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.

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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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October Can Jam: Peach Jalapeno Jelly

jalapenos

Using the syrup leftover from canning peaches to make jelly is not an idea original to me. I got the idea from Putting By, and it was such a good one that when I canned my last batch of the season, I made certain to strain my remaining syrup and stash it in the fridge.

Well, that was a month ago. I’d see that jar of syrup every time I opened the fridge and each time, I’d give it a little nod and a promise that soon, soon I’d pay it a bit of attention. Every so often, I’d crack the lid and take a whiff to make sure it wasn’t fermenting, before putting it back behind the yogurt container.

steeping chiles

Finally tonight, the stars aligned and I talked myself into the kitchen after dinner, in spite of nearly falling asleep on the couch at 8 p.m. My commitment to canning truly knows no bounds.

candied jalapenos

I started with 24 ounces of leftover syrup. I strained it into a saucepan (in order to remove the bits of peach particulate matter that could have made the jelly cloudy) and dropped in two sliced jalapenos. I let that simmer for a bit, tasting every minute or two until it had reached the level of spiciness I could handle. Then I added two cups of sugar, stirred, removed the jalapeno rings and stirred in one tablespoon of regular old powdered pectin.

finished jar

I boiled the mixture until it reached 220 degrees, strained it again (to remove the rest of the jalapeno seeds) and filled the jars. Processed the half pints (three in total) for ten minutes. So far, it’s still quite liquid-y, but judging from the way the remains in the pot looked, I’m confident it will set. The flavor is good too. Slightly spicy (I’m not a heat freak), fruity and so fragrant of those peaches (I still can’t quite believe that they’re gone for the year).

*Update*
After a week, this jelly has set nicely and firms up even more when refrigerated.

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A Can Jam Oops and a Food in Jars Flickr Group

carrots in a jar

Sad news, kids. I didn’t manage to complete a chile-based project for the October Can Jam. I had a plan and even the ingredients to carry it out, but alas, I couldn’t make the kitchen magic happen before the deadline. I’ve spent all week scrambling to get myself re-oriented to post-vacation life.

But since the ingredients are still languishing, I do hope that I will be able to make the Peach-Jalapeno Jelly I’ve been plotting (with leftover peach syrup from my final batch of canned peaches. Amazingly, it’s been in the fridge for nearly a month and hasn’t started to ferment yet. Here’s hoping it will last another few days).

However, did you know that you can bring limp carrots back from beyond the pale by submerging them in a jar of water and keeping said jar in the refrigerator? This act will make you a hero with your snack-craving, carb-avoiding husband (unless you happen to wedge the carrots too tightly into the jar in an attempt to be efficient, rendering it nearly impossible for the hungry husband to remove them. True story. Tongs had to be employed).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to make this website a fun place to visit, now that we’re heading into quieter canning times. In an attempt to keep things interesting, I’ve created a Flickr group called (wait for it) Food in Jars. I’m inviting everyone to join and add their favorite pictures of the jars in their lives and the way they’re employed in the kitchen and beyond.

Truly, it doesn’t just have to be home canned goods. It can also be photos of the jars you use for leftover storage, for dry goods or for your morning coffee. I’ll be picking a photo from the group pool once a week to share here on Food in Jars, in order to share the jar love. So let’s see those jars in action!

Finally, I have a giveaway I’ve been negligent in wrapping up. Several weeks ago now, I offered up a copy of the GrassRoutes Guide to Portland. Then I went to BlogHer Food and then onto a Portland vacation and totally dropped the ball. In an attempt to get back on top of things, I’ve selected a winner. It is lucky #22, Sandi Garcia. Congratulations Sandi, I’ll be in touch shortly.

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Open Jars: Preserves in Toasted Sandwiches

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During my middle school years, I wasn’t allowed to use the stove when my parents weren’t home. I was, however, allowed to use the toaster oven. Blessed with that limitation, I became a toaster oven master. I quickly developed a cheese sandwich that was so good that other members of my family quickly asked to be included when I was making them.

My secret was to toast the bread plain, spread a thin layer of seedy mustard on the toasted bread and then top it with cheese. The cheese melts, the bread is crunchy throughout and the whole sandwich is infused with the zing of the mustard.

This summer, Scott and I splurged on a new toaster oven. It was a newer version of the same basic Black and Decker model that I’ve been working with for years (our previous toaster oven was one I bought used at a thrift store in 2002 and needed two or three rounds of toasting to achieve a sufficient burnishing). The new toaster oven works incredibly well, to the point where I had to watch carefully when I was first using it. I’m ashamed to admit how many slices of bread I transformed into little slabs of carbon while I learned its ways.

Recently, since the days have turned cooler, I’ve been returning to my lunchtime toasting roots. Somewhere about halfway past noon, my thoughts turn to what’s at home in the fridge. Soon enough, I leap from my desk chair and walk the block and half distance between my office and apartment (truly, I’m so lucky to live so close to work) and start building my lunch.

After I’ve done my initial toasting of the bread, I pull out one of the many open jars that clutter the fridge and apply a layer. In the picture above, it was a tomato jam day, but I’ve also used a variety of chutneys, jams and even pickles. On top of that, a slice of cheese and then the whole mess returns to the oven for a bit of cheese-melting. I eat it with a quartered apple and some sliced cucumber. An easy, filling lunch!

What I like about this technique is that it vanishes that fresh-out-of-the-fridge chill and the melting keeps the condiment in place (I’ve learned through trial and error that applying a preserve to freshly melted cheese is just asking for it to slide right off. No one needs that). It also works really well on a larger scale for party food as well. You can use small baguette rounds, a bit of smooth goat cheese and some of that jam you made this summer. People will rave and you’ll have the satisfaction of using up some of your home canned goods.

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Canning 101: Why Pumpkin Butter Can’t Be Canned

pumpkins

This time of year, a canner’s fancy turns to pumpkins. Tis the season for all things round, orange and squashy, after all. However, as you start searching for recipes for home canned pumpkin butter from reputable sources, you’re going to find yourself disappointed. You see, both the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation are going to tell you the same thing. Don’t do it.

I’m sure there are more than a few of you out there saying to yourself, “but I’ve been making and water bath canning pumpkin butter for years!” And it’s true, many years ago, there were USDA-approved recipes for pumpkin butter. Unfortunately, the rules of canning are not a static canon and so, in 1989 the USDA changed their recommendations and the NCHFP followed suit. No home canning for pumpkin butter, not even in a pressure canner.

The reasons why homemade pumpkin butter isn’t recommended are several. When cooked down into a butter, pumpkin flesh becomes quite dense, making it difficult for the heat produced in a canner to penetrate fully through the contents of the jar. This means that even in a pressure canner, the interior of the jar may not reach the 240 degrees needed to kill those pesky botulism spores.

Additionally, pumpkin and all other winter squash are a low-acid vegetables, meaning that without careful treatment, they could potentially be a friendly environment in which botulism spores might grow into their toxic adult state. In tests, it’s been found that the pH of pumpkin has a fairly wide range, meaning that it’s not possible to offer a basic acidification ratio as there is for other borderline and low acid foods.

The good news is that pumpkin butter can be frozen and also keeps quite well in the fridge, so it doesn’t have to be entirely off the menu. I’ve also been pondering whether one could make a an apple-pumpkin butter that would be high enough in acid to be safe for canning, but would contain enough pumpkin to be sufficiently autumnal. I may do a bit of playing around, to see if I can get somewhere close to the flavor I’d like to eat.

If you’re curious to read more about the safety hazards of canning pumpkin butter and other squash purees, click here to download the PDF that was the primary source for this post.

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