Weck Jar Giveaway

Goodness, you guys are crazy for Weck jars! I had feeling this would be a popular giveaway, but I had no idea that it would be a Food in Jars record breaker. An impressive 670 of you signed up for a chance to win a six-pack of jars from Kaufmann Mercantile. As is my way, I turned to random.org for help choosing a winner. After a moment of consideration, it spit out #606, which is the comment left by Atarah. Congratulations, you lucky canner!

So many thanks to all of you for playing!

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Canning 101: How to Can Using Weck Jars + Giveaway

weck jar laid out

Recently, after panting after them for years, I finally broke down and ordered a dozen Weck jars*. For those of you not in the know, they are a brand of canning jar that is produced in Germany and is quite popular across Europe. Instead of using a disposable lid with the sealing compound embedded in it (like our familiar Ball and Kerr jars), these jars depend on a rubber ring for their sealing power.

They are much like the bailing wire canning jars that were once quite popular across this country (I wrote about canning in those jars here, if you care to give a gander). One of their primary benefits is the fact that because the lid is made from glass, the only thing that’s in contact with your food is glass (just like the Tattler reusable lids, there’s no BPA-imbued surface to worry about when you use these suckers). They also feel a bit less wasteful than the Ball/Kerr jars, because the only piece you end up throwing away is the rubber ring, not an entire lid. The primary downside of Weck jars is that they are expensive. I have hopes that if enough people start buying them, they’ll become more accessible and affordable here.

weck rubber ring

The Weck jars are made up of four components. The first is the rubber ring, which is the analog to the sealing compound in American lids. And just like our lids, these rings need to be submerged in boiling water for a few minutes before use in order to soften up. Keep them in the hot water until the moment you’re ready to use them to maximize their sealing abilities. These rings should also be given a once over before use, to ensure that they don’t have any cracks or tears. Another way these rings are like conventional lids is that they can only be used once.

weck lid and ring

Next comes the flat, glass lid. Prior to use, make sure to give them a careful inspection, to ensure that the lid is free from chips, particularly on the edge that comes in contact with the rubber ring. Even the smallest chip can prevent a quality seal. Keep in mind that if you’re planning on processing something in these jars that will be in the boiling water bath canner for less than ten minutes, these lids need to be sterilized along with your jars.

weck lid and ring on jar

I have found that the best way to assemble these jars is to caress the rubber ring onto the lid and then place the lid on the jar. Before you settle it into place, make sure to wipe those rims. It’s just good canning practice.

weck with lid clamped into place

Now come the clips. All Weck jars come with two stainless steel clips. They do the work that our screw-on bands typically perform, holding the lid in place so that air can escape during processing and cooling, but no air or liquid can get in. I believe the best way to attach a clip is to hook it over the lid and then firmly (but carefully) push down. There should be a satisfying click when the clip is in place and there should be no wiggle or movement. I have found that it often requires just a hair more pressure than feels appropriate. Take it slowly and make sure to hold onto the jar (wrap a towel or pot holder around it so you don’t burn yourself) so that you don’t slosh the product on to your counter.

Once you have the clips in place, quickly check the status of the ring. It should still be flat and even between the top of the jar and the bottom of the lid. On one occasion, I have had the ring wrinkle up while I was finessing the clips onto the jars. Had I not caught it before the jar went into the canner, I could have compromised my potential seal.

testing weck seal

Now that your jars are filled and the rubber rings, lids and clips are in place, it’s time to process. This step is just like all other boiling water bath canning. The only caution I have to offer here is to take care with your jar lifter placement when working with Weck jars. I once nearly tipping several jars over while maneuvering in and out of the pot because my lifter caught on the clips. They hold tightly enough that you shouldn’t be able to dislodge one with the lifter, but it is something to be aware of.

weck jar tab note

Once the jars are finished processing, let them cool fully. Once they are totally cool to the touch, you can remove the clips and check your seals. There are two easy ways to ensure you’ve got a good seal. The first is to grab onto the jar holding onto just the lid and lift the jar just a bit (I will never be a hand model). If it holds, it’s good.

The other way to check the seals is to take a look at the tab. It should be pointing down, like it’s sticking its tongue out at you. Also note that Weck jars should be stored with the clips off when it’s on your pantry shelf. This is for the same reason that we store Ball and Kerr jars without their rings. If something happens to grow inside the jar, the off-gassing will break the seal and you’ll know right away that the product is compromised.

When it comes time to open a Weck jar, it’s incredibly easy. Just grab hold of the tab and gently pull it, until you hear air rushing in and the seal breaks. Do this slowly, so that you don’t run the risk of popping the lid off the jar with too much vigor. While the jar lives in the fridge, you can use the clips to hold the lid in place, or you can invest in some of the snap-on plastic lids that Weck makes as well.

