Links: Shortbread, Jam Tarts, and a Winner

Jars of jams and jellies on the table.

Is it just me, or is December speeding by at a breakneck pace? I’m embarrassed that I’ve not managed to post even a single recipe designed for holiday giving in this space this season. Some of my favorite holiday cookies are up at Table Matters, I based a batch of jam on the flavors of a pomander ball for Simple Bites, and I made some tasty truffles for the FN Dish, but I’ve been struggling to shift into the holiday frame of mind without an assignment to do so. However, I predict a flood of tasty treats for later this week, as I’m headed to Portland on Wednesday and being around my family always shakes loose my inspiration. Now, links.

SantokuTahoe 640
nwkw winner Thank you to New West Knifeworks for sponsoring last week’s giveaway, as well as to all of you who took the time to enter. It was such a pleasure to read the many things you like about winter. Our winner is Nicole, #484. She said, “I love the frost in the air when I first walk out of the house i the morning. Even though I shiver bitterly once the North Wind kicks in, I secretly enjoy the first bit of chill.”

Stay tuned, I’ll have another good giveaway up tomorrow afternoon.

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Cookbooks for Canners, Picklers, and Preservers

preserving books spine

I am something of a last minute holiday shopper (I am deeply motivated by deadlines). It’s only in the last week that I’ve truly started applying my brain to the collection of gifts for my family members (thank goodness for the ease of online shopping). And so it makes sense that I’m only now getting around to sharing this list of books. Think of it as half gift guide, and half round-up of the recent good books that deal with preserving.

first five books

  • The first book in this pile came out in 2012, so including it in this list is a bit of a cheat. However, there is no better volume than Elizabeth Field’s book Marmalade on the topic of, well, marmalade. If you have a citrus lover in your life, I can’t imagine a more perfect gift than a copy of this book paired with a box of Meyer lemons (I order ten pounds from the Lemon Ladies every January).
  • If you’re curious about homemade hot sauce, The Hot Sauce Cookbook by Robb Walsh should be your starting point. This book has quick salsas, long-fermented sauces, pungent pickles, and lots of recipes to help you put those spicy condiments to use. And if the predicted sriracha shortage comes to be, don’t fear, just turn to page 109 and make your own.
  • For small batches with a Southern twist, seek out Southern Living’s Little Jars, Big Flavors. It’s a handy book bursting with dependable, heavily tested recipes. I devoted an entire post to back in July.
  • I make a goodly number of apple-based preserves each year, but Amy Pennington’s Apples: From Harvest to Table has me thinking about this autumn fruit in a whole new way. Think fresh apple relish spiked with kimchi brine and pickled apple slices with star anise.
  • Mayonnaise. Mustard. Steak sauce. Vinegar. Nut butters. The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook has it all. Written by Erin Coopey, this volume is destined to become a kitchen essential for home cooks who are committed to making instead of buying.

second four books

  • Emma Christensen’s True Brews is the best book available for people who want to start brewing their own beer, wine, mead, cider, and kombucha at home in small batches. I tested several of her recipes last summer for a Table Matters piece and was so impressed with the quality of instruction and the relative ease of the projects. It is a winner of a cookbook.
  • For devoted home canners who have moved beyond the basics of preserving, Kevin West’s gorgeous book, Saving the Season, is the way to go. It has depth, good storytelling, and deliberate pace that is rare in cookbooks these days. I find it a lovely book to read for inspiration, illumination, and pleasure.
  • So many canners fall into the same trap. They spend a summer and fall making exotic preserves like chokecherry jelly and zucchini relish. Once winter hits, they have a full pantry and no idea how to use what they’ve canned. Happily, that’s where Sherri Brooks Vinton comes in. Her book, Put ‘em Up! Fruit, will show you how to use up what you’ve put up. It’s genius and should be on your shelf.
  • Fermentation is all the rage these days. Between beer making, sourdough baking, and tangy brined pickles, everyone seems to be doing it. However, for those who can’t seem to move past a basic batch of kraut, Mastering Fermentation, is a fantastic volume for upping your game and making fermented foods a more regular part of your culinary life.

