Portland, a GrassRoutes Guide and a Guest Post

a Portland vista

Scott and I are headed to Portland for a week of vacation next week. It will be Scott’s first visit to my hometown and I can’t wait to introduce him the wonder that is Powell’s Books, take him to eat at Pok Pok and drag him up to the top of Multnomah Falls.

An Urban Eco Guide

Though I haven’t lived in Portland in nearly nine years, I work hard to get back there at least once a year to eat, shop the thrift stores and hang out with my parents. Because I still know the city fairly well, when my cousin Serena asked if I’d be willing to contribute a few write-ups to the second edition the GrassRoutes Guide to Portland, I was happy to say yes (my sister also wrote a number of the blurbs).

So, in honor of my impending trip to Portland, I offer you a guest post from Serena. We’re also giving away one copy of the Portland Guide. Leave a comment sharing a memory of your hometown by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 7, 2010 to enter.

contributor page

Portland. Pickles. Don’t the two words sound extra enticing spoken one after another? And rightly so given the number of coveted pickle jars I discovered in my many trips north to the so-called City of Stumps. Researching and writing the GrassRoutes Guide to Portland took me to tables in every corner of the city, and one of the most memorable of those was also the kitchen whose pickles I favored.

Paley’s Place is not for routine meals. The white-walled rooms, located in what was once a family residence, are neatly crosshatched with linen-clothed tables, some of them two tops for couples toasting an anniversary. The ever-changing menu always features a pile of organic and sustainable ingredients, so it was a natural fit for a guide that focuses on conscientious businesses and activities that make a positive impact on the local economy, community, and environment.

I remember that night I had had an especially casual state of mind and ordered a burger at a place where I could have supped on suckling pig three ways with ricotta gnocchi. It wasn’t a regrettable decision, and it came with these pickled vegetables, recipe below, which really complimented the savory richness of the beef. This treasured food memory from my travels has become one of those invisible souvenirs that can be recreated in any geography, provided there’s a jar in the vicinity.

When we talked about me doing a guest post I thought, “What would be better than to share this recipe with the Food in Jars community of canners?” So here it is. And next time you get the chance to visit the rosy city of Portland try Paley’s Place for yourself, and other eco-savvy spots featured in GrassRoutes Portland, including several entries by Marisa, a contributor to the guide!

The recipe from Paley’s Place is after the jump…

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Small Batch Pickled Green Tomatoes

green tomatoes

As long as gardeners stayed on top of their watering, this summer was a good one for growing tomatoes in Philadelphia (as well as up and down the east coast). We had a ton of heat, which turned bushels of tomatoes sweet and red. I got more than 10 quarts of grape and cherry tomatoes from the three plants in my tiny community garden plot alone.

green tomato slices

However, out in the Pacific Northwest, gardeners were not so lucky. They didn’t get nearly enough of the hot nights and sunny days that make for ripe tomatoes. My parents got nary a red tomato and while they’ve picked a bunch to slowly ripen in the garage, they’ve still got a slew of green tomatoes that need to be dealt with.

packed jars

For those of you who are suffering from a fate similar to my parents’, with mountains of green tomatoes heaped upon all available surfaces, I offer up this little recipe. My proportions are based upon a single pound of green tomatoes, for as abundant as they are out west, I had a heck of a time finding enough out this way to fill even two 12-ounce jars. A friend out in Lancaster County sent me a few of her spares, but they’ve been entirely absent at my regular haunts.

I’m grateful to have these though, and I hope that those of you who are swimming in greens find the time to put a few jars up this way.

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Some Cookbooks I’m Loving Lately

stack of recent cookbook favorites

I’m nearly out of empty jars, and other than a small pile green tomatoes waiting to be pickled, I’m currently free from a canning project pile-up. While I look around for my next burst of canning inspiration, I thought I’d tell you some of the cookbooks I’ve been enjoying recently (because one cannot live by canned goods alone). These are the books I’ve been turning to lately for mealtime inspiration as well as general reading material (what? Doesn’t everyone read cookbooks for fun?).

Interior page from Canal House Cooking #4

I am completely enamored of the Canal House Cookbook series. If it hasn’t yet crossed your path, it is half cookbook, half tri-yearly food magazine. Pictured above is a two-page spread from their fourth edition, which shipped earlier this summer. This one contains a slew of summer and early fall recipes. I’m already beginning to reference volume 2, which was the fall and holiday edition from last year.

Interior page from Canal House Cooking #4

I’m particularly fond of this page, which offers a number of compound butters. They are such great ways to totally change the a dish and I never remember to use them. I’m trying to change my ways, though. I’m anxiously awaiting this year’s fall and holiday edition of Canal House.

Interior page from Canning for a New Generation

I do love a canning cookbook that includes some recipes for how to use the contents of those gleaming jars that you’ve so carefully put up. Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation does just that, making it a really good year-round book for the home canner (if you’re a preserver, consider adding this one to your holiday wish list).

