Archive | questions/answers RSS feed for this section

How to Find White Grape Juice Concentrate

Struggling with how to find white grape juice concentrate to use as a sweetener in canning? I’m here to help!

A canister of apple juice concentrate, which is easier to find than white grape juice concentrate.

In my newest book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, I devote an entire chapter to recipes that used 100% fruit juice concentrates as their source of sweetness. Though the work of the developing that book is behind me, those juice concentrates continue to be a favorite tool when I need a relatively neutral natural sweetener.

White grape juice concentrate is my preferred flavor and I reference it in the book often. During the time I was writing the bulk of the recipes in the book (a mere year and a half ago), it could easily get it at both Wegmans and Acme. However, in the last few months, it’s become harder to find (of course!), and I’m hearing from a number of you that you’re also struggling to find it in your stores.

For those of you who are experiencing sourcing issues, don’t give up. There are a few ways around this.

1. Go to your grocery store’s customer service desk and ask if they can special order some for you. Make sure you specify that you want the version that is 100% fruit juice (not fruit cocktail). If you need a brand name, ask for either the one made by Welch’s or the Old Orchard version.

2. Instead of torturing yourself to find the frozen concentrate, boil down a bottle of white grape juice until you have a concentrated strength. Most of the time, it is sold in bottles holding half a gallon, which means you’re starting with eight cups. Cook that down to a syrupy two cups and you’ll be good to go.

3. Use apple juice concentrate instead. However, while it’s more readily available than white grape, it’s not as sweet. To compensate for that intensity, use 25% more apple juice concentrate that you would white grape, to make up for the different in flavor.

Comments { 3 }

Newsletters, Email Subscriptions, RSS Feeds, and More

How to subscribe to Food in Jars

I realized a while back that some people are totally confused by the various methods of communication I have listed on this site. So, in the hopes of clarifying things a little, I’m writing this blog post to show you the differences in the various methods and how you can sign up for each.

First up is the newsletter. This is an email I send out about once every two weeks. It details my upcoming events, rounds up some of my favorite recent blog posts, and very occasionally includes an exclusive recipe.

Next is the RSS Feed. If you use a feed reader like Feedly or Bloglovin, this is the button for you. You can either follow this link or just paste my URL into the “add content” field in your feed reader of choice.

Finally, there’s the Subscribe via RSS option. If you sign up for this, you will get a copy of every blog post I write delivered to your email inbox. I think that there are lots of you who sign up for the newsletter who are really looking for this option. Now you know!

In addition to these options, I regularly post my happenings, blog entries, and upcoming events to TwitterFacebookPinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. If one or two of those are your preferred channels, please do follow there as well.

If you have any questions about any of this, please do let me know. You can either leave a comment on this post, or you can drop me a line via my contact form.

Comments { 5 }

In Search of Toaster Oven Advice

kitchen

I’m veering a bit off the beaten canning path today. I find myself in need of small kitchen appliance advice and I know of no better place to turn than you lovely, well-informed people.

So. Here we have my kitchen. It’s not a large space (it has a footprint of 80 square feet), but as you can see, I manage to squeeze a lot in there. This is where nearly every cooking project you’ve seen featured on this site was created. Never let it be said that you need a giant, gourmet kitchen to make good stuff.

appliance corner

Here’s my primary small appliance area. Microwave (that curvy, space-age looking device), toaster oven, Vita Mix (best blender in the whole, wide world) and beloved Soda Stream.

toaster oven

And now to the toaster oven, the focus of our little tour here. I am a devoted user of toaster ovens. Yes, they’re good for morning toast (that then gets slathered in homemade jam). However, they’re also great for roasting sweet potatoes, reconstituting leftover pizza and baking up a few frozen cookies when a late-evening dessert craving strikes.

Up until last summer, I had an ancient Black & Decker that was paneled in fake wood grain (much like my cabinets) that I bought at a thrift store in the first weeks I moved to Philadelphia in 2002. It was ancient but highly functional. However, after eight years of heavy use (and who knows how many before it came to me), it slowly stopped working effectively. It started taking three full toasting cycles to get a nice brown on a slice of bread and so Scott and I decided to replace it.

Because that original model had been so good to us, we bought what we thought was the newer model of the same toaster oven. Sadly, it has not proven to be as wonderful as my thrift store oven. Ten months in, the spring on the door has already broken. The rack is really hard to scoot in and out. And it heats really unevenly. All in all, it’s been a stinker of a toaster oven. I use it at least once a day and so the decision has been made that as soon as we get through tax season, we’re buying a new toaster oven.

This is where you guys come in. I’m looking for a reliable, unfancy toaster oven that can fit in the space over my microwave. If you have a toaster oven you love, please let me know. Alternately, if you know a particular model to be poorly built and frustrating to use, please tell me that too. Thank you all!

