Open Jars: Apple Butter BBQ Sauce from Coconut & Lime

Got more apple butter than you can eat? Here’s a tasty idea from Rachel at Coconut & Lime. She combined her homemade apple butter with a bit of vinegar, a variety of spices and a little bit of booze for a tasty barbecue sauce. It looks incredibly easy too, just a bit of measuring, a trip through the blender and a bit of reducing over low heat. Make sure to head over to her site to check out the full recipe.

This makes me wonder what other butters and jams could be turned into more full-bodied barbecue sauces. I think that my peach plum ginger jam might make a really good player in a sweet/savory sauce like this.

Do you have a spread in your pantry that is due for a transformation like this one?

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Wooden Tools and Homemade Spoon Butter

spoon butter

One of the things I love about cooking is that despite all the modern advances available to us in the kitchen, so much of it is essentially timeless. Take for example how often you reach for something made of wood in the process of making a meal. I pull out my favorite wooden cutting board at least three times a day and reach for a wooden spoon or spatula all the time.

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The only issue with wooden tools is that on occasion, they need a bit of care, particularly in my dry, 20th floor apartment. I used to simply give my wooden utensils and cutting boards a quick wipe with straight mineral oil. About a year ago, I learned a better way from Stephanie at 3191 Miles Apart. Spoon butter (or spoon oil, as she calls it. However, it looks and feels more like butter to me, so that’s what I call it).

all the spoons

It just takes two ingredients to make spoon (or board) butter – mineral oil and natural beeswax*. Put a quart-sized jar in a small saucepan and fill it about a third of the way up with water. Put a quarter pound hunk of beeswax (it smells so lovely) in the jar and gently bring it to a simmer. As it melts, slowly drizzle in the contents of a 16 ounce bottle of mineral oil, until they’ve totally come together. Use a wooden implement to stir it together if it needs a bit of help.

wooden spoons on white

Once the butter is cool to the touch, start smoothing it into your spoons, spatulas, boards and bowls. Let them sit for a couple of hours (or more – sometimes I leave them overnight). When most the butter is absorbed, rub everything down with a clean cloth and return them to normal use.

One of the happy side effects of lubing all your wooden tools with spoon butter is that your hands will feel incredibly soft and well-tended (I think that’s why I like to butter my spoons this time of year, my hands are dry and cracked December through March). I also love how appealingly luminous all the wood looks after it’s been treated.

The spoon butter will keep in a closed jar under the sink or in the pantry for quite some time. It would also make a very nice thing to share. I’ve been imagining a wedding shower gift of a couple sturdy-yet-graceful spoons paired with a small jar of spoon butter and a charming note card with instructions on how to use it. Thoughtful and useful, don’t you think?

*I get my beeswax from Bee Natural in Reading Terminal Market. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost last time I bought it, but I don’t remember it being particularly outrageous.

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Handmade Treats for Family, Friends and Sweethearts

Valentine’s Day is just a week away now and if you haven’t begun to think about a few little gifts, now might be a good time*. I’ve been seeing lots of inspired treats across the internet of late. I’m particularly charmed by these peanut butter and jam thumbprint cookies, where the hollow for the jam has been molding into the shape of a heart.

However, if you don’t have the time to make something up yourself, there’s an organization I want to tell you about. Called Eat Boutique, they are tiny company who is in the business of putting together boxes of artisanally made foods. It’s not a situation in which you can customize the box. They simply have a seasonal box that get’s packed full of whatever lovely things they’ve determined work best for the current season. The box they’re currently offering includes sea salt caramels, snowball cookies and a jar of sweet pickled beets and costs $55 + s/h. Sounds pretty nice to me.

Now, if that box happens to be a bit too spendy for you, consider taking the idea as inspiration and putting something together from your own homemade items. I keep envisioning a few friends teaming up, making a couple of components and then trading, in order to have more variety in less time.

Now, let’s hear how the rest of you plan on celebrating Valentine’s Day. Got any special treats or goodies in the works?

*I happened to be married to a man who’s birthday is also on Valentine’s Day, so I’ve been thinking and planning for months, trying to ensure that I cover both bases and make him feel as special as he deserves.

