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Giveaway: Mrs. Wages Pickle Sampler Pack

This week’s Pickle Sampler giveaway comes to us from long-time Food in Jars sponsor Mrs. Wages. I’ve been doing a bit of work with the folks from Mrs. Wages for the last seven(!) years and one element of our annual partnership is that they always offer up one or two awesome baskets of their mixes, spices, and starters for me to give away to my wonderful readers. This summer is no exception!

This is the first of two baskets of canning helpers that I’ll be giving away from Mrs. Wages this summer. This basket contains nearly every pickle product that Mrs. Wages makes, which should delight the pickle lovers. Here’s exactly what’s in the basket.

To enter for a chance to win this basket of pickle making goodness, please use the widget below. Open to US and Canadian residents. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Mrs. Wages is a Food in Jars sponsor and so contributes to the ongoing operation of this site. This giveaway is part of our annual partnership.

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Quick Pickled Apple Matchsticks & OXO Chef’s Mandoline

I got my first CSA share of the season a week ago, and in addition to the other spring vegetables like snap peas and breakfast radishes, it came with an enormous head of red butter lettuce, an unwieldy bunch of kale, dandelion greens, and bags of spicy arugula and mixed salad greens. You will not be at all surprised to hear that we’ve been eating a lot of salads lately.

Thought I eat salads all year round, I think of this time of year as the true salad season, and as such, I like to outfit my fridge accordingly. I work up a few easy things that can enhance all those greens and make it simple to shake together tasty little batches of vinaigrettes.

This spring, I’m particularly digging these quick pickled apple matchsticks. The are bright, tangy, and crunchy. In combination with a tangle of greens, some soft goat cheese, a few toasted walnuts, and a drizzle of olive oil, they make an incredibly pleasing salad.

The nice folks from OXO recently sent me one of their new Chef’s Mandoline Slicers to try out and it makes slicing apples for this quick pickle such a pleasure. Unlike other mandolines, where you have to manually change out different blades in order to create matchsticks, you simply turn a knob to dial up the julienne blade. What’s more, the guard is designed to wrap around the piece of food that you’re slicing, making the whole slicing act feel safer than any other mandoline I’ve used.

The same knob that allows you to move the julienne tines into place also adjusts the thickness of the cut. This means that you can select thickness settings in 0.5-mm intervals, which is an unusual amount of control for a mandoline that is priced under $100 (this one sells for $79.99). You can also select straight and wavy blades, and a French fry blade. There’s not much in the slicing realm that this mandoline can’t do.

If you’re still making bread and butter pickles with your grandmother’s rusty wavy slicer, consider giving yourself an upgrade this year. Your pickles will be more consistent and will come together in record time!
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Sprouted Wheat Berries in Excalibur 5-Tray Dehydrator

Some months back now, my friend Audra spread the word that she was ordering bulk grains and other dry goods from her favorite organic suppler. Her hope was to spread the word about this very good way to get high quality food and to get the total weight of the order high enough to qualify for discounted shipping.

I took her up on the call and ordered 25 pounds of hard winter wheat berries. My goal was to improve my bread baking habit with the addition of sprouted and freshly ground flour. Of course, when I committed to 25 pounds of wheat berries, I’d never sprouted or ground my own flour before. But I had enthusiasm, a vast array of cookbooks, and all the internet at my disposal. What could go wrong?

The truthful answer is that actually, there’s not a whole lot that can go wrong, but as is the case with many new things, I did have a few missteps. The first time I tried to sprout a batch of wheat berries, I left them in the soaking water too long and they developed a funky smell, akin to stinky feet.

And I’ve also learned that I really need to get a few of these non-stick sheets to prevent the wheat berries from falling off the dehydrator trays as they dry and shrink a little. Both are relatively low prices to pay in pursuit of greater knowledge and understanding!

I’ve been using my new, fancy 5-tray Excalibur to dehydrate the berries once they’ve been soaked and sprouted and that part couldn’t be easier. I love that I can set both the time and temperature so precisely. I run it at 112F to preserve the enzymatic activity of the wheat (a useful thing if you’re working with a sourdough starter), so appreciate how easy it is to dial in that exact temperature.

Now, you might be wondering why I’d take the time to soak, sprout, and dehydrate my wheat before grinding it into flour. The primary reason is that it helps make it easier to digest. Secondarily, I find that it grinds more readily (which is good, since I’m using the KitchenAid Grain Mill, and the unsprouted grain made the motor work really hard).

If you find yourself intrigued by the idea of homemade sprouted wheat flour, here’s how you do it.

