May Can Jam: Orange Rhubarb Butter

rhubarb ends

Last summer, I made more batches of jam than I can count. I used more than fifty pounds of sugar and filled hundreds of jars (admittedly, I was doing this in part to have plenty to give away at my wedding). Even with all that giving away, I still had a whole lot of leftover jam to consume throughout the year.

chopped rhubarb

Now I like jam as much as the next girl (or maybe even more), but that’s a whole lot of jam, particularly when I’m the only eater of sweet spreads in our household. Couple that with the fact that I’m trying not to eat tons of sugar (not that you’d pick up on that fact from reading this site), it means I move through my jam quite slowly. What’s a dedicated preserver to do?

rhubarb butter, from above

Well, I can tell you what this canner’s going to do. She’s going to declare this the summer of fruit butters! Butters cook longer than jams do, meaning that they need less sugar for palatability and can achieve a spreadable texture through the evaporation of liquid. The reduction of sugar does mean that butters don’t last quite as long as jams (sugar is a preservative), but since they’ll have less sugar, I’ll feel better about eating them more regularly, making it possible for me to work my way through my stash at a speedier clip. I do believe everyone will win (and when I say everyone, I mean me).

rhubarb butter

For my first foray down this path, I offer this Orange Rhubarb Butter. It tangy, spreadable and so concentrated in flavor. It would be brilliant on scones or stirred into yogurt. I just have one word of warning for you. It cooks down significantly. I started with six cups of raw ingredients (rhubarb, orange juice and sugar) and ended up with a single pint of product. This is the one downside of making butter instead of jam. But it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

Recipe after the jump.

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Friday Miscellany

canning jar mug

I’ve been following the blog Lelo in NoPo for at least four years now. I first discovered it when its author LeAnn began to contribute gorgeous food images to the Slashfood Flickr pool. Occasions to email quickly developed and thanks to our mutual love of canning and Portland, OR, an internet friendship bloomed. LeAnn recently launched a radio show called Lelo Homemade on pdx.am and on her May 14th show, had me on as a guest. Take a listen if you’re so inclined!

My latest article in Grid Philly is live and it’s all about canning! Click here to see the digital edition. Pages 24, 25 and 26 are all mine. If you prefer a blog-style format, you can find the same content here (the canning article) and here (the recipe box).

My poor little OpenSky shop. I’ve struggled a bit trying to find products that would be useful and affordable for you guys, particularly since my primary goal with this site is to encourage homemaking instead of buying. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to find a source for affordable canning jars (shipping costs make them prohibitive). However, I have managed to find a few things I think you all might like. The first are drinking glass jars, like the one you see above. Best thing about them? Regular mouth lids fit right on. They come in sets of 12, so if that’s too many for you, find a friend and split the box.

The other item I’ve got in stock are boxes of those fantastic white plastic lids. These aren’t used for processing, but are amazing when you want to use a jar to stash dinner leftovers or store dry goods. One thing to note is that they aren’t watertight, so if you’re using a jar in place of a water bottle, reach for a standard lid/ring arrangement. Right now, just the wide mouth ones are in stock, but check back tomorrow for the regular size.

Later today, I’ll have my May Can Jam recipe up. Curious about what I made? I have just three words for you. Orange Rhubarb Butter.

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The Etiquette of Canning Jars

returned jars

If you’ve been reading this website for any length of time, you’ve picked up on the fact that I have an unhealthy interest in canning jars. It started in college, when I picked up wide mouth quart jar with the intention of using it to hold pens and pencils. Soon enough, I was picking up a jar or two nearly every time I dropped into a thrift store.

It took me years to actually use my stash of jars for its intended purpose. When I finally did start making jams and fruit butters, my very first inclination was to share my homemade treasure with friends. Except that to do so meant giving my beloved jars away. I was torn.

Since then, I’ve developed a set of guidelines so that I feel good about sharing my canned goodies. A two-pronged canning jar etiquette, if you will.