I  made my recent purchase of Weck jars through a really lovely online store called Kaufmann Mercantile. They offer a full array of Weck jars and shipping is free if your order is over $25. Because they’re awesome, they’ll also be giving away a six-pack of Weck’s 1/5L tall mold jar. It’s the same jar that’s been pictured throughout this post (it holds a bit less than a half pint). What’s more, if you sign up for their newsletter, they’ll give you a $7 gift card code that you can apply to the cost of your first order.

You can also order Weck jars directly from the U.S. distributor (they finally have launched an online ordering capability), but the shipping charges vary widely and can get really expensive. Updated: An eagle-eyed canner just did the math and discovered that buying Weck jars through the U.S. distributor has gotten much more affordable than it was when last I checked. Please make sure to compare pricing before placing your order, to ensure that you get the best deal possible.

To sign up for this Kaufmann Mercantile giveaway, leave a comment on this post and tell me what the first thing you’d like to can in Weck would be. One comment per person, please. The comments will close and the giveaway will end on Friday, March 11th at 11:59 p.m.

*Though this is the first time I’ve owned my own Weck jars, I have used them many times before and have even taught classes with them. Rest assured, I know what I’m talking about.

**There was no pay to play in the making of this post. I bought my jars from Kaufmann Mercantile with my hard earned money. They just happen to be awesome folks who want to make the day of one Food in Jars reader a little bit brighter.

 

Creamsicle Jelly

creamsicle jelly

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in citrus this weekend. In the last 48 hours I’ve made 16 1/2 pints of marmalade, all in an effort to ensure that the recipes I’m including in this crazy cookbook of mine will be the best ones possible. And I think I’m on the right track. Last night, I found my sitting in front of my computer, eating blood orange marmalade from my overflow jar with a spoon.

creamsicle jelly

However, I did manage to squeeze (ha!) just one little project to feature here. It’s a orange jelly, thoroughly flecked with vanilla seeds. I’m calling it creamsicle jelly, because as I tasted it during cooking (what? I had to make sure it tasted good), it made me think of nothing so much as those popsicles from childhood (though it doesn’t include any cream).

creamsicle jelly

Typically I’d tell you all that you should really start from whole fruit, but when it comes to orange jelly, I believe it’s okay to cheat a little. There’s a world of really good, freshly squeezed orange juice out there and often, it ends up being less expensive (at least in Philadelphia. I know you Floridians have oranges coming out your ears this time of year) than buying enough fruit to yield four full cups of juice.

And aren’t those Weck jars pretty? Look for a how-to post on Tuesday that will show you all the ins and outs of using them (truly, they’re pretty darn easy once you know a couple of things).

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Open Jars: Granola and Fruit Studded Pancakes

granola pancakes

A couple times a month, I make Sunday morning pancakes. I take my pancakes seriously and spent my childhood studying the art of the flapjack at my father’s elbow (he’s a former short order cook who spent years developing his own from-scratch pancake mix which you can find here). While I love pancakes simply for what they are (how does one describe the soul of a pancake?), I also look at them as platform for finishing off open jars of homemade stuff.

Take this last Sunday for example. I whisked together eggs, milk, a drizzle of grapeseed oil, a splash of vanilla extract and several scoops of my version of my dad’s mix. I greased and heated my perfectly seasoned, only used for pancakes griddle (I told you I’m no pancake lightweight) and made my dollops of batter. While the first side cooked, I sprinkled a bit of granola into the raw side. A little extra care went into the flipping, so as not to dislodge the granola. When they were done, my pancakes were studded with crisp bits and softened raisins.

empty jar, pancake, kindle

This is such a good way to fancy up your pancakes without putting a whole lot of extra work into them. I’ve also done this with sliced bananas, chopped pecans or dried cranberries. It also works with canned fruit like peaches, pears and plums. They can’t be too moist, just drain them a bit and chop them fine. The fruit caramelizes when you flip the cakes to cook the second side, which tastes just wonderful in the finished product.

There are just a couple things to know you cook toppings into your pancakes. The first is that you need to use a light hand when sprinkling them in. Overwhelm the cake with add-ins and your disturb its structural integrity. Spread sparingly and evenly. The second is something I alluded to above. You’ve got to take care when flipping the cakes so that you don’t end up scattering the additional bits across your stove top.

Though I’ve flipped many a cake in my day, I never take the skill for granted. You’ll need to access your meditative center during the frenzy of breakfast making, at least just for a moment. Slide the spatula under the cake (make sure to have a solid grasp on the handle) and lift. Center it back over the space where it needs to land. Take a deep breath and empty your head of any nagging worries. Finally, flip with confidence, following through with your wrist. Success!