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Sprouted Almonds in an Excalibur 5-Tray Dehydrator

Dehydration has long been one of the tools in my food preservation toolbox. I like to dehydrate herbs and ramp leaves, make tasty marinated and dried tomatoes, and put up some of my precious Meyer lemons by drying slices for future rehydration.

Recently, my dehydration game improved by several notches. The folks at Excalibur sent me one of their 5-tray dehydrators. It’s a huge step up from the stackable models I’ve used for so long. I’m totally delighted by it and have spent the last few weeks drying all the things.

It’s got five large trays that slide in and out (meaning no more working around a central column!) and that add up to a total of eight square feet in drying space. It has a digital control panel that allows me to set both the precise temperature (between 95◦F to 165◦F) and the duration of the drying session. And it’s relatively quiet (as far as dehydrators go, at least).

Truly, the only issue I have with it is that it’s kind of a beast in terms of its footprint. I don’t mind that, but it does mean that I’ve had to start running it in my living room, because it doesn’t fit comfortably in my kitchen. However, it’s a trade-off I’m very happy to make.

One of the first things I made with my fancy new Excalibur was a batch of sprouted almonds. I first tasted such a thing six years ago when I was staying with my sister in Texas and we were waiting for her first baby to be born. We were doing laundry at her friend’s house and while we waiting, she headed for their pantry and brought out a jar of almonds.

Different from almonds I’d eaten, these were crunchy and hollow on the inside. Raina explained that they were sprouted (and were wickedly expensive at their local co-op). I hurried to put the jar away before we ate all of them and filed the idea away to try and make them myself someday.

Fast forward six years and they’re a regular homemade favorite. They’re not hard to make (and truly, can be done even if you don’t have an dehydrator. But they’re better and easier this way because you can set them up and forget them for most of a day) and are so very delicious. You start by combining one tablespoon of salt with four cups of warm water and letting the salt dissolve.

Then you add two cups of raw almonds and let them soak overnight (don’t let them soak more than about 12 hours. After that, they start to ferment and get a little sour). The next day, you drain the almonds and arrange them on a dehydrator tray. Then you set it to 150◦F and let them do for 12-24 hours, until the almonds are completely dry. Once they’re dry, you funnel them into a jar and snack away.

Now, soaking and dehydrating almonds does also have the added benefit of making the almonds more nutritious and easily digested. But my primary motivation is the fact that it makes them so delicious.

Next week, I’m going to show you guys how I soak, sprout, dehydrate, and grind wheatberries into flour! But for now, I’d love to hear about your dehydrating experiences! Do you have one? What’s your favorite thing to make in it?

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New Year, New Breakfast with OXO

My father is a master breakfast maker. When he was very young, he did some time as short-order cook at IHOP and learned things like the difference between basted eggs and those cooked over easy. He became comfortable with poached eggs (and passed his worry-free poaching skills along to me). And he became a master pancake maker (evidence here).

Having spend a lifetime training at his elbow, I value breakfast time and take at least a few moments each day to make myself a morning meal (often, I post pictures of such creations to Instagram!).

Recently, my breakfast game got a serious upgrade thanks the to folks at OXO. They sent their Microwave Bacon Crisper, a snazzy Microwave Omelet Maker, an Adjustable Temperature Kettle, and a Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank. I’ve been making easy omelets, boiling water in no time, and making perfect cups of coffee.

The kettle was the biggest upgrade to my morning routine that they sent. It’s not my first variable temperature kettle, but it’s the most intuitive and easy to use that I’ve had. It’s also incredibly speedy. I feel like I switch it on, turn my back for a moment, and just a minute later, it’s ready. I also didn’t realize how much I’d enjoy having a glass kettle. I so enjoy watching the swirl of bubbles as the water reaches a boil.

I really love the omelet maker for its ease and speed. Grease the silicone pan (I use a dab of butter that I scoot around with my fingers), lay out your omelet ingredients, add the egg and microwave for a few minutes (timing depends on the amount of egg in the pan and the age/power of your microwave). Tuck a piece of cheese inside, fold over, and wait a few seconds. Done.

I’m also in love with the pour over coffee maker. I’m the only coffee drinker in my household, so I’ve always used a pour over system of some kind. But as an impatient person, I would just dump the water in and then end up drinking a mediocre cup. This brewer slows me down, removes the guess work, and prevents lousy coffee.

