Reader Submitted Photos + Blossom Trivet Giveaway Winners

Canned Foods of 2012

All summer, I’ve been meaning to get back into the habit of featuring all the fab photos you guys submit to the Food in Jars Flickr pool. With all that’s happened over the last few months, it’s just one of many items that has slid off my list of good intentions. However, now that fall is nearly here and life is starting to quiet down ever-so-slightly, I’m pledging to get back into the habit. If you want to add your photos to the pool, please do it!

This photo above is from Melissa, The Boastful Baker, and features just some of the canning she’s done this year. Make sure to click over to her canning round-up post to see more of her hard work.

Untitled

This lovely, moody photo is of the strawberry jam that another Melissa made. You can find her post and many more gorgeous canning photos at her blog, Melissa Made.

garden grub 49:120 :: 50 lbs of seconds

Erin took 50 pounds of scratch and dent tomatoes and cooked them down into 18 pints of dense, flavorful sauce. In my book, acts like this one are worth every moment of time invested.

Duo of Refrigerator Pickles

Candy made two different kinds of refrigerator pickles (the ones on the right are adapted from my fridge pickle recipe!). For more details, check out this post on her blog, Dessert by Candy.

spicy hot (also, when life gives you peppers)

These three jars feature a savory, spicy sauce that Stephinie and her husband made. Just looking at these pictures has me craving something with heat. For more details, click over to this post on her blog, Gypsy Forest.

August 21 2012 & Garden Grub 42

I just love the line-up of canned goods from the duo behind the blog and Flickr account, Interchangeable Parts. It reminds me that I haven’t pickled nearly enough okra this year.

Finally, thanks to all of you who took the time to enter last week’s Blossom Trivet Giveaway. The winners are Jed Scott, Beau, Mary Kay Lawrence, Linda, and Kristy.

If you didn’t win this giveaway, I still very highly recommend the Blossom Trivet as a canning rack. It’s cheap and easy to use. The one tip I have for those of you having issues with it folding up when there aren’t jars sitting on top of it is this. When it’s time to put the jars back into the pot for processing, pull the pot off the boiling water. That way, the trivet isn’t being buffeted around by the  moving water. Then, use your jar lifter to flatten it back down. Don’t slide the pot back onto the hot burner until you’ve got at least one jar on top of the trivet to hold it in place. Works every time for me!

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A Rustic Peach Tart with Jason Varney

Earlier this summer, I spent a morning with food photographer Jason Varney, working on a little project. It wasn’t a magazine assignment and no one had asked us to spend a few hours playing with peaches. We simply wanted to see what we could create in collaboration. We started with a big bag of peaches from Three Springs Fruit Farm (thanks again for those, Ben!), a few jars of my preserved peaches and a big lump of homemade pie crust.

Jason carefully pushed and prodded, until each finished frame was gloriously messy and perfectly imperfect. Watching him work was good insight into the art of food photography and reminder that I’m not nearly enough of a perfectionist to be anything but an able amateur (a status I’m entirely contented with).

When the shoot was over, we had six beautiful images and a warm peach tart. Not bad for a few hours.

To see the rest of the images Jason made that morning, click over to his newly relaunched site, Fussing With Forks. The finished tart recipe is also over there. The recipes for the canned peaches and pie crust can be found below.

Continue Reading →

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Upcoming Events: Upper Merion! King of Prussia! Phoenixville!

Food in Jars

I’ve taken the last couple weeks off from book events, in order to pull my apartment back together, get some writing projects off my plate and make sure that my own pantry is stocked for the winter (in my continued insanity, I’m picking up another 50 pounds of tomatoes today). However, I’ve got several events coming up in the next few weeks that I want to make sure you all know about.

September 15 – Canning demo and book signing at the Upper Merion Farmers’ Market, 9 am – 1 pm.
September 16 –  Canning demo and book signing at the King of Prussia Williams-Sonoma, 1 – 3 pm.
September 30 – Canning demo and book signing at the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C. from 12 – 1 pm. Click here for more info.
November 4 – Canning demo and book signing at Greener Partners Farmer Showdown.

I also updated my class page today. Here’s what’s coming up over the next couple months.  If you want to sign up for any of the classes at Indy Hall, either email me at foodinjars{AT }gmail{dot}com or leave a comment on this post.

September 27 – Canning class at Cooking Spotlight in Phoenixville, PA. It’s a three-hour, three-recipe class from 6:30 – 9:30 pm. Click here for more information or to sign up.
October 2 – Canning class with Pennypack Farm and Education Center in Horsham, PA. It’s a Pear Vanilla Jam class, runs from 7 – 9 pm and costs $40. Click here to sign up.
October 6 – Pear Vanilla Jam class at Indy Hall from 11 am – 1 pm. Email me to sign up.
October 11 – Canning class at the Glenside Free Library. Sign up link to come.
October 13 – Canning class at Greensgrow Farm. Click here for details and to sign up.
November 3 – Pear Cranberry Chutney class at Indy Hall from 11 am – 1 pm. Email me to sign up.
November 8 – Class and book signing at Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn, NY. Details to come.
November 17 – Canning class at The Kitchen Potager. Details to come.
December 2 – Mulled Apple Cider Jelly class at Indy Hall from 11 am – 1 pm. Email me to sign up.