The Meatlover's Meatless Cookbook

I’ve known Kim O’Donnel virtually for more than four years now, but I only met her in person on Wednesday night. Happily, her brand new book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook is just as wonderful as she is. I’ve been getting increasingly concerned about ensuring that I’m eating more vegetables and less meat, and so I’m looking forward to using this book to do just that.

interior photo page from The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook

The photos in this book are also completely stunning. Look at that spread up there! I want to climb right into the scene. While I can’t do that, will be sharing my love for this book by giving a copy to my meat-ambivalent sister for Christmas (I hope she’s not reading this).

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

So here’s the thing about Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. It’s beautiful. The recipes, while completely free of gluten, don’t have that sense that they’re trying to cover up for a missing ingredient. The entire book is filled with lovely, joyful food. It’s a volume for everyone, not just people who need to avoid gluten.

interior page from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

I have two neck pumpkins in my apartment right now (neck pumpkins are grown a lot in Pennsylvania and look like huge, overgrown butternut squash) and so I’ve flagged this pumpkin soup recipe as one to make in the next few days. I love that soup season has arrived!

Nuts in the Kitchen

I picked up Nuts in the Kitchen at The Strand when Scott and I were in New York back in August. I bought it strictly because I’ve loved the cookbooks that Susan Herrmann Loomis wrote in the past and so figured I’d like this one too. Happily, it was a good gamble. I’ve yet to actually cook from it, but I’ve been marking pages as if sticky notes grew on trees.

interior page from Time for Dinner

I’ve been reading the blog Dinner: A Love Story for months now (although the site seems to be down right now). It’s written by one of the former Cookie Magazine editor Jenny Rosenstrach and it’s one of my current favorites. While still with Cookie, Jenny wrote a book with two of her fellow editors called Time for Dinner. I resisted buying for a while, trying to convince myself that my cookbook shelves were overstuffed enough, but recently, I succumbed. Though it’s designed to provide dinnertime back-up for parents, it’s also a lovely source of inspiration for those of us who’ve yet to reproduce as well.

And, for those of you who are in the habit of pressure canning chicken stock (truly, it changed my life), the above recipe would take all of ten minutes to make and serve up. The best kind of fast food, if you ask me.

interior page from The Wild Table

The Wild Table by Connie Green is a book that doesn’t actually come out for a few more weeks now. An review copy of it landed in my mailbox late last week, and I fell for it fast and hard. It’s a big, beautiful book with loads of glossy-but-rustic photos of foraged ingredients and the many wonderful things that can be made from them.

Now, living in the city, it’s not always easy to do much foraging. In that way, this is more of an aspirational book for me than an inspirational one. And I’m okay with that.

interior page from Sarabeth's Bakery

This is another book that came to me by way of a publisher’s PR company. Called Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, it’s written by Sarabeth Levine, the woman behind the nearly ubiquitous line of homemade-style preserves. She’s also got a charming bakery in New York’s Chelsea Market (but I learned from the book that she got her start by making an orange-apricot marmalade). It’s a hefty tome, mostly filled with recipes for baked goods (as one might expect).

Of course, the section that appeals to me most is the one near the back that offers up some of Sarabeth’s famous spreadable fruits. It’s not an extensive canning section, but adds a nice counterpoint to all the baked goods. This is another one that would make a good holiday gift, should you have someone on your list who deserves a gorgeous baking book.

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Fermentation Fest, Dig In and Sauerkraut

back of the car, filled with fruit

There are a couple of events coming up in the next few days that I’ll be at. If you’re in the area, consider stopping by and saying hi!

First is the Kennett Square Fermentation Festival this Friday, October 1. It’s happening in conjunction with Kennett Square’s regular Friday afternoon Farmers’ Market. It will feature lots of samples of fermented foods and drinks, as well as a number of demonstrations on how to ferment at home. I’ll be doing at sauerkraut demo there at 4 p.m. so come out and say hi!

On Sunday, October 3, I’ll be at Slow Food Philly’s Dig In event. There’s a delegation of folks from the city who are heading to the Terre Madre Conference in Turin, Italy in a few weeks, and so this is part send-off, part celebration of the people and businesses who are living and working with the Slow Food philosophy in mind. The event is taking place at the World Cafe Live from 12 noon until 3 p.m. and tickets are $10. I’ll be there for my day job, representing the Philly Homegrown project, so while I won’t officially be talking canning, feel free to come and chat about it nonetheless.

There are still a few spots left for my sauerkraut class on Tuesday, October 5 at the Swarthmore Co-op, so get in touch (foodinjars AT gmail.com) if you want to sign up.

The Portland canning class on October 13 is totally full. I’m still taking names for the waiting list, so please email if you’d like to get on it. If you missed out this time around, I’ll be back in Portland around Christmas and am planning another class to take place then.