Finally, the bacon crisper. I must confess, this is the only piece of gear that didn’t rock my world. I’d never cooked bacon in the microwave before and the finished results left something to be desired. I can see using this tool to quickly crisp some bacon for a sandwich, but if it’s playing a starring role in the meal, I feel like the stovetop would serve better.

If you’re curious about the products I’ve mentioned,  Microwave Bacon Crisper, Microwave Omelet Maker, Adjustable Temperature Kettle, and Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank, head over to the OXO site to check them out!

Disclosure: OXO sent me the products you see pictured here for review and photography purposes. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions are entirely my own. 

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Babka for Now, Sticky Buns for Later + OXO Glass Bakeware

Use this sweet, yeasted dough to make a batch of apricot walnut babka for now, and a batch of sticky buns that can be par-baked and popped into the freezer for another day. It’s perfect do-ahead baking for the upcoming holiday.

Back in November, I got an email from OXO looking for bloggers to participate in a campaign designed to feature their sturdy glass bakeware. The idea was to create something that could be made ahead, frozen, and then either baked off or reheated later. Their glassware is particularly good for these fridge or freezer to oven situations, because it’s made from sturdy resistant borosilicate glass.

They sent out a Glass 9″ Pie Plate, a Glass 1.6 Qt Loaf Baking Dish, one SteeL Pie Server, a nifty Double Pastry Wheel, and 1″ Pastry Brush. I spent a little time pondering what I might make that would fit the assignment, make good use of these tools, and would also allow for a liberal application of jam.

What I came up with was a single dough that allowed me to both have a relatively immediate treat, as well as one to freeze and finish baking on another day. I’m calling this concept babka for now, sticky buns for later. Because who wouldn’t want that?

I started by searching out recipes for a sweet, yeast-risen dough. After a bit of internet searching and book scanning, I found what I was looking for in Tammy Donroe Inman’s fabulous book Wintersweet (it’s a favorite of mine for holiday baking).

I made Tammy’s dough the day before I wanted to bake. After its first rise, I punched it down, tucked it into a glass storage container, and popped it into the fridge (a handy trick any time you need to make yeasted doughs work for your schedule). The next day, I divided it up into two balls and began to turn one into babka. I opted for a filling of apricot jam and toasted walnuts.

Once the dough was rolled out into a large rectangle (about 18 x 12 inches), I brushed it with melted butter, spread out a half pint of apricot jam, and sprinkled the whole things with those toasted and chopped walnuts.

As far as I can tell, the thing that makes a babka a babka is that it’s a slightly sweet, buttery, yeasted dought that’s filled, rolled, sliced and twisted. And so that’s what I did. Starting with the short side, I carefully rolled until I had a fat tube of filled dough. Then, taking a sharp knife, I cut the roll down the middle, taking care to leave the top inch (or so) intact.

After slicing the dough, I took a deep, steadying breath, firmly grasped the two ends and twisted them outward in opposite directions. There was some filling loss, but not enough to be particularly worrisome.

Once sliced and twisted, it was simply a matter of nestling the dough in the loaf pan and letting it rise in a warm place before baking.

While the babka took its time rising, I turned my attention to that second ball of dough. Much like the babka, it needed to be rolled out into a generous rectangle. I brushed the dough with melted butter. However, instead of applying jam, I dusted the dough with cinnamon and sugar (using OXO’s tea ball to ensure even distribution) and used the rest of the walnuts.

I rolled up the dough (starting with the long side, rather than the short one) and sliced it into rounds. I set them into the pie plate and let them rise (at this point, the babka was ready for the oven, since I actually ate dinner in between working with the two sets of dough).

When the babka was done (it should be around 200 degrees F inside when finished. If the exposed jam seems to be getting too done, perch a sheet of foil on top of the pan) and the sticky buns had risen, I popped that pan into the oven. However, instead of cooking them to completion like the babka, I only baked them for 12 minutes. This is just long enough to get a little color and set their shape. Once they are cool, pop the pan into a big ziptop bag and nestle it into the freezer.

The night before you want to eat your sticky buns (perhaps when the babka is all gone?), pull the pan out of the freezer and make room for it in the fridge so that they can defrost slowly. The next morning, heat the oven to 350 degrees and slide in your pan of sticky buns. They’ll only need a quick 15 minutes in the oven and they’ll be ready to eat.

Brush the finished sticky buns with a little melted butter to help them stay soft, and then drizzle them with a little glaze made from powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and a dusting of cinnamon.

As we head into the frenzy of this week, wouldn’t it be nice to have a loaf of babka on the counter and a pan of sticky buns ready to go in the freezer?

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