For canners:

Never give away a jar if you can’t bear the idea of never seeing it again. I keep a stash of anonymous, newly bought jars and process about half of whatever I make in those jars. That way I always have some that I don’t mind passing along. This also ensures that I keep some of what I make for myself (before I learned this trick, I’d find myself giving away everything I made, defeating the essential purpose of preserving).

There is also nothing wrong with placing a tag on your jar with a request that it be returned. Most people just aren’t aware that you might like the jar back when it’s empty and so there’s no harm in making them aware of this fact.

For recipients:

The most important thing to do when someone gives you a jar of homemade jam, jelly, pickles or chutney is to enjoy it. Don’t tuck it a cabinet and save it for good. Help that product achieve its destiny and eat it all up.

Once the jar is empty, you have a couple of choices. If you have plans to put the jar to good use, feel free to do so. Make your own batch of jam, use it for desktop storage or transform it into a drinking glass. However, if you plan to toss it into the recycling bin when it’s done, stop right there. Do not set canning jars out with your other bottles and jugs. You see, mason jars are made out of extra sturdy stuff so that they’ll stand up to rigors of multiple rounds of canning. Recycling it is a waste of a jar.

Instead, wash out that jar and take it back to the cook who originally gave it to you filled (with the ring attached, if you still know where it is). This act shows your friend that you enjoyed their hard work, that you respect their resources and that you are a worthy recipient for future batches.

Exceptions:

If someone from far away mails or hand carries you a jar of deliciousness, you are under no obligation to return the jar to them (jars are heavy and the shipping costs add up fast).

How do the rest of you handle the back and forth of canning jars?

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So Easy to Preserve Winners

Thanks to all of you who left comments sharing your hopes and excitements for the coming season! You all are ready for your gardens to bloom, for ripe strawberries and for sun-ripened tomatoes (in my opinion, there is nothing better). I’ve consulted the randomizer and it selected numbers 83 (Kat) and 170 (Sharon). Congratulations ladies, I’ll be in touch shortly to get your contact information.

For those of you who did not win, I do still highly recommend So Easy to Preserve, particularly if you’re planning on branching out and doing more canning this summer!

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Classes, Folk Music + Giveaway

strawberry table

All over the country, farmers’ markets are opening, gardens are growing and edible abundance is pouring forth. Preserving season is here and what better way to get yourself on board to capture some of the summer season than to take a class with me! Classes will be held at Indy Hall, which is located at 20 N. 3rd Street, 2nd floor (sadly, Foster’s Homewares has shuttered, leaving a giant hole in the Philadelphia retail scene).

My classes are good both for people just starting out canning as well as those who have been doing it for awhile. I always hit the fundamentals of boiling water canning and also share the many tricks I’ve developed while standing over a steamy stove. Each class offers multiple opportunities to ask questions, so that each student can get the information they need from the experience.

For the complete schedule of classes, click here. There are still five spots available in my Rhubarb Chutney class this Saturday, May 15th. Each student who attends that class will receive a print-out of the recipe and a jar of the chutney we make in class. I still have a jar of this chutney that I made last year (I’ve been saving it just for this occasion), so we’ll also have a little snack of goat cheese, baguette and chutney to nibble while we work. Classes cost $39. Please email me at foodinjarsATgmail.com if you’d like to sign up.

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lovely raina

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have picked up the fact that my sister Raina is a musician. She’s been playing guitar since she was 9 years old and has been making her living (such as it is) as a performer for more than five years. Music is all she’s ever wanted to do.

She is currently a top contender in a contest held by The Recording Conservatory of Austin, but desperately needs more votes. Winning this contest would be an enormous boon to her career, so much so that I’m interrupting my endless stream of food chatter to ask you all to consider supporting her. It’s just what big sisters do.

Voting is easy.  CLICK HERE and vote for the Raina Rose Trio, which is Raina and her backup band. Right now she has a good chance of winning but it is competitive and every vote is important. Only one vote from each email address is allowed. There is nothing to join and you won’t be subscribed to a new mailing list.

