Books, Press, Conferences and More

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When I was 13 years old, I decided that I wanted to become a public speaker when I grew up (yes, I do realize that that’s sort of an odd thing for a freshly minted teenager to choose). The only problem was that I didn’t know what it was that I wanted to talk about. So I let that dream go quiet, not giving up on it exactly, but letting it slip to the background as I went to school, moved across the country, worked and generally lived my life.

It’s funny how things work out though, because in the process of living, I found my niche and became someone who publicly writes, teaches and talks about canning and home food preservation. The 13 year old version of me would be pretty incredulous, but the 31 year old version couldn’t be happier with the way things are working out.

To that end, I thought it was time to share with you some good news (though if you spotted the article the Daily News article in which I was featured, you’ve already got the scoop). I’m writing a cookbook. It will be called Food in Jars (just like this website) and will include 100 recipes that will cover jams, pickles, fruit butters, tomato products, granolas and bread mixes. The book will be published by Running Press and will be coming out in the spring of 2012. As you might guess, I am thrilled.

white peaches

In other fun news, the BlogHer Food agenda was published last week and I’m excited to say that I’ll be speaking in the session entitled The Old-School Arts: Canning, Preserving, Foraging. My fellow Philly-based preserver Audra Wolfe (aka Doris the Goat) will also be up there with me and Sean Timberlake (who just launched the fabulous Punk Domestics site) will be moderating the session.

And now, in other preserving news, I’ve recently learned that the Mother Earth News Fair is taking place the weekend of September 25-26 just outside of Pittsburgh, PA and has a huge focus on canning, preserving, fermentation, cheese-making, baking, beer brewing and other kitchen arts. Unfortunately, I’ve already got plans that weekend, so I can’t go. However, for those of you who live within a doable drive of that area, I think you should consider attending. It sounds amazing (Sherri Brooks Vinton, the author of Put ‘Em Up! will be there) and the tickets are really affordable. A one-day pass is $15 and a weekend pass is $25. Kids 17 years and under are free.

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Unfancy Pickled Jalapeno Peppers


In the springtime, I approach food preservation as if it were an act of art. My jams are fussed over, with plenty of thought given to size of my fruit dice and maceration times. My pickles are packed into jars with great precision and accuracy. That time of year, I’m simply delighted to be anticipating the coming abundance.

Come August, my elevated aspirations are gone. I can to get it done, to get those bits of summer into their respective jars before the season is gone and I’m left with the potatoes, storage squash and kale of winter (I’m a big fan of all those vegetables, but they don’t excite me the way a peach does). And so my many acts of preservation become a bit frenzied and as easy as I can make them.

halved jalapenos

Take the jalapeno peppers I pickled recently. I bought a pound when we were in New York a few weeks ago because I wanted to bring back some little bit of the Union Square Green Market. The berries were too fragile and I didn’t see any garlic that was clean enough for my suitcase. Jalapenos are sturdy little guys and so I knew they’d withstand the rigors of the MegaBus. Plus a pound cost a mere $3, which I believe is the perfect price point for an edible souvenir.

When I got them home, I washed and halved them (please do get yourself some gloves to wear when dealing with hot peppers. I gave myself a humdinger of a capsaicin burn this time around), packed them into jars and topped them with a very basic brine.

jalapenos in a jar

I didn’t spice my brine at all, because I wasn’t trying to create an artisinal condiment or a pickle to be eaten on its own. I’ll use these peppers throughout the year as an ingredient in things and so I want the flavors of the peppers to remain clear and identifiable. Several will join various batches of salsa and most the rest will spice up pots of turkey chili.

The reason I like this kind of utilitarian canning is that by investing $3 and 35 minutes of effort, I’ve created something that will fill a kitchen need all year round. It breaks no culinary ground, but fills me with joy nonetheless. It also doesn’t hurt to know that I have something to turn to come January when my taste buds are in desperate need of revival.

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Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Winners

I’m frequently bad about posting giveaway winners, but this may have taken the cake. A full week! I’m quite embarrassed. However, as they say, better late than never. Our winners are Adrienne, Dawn and Doris the Goat! I will be contacting the winners shortly (although, if you’re a winner, you can always speed things up by leaving a comment).

Expect a quick and dirty recipe for pickled jalapenos tomorrow. Until then, happy canning!