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Canning 101: Why You Can’t Cook Acidic Foods in Reactive Pots

Sterilizing jars

Whether you’re an expert canner, a beginner or someone who’s just contemplating dipping their toe into the home preservation waters, you’re certain to have heard that the only foods safe for water bath canning are the high acid ones. We define high acid as a food that’s got a pH of 4.6 or below (the lower the pH, the higher the acid content). The acid content of jams, preserved fruits, chutneys, pickles and more are our balm as canners, because it’s what keeps those preserves safe in their jars until you determine it’s time to crack them open.

There’s only one precaution that you must take when cooking these high acids foods into their canning-ready state. You’ve got to make sure you use a cooking vessel that is non-reactive. Pots made from metals like aluminum and untreated cast iron react with the acid in the preserves and can leach a metallic flavor into your final product. Shae at Hitchhiking to Heaven talks about an issue just like this in her most recent post in which she cooked high bush cranberries in a a cast iron skillet.

Note: The one exception here is when it comes to traditional copper preserving pans. Copper is a reactive metal, but when fruit and sugar are combined and cooked in a copper pan, the metallic flavor is not leached into the finished product. Once again, I refer you to Shae, and her post about copper pans.

Non-reactive pans are ones made of either stainless steel or enamel-lined cast iron (think Le Creuset or similarly enameled Dutch/French ovens). I recently acquired a low-and-wide 8 quart stainless steel All-Clad Stockpot that’s become my very favorite preserve-cooking pot. Its width means that the jam cooks down quickly and the stainless steel body allows me to scrub away when I accidentally let things overcook. We got it at Cookware & More, which is a kitchen wares outlet in Norristown, PA. They sell slightly irregular All-Clad products at a small discount, so if you’re in my area and in the market for some good cookware, you might want to consider checking them out (be warned though that it’s a strange store, tucked in the back of an anonymous industrial park in what feels like the middle of nowhere).

If you’ve got a stash of aluminum pots and want to give them some role in your canning process, you can always press the big ones into service as processing pots. The oval vessel you see in the picture at the top of this post is an old, aluminum pot I got in college at a thrift store. My mom and I have matching ones and we both find that it works nicely when we need to process a slew of half pint jars.

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Peaches, Portland and Canning Classes

canned peaches

This last Saturday, I spent the day in New York, helping shepherd three Philadelphia street food vendors to and from the Vendy Awards. It was the first time that any vendors from outside NYC had been invited to participate in the Vendys and we were honored to attend. In fact, my only regret about the entire day was that it meant I missed the last day of peaches at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market.

Luckily, I have a husband (and have had for an entire year now!) who, despite his occasional grumbles, is always willing to help when the demands of work and life don’t leave me the time to manage everything. He took my black-handled basket to the market in my stead and brought home eight pounds of the final peaches.

Those peaches were just the thing to help me push through the canning reluctance I’ve been battling lately, as I couldn’t fathom letting the Scott-fetched fruit go to waste (and these peaches were fragile, just a day in our apartment and a few were beginning to mold. Such is the way with late-season fruit). I’m a little perplexed by the reluctance I’ve been feeling. It’s as if some interior switch was flipped and suddenly I’d internalized the idea that canning season was over, despite all signs to the contrary (and the heaps of fruit still scattered around the apartment). I’m trying hard to gear back up, to revitalize for the final push of fall, but I fear that things are going to be slower than is ideal.

However, if you can still get your hands on some peaches, you should. I put up four quarts tonight in the time it took to listen to a single hour of radio. My eight pounds, quartered, peeled and briefly simmered in a fairly light syrup (two cups sugar, six cups water) perfectly filled four quart jars. Three received added flavor (star anise, cinnamon, vanilla) and one I left plain. Processed in a tall stock pot for 25 minutes, they’ll be delicious in January (if I can wait that long).

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bowl of Seckel pears

In a week and a half, I’m headed for the West Coast. First I’ll be in San Francisco for BlogHer Food and then I’m headed up to Portland, OR for a week’s worth of vacation with Scott. I’ve carved one evening out of that trip to teach a canning class, so if you’re in the Portland area and want to talk canning with me, you’re in luck.

The class will focus on Pear-Ginger Jam and will be held on Wednesday, October 13 from 6-7:30 p.m. It will be held at the Portland Subud Center, which is in NE Portland just off 33rd Avenue (not far from the Concordia New Seasons). Cost is $45. If you’re interested in signing up, please email me at foodinjars AT gmail.com. My mom will be helping me with the class, so it’s also your chance to meet the woman who taught me to can and who is so frequently mentioned on these here pages.

I’ve also still got space in the sauerkraut class next week (October 5), as well as the Philadelphia-based Pear-Ginger Jam class on October 23 (the November and December classes also still have availability as well). Shoot me an email if you’re interested in signing up!

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