Sunday Night from the Food in Jars Flickr Pool

On occasion, I take a break from showing off my preserves and give my readers a chance to shine by featuring a few photos from the Food in Jars Flickr group. Here are a few pretties from the last week or two. If you’d like to see your photo featured here, please head over to Flickr, join the group and add your images.

Apple Jelly

Such pretty apple jelly from Emma Dandelion. I’ve been meaning to make a batch of apple jelly with rosemary for weeks now. Maybe this week!

Thanksgiving's Pickled Green Tomatoes

Pickled green tomatoes from Amanda Rudd. Tomato season seems so long ago now.

mason jar cozies

I realize there’s no food in these jars, but I just love these cozies from Peaceful Bean.

Winter Solstice Brew

Tis the season for infused booze! This Winter Solstice Brew from Pam at Sidewalk Shoes is just the ticket!

Mulled Wine

Speaking of festive beverages, this mulled wine from Jessica Eiden Smedley seems like a winner for this time of year.

curried caulifour

Still on the hunt for homemade holiday gifts? This curried and pickled cauliflower from Dory Kornfeld is a tasty option. And such fun labels!

Canning 2011 Retrospective

A look at just some of the pickles that Sara from Ma Vie en Food made this year. It reminds me that I need to bust out some dilly beans.

cranberry juice

Homemade cranberry juice all done up in pretty Weck jars and sitting in the snow. Well done, Christopher!

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Eat Boutique Jam Box Winner

Thanks to all of you who took the time to leave a comment on the Eat Boutique Jam Box giveaway and share the many creative, handmade things you’re giving as gifts this holiday season.

The winner of the giveaway is Jennifer, who left comment #61. She said, “My parents and sister are getting my homemade jam & pickles, as well as my hand knit lovelies!”

Lucky parents and sister!

For all of you who didn’t win, take heart! I’ll have another giveaway for you all tomorrow. The goodies are of a different stripe, but I think that they’ll be popular nonetheless!

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Gifts in Jars From the Archives

jam and bread

December is here and that means that it’s time of year when a home cook’s fancy to turn to baking and roasting up items to give as gifts. In the coming days, I’ll be posting a few new recipes to get your wheels turning, but until then, I thought it might be nice to feature some of the giftables I’ve posted in the past.


pear cinnamon jam

While there aren’t many jammable fruits left out there this time of year, there are still pears. And they are one of my favorites things to preserve. The archives speak for themselves. Pear Vanilla Jam. Pear Cinnamon Jam. Red Pear with Lavender. Pear Chutney with Dried Cherries and Ginger. Just know that this time of year, the pears have thicker skins than they do is early fall, so they may need to be peeled.

And if pears aren’t your bag, there’s always Apple-Cranberry Jam. It’s bright ruby color makes it feel festive and it is lovely for breakfast or paired with runny cheeses on an appetizer plate.

Snacks and Munchables

chex mix in jars

Roasted Chex Mix. It’s a blast straight out of my personal past and it so, so good. People go crazy for it. For snack that’s a little sweet and spicy, try these Rosemary Maple-Glazed Nuts.

If you need something to pair with a little jar of jam, bake up a batch of these easy crackers. They come together in minutes and are perfect to have in the pantry around the holidays to finish off a spread of starters.

Baked Goods

cocoa hazelnut granola

Cocoa Hazelnut Granola. It’s a must for the chocolate lover in your life. If you’ve someone on your list whole likes an easy baking project, this Cranberry Orange Scone Mix is just the thing. For best results, put a little piece of plastic wrap in between the dry ingredients and the orange sugar.

These mini Cranberry Bread Loaves are nice if you’re putting together an assortment of treats and want to add a quick bread. And no one ever says no to a batch of Whole Grain Pancake Mix. Pair it with a jar of jam or a small bottle of maple syrup for a holiday morning breakfast kit.

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Laurie Colwin and Pear Gingerbread

envelope from 1966

The apartment that Scott and I live in once belonged to my grandparents. My grandfather bought it in 1966 and my grandmother Tutu lived here until she died in 2002. I moved in soon after her death and I spent the first two years here slowly going through boxes and drawers, letting go of her things and making room for mine.

My grandfather Phil never actually got to live here. He died of a heart attack just months before they were scheduled to move in. Though I never had the opportunity to meet him, I know that he was one of the kindest and most generous men of his generation. He took care of everyone around him, and in a essential way, has provided for me as well.

Home Cooking and a letter from Laurie

One of the boxes I found as I sifted and sorted contained every condolence card Tutu received after Phil died. Some were heartfelt letters, while others were simply a few words dashed on now-vintage greeting cards.

And one was this simple note from Laurie Colwin.

How to Make Gingerbread

During my childhood, I loved hearing stories of about when my mom was young. She’d tell me about life in the suburbs of Philadelphia, of walking to school without parents, playing outside with friends every afternoon and long, snowy winter nights (living in Southern California, snow was particularly exotic). There were lots of characters in these stories, including neighbors, classmates and the mean kids who went to the Catholic school around the corner.

