Canning Book: Putting Up More

Putting Up & Putting Up More

Stephen Palmer Dowdney’s first book, Putting Up was one of my very first canning books. I bought my copy in early in 2009, around the time when I first started this blog. I used it as starting place when I made my first batch of pickled asparagus (how long ago that feels!) and I continue to reference it on a regular basis.

While walking by the Cookbook Stall at Reading Terminal Market about a week ago, I happened to spot Putting Up More in the window. I was surprised, as I hadn’t heard anything about a new canning book from Dowdney, but I stopped and bought a copy right there and then (let’s hear it for supporting local book shops!).

Putting Up More - pH Meter

One of the things that makes Dowdney’s books stand out in the pack of canning volumes is the perspective from which he writes. He owned a commercial canning operation for more than 10 years and so isn’t as tethered to the home canning practices to which we all cleave. He sterilizes his jars in a bleach solution instead of a canning pot or dishwasher, utilizes the inversion method for sealing, skips a processing step for hot pack recipes and even gives you the intellectual tools necessary to check the pH levels of your goods.

Putting Up More - Sweet Onion Jam

Though he doesn’t specifically say it, his instructions on how to test acidity and how to adjust to bring your goods into a safe range is the information so many of us have been looking for. As long as you’re willing to follow his directions (to the letter), this technique will finally set you free from the confines of tested recipes. If this sounds appealing to you, I recommend that you get your hands on both Putting Up and Putting Up More, as they’re designed to work as companion volumes.

Putting Up More - Pickled Brussels Sprouts

He includes a section of canning notes in each recipe, which details whether the recipe is one that will need to have its acid levels tested, what the yield will be, his recommendation for jar size (a hugely helpful bit) and whether the recipe can be safely increased or decreased. Dowdney has also taken a great deal of time to offer up suggestions on how to use and serve each recipe. For those of you who make things and then question what the heck to do with them, this is fantastic.

Putting Up More - Tomato Basil Soup

Other high points of this book include the safe for canning soups (including butternut squash, which I imagine will make some USDA canners devotees freak out), an entire section devoted to products made from hot peppers and an eggplant chutney that sounds incredible. As soon as the eggplant, peppers and summer squash are in season, I’m making it.

Putting Up More - rear inside

Because I think they’re excellent books, I’m giving away the pair of Putting Up and Putting Up More. This is not a publisher-sponsored giveaway, I just think these books are wonderful and I want to support Stephen Palmer Dowdney and the work he does in creative, inspirational canning.

The giveaway starts tonight and runs through Wednesday, May 25 at 11:59 p.m. In your comment, share what canned good you’re most looking forward to making this summer. The winner will be selected at random (via random.org) and will be posted here on Thursday, May 26. Please, just one entry per person.

In totally other news, I just started another year of a photo a day over on my other blog, Apartment 2024 (I used my birthday as the start). If you’re curious about what else happens in my life, feel free to take a peek. Recently, I drank a really tasty glass of iced coffee with condensed milk, voted in my local primary election and took a day trip to New Hope courtesy of Chevy.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

364 | 365

I use a lot of vinegar in my day to day cooking. Between quick vinaigrettes, a splash to add balance to different dishes and the array of pickles I regularly make, it’s a favorite item. I typically have between 5-7 varieties including apple cider, white wine, cheap balsamic, a spendier balsamic, rice wine and basic distilled white vinegar. I’m also working my way through a jar of blackberry vinegar I made last summer by steeping spent blackberry seeds in a basic vinegar.

plucked chive blossoms

Many months ago, I spotting mention of chive blossom vinegar somewhere out there on the wide, vast internet (sadly, I’m not sure where it was, so I can’t give credit for this brilliant idea). It planted itself into my brain and though I can lay no claim on any chives myself, I hoped again hope that I might be able to lay my hands on some blossoms this spring in order to make a batch.

Last week, a friend mentioned on Twitter that in the course of her work as a gardener, she composts so many herb cuttings that she should start an herb CSA. While the comment was off-hand and mostly kidding, I mentioned that I was always happy to adopt any herbs in need of a home. As luck would have it, she had access to wide swaths of chives and their blossoms. I’d get to make my vinegar after all.

making chive vinegar

Chive blossoms smell ever so gently of onion and when steeped for a week or two, they give both that fragrance and their light purple color over to the vinegar. The actual process is so easy that you don’t need an actual recipe.

Pick a generous number of chive blossoms. Soak them in cool water to remove any dirt or bugs that might have taken refuge inside the blossoms. Dry them well (salad spinners are great for this) and stuff them into a jar so that it is between 1/2 and 2/3 filled with blossoms (I used a half gallon jar). Fill the jar with white vinegar. Because I’m cheap, I used a basic distilled vinegar. If you’re fancier than I am, try white wine vinegar.

Let the blossoms steep in the vinegar for two weeks in a cool, dark place. When the time has elapsed, strain the vinegar and pour it into any jar you’d like. Use anywhere you think it would taste good.

How is springtime treating the rest of you? I’ve been enjoying the rhubarb and asparagus and am looking forward to the coming abundance of strawberries.

Comments { 69 }

Last Day for Saveur Votes + Penley Jar Giveaway Winner + Blogger Bake Sale

rhubarb

I was up late on Monday night (so late that it was actually Tuesday) putting the finishing touches on the cookbook draft. I pressed send sometime after 2 a.m. and spent another hour awake, eating a bowl of cereal and trying to calm my brain enough to go to sleep. Though there’s still a great deal of work to be done before the book will be in stores sometime next spring, the fact that I managed to do the canning, writing and retesting necessary (and mostly within the time allotted) is staggering.

