Links: Spring Citrus, Breakfast Spreads, and a Produce Bag Winner

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Things are slowly getting back to normal for me. I’m caught up on laundry. My inbox is starting to look a little less insane. And I’m actually finding the time to post some links and winners on a Sunday evening.

beautiful earth produce bags

produce bag winner Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter the Beautiful Earth Produce Bag giveaway! I used one of my yesterday to store some asparagus, and it was perfectly fresh and crisp this morning when I used those spears in a tart. I predict that these bags will significantly change how I store my produce!

Our winner is commenter #411, Jackie Mullen. Thanks Jackie, I’ll be in touch soon!

For those of you who didn’t win and you’re still interested in these bags, I know that the nice folks at Beautiful Earth would love to have your business!

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Preserves in Action: Baby Arugula with Pickled Beets

overhead salad

I spent most of yesterday catching up. So much of my recent energy has been focused on finishing the book draft, that a great many aspects of my life and work were woefully neglected. I’ve learned that for me, it takes that kind of single-minded intensity to get big projects done, but as the fog of focus begins to lift, I can finally see clearly how much I’ve been ignoring (a very great deal).

And so, yesterday I worked on picking up all those forsaken threads of life. I returned a library book and checked out another that I’d reserved many weeks back. I packed boxes for the post office. I washed week-old strawberry residue off the coffee table. I turned in several freelance pieces that were later than expected. And I cleaned out the refrigerator a little.

Our fridge is nearly always stuffed to capacity and it is entirely my doing. Between the cooking I do for freelance projects, the massive amount of recipe development that goes into a cookbook (not to mention a blog), and a general devotion to eating as healthfully as we can, there’s just not a lot of space to spare in there. And since going into all book, all the time mode, the situation was dire.

salad with pickled beets

And so, I purged. I fished out the many mysterious, unlabeled jars (I really do need to get better about that) that had gotten shoved to the very back of our deep, skinny fridge. I was ruthless and managed to reduce the number of jars in the fridge by nearly half (at any given time, there are 15 to 40 jars in there). All questionable things were released.

I also pulled things back to the front that were still good, but had been forgotten. I discovered a few salt preserved limes left from last year’s batch, found a long lost jar of plum jam, and reclaimed a nearly empty jar of pickled golden beet cubes.

Today, when I went to make lunch, it was such a pleasure to open those doors and be able to see what was available without a massive dig. I grabbed a bag of baby arugula, half an avocado, some fresh goat cheese, and those pickled beets. Dressed with toasted walnut oil, salt, pepper, and some of the beet brine, it was a filling and brightly flavored salad (though, I did find myself wishing for a few toasted walnuts. Next time).

I ate it, sitting at the table instead of my desk, with the window open to the air and street noises. It felt so good to take the time to make a thoughtful lunch, to use something up that had earlier been lost to the depths and to be able to pause for just a little while.

 

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Giveaway: Beautiful Earth Produce Bags

beautiful earth produce bags

Before I dig in to talk about these awesome produce bags, I have a bit of good news. After many months of dogged work, I turned the draft of my new cookbook in last night. It is a HUGE relief to have passed it off into my editor’s hands and have a few weeks off from working on it. Thank you all for your patience and support!

I have long been devoted to using reusable totes, washable sacks, and other durable containers in place of disposable ones. The one place where I’ve struggled to find  a solid reusable solution is for produce storage once it’s in the refrigerator. I’ve got plenty of mesh bags, but they don’t keep do a good job of maintaining crispness. I wash and reuse the plastic grocery store bags, but they just don’t hold up over time.

beautiful earth organic produce bags

That’s where these cloth produce bags from Beautiful Earth come in. Made from cotton fabric (either cheesecloth or organic), they are endlessly reusable and do an amazing job of keeping fragile produce fresh in the fridge. You simply get the bags damp before putting your lettuce, green beans, or carrots in the crisper drawer. It’s awesome and so simple!

beautiful earth produce bags

Thanks to the owner of Beautiful Earth, I have a set of the Fill Your Fridge bags in organic cotton to give away to a Food in Jars reader. This set includes 2 large bags, 1 medium, and 1 small. It’s a perfect set to you started on the reusable produce bag path.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share a small change you’ve recently made to be slightly more sustainable in the kitchen.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Sunday, April 28, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog that evening.
  3. Giveaway open to all!
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

takeya pitcher winner

Disclosure: Beautiful Earth sent me two sets of these produce bags, one for review and one to give away. No money exchanged hands and my opinions remain my own. 

Also! The winner of the Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker is commenter #3, Jennifer B. Congratulations Jennifer, I’ll be in touch soon!

Cookbooks: Fine Preserving, Salt Sugar Smoke, and Whole Larder Love

three books

Each spring, I like to pick up a few new books in anticipation of the coming canning season. Though my preserving library is already pretty darn extensive, I find that I’m still always casting about for fresh inspiration. Seeing how different authors approach the art of jamming, pickling, drying, and infusing opens up my mind in the most useful and interesting ways. I thought I’d share three of my most recent acquisitions, just in case some of you are also looking for delicious new things to make.