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FreshTech Jam and Jelly Maker Review

FreshTech Jam and Jelly Maker

Earlier this summer, Ball released an automatic jam and jelly maker. Called the FreshTECH, this self-stirring pot promises fresh, homemade preserves in three easy steps.  It’s got settings for both jam and jelly and yields approximately 4 cups (that 2 pints) with each batch.

interior

When I first heard about this appliance, I was deeply suspicious. I really didn’t see why a counter top machine was necessary to make jam when it was so easily done in a pot on the stove. However, I’m also a fan of anything that helps people get interested in canning, so I couldn’t dismiss it without first-hand experience. So, I asked the nice folks at Ball if they would send me a review unit. They did so happily and I’ve taken it for several runs this summer.

peach jam recipe

First one of my first batches in the FreshTECH was a batch of Peach Jam. I used their Reduced Sugar recipe, because I couldn’t bear to follow a recipe that instructed me to add more sugar than fruit. However, even this reduced sugar version contains more sugar than the jams I typically make.

three peaches

The recipe I used called for 3 1/4 cups fruit. I got that from three large peaches. This is not an appliance for those who have massive amounts of fruit to preserve.

adding pectin

There’s a precise order to how you add your ingredients to the FreshTECH. You start by sprinkling the required pectin across the bottom of the pot. I used the traditional pectin from a canister of flex-pectin (something tells me that they designed those products to work in tandem).

adding peaches

Then you spread the crushed fruit evenly over the pectin.

bottled lim juice

The recipe calls for bottled lemon juice, but for this batch, I only had lime juice in the house, so I made a quick swap. Since the yellow peaches I used were high enough in acid to be safe for boiling water even without the addition of lemon juice, I knew that my swap wouldn’t have any impact on the safety of the finished product (and bottled lime juice is the functional equivalent of its lemony counterpart).

butter

I never add butter to my stovetop jams because in most cases you can easily control foaming by using a large pot and stirring regularly. Because I was adhering to the recipe for testing purposes, I popped in the required 1/2 teaspoon butter.

start

Then I pressed start. It was a very different jam making experience from my norm.

auto-stir

You let the pot stir with the lid off for four minutes. When the machine sounds four short beeps, you add the sugar and place the lid on the pot.

adding sugar

Here I am, adding the sugar. As you can see, I was oddly inspired to go all Pioneer Woman on you guys in this post. So many photos!

cooking

The lid fogs up while the jam cooks, though some steam does escape through the holes in the rim of the lid.

finished jam

When the jam is finished cooking, it will sound a final beep. You’re supposed to press cancel to end the process and remove the lid immediately. I was distracted when that finish alert sounded, so I let my jam sit for five additional minutes before I got the lid off. It didn’t seem to do any harm.

four cooling half pints

My yield was precisely four half pint jars, which was on point with the recipe. The jam took about 24 hours to fully set up and three of the four jars are now resting comfortably in my hall closet. I opened the final jar to give it a taste. It’s perfectly fine jam, though sort of without character (in subsequent batches, I went rogue and added some cinnamon and grated lemon zest — much better).

And honestly, that sort of sums up the experience of using this machine. It makes perfectly acceptable jam. Far better, in fact, than most of the stuff that you can buy at the grocery store. But it sucks all the soul out of the art of making preserves for me. I like standing by my stove and stirring. I like watching how the bubbles change in texture and consistency. And while I do like making small batches, I like having the option of making larger batches that fill seven or eight half pint jars (all the better for holiday giving).

Still, for those of you who are just starting out making jam, this pot offers something akin to training wheels. It’s a good way to get started and find your feet in this world of homemade sweet preserves. If your life is full of distractions and you can’t manage 30 minutes being tethered to the stove but still want freshly made jam, then add the FreshTECH to your kitchen. Though I don’t see it finding a regular place in my canning world, I really can recognize its utility for a number of folks.

Have any of you taken the plunge and gotten a FreshTECH this summer? What did you think?

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Canning 101: Choosing Jar Size

One question I’ve been getting frequently has been about jar sizes. Often, when I write a recipe, I describe the yield in whole pints. However, just because I say something yields three pints doesn’t mean that you have to you use a trio 16 ounce jars.

You can divide that product between any assortment of jars without changing the processing time as long as they are the same size or smaller than the jars specified in the recipe. If you want to increase the size of the jars, you typically add five minutes to the processing time, though it’s always good to check the National Center for Home Food Preservation website to confirm the time.

Oh, and if you’re picked up a case of the pint and a half jars that were re-released this year, remember that they get processed like quarters, not pints.

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Giveaway: Blossom Trivet from Spice Ratchet

trivet

It’s been nearly nine months since I switched from using a round cake cooling rack for my canning rig to the silicone trivet you see above and I wouldn’t go back for anything. I love the trivet at canning rack with all my heart, particularly since it doesn’t impart any funky particles into the water and looks just as good now as the first day I got it.

In fact, the only minor issue I’ve had is that when it’s left in a pot of boiling water with no jars holding it down, it can sometimes float. However, a quick maneuver with a jar lifter and it’s back in place and ready to lift and pad the jars again.

Awhile back, I got an email from the spokesperson at Spice Ratchet, the company that makes the Blossom Trivet, delighted with the new use I’d found for their product. They offered to sponsor a giveaway, to help spread the trivet love even further. I have five (5) trivets to give away to a handful of lucky winners.

If you’re interested in entering the giveaway, here’s what you do.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your canning rig. Are you a traditional canning pot user? Or have you cobbled together something more interesting?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Friday, September 14, 2012. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Saturday, September 15, 2012.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Spice Ratchet is providing five Blossom Trivets for this giveaway. They sent me an assortment of their mini blossoms for testing purposes. I’ve not been paid to host this giveaway and my opinions remain my own.