last four books

  • For people who want to preserve without much additional sugar, or who want to sweetened with honey or fruit juice concentrates, there’s no better tool than Pomona’s Pectin. The recent release of Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy has made it even easier for canners to explore low sugar jam and jelly making. I highly recommend the Ginger Vanilla Rhubarb Jam on page 58.
  • Preserving Wild Foods is a delightful book for foragers, hunters, people who fish, and those who like their food to taste just a little bit wild. You’ll find things like geranium-scented tomato jam, blueberry maple spoon fruit, and black walnut chutney. It’s a glorious volume that didn’t get nearly enough love when it came out in late 2012.
  • For those of us who like a bit of charm and twinkle with our recipes for red raspberry jam and traditional treacle bread, look no further than Irish Pantry by Noel McMeel. It came out just a few weeks ago and is already a welcome and oft-reached for addition to my library. The recipes are for sturdy baked goods that are so satisfying this time of year. If you crave warmth and cheer, this book should be yours.
  • Last on this list of books for canners, picklers, and preservers is Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese by Tenaya Darlington (disclosure – Tenaya is a dear friend). Some might find it strange to include a book about cheese here, but I firmly believe that every homemade preserve has a cheese soulmate just waiting to be found and this book can help in that search. For those canners who are intimated by the cheese counter, there is no better guide to bellying up to the cheese case than this excellent volume. It also has a carefully selected assortment of recipes and some truly stunning photography.

Disclosure: Many of the books listed here came into my life as review copies (there are a few that I bought). All the links are affiliate ones, I get a couple of cents if you click through and buy a copy. All that said, I only recommend books that I think are beautiful, useful, and well-written. These are my true opinions and nothing more. 

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Giveaway: New West KnifeWorks Santoku

SantokuTahoe 640

This week’s giveaway comes from new Food in Jars sponsor New West KnifeWorks. They make some of the most gloriously beautiful kitchen knives you can find. The handles are crafted from layers of colored hardwood that are treated to be incredibly sturdy and easy to hold.

The blades are made from domestic steel and are fabricated in Massachusetts (in a facility run entirely on green hydro-power). Truly, a great gift for someone who loves to cook and is dedicated to supporting environmentally friendly US industry.

The winner of this giveaway will get a New West KnifeWorks Santoku Chef Knife with a Fusionwood 2.0. handle. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share something you love about this time of year.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, December 14, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday.
  3. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post. I can not accept submissions via email.

sewing seasons winner 150 Disclosure: New West KnifeWorks is a sponsor of this site. However, all opinions expressed here remain my own. I’ve used their knives since 2010 and find them to be well-made, useful tools. 

One more thing. The winner of the Sewing for all Seasons giveaway is #281, Michelle. She said, “I like to make my own cloth coffee filters.”  Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter that flash giveaway! I so enjoyed reading about all your crafty, handmade ways.

Links: Mostarda, Thumbprint Cookies, and a Winner

I need simple food after five days of excessive eating.

Oh friends, I’m a day late with these links and this winner. The reason is this. We had an unexpectedly intense snow storm yesterday that delivered the bulk of its mess while I was 47 miles away from home teaching a class. More than half the students had to cancel and my drive home was a harrowing, multi-hour affair. When I finally got made it back, I was vibrating from the tension and ready to collapse. We ordered pizza for dinner and I didn’t leave the couch for the rest of the evening. Happily, all is well today. Now, links!

Wusthof Classic 7" Chinese Cleaver

cleaver winner The winner of the cleaver is #717, Tanya! She said, “I’m looking forward to the homemade beeswax candles that I made in quilted jars. They look just like these. Instead of taping the wicks in place, I used skewers and taped the wick to them. Much quicker and easier than the technique shown in this link. I got the wax from a local honey company. The finished candles smell heavenly and I was able to make a ton of candles as gifts really affordably!”

Sounds gorgeous, Tanya! And congratulations.

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Giveaway: Sewing for all Seasons

Sewing For All Seasons

It often makes people laugh when I say it, but I’m really not crafty. I know that I’m constantly canning and preserving, but I have always felt that my job is done when the preserve in sealed up into the jar. Though I like a pretty package as much as the next girl, I am missing the driving urge that others possess to embellish and enhance.