Note: There’s been no pay for play here. I received nothing from Eat Boutique in exchange for this post. I just like what they are doing and their focus small and handmade.

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Geometry of Pasta Winner

As always, I’m a little bit slow posting a giveaway winner. We had 206 total entries (the combined total of the comments left on posts here and over at Fork You) and tells me that the winner is number 140, Tammy B.

Tammy, I’ll be in touch soon to get your info, so I can get your copy of the Geometry of Pasta into the mail.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to leave a comment. Also, our many thanks to Quirk Books for providing copies of the book and a bit of cash to help with supplies.

Stay tuned, we’ll have another video ready for you in just a few short weeks!

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Preserving Lemons

preserved lemons

I first tasted preserved lemons when I went out to Ojai for a press trip out to the Sunkist lemon groves two years ago. (What a divine trip that was. Three days in Southern California in the midst of a messy Philadelphia winter.) By the time you eat a preserved lemon, it has little in common with the fruit as we know it. Strategically slit and salted, the lemons change character radically, until all you have left is a savory, tangy, yielding condiment that acts as serious flavor player.

And, as preserving projects go, this one couldn’t be easier. It’s just a matter of scrubbing, trimming, slicing and packing with salt. No boiling water baths or sterilization necessary.

Here’s how it works. You give your lemons a really good wash and then trim both ends to remove the remains of the stem and the little nub. Then slice them as if you’re cutting them into quarters, but not all the way. The goal is to have each lemon cut in four pieces but still attached to the whole. They always look a little like one of those fortune teller games we used to make in elementary school to me.

Once all your lemons are prepped, cover the bottom of the jar you’ll be using with salt (either kosher or sea salt is best). One by one, hold each lemon over the jar and spill a tablespoon of salt into the cuts. Pack them into the jar as you fill them with salt, using a bit of force to get them in if necessary. I used a 1 1/2 liter Le Parfait jar and found that it held nine lemons quite nicely. Spread some salt between each layer of lemons and make sure to top the jar off with a good pour as well.

Keep out on the counter for the first three days, giving the jar a good shake once or twice a day to help spread the salt and activate the juice production. If they aren’t producing a whole lot of juice, feel free to open the lid and press down to help things along. On the fourth day, take a good look at your lemons. They should be submerged in their own juice by this point. If they are not, top the jar off with some additional juice. Stash them in the back of the fridge for at least three weeks. After that, they should be ready to use. However, they’ll keep this way for at least six months (if not longer).

When you’re ready to use one, remove it from the jar and give it a rinse. Chop into tiny pieces and toss in salads, braises or grain dishes. I imagine it would be wonderful in this salad, in place of the braised lemon slices.

If you’ve bought or made them before, what’s your favorite way to use a preserved lemon?

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Open Jars: Peachy Carrots from Queen of the Castle Recipes

purple carrots

When I was growing up, my mom kept dinnertime simple by rotating through a mix-and-match array of main and sides. One such side that came up on a fairly regular basis was a dish of sliced carrots, steamed until just tender and then glazed with butter and a bit of brown sugar. I always loved it, although as I got older, it faded from the cycle.

I’m reminded of those delectable carrots, thanks to Lynn from Queen of the Castle Recipes. She cooked up a batch of carrots and glazed them with some of the peach pit jelly she made last summer. Here’s what she has to say about them…

The very best recipe I’ve made in the last two weeks, the one I’ll be making again? It’s Peachy Carrots, from The Four Ingredient Cookbook. Who’d have thought such a simple little recipe would surpass the others? Here’s the recipe, and I will save you all that time-consuming experimenting.

1 lb. package of carrots (the authors recommend you slice and cook them; I simply took a 12-oz. bag of petite carrots and used them whole, without pre-cooking)
1/3 c. peach preserves (I used peach pit jelly I had made over the summer)
1 T. butter

In small skillet or saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until heated through.¬† That’s it.¬† Sweet and yummy and pretty darned simple.

They really do sound good. I’m thinking about making them using the nectarine-lime jam I made last summer. Something tells me that the hint of citrus would be a perfect accompaniment to the sweetness of the carrots and the jam.

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