Quickly, Winners and More

measuring headspace

This weekend, I tackled a couple canning projects, both large (pressuring canning nine pints of a giant neck pumpkin) and small (a little batch of green tomato chutney). I’ll have posts up about both later this week, but thanks to Daylight Savings Time, I’m already up far later than my body would like. But I wanted to post the winner of the Anyone Can Cook and Anyone Can Bake books before the weekend ended.

building the chutney

The handy randomizer has selected #58, which is Kathie. Congratulations Kathie!

I also I just wanted to remind everyone that I have two more canning classes on the schedule for 2010 (I am totally gobsmacked at how fast this year has gone). The next is on Saturday, November 20 and the final one is Saturday, December 4th. Both classes are at Indy Hall (20 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA), run from 11-12:30 and cost $45.

Also, keep in mind that I’d be happy to do a canning class gift certificate, if you’re so interested in buying a class for a friend or family member (I’ll be announcing a late winter/early spring line-up of classes soon).

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Open Jars: Transform Your Jams Into Spicy Dipping Sauces

spiced peach jam

I’ll admit it. I really like ketchup. While I was never one of those kids who would only eat meals that were liberally drenched in the red stuff, I’ve always been a fan of it with things like scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes and hamburgers. Typically, I buy the kind without HFCS or I make it myself. Recently, I’ve been eating tomato jam in place of ketchup to great success.

sriracha sauce

Last night for dinner, we had little oven-broiled steaks, steamed broccoli and roasted vegetables for dinner. I went to the fridge searching for something in which to dip my coins of roasted sweet potato and came up sort of empty. No open jars of tomato jam and an empty ketchup bottle. I got to thinking. What is ketchup, really?

spiking the spiced peach jam

It’s a condiment that consists of chopped fruit that is sweetened, spiced and cooked down with an acid of some sort, in order to give it zing. Oddly enough, spiced peach jam is essentially the same thing, only without the acid. So I spooned a bit of spiced peach jam into a small bowl and stirred in several squirts of sriracha, which happens to contain vinegar (along with the heat).

spiked peach jam

Stirred together, the jam and sriracha became the ideal roasted sweet potato (and parsnip!) dipping sauce. Truly, it was better than any ketchup I’ve ever tasted.

roasted sweet potatoes

I do believe you could do this with many of those jams you’ve got squirreled away. And, if you’re not a fan of the spicy, you could skip the sriracha and go with a hit of vinegar or lemon juice to add the necessary tang. I’m imagining a plum jam with a bit balsamic vinegar would be quite nice with any manner of roasted root vegetable as well.

dinner!

What jam/vinegar combinations do you think would work well together?

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Where I Store My Homecanned Goods + Giveaway

dry sink

The reasons I preserve food are many. I like knowing what’s in my dinner (and if it’s too sweet or too puckery, I have no one to blame but myself). I appreciate knowing where the food came from and having a relationship with the people who grew it (even if that relationship is confined to Saturday mornings, a few words and exchange of money for goods). I also find it to be quite life affirming. Canning is a way of reminding your future self that she matters and that, barring any unforeseen events, you intend to be on the planet for a while longer.

jars in the dry sink

There’s also something so cozy about having a stockpile of good things to eat. Lately, I’ve been enjoying seeing the ways in which people stash and store their home canned stuff. There was a period there where I was posting at least one link to the Food in Jars Facebook page a day, sharing the various pantry pictures I found or was sent. I was particularly tickled when I got to see Heather’s kitchen shelves in person when I was in Portland last month.

front hall closet

I figured that it was only fair that I finally share with you all where my own extended pantry lives. I’m reluctant to confess that when it comes to pantry management, I am not the most organized. I like to imagine that if I had a dedicated space in which to store these filled and sealed jars, I might be better about maintenance and categorization, but deep in my heart, I recognize that I will never be Martha-like in my devotion to scrupulous neatness.

front hall closet

At the moment there are three primary spots where my pantry resides. The first is in a dry sink in my dining room. That’s the piece of furniture you can see at the top of this post. It mostly contains jams and fruit sauces, although I do keep the pressure canned stocks on the bottom-left shelf. I think the jars like it in there, because it’s nice and dark.

The next place is our front-hall closet. We are quite fortunate in that though this apartment is just 1,100 square feet, the closets are nice and roomy. The one closest to the front door is large enough that I’ve entertained thoughts of cleaning it out and transforming it into a home office. However, if I did that, both the coats and my tomatoes would be homeless. So it remains home to all manner of coats, folding chairs, coolers that primarily serve as yogurt incubators, backpacks that only get used when we fly and lots of pickles, canned fruit and tomatoes. It always surprises people when I go to retrieve their coats at the end of an evening and also hand them a jar of hot dog relish for the road.

under my desk

Finally, there’s the overflow spot, under my desk in the den. This is a space that is primarily Scott’s domain. However, he’s willing to share with me and so I use the built-in desk along the wall. When I’m not snapping photos of the space, I throw a dark towel over those jars, so that the light coming in from the window (not pictured but to the right of this desk) doesn’t prematurely age the contents of those jars.

cookbook giveaway

Okay, now that you’ve taken the tour of my closets and nooks, time for a little giveaway. A publisher sent these two Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks to me while I was still at Slashfood (nearly two years ago now), so they aren’t the newest cookbooks on the block. They are, however, still in brand-new condition (still in their original shrink-wrap and everything) and the time has come for them to move on to a life with a cook who will unwrap them and splash a bit of butter or chocolate on their pages.