Sewing For All Seasons

That said, I deeply admire people who have the ability to sew, knit, paint, and otherwise make beautiful, useful things from raw materials. One such crafter on my admiration list is Susan Beal, who I met a few years back when she came to one of my canning classes in Portland.

Sewing For All Seasons

Susan is the author of a number of crafting and sewing books, including the newly released Sewing for All Seasons. Now I realize you all might be scratching your heads and wondering why I’m mentioning a sewing book on a website devoted to canning. Well, here’s the thing. Susan has a pattern in her book for Mason Jar & Wine Cozies.

Sewing For All Seasons

While I don’t really sew much beyond shorting pants (it’s the curse of being 5’2″) and repairing small tears, I know that there are a goodly number of people reading this site who would be very into that Jar Cozy pattern as well as the 23 other lovely patterns in this book. And so, when Susan got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in sharing her book with my readers and giving away a copy, of course I said yes!

Sewing For All Seasons

This is going to be a quick, little giveaway, so if you want to enter, you’ve got to act fast. Here’s how to toss your hat into the ring…

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about something you like to make by hand.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Monday, December 9, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Tuesday.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents (apologies to my more far-flung readers).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post. I do not accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: Chronicle Books has provided both my review copy of Sewing for all Seasons and the giveaway copy at no cost to me. However, my opinions remain entirely my own.

How to Can Turkey Stock (or, How To Make The Most of Your Holiday Meals)

turkey stock labels

Last Saturday, my family gathered for a belated Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin Angie’s house. It was one of those really fantastic family gatherings where everyone was genuinely happy to be there and spend time with one another. Ages ranged from four to 96 and there was much discussion about family history and connection (at one point, a family tree had to be drawn to explain to my cousin Sam’s girlfriend just exactly how we were all related).

Scott and I were the last to leave, having stuck around to gather abandoned plates and help put away the leftovers. When we finally headed home, we did so with a gallon ziplock bag of cut fruit (remains from a massive Costco tray), a dozen empty jars (returns from previous homemade gifts), and a disposable roasting pan holding two turkey carcasses, swaddled in a black plastic garbage bag. My cousins, knowing my fondness for making use of every scrap, had saved it just for me.

bagged turkey for stock

When we got home, instead of crashing out in front of a movie as had been previously planned, I headed to the kitchen to break down all the turkey into usable parts. In the end, I had three very large plastic bags of goodness. Two held bones for stock and one held usable meat (half went into a batch of turkey shepherd’s pie, the other half is frozen for a future batch of soup).

As I separated out the meat from the bones, I started thinking about all the times I’ve pressure canned various stocks and broths over the last four years and realized that it had been far too long since I talked about the magic of pressure canning here. The only stock canning post went up in the very early days of this site and I’ve learned a great deal about the dos and don’t of preserving under pressure since then.

cooking stock

The next morning, I started the first batch of stock (there was more than enough for two batches). When making turkey stock, I like to keep it simple and so don’t add carrots, celery, or onion. Instead, I combine the turkey bones with freshly filtered cold water in a 12 quart stock pot. I put it on the stove and slowly bring it up to a simmer. Once it’s near a boil but not rolling, I cock the lid so that some steam can escape and cook it over medium heat for 4 to 6 hours (I’m after maximum flavor extraction for minimal effort). Whenever you make stock, try to avoid a vigorous boil, as it will make your stock cloudy.

You really want to make sure that you make your stock within a day or two of the turkey’s roasting, as you’ll get the best flavor. If you wait until the carcass has been picked clean during the leftover stage, it takes on a funky, old poultry flavor that really isn’t worth preserving.

pouring stock

Now, in an ideal world, here’s how I’d preserve stock. I’d cook it one day, strain it, chill it overnight, skim the fat, bring it back to a boil and then can. However, I rarely manage to do it that way because I have a very small refrigerator and so almost never have the space for the volume of stock I’ve made. I also don’t have any outdoor space, and so can’t even use nature’s icebox this time of year. And so, instead I make and can my stock in the same day.

