Cookbooks: Homemade Soda

Homemade Soda

If I’d been really on top of my game, I would have written about this book back in June, when summer was full of possibility and there were still plenty of long, warm evenings ahead for sipping cool drinks. Instead, it’s late September. October will be here in a blink. What on earth makes me think it’s a good time to feature a book about Homemade Soda?

Homemade Soda interior

Well, for one thing, the holidays are starting to loom. If you’ve got a devoted DIY-er on your list, this might just be the perfect book to wrap for them this year (paired with a soda siphon if you’re feeling really generous). What’s more, there are plenty of recipes that work all year round, like the Vanilla Pear Sparkler (page 158) or the Effervescent Jasmine Honey Tea (page 191).

Very Cherry Cola

What makes this book so cool is that there are a number of ways you can use it. Many of the recipes can be made as syrups that you can stir into sparkling water. If you want to take it up a notch, there are also instructions on how to charge the entire concoction with bubbles for a more authentic flavor. There are also recipes for naturally fermented sodas tucked into the book, for those of you who want your carbonation to come the old fashioned way.

fruity recipes

The other thing that makes Homemade Soda stand out from other books about infused syrups and home brewed soft drinks is the third part of the book, which is devoted to recipes that incorporate sodas into the ingredient list. From Ginger Beer Chicken Curry (page 272) to Chocolate Root Beer Cheesecake (page 292), these recipes will have you on your feet and headed to the kitchen in no time.

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Urban Preserving: Red Pear Lavender Jam

red pears

I’ve been going a little bit crazy for pears lately. In my heart, fall has arrived, no matter what the heat and humidity seem to think. These particular red pears caught my attention while I was walking through Reading Terminal Market last Friday. I had dropping in for chard and eggs and ended up walking home laden with all that plus avocados, an enormous cabbage and two and a half pounds of these glowing pears.

red pear lavender jam

It’s funny. I’m not all that adventurous when it comes to pears. I tend to stick with Bartlett or Bosc. For a few weeks each fall, I’m hopelessly in love with Asian pears. I like to pickle the tiny Seckel pears. But really, that’s about it. Until I bought this bundle, I don’t know that I’d ever brought red pears into my kitchen. That’s all changing now. I now declare myself a red pear convert.

filling jars

Cored and chopped, I ended up with just over 5 cups of fruit. I didn’t peel the pears because that crimson skin was integral to their charm. Without it, how would you know that these pears were any different from my standard Bartletts?

finished red pear lavender jam

In the past, I’ve made pear jam with ginger, with cinnamon and with vanilla. A lavender infusion seemed like the next logical step (as least, it did in my head). I’m quite thrilled with how it turned out. The flavor of the lavender nudges up beautifully against the slight spiciness of the pears. I think they are perfect partners.

If you can’t find red pears, don’t think that you have to skip this recipe. Feel free to use any smooth skinned pear you’d like (except Asian pears. They’re low in acid and need special treatment). It’s a very nice way to welcome fall.

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Canning 101: How to Help Prevent Jar Breakage

broken jar

Jars break. It happens to the very best of us. While it’s impossible to prevent it from happening 100% of the time, here are a few things you can do to minimize breakage as much as possible.

  • Avoid using metal utensils inside your jars. A quick dip of a spoon should be okay, but when you’re down to your last dregs, use a silicone spatula to capture the last drops of jam instead of scraping with a butter knife. This cuts down on the small scratches that can eventually lead to weak points.
  • Store your jars out of extreme weather. If you live in a climate with hot summers and cold winters, your garage is not the best place for jars. An insulated porch or basement is better.
  • Don’t can in the jars you use for leftover storage or as drinking vessels. The kind of wear that jars experience when they’re used every day extracts a toll that they don’t see when used for canning. They end up being weaker and more prone to breakage in the canning pot.
  • Quick temperature changes are the enemy. If you freeze in jars, make sure to defrost in the fridge. When canning, remember that the jars must be hot before you add more hot liquid. Never submerge a cold jar in a boiling canning pot, it will break.
  • During processing, control your boil. A gentle boil is just fine, and the jars won’t bang around from the force of the water.
  • Choose your canning pot wisely. If you’re canning a small batch, find a smaller pot to process in. Two or three jars in a giant pot are more apt to break.
  • Use a canning rack. It ensures that the jars aren’t in direct contact with the heat of your stove.
  • Never can jars that are only half full. They will float around the pot and are more prone to breakage. Find an appropriately sized jar or keep them in the fridge.
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The First Philly Food Swap

first Philly Food Swap

Last Thursday, after multiple months of planning, the first Philly Food Swappers gathering landed in the basement of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia (many thanks again to the church for donating their space). There were homemade jams and jellies, jars of granola, batches of hand pies, vodka infused with horseradish, tea blends, cheese spreads, butters, salsas and jars of hot buttered rum batter.

first Philly Food Swap (132)

I’ve been watching the food swap movement with great interest for the last couple years. According to Kate Payne’s list, there are more than 40 swap groups regularly trading homemade food in the US, Canada and UK. I’ve been dreaming about making it happen here for some time, but never had the time to add another juicy task to my overflowing list of to-dos. But then something wonderful happened.

first Philly Food Swap

I heard from Georgia, who was also interested in pulling a food swapping group together. At the same time, Alexis and Amanda were chatting about it. Once Alexis and I made the connection, we were a planning group of four. Suddenly it felt possible. We picked a date, found a location and put the word out.

first Philly Food Swap

There were nearly 40 people at our first food swap. The diversity of offerings was incredible, as were the many dishes shared on the potluck table. Everyone was kind, generous and so excited to be sharing what they’d made.

first swap haul

I traded three kinds of jam (Pear vanilla. Plum star anise. Peach amaretto vanilla.) for a universe of good stuff. Homemade yogurt. That hot buttered rum batter. Black forest preserves. Caramel pear butter (from Taylor, who wrote a great recap of the event). A pint of granola. Hot chile jelly. Masala applesauce. Spicy cheddar, bacon and chive spread. Veggie marinara. A granola round. Pumpkin bread.

We haven’t set the date for the next Philly Food Swappers event, but will be soon. We’re thinking sometime in the lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Follow the Facebook page to stay tuned.

And if you want to start your own food swapping group, make sure to visit Kate’s food swapping page for details and links to other groups.

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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.

pickled things for the fridge

Madras Pickled Eggplant, Melissa Clark’s sriracha and Zuni Cafe’s zucchini pickle from jbban. Love the use of those vintage jars for refrigerator pickles.

Bread and Butter Pickles 9-24

Pretty bread and butter pickles from Pebblie. Nice to see the Tattler lids in action!

Gathering supplies..

Canning supplies coming together from TinyAcorn. See how she put those jars and tomatoes to good use here.

spiced apple butter

Spiced apple butter from Julia of Minecreations. Apple butter makes the best holiday gifts, so get cracking!

Roasted Garlic & Basil Pasta Sauce

Jessica’s roasted garlic and basil pasta sauce. Sounds amazing!

Garlic dill pickles

Hello pretty pickles! From Melissa, the Boastful Baker.


Delicious-looking pickled romano beans with lemon zest and rosemary (I must make a batch of pickles with those brine enhancers immediately) from Eunny C. Jang. She writes the blog Whitcomb Street.

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Linvilla Canning Demo on for Sunday, September 25

answering questions

Looks like we’re on for the demo at Linvilla Orchards tomorrow at 4 pm. If you’re free, come on out and say hi!

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