Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It Winner!

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

We’ve got a winner in the Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It giveaway! The lucky recipient of the book will be commenter #328, Avalee. She writes a luscious blog called The Wooden Spoon that features some lovely, light-filled photos and a variety of appealing-sounding recipes.

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. I loved reading all your stories and am delighted by how many of you are diving into making things from scratch. Thanks also to Snubbr, for sponsoring this giveaway.

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Keeping Those Jars Cozy + Cold Brew Coffee

jar cozy!

For years now, I’ve been in the habit of using jars as to-go containers. On days when I make a smoothie for breakfast, I tote it to work in one of my precious 24 ouncers (please Jarden Home Brands, bring back the 1 1/2 pint wide mouth jar). I frequently eat a yogurt, granola and jam concoction out of a wide mouth pint. And when I don’t have a traditional travel mug handy, I pour my coffee into a jar.

jar cozy in hand

During warmer months, I’m strictly an iced coffee girl (see below!). I use the cold brew method, which results in a smooth, nuanced cup. However, in the winter I like my coffee toasty. And while the jar can handle the heat, my fingers can’t always. Enter the jar cozy!

A couple of weeks ago, I put the call out on the Food in Jars Facebook page (come hang out, there’s so much good jar chatter happening!) for jar cozies and got a number of enthusiastic responses. And happy day, the first one arrived today from Leah in Minnesota. I may have to brew up some hot coffee tomorrow morning, just to make use of it. Thanks Leah!

cold brew coffee - full coffee grinder

As far as the cold brew coffee goes, here’s my super simple approach. Fill a cheapo coffee grinder nearly to the top with beans (I’m working on the dredges of a couple different varieties, so there’s both medium and dark roasts in the hopper. Obviously, I’m no purist).

cold brew coffee - 6-8 ounces of ground coffee

Using a wide mouth funnel, knock the grounds into a quart jar. I typically use just shy of a cup of coffee grounds. Fill the jar to the top with filtered water. Tightly screw on a lid (do not use one of the white plastic ones in this situation) and give it a good shake, in order to fully saturate the coffee.

cold brew coffee - filled with water

Let the jar sit for 8-10 hours (overnight works pretty darn well here). In the morning, line a drip funnel (something like this) with a paper filter and set it over another jar or a pitcher with a quart capacity. Pour the coffee into the filter and let it drip through (this will take a little more time than it does when the water is hot).

The resulting coffee has a ton of flavor and makes this caffeine addict very, very happy. I pour mine into a pint jar, leaving enough room for a generous splash of milk and head off to work.

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Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It Giveaway

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

One of the things that I’ve found most delightful about the growing hand-made, do-it-yourself trend has been the number of downright lovely books that have accompanied it. My favorite, which hit stores about this time last year, is Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

This is a fantastic book for the folks who really want to begin to break away from the grocery store, but need a little bit of help making the transition. I’m particularly partial to the Rosemary and Olive Oil cracker recipe Karen included (Erin blogged about it here, if you want to see pictures and peek at the recipe).

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

Thanks to the nice folks at Snubbr.com, I have one copy of Jam It to give away. If you haven’t heard of Snubbr yet, it’s a site designed to help you get product recommendations and gift ideas. As someone who obsessively checks reviews prior to making purchases (large or small), I like the idea of a site that’s trying to offer another way to give and get advice on stuff. We should start a canning tools thread over there!

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

So, if you want a chance to win this copy of Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, leave a comment sometime between now and Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. In your comment, tell me about the first time you made something from scratch that you’d only previously purchased (butter, salad dressing, pickles, etc.). If you’ve yet to jump on the homemade train, let’s hear what’s stopping you.

Let the giveaway begin!

Timer/Thermometer Time

Hey kids, just a quick reminder that you can still get 10% off of the Taylor Timer/Thermometer over at OpenSky until Thursday, April 16. Just use the coupon code 10inJars when it’s time to check out. Come summer canning season, you’ll thank yourself for adding this tool to your kitchen!

