Sunday Night From the Food in Jars Flickr Pool

Every Sunday evening, I take a break from showing off my preserves and give the rest of you 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.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Pretty homemade maraschino cherries from Katherine Martinelli.

Damson Plum Jam

Damson plum jam (one of my very favorites) from Meighan.

for my dad...

Pickles by Cheryl for her dad (is there anything better than canning for someone you love? I think not!).

Peach butter

Peach butter by the newlywed Melissa, The Boastful Baker.

all labeled

Very retro-looking corn salsa, made by Dory.

tomato jam

Yay! Another incarnation of Amy’s Tomato Jam. Love the OX cheese, Krista and Jess!

Patty Pan Squash Pickles

Another version of my baby pattypan pickles from David Kindler.

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Lemon Verbena Honey

lemon verbena honey

Several weeks ago, thanks to the generosity of friend with a bountiful herb garden, I found myself in the possession of a wealth of lemon verbena. A handful went into this batch of skillet jam to lovely effect. With the rest, I made lemon verbena honey. Really, to say that I made is it sort of silly. Truly, it was just an act of assembly.

lemon verbena

I plucked the leaves off their stems, rinsed them and used the salad spinner to dry things off. Then it was just a matter of loosely filling the jar with the lemon verbena leaves and pouring the honey over the top.

lemon verbena in a jar

After that, I tucked the jar away for a couple of weeks to let the flavor infused. That’s it. Seriously, that’s all the work it takes. It’s been sitting for about two weeks now and it’s tasting gently of lemon. The longer it sits, the more intensely flavored it will become. If you have a sunny window, you can place it there and help the flavor develop faster.

So far, I’ve stirred this lovely honey into tea and drizzled it over blue cheese. How would you use it?

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Preserves in Action: Birchrun Blue with Damson Plum Jam

Preserves in action (110)

Though I still have a crisper drawer of stonefruit that needs to be used post haste, the truth of the matter is that the summer canning season is starting to wind down. Apples and pears are in the markets and I’m certain that it won’t be long before I spot some quince.

While I love the heady glut of berries, beans and tomatoes that summer brings, I also really appreciate the incremental slowdown that fall demands. The frenzy to put up diminishes and June is far enough behind me that it doesn’t seem crazy to crack open a jar of strawberry vanilla jam.

Regularly, I get questions from people wondering how best to use their jams, pickles and other preserves. And truly, I understand where these questions come from. The first year I actively canned, I was really hesitant to open all those jars back up. I had put so much time and effort into them! What if I chose the wrong way to use it?

Happily, I’ve gotten over those initial struggles and the fruits of my canning habit are deeply woven through my everyday life.  To that end, I’m adding a new category to this site called Preserves in Action. Sometimes I’ll feature simple applications like the bread, cheese and preserves you see above, and on other occasions, a more thought out recipe will be provided (like those found in the Open Jars series from last winter).

I’m also inviting you all to participate. Take pictures of your own Preserves in Action and post them to the Food in Jars Flickr group. Tag them “preserves in action” and include a brief description. I’ll regularly pick out a few and feature them here on the site.

Oh, and the picture above? It’s two slices of Saint Peter’s Bakery multigrain loaf, gently toasted and topped with Birchrun Blue. The left slice was drizzled with a bit of lemon verbena honey (I’ll show you how I made that later today) and on the right, the damson plum jam from 2010 (it’s a recipe you’ll find in the cookbook). With a peach, it made for a fabulous, quick lunch.

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Homemade Living with Ashley English Winner

Homemade Living with Ashley English

Goodness. There sure were a lot of you hoping to win Ashley English’s Homemade Living series! Deservedly too, as these books are truly excellent resources. Sadly, I have but one set to give away and has selected #927. That’s the comment left by Shelagh, who said,

“I am in the process of transforming green beans (purchased from a friend’s tiny  organic farm) into dilly beans, which will get us through the long, cold Maine winter. “Canning and Preserving” would be welcome reading material as I plan next year’s garden.”

Shelagh, here’s hoping that these books help you plan your plot for 2012! For the rest of you, I do encourage you to seek out Ashley’s books going forward. Whether you were interested in Canning & Preserving, Keeping Chickens, Home Dairy and Keeping Bees, treat yourself to a copy or request one from the local library. They are most definitely worth reading!

