Ball Book Giveaway Winners

We’ve got winners! Congratulations to Rachel and Trudy G. Ladies, I’ll be in touch soon in order to get your contact info. Thanks to all of you for entering!

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Ball Canning Books Giveaway

Ball Blue Book

Hey kids, it’s giveaway time! Though the canning high season is coming to an end, I firmly believe that truly, home preserving is an activity that can be done all year round. And sometimes, it’s helpful to have a new book or two in your culinary arsenal, to inspire you to keep putting foods in jars even in the colder months (consider, just for a moment, pickled cauliflower). And so, thanks to the kind people at Ball, I have two sets of cookbooks to giveaway.

Each set contains a copy of the Ball Blue Book of Preserving (like the one you see above, although probably it won’t look exactly like that, since that copy is at least three years old) and copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (it’s not pictured because I actually don’t own a copy of that one). To enter the giveaway, leave a comment and tell us a little about how the summer canning season treated you this year. Did it go well? Poorly? Did you achieve your canning goals? What would you do different next year?

The giveaway will close at 12 noon on Friday, September 24th, so step lively (I’m listening to an Irish jig as I type this) and leave your comment.

Canning 101: Preserving with Tattler’s Reusable Lids

Tattler lids

One of the primary truths of canning has always been that while the jars and rings are reusable, the lids are not. When I teach canning classes, I’m careful to emphasis that those flat metal lids only have one trip through the canner in them and that they lose their mojo once through a boiling water bath.

However, a brand of canning lids called Tattler recently returned to the market and they come sporting a pair of dual virtues that make them nearly irresistible for home canners. First is the fact that they are nearly endlessly reusable. That’s right, these are lids that you don’t have to toss into the trash after emptying the jar.

Second is that they are free of Bisphenol A (known in shorthand as BPA). Lots of people have turned to canning in recent days to get away from the BPA that lines so many commercially canned foods, only to find out that the lids for canning jars are also lined with the stuff. Typically, I try not to worry about them, comforting myself with the fact that properly canned foods shouldn’t actually be in contact with those lids after processing. Still, it’s a concern.

I bought several dozen Tattler lids at the beginning of the summer, but didn’t end up using them until my marathon tomato canning period that started over Labor Day weekend. I spent two full months passing them up, each time reaching for the disposable lids in my cabinet. I was a little bit wary of them, uncertain whether they’d work. Additionally, since I typically squeeze my canning into the hours after dinner and before bed, there’s often an element of frenzy to my putting up. I always felt like I didn’t have time to teach myself the steps necessary to make the Tattler lids work.

However, when I was canning all those tomatoes, I reached into the cabinet and realized I was completely out of regular mouth lids. I had to use the Tattler lids. It was trial by fire, particularly since I was canning in both a boiling water canner and a pressure canner that night. I had a moment of panic after the processing was complete but before the jars had fully sealed, when I realized I hadn’t left the rings as loose as was necessary for proper venting, and yet still, it all worked. All the jars sealed and sealed strong. They pass my standard seal test (grasp edges of lid and lift jar holding nothing but the lid) with flying colors.

What to Know

There are a couple additional steps to ensuring a good seal. When you apply the lids and screw on the bands, you MUST then unscrew the band a quarter turn. This ensures that there’s enough space for the hot air to escape from the jar during processing. Then, when the jars have finished processing and you’ve removed them to the counter, quickly give all the bands a good, quick tighten. This brings the rubber seal into firm contact with the rim of the jar and allows the air tight seal to form.

Thoughts?

So far, I’m pretty thrilled with the Tattler lids. Despite my minor user errors the first time out, they still sealed well. They worked equally well in the boiling water canner and in the pressure canner. I have just two issues with them. The first is their cost. They are pretty pricey, ringing up at approximately $.80 per regular mouth lid (not including shipping).  Because of this, I can’t make an immediate and complete switch. However, I plan to add more to my collection every few months until I’ve got a more critical mass.

The second issue is that they make it harder for me to pass my canned goods along to friends and family, because I don’t know if I’ll get them back. Like so many new Tattler users, I think that I’ll continue to keep some of the disposable lids in my arsenal for those items that I plan to gift.

For those of you looking for a step by step guide on how to use these lids, take a peek at this post at Homestead Revival. It is amazingly detailed and accurate.

For those of you who’ve used the Tattler lids, I’d love to hear what your experience has been like.

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Homemade Applesauce

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This post was originally published last November. However, we’re heading into applesauce season again, so I’ve updated it to include an organized recipe and am re-posting it now, for all of you who didn’t see if the first time around.