If you’d like a chance to win the pair of these books, leave a comment and share a story about a pantry you have known (good, bad or otherwise). This giveaway will close on Friday, November 5th at 11:59 p.m.

From the Food in Jars Flickr Pool

Food Vol. 2 059

Last week I mentioned that I’d started a Food in Jars Flickr group and that I hoped some of you would join and share your pictures. Lo and behold, so many of you have come forward with some of the most gorgeous, delectable images I’ve seen recently. Like this photo above from Susan. Those colors are amazing!

jam is good

Or this half-empty jar of raspberry (or is it blackberry) jam with the charming little spoon from boodely. All I need is a piece of toast and I’d be ready to dive right in.

And don’t pickled peaches sound like the best thing ever right now? Jess has stocked her larder with these fabulously labeled jars and I am quite jealous.

I’ll feature three or four more pictures next weekend, so please keep your pictures coming!

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Open Jars: Whole Wheat Spiced Applesauce Bread

spiced applesauce bread

This bread is one of those things that was born out of necessity and turned out to be far better than the sum of its parts. My refrigerator was bursting with half full jars and my sister and her friend were coming to town the next day. I needed to have something to feed them for breakfast (they are touring folksingers and so I like to have something yummy, healthy and homemade for them when they show up) and I really wanted to use up what I had instead of running out for ingredients.

applesauce and peach butter

I took my standard banana bread recipe (from the sixties edition of the Joy of Cooking) and adapted wildly. I reduced the butter by half and substituted peach butter for the missing fat. I replaced the mashed banana with two cups of chunky, homemade applesauce and I used one cup whole wheat pastry flour and one cup toasted wheat germ (again, because I happened to have an open jar of the stuff).

quick banana bread

The resulting loaf is sweet, moist and so, so good toasted and spread with butter. If you don’t happen to have wheat germ on hand, feel free to just use the whole wheat pastry flour. You could switch out the fruit butter with anything you happen to have open (I’m curious how the blueberry butter would work in this). You can also swap out the applesauce for any gently pureed canned fruit (peaches, pears or even plums).

spiced applesauce bread

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this bread is calling (I have to get at least one more piece before Raina and Rebecca finish it off). And the recipe is after the jump.

Continue Reading →

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Canning 101: How to Pack Jars for Shipping

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The holidays are coming up and what better gift to give your friends and family than a jar of your homemade preserves! It’s an easy task if they live near you, a simple hand delivery will do. But what’s the best way to do it if they happen to live on the other side of the country?

I thought I’d show you the way that I wrap and pack my jars for shipping (although certainly, this is not the only way) to help you get plan the best way to get those precious jars of raspberry jam through the mail unscathed.

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Start with a small to medium sized box (it depends on the size of jar you’re sending). Line the bottom with bubble wrap or some other sturdy padding (bits of old foam or eggshell mattresses work well here).

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Lay out a long strip of bubble wrap and roll up your jar. If you’re using the small bubbles like the wrap pictured above, you want to encircle the jar in at least four layers. With the larger bubbles, two layers will do.

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Behold the wrapped jar. You should only barely be able to see the jar through the wrap.

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Secure the bubble wrap with tape, so that it doesn’t abandon its post during shipping.

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Fold the ends of the wrap and tape those down too. Think of this like the physics project so many of us did in the tenth grade, in which we designed enclosures for eggs that would keep them from breaking when dropped off the top of the ladder. The same principles apply here.

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A well-wrapped, well-secured jar. I always wrap glass to the point where I’d feel comfortable dropping it from a height of at least five feet onto my kitchen floor (which is a single layer of linoleum on top of solid concrete).

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Nestle the jar into the box on top of that primary layer of padding.

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Now, add more protection. I save all the bubble wrap, foam peanuts and other useful packing materials all year long, in order to have plenty of jar protection for the holidays. I beg you, do not use crumpled newspaper to pad your jars. I have learned the hard way that it is not nearly as effective at absorbing the bumps and bags that shipped boxes must endure.

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A final layer of bubble wrap to finish off the box. At this point, I tape the lid and check all the box seams and give them a layer of taped reinforcement, should they need it.

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If you are shipping more than one jar, I recommend looking into the flat rate boxes from the USPS. Jars of preserves weight quite a lot and if you are shipping more than one jar, the cost of mailing the box can quickly get expensive. With these boxes, you can ship as much as you can fit in there for a single rate. If you’re shipping multiple jars, do make sure to pad between them and pack them tightly enough so that they won’t shift during transport. And that’s it!

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