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Upcoming Classes and New Columns

dilly beans

So far, unemployment has treated me exceedingly well. Opportunities have popped out of the woodwork and I’m busier now than I was when I was going to an office multiple days a week. Happier too. Here’s just some of the recent goodness that I’ve got cooking.

As I mentioned a while back, I’m doing two events on Sunday, September 18. At 12 noon, you’ll find me making jam and pickles at Cook. At 4 pm, Madame Fromage and I will be at Wedge + Fig, pairing cheeses and preserves.

On Saturday, September 24, I’ll be at Linvilla Orchards for their annual Apple Festival. I’ll do a demo of a preserve that makes good use of apples (I’m working on a new recipe for this one). It’s a free event, so come on out and say hi!

In just two weeks, I’ll be heading to Portland, OR to see my parents, attend my 10 year college reunion out in Walla Walla, WA and teach a canning class. You’ll find me making pear vanilla jam at Kitchen Cru on Tuesday, October 4 from 7-9 pm. Cost for that class is $65 per person and you can register here.

On Saturday, October 8, I’ll be back in Philly, teaching a canning class at Greensgrow. I’ve loved this urban farm since the first time I clapped eyes on it and I’m delighted to have been asked to teach there. We’ll be canning and jamming fall fruit (either pears or apples, depending on what looks good as we approach the day). This class runs from 10-11:30 am and costs $35 per person. Click here for more information.

Finally, on Saturday, November 12, I’m partnering with The Kitchen Potager at Linden Hill to teach a class on canning holiday gifts. We’ll make preserves from apples and cranberries from 1-4 pm. Cost is $45 per person and I’ll have a registration link for you soon.

Now, on to the writing. These days, you’ll find me gabbing about pickles on a weekly basis at Serious Eats in a column called In a Pickle. So far, I’ve written about basic garlic dills, pickled red tomatoes and how to pickle Chinese long beans.

I’ve also launched a weekly column on Food Network’s blog, FN Dish. My first piece was an introduction to canning and blueberry jam, but with the next installment, it will change topic and I’ll be writing something other than canning and preserving. Shocking, I know.

If it’s still summer-like in your neck of the woods, check out my tips for late summer entertaining on the Cuisinart blog. You should definitely make that salad (here’s what my version looked like).

What have the rest of you been up to? Can anything good over the holiday weekend?


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Urban Preserving: Italian Plum Jam with Star Anise

chopped plums

The day before Hurricane Irene hit the east coast, a massive box of fruit arrived on my doorstep. It was from the Washington State Fruit Commission, the folks behind the most fabulous website Sweet Preservation. A few weeks earlier, they’d emailed to ask if I’d be one of their Canbassadors again this year (last year’s recipes can be found here and here).

macerating plums

Last year, I got apricots and cherries. This year, it was a fun blend of Italian plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches. So far, I’ve made a small batch of lavender-infused, honey-sweetened apricot butter (you’ll see that one over on Simple Bites soon), an oven-roasted peach butter (it’s a technique I detail in my cookbook, but I’ll give you a little preview before the peaches are out of season) and this tiny batch of plum jam with star anise. The nectarines are still in the fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike.

truffle tremor

I only had about a pound of these little plums, so by necessity, this was a small batch. Chopped, there just over 2 cups of fruit. Combined with a moderate amount of sugar and three star anise flowers, I let this macerate at room temperature until it was beautifully syrup-y. Tasting every 15 minutes or so, I left the star anise in while it sat, but pulled them out before cooking, to ensure that I didn’t cross the line from gently flavored to something akin to Nyquil.

truffle tremor with plum star anise jam

As it was cooking, I tasted. Most of the time, I taste jam just once or twice as it cooks down. This time, I tried it at least five or six times because I was so in love with the way the plums played with the flavor of the star anise. As I tasted, I started thinking about the cheese I had in the fridge.

Awhile back, the folks from Cypress Grove sent me a few of their startling good goat cheeses. The idea was for me to dream up a few perfectly paired jams to match up with them. And while I hadn’t started this batch of jam thinking to couple it with one of those cheeses, it’s just gorgeous with the Truffle Tremor. The slight, mystical funkiness of that cheese just sings with the plums and their trace of star anise.

I’ve eaten the combination for lunch at least three times already. I can’t promise that there won’t be a fourth.

Recipe after the jump…

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