 

Comments { 67 }

Season to Taste

pickles waiting for processing

Earlier today, I got an email from a reader. After many months of anticipation, she had finally opened a jar of garlic dill pickles she made last summer, using the recipe I posted in August. Only they were far, far too spicy for her. She was afraid that she was going to have to throw out the entire batch.

Upon reading her email, I felt terrible. I never post a recipe that I haven’t tried, tested and truly appreciated. So to hear that someone has made something according to my instructions, only to find it inedible, deflates me. It also got me thinking about the way I approach the creation of the recipe. I write for my taste buds, using the ingredients I have in my kitchen. Thing is, no two palates are exactly alike, so there’s no absolute guarantee that what worked for me will be as delicious for another.

As we head into another canning season (I know so many of you are planning your gardens and signing up for CSA shares with your summer canning in mind), I’d like to encourage a bit more herb and spice exploration. This doesn’t mean that I endorse wild experimentation or grand recipe deviations, as we all know that to keep our canned goods safe, it’s important to keep our acid and sugar levels steady and adhere to the basics of the recipe.

But I do want you to know that it’s okay to gently tweak the spices. If you know that you can’t handle a great deal of heat in your food, please, please reduce the amount of chili or cayenne that the recipe calls for. If you’re a cinnamon fiend, feel free to increase the amount you include in your blueberry jam. Also, keep in mind that a small amount of spice can increase in flavor over time, so if you’re making something in July that you don’t plan on eating until February or March, adjust accordingly. Most of all, remember that you’re making those pickles or that chutney for you, and so the way it tastes should always, always please you.

Additionally, get to know your particular spice rack (they are all different). Sniff and taste your way through the bottles, making sure that you’re familiar with their potency. Toss the things that smell like dirt or nothing at all and replenish the stash before embarking on a big cooking project.

Going forward, I am going to try to write my recipes with this “season to taste” mindset. I will continue to tell you what I did, but I will also include notes at recipe points where variation and adjustments are okay. Because really and truly, my goal here is to show you all that canning is accessible and enjoyable. And if you end up with something you can’t eat, that defeats me.

Comments { 24 }

Some Canning Questions/Answers

cranberry apple jam

More than three weeks ago, I asked for your burning canning questions. I intended to be a good canning blogger/teacher and respond right away to those queries, but then life intervened and I’m only now finally circling back around to get you some answers. So here we go…

Jewel asks: I have a few sauce, chutney, and jam recipes that are not specifically meant to be canned, but that I would love to put up. In most cases I believe that the sugar content is high enough for water bath canning, but I want to be safe. Is there a way to tell if a recipe is appropriate for canning? Can you point me in the right direction?

Answer: The best way to determine if your recipes are safe to canning is to look for comparable recipes that have been designed to be canned and determine from there whether the proportions of fruit, sugar and vinegar (in the case of chutneys) are similar to your recipes. I know I always mention it, but my favorite volume for this type of comparison research is So Easy to Preserve.

If you can’t find a similar recipe but are determined to water bath process your recipes, Steve Dowdney includes instructions in his book Putting Up that can walk you through the steps of checking the pH level in your product, in order to determine whether they’ll be safe for water bath processing.

Deb asks: I made applesauce recently. All the jars sealed very well, in a couple the applesauce came up and out of the jar a bit before sealing. I imagine there is applesauce caught in the lid seal area. I can pick the jars up by the lid edge, so they are very tight, but are they really ok?

Answer: It is totally normal to have some siphoning (the technical canning word for when some of the contents of the jars seeps out during processing) with applesauce. However, as long as the jars seal post-processing, they are still safe and shelf-stable. When filling the jars, make sure that you leave 1/2 to 3/4 an inch of headspace, as it will help prevent the siphoning, but rest assured that your applesauce will be perfectly safe for storage in your pantry (or, in my case, the back of my coat closet).

Tracy asks: Tiny bubbles appeared in my applesauce a day or so after canning. Is this normal?

Answer: Yep, totally. I also find that I get tiny bubbles in my processed sauerkraut and in less juicy whole tomatoes.

More q&a after the jump…

Continue Reading →

Comments { 75 }

How to Check That Your Seal is Good

concave lids
I got a question tonight from a reader of this blog about seal quality and as I was writing her back, I realized that there may be more of you out there who could benefit from a brief seal-testing tutorial.

When it comes to canning, sometimes you miss the pinging sound that gives you auditory confirmation that your jars have sealed. Just because you didn’t hear it doesn’t mean that the jars didn’t seal. Here are some ways to test….

  1. Press down on the center of the lid. Does it move up and down or does it feel solid and concave? Solid and concave means a good seal, movement means no seal.
  2. Tap on the lid. Does it sound tinny or hollow? Tinny means sealed, hollow means poor or no seal.
  3. Unscrew the band you used to hold the lid in place during processing. Now attempt to pick your jar up holding onto nothing but the lid. If you have a good seal, you should be able to do this easily. You’ll know pretty much right away when you remove the band whether your seal is good.

How else do you guys check your seals? And, while I’m answering questions, who else has got one?

Comments { 190 }