Finally, once all your pancakes are cooked, spread them with jam (though my husband can’t be swayed from a puddle of real maple syrup) and dig in.

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Homemade Crème Fraiche

homemade crème fraiche

A week or so ago, I posted a link to this Serious Eats post about making homemade creme fraiche on the Food in Jars Facebook page. The response was quick and fevered. People were amazed at how easy and simple it was to do something like this at home.

Here’s the funny thing. This is something I’ve been doing at home for years now but it’s never occurred to me that it would make a good subject for a blog post because it’s so incredibly simple. Truly, it’s nothing more than combining some heavy cream with a generous glug of buttermilk in a jar or bowl. Give it a brief stir to combine and then leave it out on the counter (uncovered) while you sleep.

I tend to let my creme fraiche do its thing on the counter for about 24 hours before I move it to the fridge, but the length of time you let it culture depends entirely how thick you want it to be and the intensity of the tang you’re hoping to achieve (longer equals more tang). When you’re done, take a moment to marvel at the alchemy of it. It never fails to feel a little bit like magic to me.

If your kitchen is dusty or you have pets who might be interested in a jar of cream on your counter top, stretch a bit of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. The good bacteria that you’ve introduced with the buttermilk needs to be able to breathe in order to transform the cream.

homemade crème fraiche

For those of you who like more specific measurements, I use approximately three tablespoons of buttermilk for every pint of cream (though truly, I don’t measure. Who needs to clean another spoon?). I do try to use local, grass-fed cream when I can find it, as the flavor is even better. However, if you can’t find similarly pedigreed cream, don’t let that be a deterrent to giving it a try.

If you’ve never tried creme fraiche before, it’s similar to sour cream, though it’s typically got a higher percentage of butterfat. It’s also got a more complex flavor than the sour creams we can buy at the grocery store. It’s amazing stirred into soups or dolloped on top of cut fruit or berries.

Amanda Hesser frequently suggests stirring it into a bit of freshly whipped cream for lightness and nuance (though in many situations it can be substituted for the whipped cream entirely). I like it on top of flourless chocolate tort as it works well to cut the richness of the cake.

Have you tried to make creme fraiche at home before? How do you like to use it?

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Open Jars: Granola Cookies

cookies from above

I have made a lot of granola in the last month (a mighty understatement). I was testing recipes for the book and even after giving large containers of it away, I still had enough granola on my kitchen shelves to supply a small restaurant through a busy weekend brunch service, three or four times over. Though Scott and I both embrace a breakfast of granola topped yogurt, there more that we could handle in a reasonable about of time. Steps had to be taken before all that home toasted granola went fusty and stale.

granola cookies

While flipping through Baking on Saturday afternoon in search of Dorie’s cream scones, another recipe caught my attention. Called Granola Grabbers, it is essentially a heartier-than-average oatmeal cookie, made with granola as the primary ingredient. I stuck a magazine subscription card in to serve as reminder to come back and take a closer look. After all, I had a bounty of granola in need of transformation.

granola cookie dough

Last night found me standing in the kitchen wanting to make something for all of you. I’ve been feeling a little bit lost in the face of late winter. I know citrus is the thing this time of year, but somehow I can’t summon the energy to chop lemons for marmalade right now. So instead of putting something in a jar, I took the remains of a batch of granola (it’s a dried cranberry and orange-scented thing that will be in the book) and made cookies inspired by those granola grabbers.

granola cookies

Though I restrained myself from healthy-ing up the cream scones I posted about on Monday, I wasn’t able to keep from making a few adjustments here. I replaced some of the dairy butter with apple butter (another open jar finished off!), cut the sugar by half (and they’re still quite sweet) and used whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose. I also added some cinnamon and nutmeg that weren’t in the original recipe, to help bolster the fading flavors of my aging granola.

granola cookies

Having made this recipe as a basic cookie, I think I’ll try it as a bar next time. They are so dense and crumbly (but in a good way) that I think I’d like to be able to grab a smaller bit than these hefty cookies allow. That said, I am not at all unhappy to have them in my cookie jar. In fact, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bring one or two along to work today, to nibble after lunch (plus, I could use something homemade after my cafeteria salad).

Oh, there’s one more thing you should know before you tackle this one yourself. Dorie’s original recipe asks that you use granola without added fruit. Her very valid concern is that the fruit in store-bought granola can be very dry. However, my homemade granola included plump, moist dried cranberries and lots of slivered almonds. Because of that, I used four cups of granola and omitted the additional cranberries and almonds. I know that granola will vary, so I’ve included her original proportions here. Feel free to use your best judgment when you make these for yourself.

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