Fine Preserving

I first spotting Fine Preserving last summer while teaching a pair of canning classes at The Pantry in Seattle. This first book is not a new release, but is still well worth the addition to the bookshelf. Essentially, it’s a classic preserving book that food writer M.F.K. Fisher loved so much that it was republished with her comments on many of the recipes. It’s like discovering your grandmother’s old kitchen notebook, complete with chatty notes and guidance about what works and what doesn’t.

notes on grapefruit marmalade

As you can see, the main body of the book is the recipe as it was written Catherine Plagemann, and then Fisher’s notes appear in red. I think this sort of thing should be done more frequently. It’s just so fun! This book is only available used, but there are a number of inexpensive copies floating around out there.

Salt Sugar Smoke

Next is Diana Henry’s book Salt Sugar Smoke. It came out last fall and is seriously gorgeous and full of lovely, approachable recipes. It’s a book that isn’t just sweet preserves, but also includes cured meats and smoked fish.

earl grey tea jelly

Of course, there are also plenty of sweet things too, like this earl grey tea jelly (sounds intriguing, doesn’t it!). I’ve often infused tea flavors into my fruit-based preserves, but it never occurred to me to make a spread that just featured the flavor of tea. Once I get this book project of mine off my plate, this will be one of the first things I make.

sweet fig vinegar

There’s just one thing to note here, and that is that Henry is a UK-based food writer. That means that the recipes are a bit more relaxed than the ones written expressly for the American market. If that makes you nervous, simply apply a boiling water bath to the high acid recipes, even if it’s not specifically called for. I often do that when working with jam and jelly recipes written for international audiences. It just makes me feel better about ensuring I’ve got a perfectly safe, shelf-stable finished product.

Whole Larder Love

Last on in my little stack is Whole Larder Love by Rohan Anderson. I’ve long been a reader of Anderson’s blog of the same name and so was quite excited when I heard he was writing a book because his site is intensely beautiful. He is dedicated to eating the foods available around him in Australia and so is regularly hunting, fishing, and foraging (in addition to tending a garden).

pickled olives

The book is just as lovely as the blog and is filled with so many inspiring photos. While I’m not sure that I’ll ever cook directly from it, I keep coming back simply to leaf through and refill my energy stores for the many acts of preservation I tackle during the growing season. And to my mind, that’s a plenty good reason to keep a book on my shelf.

What books have been inspiring your cooking and preserving lately?

Disclosure: I received a review copy of Whole Larder Love at no cost to me. I bought the other two books with cash I earned by stringing words together. My opinions remain, as always, entirely my own. 
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Giveaway: Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker

Takeya Iced Tea Maker

Recently, the weather has warmed here in Philly and the balmier days have me craving big glasses of iced coffee and tea. I’ve been dashing out to my favorite coffeeshop for the java (I really need to get my cold brew habit restarted) and I’ve been using a Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker for my hit of iced tea.

two packets green tea

The folks at Takeya sent me this iced tea maker month or so back to try out (along with a couple boxes of tea). I’m well and truly smitten with it because it allows me to make iced tea without an overnight wait or extended cooling time in the fridge (and sadly, I rarely have room in my fridge for such things as pitchers of iced tea. It’s a little crammed in there most of the time).

pouring hot water

The way it works is that you load the tea into the infuser and fill the container halfway up with appropriately heated water (temperatures vary for different styles of tea, so it’s always good to consult a tea brewing chart like this one). Once the tea has steeped, you pull the infuser out of the pitcher.

Draining the filter

Then you fill the pitcher up with ice, screw on the lid tightly and shake the whole apparatus to cool down the tea. The lid is designed so that the pitcher should not leak at all (which also means that you can store it on its side, another plus for my overstuffed fridge).

Takeya has put together a really nice line of teas designed to work with these tea makers, as well as recipes to fancy up your basic iced tea.

cooling the tea

You should use more ice than I show here. I just happened to be low on ice at the moment I was making this batch and so skimped a little (such is life). Still, it was quite good with a splash of rhubarb syrup (from a recent batch of this guy) and a little sparkling water.

Thanks to the nice Takeya folks, I have one of these pitchers to give away, along with one packet of tea. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite way cool down in the warmer months.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Sunday, April 21, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog that evening.
  3. Giveaway open to US residents, only (so sorry, further-flung friends, I’m not in charge of the shipping).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: Takeya USA provided me with a review unit of the Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker, as well as two boxes of tea. They’ve also provided the giveaway unit and tea. No money changed hands and my opinions remain my own. 

Canning 101: Use a Splatter Guard for Thick Products

splatter guard while cooking to temperature

In digging around my kitchen recently, I rediscovered my trusty splatter guard. As we head into canning season, I thought it might be useful to share exactly why I think this is such a great tool to have in your preserving tool box.

Most people think that splatter guards like this are used primarily for fried foods. But they’re also great when you’re cooking down thick fruit preserves like chutneys and fruit butters. While you do have to move them to the side when it comes time to stir, they’re an invaluable tool for keeping your products in the pot and off your stovetop.

This is not a tool for which you need to shell out a ton of money. I bought mine at a dollar store some years ago and it’s still going strong (I am careful to scrub it down thoroughly between uses, to ensure that it has a long life). There are a bunch on Amazon, but they cost far more than the buck I paid for mine. So look around before you drop significant money. Oh, and make sure you get a metal mesh one. They allow for better air circulation, which leads to more rapid evaporation and more efficient cooking times.

In other news, my sister is here in Philadelphia with her little family. She and her husband are playing a house concert in Mt. Airy (a neighborhood around these parts) on Wednesday night. If you’re in the area and think you might want to attend, leave a comment and I’ll get you the details. I promise a good time for all! 

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