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Now the giveaway. My birthday is Friday (wow, 31. How did that happen?) and I am hip deep in celebrations. Last night, my husband took me out for the most elegant (and expensive) meal of my life. Tomorrow, I’m having a cluster of friends and family over for a potluck (because I like nothing more than honoring a special moment over delicious food that has been made with love).

In order to share some of the joy with you, I’m giving away two copies of my very favorite canning book. Called So Easy to Preserve, this is the most referenced book on this site. It’s not a glossy book filled with pictures, it actually looks more like a community cookbook than anything else. However, whenever I want to try something new, this is the book that I look to first. The instructions are easy to follow and the explanations are written in a way that inspires confidence in the reader. If you are someone who takes your canning seriously, you must have a copy of this book on your shelf.

To enter yourself in this giveaway, leave a comment on this post and tell me what you’re most looking forward to about  summer foods. Whether it’s making your annual batch of peach butter, eating fresh raw peas or attending your neighborhood’s annual tomato festival, I want to read about it. Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 16th. The winners will be posted Monday morning (I promise).

Kale and Carrot Salad

kale

Last Sunday, my beloved Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market reopened for the the 2010 season. It was such a joy to stroll the Headhouse Shambles with my regular Sunday morning pals and greet the many familiar farmers. As so often happens at the farmers market, I bought more than easily fit into my meal plan for last week (we had a couple dinners out last week, as well as some produce already in the fridge). I wasn’t worried though, as part of the delight of buying remarkably fresh food direct from the people who grew it is that if store well, it lasts far longer than similar grocery store produce.

I didn’t make it the market yesterday, choosing instead to spend my Sunday with family, celebrating Mother’s Day over brunch (I’d like to say that I was being smart, buying more than I could use, knowing I wouldn’t make it the following week, but I truly wasn’t thinking that far in advance).

Heading into this evening, I knew that dinner would be the last of yesterday’s leftover quiche (spinach and broccoli, brought by my cousin Angie) and a batch of potato salad that I’m testing for my July Grid article. Sadly though, I needed one more thing before I could call dinner complete. You see, I have this green vegetable rule. That rule (drilled into the meal-planning section of my brain by my mother) states that there must be a green vegetable served with my nightly meal. The only the events which permits the waiving of this rule are infirmity or family vacation.

kale salad

Poking around my crisper, trying to satisfy my need for some vegetal (potatoes do not count), I came across the kale I bought at the market last week, still looking quite crisp and verdant. Immediately inspired, I pulled three slim carrots out of their bag and headed towards the countertop with purpose.

I chopped the kale into narrow ribbons, washed it carefully in a salad spinner and combined it with the now-grated carrots. I dressed it with three tablespoons each walnut oil and rice wine vinegar, as well as some salt and pepper. Using tongs, I tossed it all together and then let it sit for a bit while I got the rest of dinner together.

After about fifteen minutes, the kale leaves had relaxed and the carrots had married with the dressing, turning it a pleasing orange. Don’t be fooled by the picture above, it was taken just after the initial tossing. When it came time to eat, the salad was far less voluminous.

The nice thing about this salad is that it is flexible. A combination of toasted sesame and olive oils work just as well if you don’t have walnut oil (or, if you have a bottle you hate to use because you see it as precious, do your taste buds a favor and use some here. I’ve discovered that hoarding oils isn’t worth it, eventually they go rancid and then you feel silly for having wasting something so lovely).

If you do use the walnut oil and want to really bring its flavor out, top individual portions with a few toasted walnuts (don’t stir them directly in, they’ll loose their crunch). Slivered red onion also makes a nice addition. Or, if you’ve chosen the sesame oil path, replace the salt with a few dashes of soy sauce (or Bragg’s, if your kitchen runs to such things) for a faux asian flavor profile.

Oh, and if you have leftovers, this is one of those rare dressed green salads that actually can survive the night in the fridge without harm. It’s really good the next day topped with saucy pinto beans or a few crumbles of goat cheese.

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