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Preserves in Action: Kimchi Noodle Soup

Need something spicy, flavorful, and warming? Alex Jones is here with a recipe for a tasty batch of soup that will help you make good use of that jar of kimchi you’ve got tucked in the back of the fridge! Yum! -Marisa

Throughout my preserving life, I’ve realized that I use some things all the time — pressure-canned tomatoes, stock and beans, dried herbs and Meyer lemon slices, frozen peak-season fruit. And others, like high-sugar jams, I don’t use much of at all.

As I go along each season, I try to learn from what I end up giving away or not enjoying so that I can maximize my food dollars, avoid waste, and devote space in my fridge and pantry to items I’ll actually eat.

When I found myself with two huge napa cabbages in my fridge two falls ago, I made a massive batch of kimchi (using the excellent recipe from Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking). After giving several jars away at the Philly Food Swap, I still had a gallon left. And while I’ve added it to rice bowls and eaten it on the side with scrambled eggs, two big jars still sit in the back corner of my fridge.

One of my intentions for the new year is tokeep my fridge slightly less jam-packed than it usually is — which includes using up good preserves that I sometimes ignore. Luckily, there’s an excellent Korean dish — kimchi-guk — that turns this pungent condiment into a delicious, warming soup.

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How to Make Homemade Maple Cream

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here today to share her family recipe for homemade maple cream. She transforms some real maple syrup into a gorgeous, spreadable cream that is perfect for your morning toast or a holiday cheese board. If this post doesn’t want to make you leap up and head to the kitchen, I don’t know what will! -Marisa

A can of real maple syrup for homemade maple cream

I have a confession to make: I’m a maple snob.

Growing up, my house always had real maple syrup to top pancakes, French toast, and ice cream. I didn’t even know that “pancake syrup” (typically an artificially flavored, corn syrup-based imitation of the real thing) was different from what my family used until I was a teenager, when I unwittingly poured it all over my breakfast at a friend’s house after a sleepover. Imitation just doesn’t compare.

We kept real maple syrup in the house not just because it’s incredibly delicious and we could to afford it, but because my mother’s family in Quebec would have disowned her — or sent a care package — if we hadn’t.

As an American-born cook with Canadian dual citizenship, maple syrup is part of my culinary heritage. My gaggle of aunts up Quebec, whose preserving habits and big gardens I’ve written about before, always give me a can of sirop d’erable pur to take home on my visits — if not a coveted bottle of homemade maple syrup, the really good stuff boiled down over a wood fire in my uncle’s sugar shack.

And just about the only thing more delicious than maple syrup is maple cream, a spreadable, velvety smooth maple reduction with a super-concentrated maple flavor. When I spied a spare can of syrup in my pantry while hunting for another ingredient, I decided to try making this pricey, hard-to-find treat myself.

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A Gravy Story in the Fall Issue of Edible Philly

Stirring toasted flour and turkey drippings into roux

Photo by Courtney Apple for Edible Philly

Apart from the bird, the most important element on my family’s Thanksgiving table is the gravy. I learned the art of gravy making watching and working alongside my dad. His skill came from his mother in similar fashion. I’ve written tidbits about our particular obsession with turkey gravy in the past and this year, I brought the story together with the recipe for a piece in the fall issue of Edible Philly.

If you’ve been looking to improve your gravy situation, the recipe I shared in the article will help. It is scaled to make just a quart, but depending on how many guests you plan on serving (and how much leftover gravy you want to have), you can ramp up your production as is needed.

While we’re on the topic of Thanksgiving, if you’re in the market for cranberry options for the upcoming holiday, I have you covered.

Finally, there’s a trio of sweet potato recipes I wrote for Table Matters five years back that are so good that they’re worth revisiting.

For those of you who are in the US, how’s your Thanksgiving planning going? What are the classics that you serve year after year? And are there any recipes you’re trying for the first time this year?

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How to Brew Bracing Homemade Fire Cider

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is dropping in today with a recipe for homemade fire cider. This invigorating tonic is said to help boost your immune system and keep you healthy throughout the winter cold and flu season! -Marisa

Ingredients for homemade fire cider

Where I am in Philadelphia, the leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler after a warm start to fall, and root crops are ready to harvest.

That means it’s time to start a batch of homemade fire cider.

This spicy, bracing infusion has been used for centuries as a way to preserve herbs and vegetables that also have medicinal value. Whipping up a big batch at the end of the growing season means that you’ve got a tasty tonic to sip on or use in recipes like sauces, marinades, and salad dressings.

I first tried making this recipe years ago, when I was a CSA manager tasked with finding with a handful of new and interesting recipes to include with each share of vegetables. One week, we included horseradish in the boxes, and I came upon the now familiar recipe.

I loved the ritual, the acidic flavor, and the kick — a powerful whoosh of horseradish, garlic, and onion straight to the nose. I’m not sure whether it was thanks to the homemade fire cider or something else, but I didn’t get sick that winter.

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How to Make Fresh Tulsi Tea

Even though 2017 isn’t over yet — and it’s been a pretty big year already — I know I’ll remember it as the year I met tulsi.

I was introduced to this mesmerizing plant through the yearlong monthly herbal medicine class I’m taking with a clinical herbalist and teacher here in West Philly, Kelly McCarthy of Attic Apothecary.

I meet with her and around 15 other students one full Sunday per month at historic Bartram’s Garden, where we also maintain raised beds and learn to grow herbs from wilderness gardener (and herbalist) Mandy Katz from seed to harvest.

I think it was the second class, sitting outside with our notebooks on a balmy day this April when we studied the nervous system. We learned about adaptogens, plants that contain compounds that can help the body and mind deal with stress.

There are several, like ashwagandha root, as well as some fungi, like prized reishi mushrooms. But tulsi — also known as holy basil — piqued my interest, since I already dry and brew my own blend of culinary basil varieties for tea.

Kelly has said that if she could recommend one herb to everyone, it would be tulsi — that if everyone just got their daily dose of heady, stress-relieving tea, we’d all feel a little better.

And after taking it daily as a tea made from the dried herb (purchased through Mountain Rose herbs), I have to agree with her: during difficult, stressful times, my regular tulsi habit did seem to help make life a little brighter, a little easier to deal with.

However, tea made from dried tulsi, while pleasant to drink, is somewhat unremarkable: dark in color, earthy and tannic, and only slightly reminiscent of the pungent, bubblegum-sweet essence of the fresh herb.

It wasn’t until I was regularly harvesting it from my garden this summer that I really got to know this herb — and I had to learn to remake my daily tea all over again.

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How to Make Your Own Tonic Water

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here to with a how-to post designed to help you make tonic water syrup! A fun DIY project for an August weekend. – Marisa

When hot weather comes to Philadelphia, that’s my cue to pick up a bottle of gin — because there’s no better quencher at the end of a long, hot bike commute or gardening session than a bright, herbaceous gin and tonic.

In recent years, I’ve started investing in better, locally produced gins to make my favorite summertime cocktail: bottles of Philadelphia Distilling’s Bluecoat and Palmer Distilling’s Liberty Gin are made in the city; Manatawny Still Works’ Odd Fellows Gin is produced about an hour outside Philly in Pottstown. All three are delicious in a crisp G&T.

With quality craft gin, homemade seltzer (thanks to my secondhand SodaStream), and fresh-squeezed lime juice, I found myself just one ingredient away from a truly bespoke cocktail: homemade tonic water.

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