It’s my hope to head back into the kitchen this weekend (maybe I’ll do a little 32nd birthday canning on Saturday!) and make something spring-y that I can share with you all next week. After working from an outline of recipes for the last year, the freedom of being able to make anything I want is glorious.

And now, time for some news and reminders.

1. Today is the last day of voting for the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to vote!

2. Christina from the blog Dessert for Two (#293) is the winner in the Penley Mason Jar giveaway. Thanks to all who entered!

3. This weekend is Philadelphia’s Blogger Bake Sale. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of A Full Plate Cafe on Liberties Walk. It is a fundraiser for Share our Strength and just like last year, I’m donating a dozen pint jars of homemade granola. If you can’t make it out to buy something but still want to give, click here to make a donation.

Comments { 18 }

Happy Day to All You Mothers!

359 | 365

I hope all you have had wonderful days, full of family, relaxation and plenty of good, homemade foods in jars!

Comments { 5 }

There’s a New Brand of Mason Jars in Town + Giveaway

Penley product line

Canning jars, at least as we know them now, have been around since 1868. John L. Mason developed the system of a threaded jar with a lid designed for sealing (he used lead lids with a rubber seal, not exactly the two-piece lid we know now, but very close). The technology hasn’t change much since then.

It used to be that there were a number of canning jar manufacturers. Ball. Kerr. Atlas. Drey. Mason. Globe. Mom’s. Knox. Golden Harvest. However, as so often happens, through a process of competition and consolidation, the number of jar producers grew fewer over the years.

Penley Mason jar

In 1993, the Ball Corporation (which by that time was the only domestic canning jar manufacturer) spun off their canning jar sector into the company that is now known at Jarden Home Brands. They make all the Ball, Kerr and Golden Harvest jars currently available in stores. One of the reasons that canning jars can be so pricey is that there’s been no competition in this sector of the market.*

However, thanks to the growing popularity of canning in recent years, we’re finally going to start seeing some new canning jars hit the market this season. Walmart has a line of mason jars called Mainstays, as well as a fancier variety branded with the Better Homes and Garden name. And soon, a variety of stores will be carrying Penley Mason jars (these are not the jars that Walmart is carrying). Those Penley jars are the ones I want to talk about today.

Penley lid

I recently had an opportunity to preview the line of jars made by the Penley Corporation. Up until now, they’ve been in the business of making and distributing clothespins, matches, toothpicks, plastic cutlery and drinking straws. Canning jars are a departure for them, but from the examples I’ve seen, they are doing an amazingly good job with their new product.

In most respects, they are physically nearly identical to the jars most of us currently use. They make pints and quarts in both regular and wide mouth and an embossed half pint in a regular mouth. Lids and rings are interchangeable between Ball, Kerr and Penley, which is fabulous for those of us who already have a stash of lids or who are planning on using Tattler lids this season.

When I met with the Penley rep, he pointed out the fact that they intentionally left the back of their pints and quarts smooth to better accommodate the labels that so many canners apply to their jars. I was happy to see that particularly since I’ve always hated the round of wheat and fruit on the back of the Ball jars (in researching this post, I learned that it’s been there since 1970).

made in china

As far as performance goes, I’ve canned in these jars several times now and they’ve been perfect, not a failed seal among them. What’s more, they just feel good in the hand. They are sturdy and solid, just the way I expect a good canning jar to be. As you can see from the picture above, there’s a water spot left on that jar from a run through the dishwasher, there because I’ve used this jar for leftover storage and the transportation of iced coffee to work. They’ve seamlessly become part of my collection of working jars.

Finally (and best of all), they are going to be less expensive than Ball or Kerr jars. While it will only be a dollar or two difference, if you do a lot of canning, that can add up quickly.

As far as I can see, there are only two drawbacks to these jars. The first is that they’ve left no space on the lid for writing. As someone who always writes on the lids of my preserves with a Sharpie, this is a minor annoyance. Second is that the jars are made in China. I pass no judgment on Penley for making this choice as in today’s market it is really the only way to make a lower cost product. If you are someone who avoids things made outside of the U.S. I wanted to make sure you were aware (and as you can see, they’ve clearly printed the origin on the bottom of all the Penley jars).

Penley jars will be available at limited locations around the country this season and more widely available next year. Keep your eyes peeled for them in your local grocery store. Additionally, thanks to Penley, I have one case (12 jars) of these jars to give away to a Food in Jars reader (the winner gets to choose the size they’d like).

To enter, leave a comment and share your favorite unconventional canning jar use. The contest runs through Monday, May 9 at 11:59 p.m. One comment per person, please.

Disclosure: The Penley Corp. gave me an assortment of jars and lids to try. However, all thoughts and opinions expresses herein are my own and untainted by the free loot.

*There are the Leifheit jars, but they are so much more expensive (around $20 for six jars) than Ball and Kerr jars, that I don’t see them as a viable alternative for people who do more than the most basic recreational canning.

Seven Boxes of Preserves in the Back of the Car

355 | 365

I’m still deep in cookbook land right now, but I wanted to take a moment to share this picture with you all. This is the back of my (new!) car, filled with jars of preserves on their way to the photography studio where the images for my cookbook will be made. My editor and I made the drop Tuesday morning, parking illegally and ferrying the boxes from curb to elevator (using one box to keep the door propped).

I’ve been making and setting aside these jars since this last year (I did my darnedest to test recipes in season). It was so satisfying to create recipes for the book, but also a challenge to make so much good stuff that I couldn’t open or eat. I had to be so, so careful during the holidays that I didn’t accidentally wrap a jar that I was intended to keep. As it was, I was short the promised number of both damson plum and strawberry vanilla jam.

There were approximately 75 jars in this load. I owe at least another 20. There is still a long way to go before sleep or celebration, but still, this felt good. Tangible. Real. So I thought I would share.

Comments { 37 }