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Canning 101: How to Store Finished Jars

how to store jars

In an ideal world, we canners would all have cool, dry and dark basements lined with sturdy shallow shelves in which to store our pickles, preserves and pressure canned stocks. However, I’ve found that rarely does life cooperate with ideals.

I live in an 1,100 square foot apartment on the 20th floor of a high rise. I don’t have a basement, but I make do with an array of closets, cabinets and other out-of-the-way corners. As you scope out where the best nooks your home has to offer for canned good store, here are a few things to keep in mind.

–You want to keep your canned goods out of the sunlight. Over time, natural light can deteriorate your product, stealing color and quality.

–Cooler is better. I’m not talking freezing temps, but definitely don’t store home canned goods near heaters, radiators or electronics that run hot.

–Keep your storage space accessible. While it’s true that you want an nice, quiet spot for your jars, you don’t want to make it so obscure or hard to access that you end up forgetting about your peaches and applesauce altogether. Remember, the whole reason we can is to have tasty things to eat all year round.

–Make sure to remove the rings. I realize that this one gives a lot of newer canners pause, but I promise, it’s absolutely safe to take the rings off the jars once they’re sealed and cooled. In fact, it’s the best way to store your jars, because it allows you to know sooner rather than later if something is wrong with your product. If you’ve got spoilage occurring in a jar, storing it without the ring means that any growth taking place in the jar will dislodge the lid and alert you to the problem.

Where do you squirrel away your home canned goods?

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August Can Jam: Tomato Butter

blanched tomatoes

Once again, I’m right up against the deadline for this month’s Can Jam. I didn’t intend for it to work out this way. In fact, I made a batch of Tomato Jam last week, based on my friend Amy’s recipe, thinking that it could be my contribution to the month’s challenge. It’s a delicious recipe and I may end up posting it at some point down the line.

However, I had this other idea tickled the back of my brain. Remember when I announced that it was my summer of butters? Well, it’s been awhile since I made one. And I had this idea that tomatoes might make a nice butter.

peeled tomatoes

I started with a little over five pounds of Lancaster County tomatoes. Blanched, cored and peeled, I fed them into my Vitamix so that I had a chunky raw puree (if you don’t have a Vitamix, you could either pulse them in the food processor or take a potato masher to them).

tomato pulp

Using my beloved slow cooker, I let the 10 cups of pulp cook down without any spices or sugar overnight and for an entire workday. It wound up being approximately 18 hours of cooking. Look closely at the next picture, you can see the rings from the cooking down process.

cooking down lines

When I got home from work today, I had a bit less than four cups of cooked tomato, a far cry from the 10+ cups I started out with. Using an immersion blender, I whirred in some honey, brown sugar, lemon juice and zest and an array of my typical jam/fruit butter spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In the hopes of giving this butter a little zip, I also included 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne. Not so much to make it unpleasant, just to give it a little extra interest.

tomato butter

When all was done, I had a spread that was a bit sweet, but not cloying, with a nice spice profile. Consistency-wise, it’s quite similar to ketchup, but without the familiar vinegar-y zing. I’m looking forward to pairing this butter with a dab of goat cheese and seeing how it works on flatbread with caramelized onions. How would you use it?

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Table Talk and Fall 2010 Classes

pippen apples

Got canning questions? I’ve got answers! Tomorrow at 1 p.m. (10 a.m. west coast time), I’ll be joining Kim O’Donnel (who’s got a lovely new book hitting the shelves soon) on her weekly chat over at Culinate. We’ll be talking about canning, preserving and what to do with the barrage of end-of-season produce. Please come and join us!

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Fall is coming, but that doesn’t mean that the time for canning is coming to an end. I firmly believe that there’s plenty of canning to be done straight through the autumn months. I’ve got a series of four jam and chutney classes scheduled September through December that take advantage of all those sweet, crisp apples and pears. These classes cost $45 per person and are all scheduled for Saturday mornings, 11 a.m. through 12:30 p.m.

September 18
Spicy Applesauce

October 23
Pear-Ginger Jam

November 6
Cranberry Apple Jam

December 4
Apple-Pear Chutney

Additionally, I’ve been thinking about offering a sauerkraut class. If you’d be interested in something like that, please leave a comment on this post, so I can determine whether there’s enough interest.

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