my minor jar obsession straight back to my mom. When I was in college, she slowly began ridding the house of the Rubbermaid and Tupperware containers that we’d used for food storage since I was born. She hated that they always became stained and liked to retain particularly stinky scents. Each time I came home for long weekends or holiday breaks, there were more food-filled jars in the fridge and fewer plastic containers. These days, save for a few ancient plastic containers that she’s had since the seventies, my parents’ house is a jar-only zone.

These days, my jar collection outstriped my ability to house it. I spend the summer making jams and pickles, and so throughout the winter, tuck the empties into closets and under beds until their time in a water bath comes again. Living in Center City Philadelphia makes finding jars a bit difficult, but I live just a short hour from Lancaster County, which is the self-proclaimed home canning capital of the world (those Amish sure to make a good homemade ketchup). And there’s always eBay.

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