One such story-time bit player was Laurie. She was a family friend, who briefly dated my uncle in high school and grew up to be a writer. When I found the note, I knew of the connection. But in the years since those bedtime stories, I had also discovered and devoured Laurie Colwin’s food writing. Her words had made her important to me and so the note became instantly valuable.

Lyle's Golden Syrup and blackstrap Molasses

I’ve lived a life that’s been fairly free of mentors. I’ve always longed to have someone swoop down and offer me guidance and encouragement when it felt that the road had turned impossibly rocky. For whatever reason, no mentor has appeared. So I made one up. I tucked Laurie’s note into my calendar as touchstone and pretended that she was still alive and cared about my career.

I re-read her books regularly in an attempt to glean just what it is that made her food writing so good. When I was working on my cookbook, I often asked myself what Laurie might have thought of this chapter intro or that recipe headnote. And when I write something I’m pleased with, I imagine that she might have enjoyed reading it too.

I realize that I may have just confessed something that will make me sound slightly off my rocker, but honestly, having my imaginary Laurie mentor has helped me through many a tough spot.

pouring into the mixer

When the topic of gingerbread came up last night, it seemed only natural to turn to one of Laurie’s recipes (she has one in each volume of essays and each is a little different). I used the one in Home Cooking, as it was the easier book to put hands on, and began tweaking so that it came into alignment with my own gingerbread vision.

finished pear gingerbread

I used half blackstrap molasses and half Lyle’s Golden Syrup (her preferred sweetener in the More Home Cooking recipe) and swapped in some whole wheat flour for a bit of the all-purpose to give it a sense of virtuousness. I used some freshly grated ginger to boost the intensity of flavor and stirred in a cup of chopped pears.

moist gingerbread interior

The finished cake has a smooth, crackly crust and is all tender and spice inside. The pears add small pockets of juicy flavor and play so nicely with fire of the ginger. It’s the perfect thing to eat with a mug of tea on a cozy winter afternoon and I think Laurie would have loved it.

Continue Reading →

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The DIY Pantry: Ground Allspice

allspice in the pantry

Last night, during my post-dinner clean-up, I threw away three pears. They were well past their prime and were threatening to stage a decomposition scene right there in the fruit bowl.

An hour or so later, I called my mom and we started talking holidays, baking and the many delicious things in the world. The topic of gingerbread came up and I floated the idea of a tender gingerbread cake with juicy bits of pear baked in. We determined that it was a genius idea and I jumped up to fish the thrown away pears out of the garbage can. It was last minute reprieve.

Earlier today, as I gathered my gingerbread ingredients, I realized I was missing a minor player. Ground allspice. Just as I was about to shrug and accept that I had to do without, I remembered that I had a large jar of whole allspice.

freshly ground allspice

I tumbled a few into an old bladed coffee grinder I keep around for spices and small amounts of nuts and went to town. When the bulk of the allspice berries were reduced to powder, I shook them through a sieve to separate out the hard, stubborn bits. I was left with approximately two ounces of gorgeously fragrant, freshly ground allspice. I measured the necessary 1/4 teaspoon for the gingerbread and tucked the rest into a jar for the spice rack.

I realize that for some of you, this is not big deal. You grind your spices fresh all the time. However, I’m one of those people who often gets stuck in patterns of behavior and one is the assumption that ground spices must be bought in their ground state. I sometimes forget how easy it can be to make a pantry staple like this on. And with holiday baking coming up, it’s nice to have a little jar of freshly ground allspice on hand.

The pear gingerbread turned out amazing well too. I’ll be posting the recipe, a riff on the one in Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking, later tonight.

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Eat Boutique Favorite Jam Box Giveaway

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you’re probably already familiar with Eat Boutique. It’s a wonderful little company based out of the Boston area that carefully sorts through the ever-growing world of artisanal foods and culls the very best ones for inclusion in their gift boxes.

In the past, they’ve done just one box per season, but for the upcoming holidays, they’ve created seven different themed boxes, so that you can find the right thing for the many different people on your gift list.

My current favorite is (there will be no surprise here) the Jam Gift Box. It features four different preserves from some of the country’s best jam makers (the Blenheim Apricot Jam from We Love Jam is one of the delicious jams I’ve ever tasted).

Happily, the Eat Boutique crew have offered up one of these Jam Gift Boxes  to give away to a Food in Jars reader. If you want a chance at it, here’s what to do…

  1. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and share a homemade gift you’re giving to a friend or family member this season.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, December 3, 2011. Winner will be chosen at random (using and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, December 4, 2011.
  3. Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (apologies to my more far-flung readers).
  4. One entry/comment per person, please.

Disclosure: Eat Boutique has provided the gift box I’m giving away. I didn’t receive anyAs always, my opinions are still all my own. It’s a good product and I’m happy to be able to share it with you guys.