In Praise of Seconds + Other Good Things

nectarines in a bowl

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll often see me posting pictures of the seconds I buy for my various canning activities. Seconds are simply the slightly-less-perfect produce that farmers typically can’t sell for full price. I never mind working around a few bruises or superficial marring and so embrace these seconds (both for their affordability and the fact that it helps prevent food waste) for jam, fruit butters, chutneys, and more. I wrote about my love of seconds for the summer issue of Edible Philly and you can read my full piece right here.

I was recently a guest on the 2 Weird Hungry Girls Podcast. We talked all about canning and preserving in this episode (we actually recorded two, so another one will be airing soon), and if you want to hear me get geeky about food preservation, make sure to tune in.

Finally, don’t forget that I’ll be at Philly’s Headhouse Square Farmers Market this Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm with Food Swap! author Emily Paster. We’ll both have books on hand for sale and signature, and I’ll have some white nectarine and lemon jam for you to come and taste.

Oh, and if you need a canning project for this weekend, I highly recommend this Spiced Nectarine Jam. It’s a great one for holiday giving, if you’re starting to think about such things.

Happy weekend, friends!

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Whole Foods Market Field to Store Program + Tangy Eggplant Tomato Spread

Today, I’m partnering with my area Whole Foods Markets to tell you about their 24 Hours Field to Store program and to share my recipe for Tangy Eggplant Tomato Spread. This is a sponsored post!

Whole Foods Market 24 Hours Field to Store sign

One of the things I love most about living in Philadelphia is the amazing access we have to really great, local produce. I’ve been here for nearly 15 years now and have watched how the city has changed for the better. Between the farmers markets, CSA shares, buying clubs, corner stores, and merchants at Reading Terminal Market, it is easier than ever to get my heads on hyper-fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables that are grown nearby.

Local eggplant at Whole Foods Market

Now, thanks to a partnership between our 11 area Whole Foods Markets and the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, you can add one more option for incredibly fresh, local produce to the list. They have teamed up for a program called 24 Hours Field to Store. Certain products from LFFC are harvested from the field and delivered to all Philadelphia-area stores within 24 hours.

eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic

The featured item in the Field to Store program changes every two weeks. Last week, they were highlighting gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, and starting today and running through August 16, the featured item is eggplant!

prepping tomatoes for peeling

I was at the Callowhill store on Saturday, and picked up a plump, firm, glowingly fresh eggplant and brought it home for a little experimentation. Knowing that eggplant is a low acid vegetable, I had to be careful when developing a recipe using it that would eventually go into a jar.

simmering eggplant and tomatoes in red wine vinegar

After doing a bit of research, I decided to make a highly acidified spread using eggplant, tomato, and garlic. I peeled and chopped the eggplant, and cooked it down with a small amount of olive oil, a pound of peeled and chopped tomatoes, three cloves of minced garlic, and a full 1 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar.

tangy eggplant and tomato spread

The resulting eggplant tomato spread is a luscious, tangy condiment. It is perfect on slices of toasted ciabatta or in place of tomato sauce on a homemade pizza. The yield is relatively small, so I plan on making more before eggplant season is done.

finished jars of tangy eggplant tomato spread

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next in the 24 Hours Field to Store program!

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Preserve the Harvest Giveaway

cys-harvest-FB-variants-1-1024x672

I don’t often post about giveaways that other sites are hosting, but this one is just too perfect for you all for me to skip it. Starting this week and continuing throughout the month of August, Countryside Magazine is hosting a series of four preserving-centric giveaways.

At the end of each week, a winner is chosen and the giveaway clock resets with a new collection of tools, supplies, and resources. Food in Jars sponsors Fillmore Container and Mason Jar Lifestyle are both participating, and Fillmore has included copies of my books in weeks one and three!

To learn more about the prizes from Fillmore Container, go here. To enter the first week of giveaways, head over to Countryside. Good luck, friends!