Because I can’t remove the fat through chilling, I spend some time carefully spooning it off. There are a couple of reasons why it’s a good idea to defat your stock. One is that if the stock siphons out of the jars during the processing (and it happens a lot during pressure canning, thanks to the increased ferocity of heat and pressure), the slippery fat can put your seal in jeopardy. The other is that fats can go rancid during storage and that will give your stock an off-flavor. Because I know that my stock still has some residual fat, I make a point of using it promptly (to me, this means within 6 to 9 months) so that it doesn’t have a chance to develop a funky flavor.

prepped jar

While I’m painstakingly defatting my stock, I set up my pressure canner. I use a 16 quart Presto canner with a dial gauge that I like a great deal. It holds seven quarts or nine pints, fits on my comically small stove, and doesn’t take up TOO much storage space. I fill it with about three inches of warm tap water, set the jars in it and fill them with just enough warm water to prevent them from floating. I also pour about half a cup of white distilled vinegar into the water in the canning pot, to ensure that the jars don’t get covered in scum during processing. I drop the lids in alongside the jars and bring the whole mess to a simmer to warm things up.

Once the jars are hot and the stock is skimmed and just off a boil, fill ‘em up. You want to leave a generous inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and twist on the rings. Forget everything you know about applying canning jar rings and really twist them on tightly. The intensity of the canner has a habit of loosening them some during processing, so you want to compensate for that. Don’t worry, the oxygen in the jars will still be able to exit during the pressure canning process.

pouring stock into jars

Once all the jars are filled and are in the canner, lock the lid into place. Bring the pot up to a boil and let the steam vent for at least 10 minutes. You do this by running the pot without the pressure regulator in place. That’s the little black and metal hat that sits atop the vent shaft. The reason for this is that a canner that has been properly relieved of its oxygen through venting can reach a higher temperature than one that is full of good old O2. The higher the temperature, the more effectively the canner will kill any botulism spores present.

After you feel like the pot has been sufficiently vented, apply the pressure regulator and bring the pot up to pressure. Once it hits the correct pressure, adjust the heat so that you stay at that pressure. This can be a little tricky if you have a pokey electric stove like mine, because it certainly isn’t impossible. It just takes a little extra attention and learning how your stove adjusts. If your canner drops below the required pressure level at any point during the timed process, you have to start the time over again as soon as it comes back to the correct level.

full jars in canner

Stock of any stripe gets pressure canned at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts) in a gauged canner and at 10 pounds in a weighted canner. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has all the details and they can be found here. And remember, if you live at higher elevations, make sure to adjust your pressure accordingly.

Once the time is up, you turn off the stove and leave the canner alone. If your burner stays hot for a long time, you can slide it to a cooler spot on the stove, but other than that, just let it sit. I like to give my canner two or three hours to cool before I even attempt to open it (it will take at least half an hour for the pressure drop enough for the canner to unlock). Often I will let it cool overnight, to ensure that the jars can cool and seal on their own time. When the jars are finally cool enough to handle, remove them from the pot, twist off the rings and give everything a good wash with warm, soapy water. Dry the jars and store them in a cool spot out of direct sunlight.

canner gauge

The last time I had my pressure canner checked, it ran true, which means that I don’t have to make any adjustments to my pressure during processing. Sometimes a gauge registers a higher or lower pressure when it’s actually at 10 or 11 pounds and so you have to do adjust your pressure point. That’s why it’s important to have your gauge checked yearly to ensure that you’re preserving safely.

Now, the reason the subtitle of this post is that while I’m talking about turkey stock in this post, this technique is one that can be used for all manner of flavorful stocks and broths. This time of year, we all tend to invest a bit more money in hams, big beef roasts, turkeys, and mountains of vegetables. There are always scraps and trimmings to be gleaned from these holiday meals that can be cooked down into gorgeous, rich liquids. Save that ham bone or the bone from that celebratory steak. If you don’t have the time for stock making now, stash those goodies in the freezer and make a project of it after the holidays are over. You’ll be happy you did.

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