Korin Togiharu Petty Knife Winner

Well, that was another successful giveaway. Thanks to all of you who took the time to enter. I loved reading all the comments and learning what tools you all use and value in your own kitchens.

In my kitchen, one of my favorite tools is a little wooden cutting board from Ikea. Less than a foot long, it’s often inconveniently small and yet it’s still the one I reach for first. The wood has aged into silky, well-used patina and it’s just the right size for bread, cheese and fruit. When it finally breaks (there’s a crack on the back that will someday kill this board), I will be sad.

Enough pre-emptive mourning for my cutting board. Our winner is commenter #496. That’s Embee. Here’s what she said:

Thanks Embee, I’ll be in touch to hook you up with your prize.

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Help Food in Jars Become a Finalist in The Homies

It’s that time of year again, when the editors at Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn solicit nominations for finalists in The Homies, their annual blog awards. Food in Jars is in the running, but still trailing behind a number of blogs. If you’re interesting in voting, you can do so by clicking here (if you don’t have an Apartment Therapy account, you will have to create one, but it’s fairly painless).

This round of voting ends Friday, March 2 at 11:59 p.m. Thanks so much!

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Canning Class at The Greenwich Historical Society

I’m happy to announce a fun addition to my summer canning class schedule. On Saturday, June 30, I’ll be teaching a three-hour, hands-on class at the Greenwich Historical Society‘s Vanderbilt Education Center in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The two recipes we’ll focus on that day will be Spiced Nectarine Jam and Dilly Beans. Those items will give us a chance to talk about jam making (including testing doneness), cold pack pickles, canning safety and all facets of boiling water bath canning.

This class costs $50 for Historical Society members and $60 for non-members. You can sign up by clicking here.

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Dried Apricot Jam from 250 Home Preserving Favorites

250 Home Preserving Favorites

When I was in high school, I was one of the most organized kids around. I was never late with a home work assignment, managed to juggle a slew of student council activities, act in school plays and still have time for hanging out with friends.

These days, I feel like I exert twice as much energy for half as much coordination. I do realize that there are far more moving pieces in my life these days (in high school, I wasn’t responsible for so many of the household tasks that now fill my brain), but I often wish I could recover some of the boundless energy I once had for pulling loose ends into neat bundles.

Dried Apricot Jam

Here’s an example of my organizational struggle. In the fall of 2010, the publicity manager for Robert Rose publishing sent me a handful of books that she thought might be appropriate for this site. I worked a couple of the volumes into blog posts and set aside the copy of 250 Home Preserving Favorites by Yvonne Tremblay for future blogging. My plan was to spend some serious time with it and devote a post to it. Instead, I misplaced it. It totally disappeared from the landscape of the apartment.

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Nearly a year later, I got an email from Yvonne, the author of 250 Home Preserving Favorites. Not knowing that I’d gotten and lost a copy of her book, she was writing to find out if I’d be interested in seeing a copy for possible inclusion in a blog post.

Both Yvonne and Martine (the PR contact from Robert Rose) forgave me my disorganization and sent another copy of the book. Six months ago. My 16 year old self would have been far more on top of it.

saucer test

Now it’s time to make amends to Yvonne and Martine and get my act together in order to tell you all about this most excellent book. It’s a comprehensive volume dedicated primarily to sweet preserves (there’s a section of tangy chutneys near the back that keep it from being entirely sweet). I regularly flip through it looking for inspiration and it’s never failed to spark an idea that sends me dashing to the kitchen.

filling jars

I recently took the recipe for Dried Apricot Jam for a spin and was entirely pleased with the results. The finished product is deeply flavored, with a texture that is somewhere between a jam and a marmalade.

I cut the batch in half to keep things manageable and it adapted easily. I’m so happy to have been introduced to the concept of making jam from dried fruit (it’s not something I’d really considered until finding this recipe).

It’s also the perfect thing for those of you out there who are anxious for the canning season to get under way. A jam made from dried fruit is just the kind of thing to keep you satisfied until the spring produce starts to get going.

filled jars

Here’s how it works. Chop up 8 ounces of dried apricots, place them in a bowl and cover them with 2 3/4 cups filtered water. Cover the bowl with a plate or a length of plastic wrap and let it sit overnight. The next day, the apricot pieces should be nicely plump.

When you’re ready to cook the jam, pour the soaked apricots into a large, non-reactive pot with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

lowering into the canning pot

Once the apricots are quite tender, raise the heat and stream in 2 1/2 cups of granulated white sugar and 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract (I used vanilla instead of the recommended liqueur). Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced and the jam has become quite thick and sticky. When it passes the plate test, it is done.