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Vegetable-Stuffed Quinoa Salad with Pesto Dressing

quinoa salad

Last September, I spent a frantic Friday evening processing two gallons of freshly picked basil into pesto. I was leaving early the next morning for a long weekend, and couldn’t bear the idea of allowing it to wilt into sludge. During the making, covering my kitchen from one end to another with smudges of green, I questioned my sanity. However, with many such acts of culinary will, having that pesto has proven to be a gift throughout the year.

quinoa in a jar

Packed in four and eight ounce jars, the pesto has kept perfectly in the freezer. A day or two before I plan on using some, I move a jar from freezer to fridge and let it slowly defrost (to be perfectly honest, you can defrost a jar up to a week before you plan on using it, as long as you keep it unopened).

Yesterday, knowing I had a jar of this gorgeous pesto ready to be used, I started imagining a giant quinoa and vegetable salad. Now that the weather has warmed up and the daylight lasts into the dinner hour, it feels delightfully right to eat cool, grain-y*, crunchy meals again. Once home, I simmered two cups of quinoa (treat it just like brown rice, with a 2 to 1 water to grain ratio) and roasted off my first bundle of spring asparagus. While those things cooked, I chopped cucumber, red pepper, celery, red onion, flat-leaf parsley and drained a can of garbanzo beans.

basil in the food processor

I whisked the four ounce jar of pesto with a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and drizzled some olive oil in until it was pourable. Once all the ingredients were combined (quickly cool the quinoa on a cookie sheet, so that it doesn’t heat up your veg too much), I crumbled six ounces of feta on top, poured on the dressing and stirred until everyone was well-combined.

cooling quinoa

The great thing about salads such as this is that you can adapt them to ensure that they taste good to you. I happened to be married to a guy who is hugely skeptical of my “hippie salads.” Because I know I need to win him over, I don’t put things in that would give him pause. This means skipping tomatoes, capers, toasted nuts or something sweet like cranberries or currants. However, these would all make excellent additions (and sometimes, I top my own serving with some nuts or a few raisins).

Happily, it only took one bite for this meal to be Scott-approved (he ended up having two big platefuls). I’m so looking forward to more meals like this one, as the weather continues to warm and vegetable season moves into full swing.

*Yes, I know that quinoa isn’t actually a grain, but it does an excellent job imitating one in situations such as these.

Organized recipe is after the jump…

Continue Reading →

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A DIY Canning Pot

Nintendo Enthusiast swag

About two years ago, out of the blue I got an email, asking me if I was interested in becoming a “Nintendo Enthusiast.” As someone who harbored a fairly significant Game Boy addiction back in the day, I said yes. Additionally, when a very earnest stranger offers to throw a party and give you and a bunch of your friends Nintendo DS Lites, you say okay.

new stock pot

Part of the deal has also been that they occasionally send me games to try out, which has been a decidedly fun perk. Once in a while, they also send a thematic gift along with game. Well, last week, I got a box that absolutely blew my mind. They’re trying to build a little buzz about the new America’s Test Kitchen game (it’s quite fun!), so along with the game, they sent a really nice bamboo cutting board, goggles for chopping onions, a bright red apron and an amazing 12 quart stock pot (it’s the this one, if you’re curious).

stock pot becomes a canning pot

Of course, being me, the minute I saw the pot, I thought, “canning!” Most of the time when processing pint or smaller jars, I use my trusty Ikea stock pot (I am just too darn lazy to get my graniteware canning pot out of the closet). However, if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, it’s about an inch shorter than ideal (I get a lot of boiling over during processing). This pot has a couple of inches and two quarts on that pot. I am totally thrilled.

It’s easy to turn a regular stock pot into one good for processing. As long as it’s deep enough, you’ve just got to add a rack of some kind so as to lift the jars off the bottom of the pot. I use the rack that came with my Presto pressure cooker, however any shallow rack that fits into the pot will do (I also have an old cooling rack that works).

Now that I’ve made my canning pot confessions, I’d love to hear a little bit about the processing pot set-ups that the rest of you guys use. Do you have a classic graniteware pot? Are you using your great-aunt’s old gear? Or are you still in the market for just the right situation? Let me know!

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