Disclosure: Fillmore Container and Mason Jar Lifestyle are both sponsors of this site. However, no one asked me to write this post. I just wanted to make sure that you guys heard about this awesome opportunity. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. 

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Garlicky Kohlrabi Relish

Looking for something easy and delicious to do with the all the kohlrabi you’ve been getting in your CSA share this summer? This garlicky kohlrabi relish is just the ticket!

vertical jars of garlicky kohlrabi relish

Kohlrabi. It’s one of those vegetables that you find primarily at farmers markets and in your CSA baskets. Knobby round balls with gangly stems and oversized leaves, they look a little like disastrously malformed broccoli.

four kohlrabi bulbs

Once you trim away the stems and leaves (try them in your next veggie stir fry) and peel off the tough outer layer, you’re ready to pickle. You can use kohlrabi in a variety of pickle applications, but I particularly like turning them into a shredded relish.

ten cups shredded kohlrabi

This is one of those preserves that is half pickle, half salad. A forkful or two alongside your favorite sausage is nice. Adding it to a cool soba noodle dish is really delicious. And it’s weirdly delicious in an egg sandwich.

four pints of garlicky kohlrabi relish

If you can’t find kohlrabi, peeled broccoli stems have a similar density and flavor and can easily be swapped in.

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Upcoming Events: Headhouse Square! New York! Arkansas! Atlanta!

three books

Hello canners! I have some fun news. After a month of sticking close to home and offering just a handful of classes and events, I’m headed back on the road a bunch in August and September. Mark your calendars for my free events and sign yourself up for my classes. I so look forward to seeing some of you there!

Sunday, August 7 (Philadelphia)
You’ll find me at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market with my friend and fellow cookbook author Emily Paster. We’ll have tasty samples of things from our new books (Emily’s is Food Swap!) and will have copies of our books on hand for sale and signature.

Monday, August 8 (Sewell, NJ)
I’ll be at the Margaret E. Heggan Free Public Library for a canning demo from 7-8 pm. I’ll show you how to make a batch of the Gingery Plum Jam from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars and will have books on hand for sale and signature. The event is free, but you can reserve your spot by registering here.

Saturday, August 13 (Millersville, PA)
I’m headed out to Lancaster County for a morning canning class at Homefields Farm. This hands-on class is from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. We’ll work together to make a batch of Plum Jam with Vanilla and everyone will go home with a small jar. The class fee is $15 and you can register here.

Friday, August 19 (Amaganesett, NY)
This particular Friday, you’ll find me teaching a hands on canning class at Amber Waves Farm. We’ll make tomato jam, dilly beans, and quick pickled cucumbers. All students will go home with jars of preserves made that day. The class is from 3-6 pm. $150. Register here.

Saturday, August 20 (Great Barrington, MA)
I’ll be spending a morning at the Great Barrington Farmers Market, demonstrating how to make small batches of honey-sweetened jam, I’ll have copies of my books on hand for sale and signature and a few jars of jam ready for sampling. Look for me between the hours of 9 am – 1 pm.

Sunday, August 21 – (Hillsdale, NY)
In this demo-style canning class, I’ll feature two seriously delicious recipes from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. We’ll make Caramelized Red Onion Jam (sweetened with maple sugar) and Peach Rosemary Glaze (sweetened with honey).  at Hillsdale Home Chef. 2:30-5 pm. $65. Register here.

Wednesday, August 24 (Chestnut Hill, PA)
I’ll be back at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House with the team from Weaver’s Way Co-op for the final class in our summer preserving series. In this one, we’ll make Easy Tomato Salsa and will talk all about safely canning tomatoes. 7-9 pm. Register here.

Saturday, August 27 (Fayetteville, AR)
I’ll be offering a canning and preserving demo at the Fayetteville Roots Festival. 2 pm! More details to come!