Funnel jam into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel. Once jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated promptly. Sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

For more inspired recipes like this one, make sure to check out 250 Home Preserving Favorites.

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The Wide Mouth Pint & Half Jars Are Back!

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you’ve surely heard me wax poetic about my beloved 24 ounce jars. These wide mouth jars hold a pint and a half and are the perfect size for canning asparagus, storing leftovers or using to transport iced coffee.

They’ve been out of production for many years now. I have a small stash thanks to a couple lucky eBay scores, but I’ve always wished that Ball would bring them back. I know I’m not the only one who has hoped for such a day.

Well folks, that day has come. A sharp-eyed reader sent me a link over the weekend saying that she’d spotted new Pint & Half Jars on the Sears website. I got in touch with my PR contact at Ball and this morning it was confirmed. The 24 ounce mason jar is back.

They should be available wherever jars are sold in the coming weeks. The list price is $10.85, which is a far sight less expensive that what the vintage versions go for. Make sure to encourage your local retailers to order this size so that Ball sees how much we value it.

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A Visit to Korin + Giveaway

Korin

This is just one side of the knife section. There is an equally extensive display on the opposite wall.

Last Wednesday, I hopped on a double decker Megabus and rode to New York in order to learn about knives. Many months ago, I’d gotten an email inviting me to visit Korin, a Japanese tableware and knife store and finally the day had arrived for my trip. As a fan of good kitchen knives, I was incredibly excited to learn a little more about the breadth of knives available out there.

Korin

Located downtown near City Hall, Korin has been in the business of knives and tableware for 30 years. A family operation, the store was initially open only by appointment to the restaurant trade (they currently work with the likes of Nobu, Grammercy Tavern and Per Se) but in recent years, the shop has been open daily to the public as well.

Korin

In addition to selling an incredibly vast array of knives and tableware, they also offer sharpening services using a variety of Japanese water stones. They can sharpen and repair nearly any type or style of knife, save those with a serrated edge. Having seen what they were able to do with some of my more beat-up knives, I am a true believer as to what a good sharpening can do. There is no one that I know of in Philadelphia producing this level of edge quality. Happily, you can mail your knives to Korin should you not live near enough to drop in for sharpening.

Korin

Korin sells Western-style knives, traditional Japanese knives and a Japanese-Western hybrid. The difference between these knives is in the edge. Western edges are sharpened so that they have a symmetrical edge. This offers a blade that is fairly durable and relatively easy to maintain. Japanese knives are traditionally sharpened on just one side of the knife. This makes for an incredibly sharp edge, but not as easy for the home cook to maintain.

Korin

This is Knife Master Sugai, demonstrating the proper sharpening technique.

Then there’s the hybrid knife. Made of thin, high-grade steel, the edge is sharpened to an asymmetrical edge that leads to a sharper, more durable blade. The only issue with selecting a knife with an asymmetrical edge is if you have multiple cooks in your household who have different dominant hands. These knives are sharpened differently for righties and lefties. Just something to keep in mind.

Korin

This incredibly long blade is designed to be used to break down whole tuna. It's a two-person operation. One maneuvers the knife and the other moves the tuna.

One of the things that my hosts stressed when showing me through the knives was the fact that in Japanese culinary culture, there are different knives for different tasks. The giant knife with the extended blade in this picture? It is designed for cutting soba noodles. Thicker blades are designated for butchering, while thinner ones are for making more precision cut. Blade shapes also vary depending on region and maker.

Korin

One blade that I fell particularly in love with while visiting Korin was the Petty knife. It’s seen as an analog to the paring knife, as it’s both light and highly maneuverable. However, as you can see (it’s pictured below), it’s got a longer blade that you typically find on a Western paring knife. Since introducing it to my kitchen a week ago, it’s rapidly become my favorite knife for quick tasks like slicing up an apple.

Korin

The kind folks at Korin sent me home with two of these Petty knives (if you’re curious, it’s this one), one to keep and one to give away to a reader. If you’re interesting in a chance to win this gorgeous knife, here’s what to do.

  1. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and tell us about your favorite kitchen tool.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Thursday, March 1, 2012. Winner will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted to the blog on Friday, March 2, 2012.
  3. Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian readers.
  4. One entry/comment per person, please.
Disclosure: Korin gave me two knives; one to keep and one for this giveaway. My opinions remain entirely my own.