To me, applesauce is the quintessential fall food. I have fond memories of wandering the antique apple orchard at the Bybee-Howell House on Sauvie Island (a mostly agricultural island outside of Portland), really bundled up in scarves and layers for the first time of season, picking up windfall apples* with my mom and sister. Often, we’d bring our dog with us, and she’d run between the trees, tossing apples up in the air with her nose and then chasing after them.

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We’d come home with grocery bags full of bruised, but still edible fruit. My mom would cover counter tops with newspaper and we’d begin to peel. When the fruit was all de-skinned, cored and chopped, it would go into her biggest soup pot with a splash of orange juice, cinnamon and grated nutmeg until it had cooked down into a homey sauce.

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These days, I still make a yearly batch of applesauce, but I do it a little differently than we used to. I’ve learned over the years to not spend a whole lot of time peeling or chopping my apples. Instead, I cut the apples into quarters and remove the core (of course, if you have windfall fruit, you do have to invest the time in cutting away the bruises and bad spots). The quarters go into the pot with half a cup of apple cider to simmer. As they cook down, the skins will separate from the flesh of the fruit and you can just use a pair of tongs to fish them out.

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I like slightly chunky, unsweetened applesauce, seasoned with lots of cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of cloves (depending on how I’m feeling, sometimes I’ll also add a bit of allspice or powdered ginger), so once the skins are removed and the apples are smashable with the back of a wooden spoon, I’m done. However, if you like a smoother product, feel free to puree or run through a food mill (at this point, you could also go in a different direction and cook it down further, for apple butter).

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When it comes to adding sugar, fans of unsweetened applesauce can rejoice, as you are able to can applesauce without any additional sugar. If you want to increase the level of sweetness, you can add approximately 1/8 cup of sugar per quart. I sometimes add a bit of honey if I find the applesauce to be a little too tart. It’s important to taste your sauce before you can it, in order to balance out the sweet/tart flavors. If it’s too sweet, a bit of lemon juice will always brighten the flavors.

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To process, bring your applesauce to a boil and pack into clean, hot jars, leaving a half inch of headspace. Remove the air bubbles, wipe the rims and apply lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 (pints) or 20 (quarts) minutes. Store in a cool, dark place and enjoy homemade applesauce all year long.

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*The Bybee-Howell house used to be a historic site open to the public. They had a Wintering In event each fall that included hand pressed cider and so asked visitors to only pick the windfall apples, as they were saving the ones on the trees for the pressing. However, they lost their funding, the house is no longer open and the Wintering In event doesn’t happen anymore. So it may be that people are allowed to pick the apples. I don’t know for sure.

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September Can Jam: Peach-Plum Ginger Jam

peach-plum ginger jam

I feel a bit like I had already canned stone fruit nearly every way possible by the time this can jam came around. I was at a bit of a loss as to how to make something new and interesting for our monthly challenge. In fact, I must confess that I’m actually looking forward to the seasonal slow down that’s now coming. Not that I’m tired of canning exactly, but I am ready to be turned loose from this urgency to capture as much summer goodness as possible before it takes its final bow.

This particular batch of jam was born from the fact that I had a couple of pounds of peaches that were ripening faster than I could eat them, as well as a handful of plums that were going soft. A generous hunk of ginger was hanging out in the fruit bowl. And thus, a jam was born.

My fruit ratio was approximately 3/4 peaches to 1/4 plums, but you can vary those amounts to accept whatever proportions you have on hand. The ginger was blended with a bit of water and then squeezed through cheesecloth in order to make a potent, gingery brew.

The result is sweet and spicy (not for those who shy away from a strong ginger flavor). I liked it upon initial taste, but I’ve found that my overrun jar in the fridge has mellowed into something I’m really digging.

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Tomato Jam

4 1/2 pounds of tomatoes

I used to have a fantastic coworker named John. He was calm in the face of chaos, had a buoyant sense of humor and knew how not to take things too seriously. And, his wife Amy just happened to be my kitchen soulmate. You’ve got to love a coworker who comes attached to good people.

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Amy was the first person to introduce to me tomato jam and now I can’t go back to a life without it. She gifted me a jar last summer, with the recipe attached and I will be forever grateful. I use it in place of ketchup (with turkey burgers), as well as in places where ketchup wouldn’t dare to tread (try it with a soft, stinky cheese. It will change your life).

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For those of you who are accustomed to preserving tomatoes, you’ll notice that this recipe does not call for you to peel these tomatoes. That is not a mistake. You see, I’ve made this recipe twice now. The first time, I thought I could improve on things and peeled and seeded the tomatoes prior to cooking them down. However, without those bits, the finished jam was too sweet and entirely without texture. It needs the skin and seeds, to keep things interesting. Don’t take them out.

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