Saturday, September 3 (Decatur and Atlanta, GA)
11:15 – 12 noon, you’ll find me at demonstrating at the Decatur Book Festival. After the demo is over, I’ll be signing books! Then, from 3 to 4:30, I’ll be at Atlanta Botanical Garden, teaching a demo-style class. Registration info here. So much fun in a single day!

Sunday, September 4 (Chattahoochee Hills, GA)
I’ll be at the Bosch Experience Center in Serenbe for a five course Prepared Pantry Dinner. Every course of the meal is based on a recipe from Naturally Sweet. Thanks go to Lyn Deardorff from Preserving Now for making this event happen! 4-7 pm. $75 (which includes a copy of my new book). Get your tickets here.

Tuesday, September 6 (Nashville, TN)
I’ll be teaching a demo-style class at Green Door Gourmet. More details to come!

Saturday, September 10 (Philadelphia)
I’m returning to Greensgrow to teach a class that is focusing in on canning tomatoes. We’ll make honey sweetened tomato jam and talk about to ensure that your preserved tomatoes are safe and delicious. 12-2 pm. $35. Register here.

After that, I head to California for a handful of events. I’m still nailing down all the details, but here’s where you’ll find me!

September 15 – Pacific Grove, CA! Canning demo at Happy Girl Kitchen. More details to come!
September 17 – Healdsburg, CA! Canning class at The Shed. 1-3 pm. Details here.
September 18 – San Francisco! Fort Mason Farmers Market. More details to come!
September 20 – San Francisco Public Library. More details to come!
September 21 – Oakland, CA! Canning demo and book signing at Pollinate Farm & Garden. 6:30-8:30 pm. $17.50. Sign up here.

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My Jam Didn’t Set! What Should I Do?

This post is for new jam makers. If you are an experienced and seasoned canner, I invite you to leave your wisdom in the comments section!

six 12 ounce jars of cherry rhubarb jam

You’re a new canner and your jam didn’t set. It is runny and sloshy and you don’t know what to do. Before you start to worry, let me ask you a few questions.

When did you make the jam? It can sometimes take 24-48 hours for a batch of jam to finish setting up. If your jam is still just an hour or two out of the canner and you’re worried about the set, it’s time to chill out. Literally. Walk away. Stop thinking about it.

Okay. You’ve let the jars rest for a day or two and it’s still more sauce than jam. Next question. Did you follow the recipe? Many of us look at jam recipes and are aghast at the amount of sugar it calls for. So we reduce the amount of sugar, thinking that it won’t do anything but make the jam less sweet.

steamy strawberry jam

Sadly, sugar plays a huge role in set. If you cut the amount in the recipe and you don’t compensate with a pectin designed for low sugar preserving, your jam may well be runny.

Did you check for set while the jam was cooking? Any time a recipe gives you a cooking time, it’s simply an approximation. During cooking, you also need to be checking for signs of set. You do this by using the frozen plate test, watching how the jam sheets off the spatula, and taking the temperature of your cooking jam. More on those techniques here.

pear vanilla jam drizzle

You followed the recipe, it’s been a couple days since the jars came out of the canner, and still, your jam is runny. What kind of pectin did you use? If you used Certo or Sure-Jell liquid pectin, that might be the culprit. They changed their formulation a few years ago and I find that it’s not as effective as the other options on the market.

So. You followed a recipe, you checked for set, you used reliable pectin, the jars have been out of the canner for a few days, and still, the jam is too darned soft. Put a jar in the fridge and check the consistency in 24 hours. Cooler temperatures often help the jam find its way to a firmer consistency. 

finished plum jam

If you’ve gotten to the end of this post and you’re still unhappy with the way your jam turned out, you’ve got a couple of options. The first is to rename the preserve you’ve made. Call it sauce, pancake topping, or preserves. By changing the name, you shift your expectations and suddenly, runny jam doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

Or, if you absolutely, positively need to have a firm set, you can always remake the jam. I’ve got instructions on how to do that here. Just know that you’ll lose some yield in remaking it, and that there are no guarantees that you’ll end up with exactly what you want.

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