Cheese and Jam for the 4th of July

cheese and preserve picnic

One of the things that I firmly believe is that my job here as the writer of this website is not just to offer up canning instructions and recipes, but also to offer up suggestions on how to use and enjoy the things you’ve made. After all, there’s no point in preserving seasonal fruits and vegetables if you never open the jars and empty them out again.

cucumber baguette raspberries

To that end, my dear friend Tenaya (aka Madame Fromage) and I dreamed up a little 4th of July picnic to share on our blogs that features a handful of cheeses paired up with preserves, crackers, and a slab of spicy pecan brittle. The cheeses are all from Trader Joe’s, so they’re quite widely accessible, and the preserves are mere suggestions. Feel free to take inspiration from what you already have on hand.

We know that we’re still a couple weeks out from Independence Day, but we figured posting this series now will give you the time to do a little preserving and make a plan for your own celebratory gathering.

three cheeses

All this week, we’ll be posting tidbits from our little cheese and preserve party. Over on her site, you’ll find the recipes for hearty whole wheat graham crackers and an easy shrub sparkler as well as tips on pairing cheeses with various jams, pickles, and other edible delights.

tenaya shooting the table

I’ll be sharing the recipes for the spiced blueberries and the pecan brittle, as well as pointing you to the cherry recipes that would best accompany this board (we used a jar of my sweet cherry chutney in the shoot and it was heavenly with all three cheeses). Make sure to check back all week long for all the celebratory fun.

Oh, and huge thanks to Margeux Kent and Peg & Awl for lending us all the pretty boards you see in the pictures above. I wanted to tuck one or two into my bag, but managed to keep my sticky fingers to myself.

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Giveaway: New Edition of the Ball Blue Book

Ball Blue Book cover

The Ball Brothers started making canning jars as we know them in Buffalo, NY in 1884. In 1888, production began in Muncie, Indiana (thanks mostly to an abundance of natural gas and a friendly cadre of local businessmen). And in 1909, they published the first edition of their canning guide and recipe pamphlet.

Ball Blue Book intro

Initial printings bore the title The Correct Method of Preserving Fruit. A few years later, it was called The Ball Preserving Book. And in 1915, the first edition was printed that included the name The Ball Blue Book.

Ball Blue Book contents

When I first became aware of the Ball Blue Book, I wondered briefly about how it came to bear that name. Soon after, I read somewhere that originally the cover was blue and so people gave it that nickname for ease. However, the term blue book (think Kelley Blue Book) has also long been a phrase used to describe an authoritative handbook or reference book, so chances are that’s how it acquired the name.

Ball Blue Book pH info

The Ball Blue Book has gone through a multitude of editions and revisions in its 106 year history and 2015 marks the release of the 37th edition. It is 200 pages long, features more than 500 recipes (75 of which are brand spanking new), and is a really great resource for anyone who cans.

I own several editions at this point in my canning career and have often reference them when looking for both hard facts and canning inspiration.

Ball Blue Book Pickles

This new edition has much to offer. The authors have streamlined the recipe language to make it as clear and straightforward as possible. The recipes are organized by style of preserve (whole fruit, jams and jellies, pickles, etc.). They indicate clearly places where you can safely adapt and personalize recipes. And for those of you who itch to get more use out of your pressure canner, pages 97 to 119 will please you mightily.

Ball Blue Book tomatoes

This week, I have three copies of this new edition of the Ball Blue Book to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share a story or memory of the Ball Blue Book. Did your grandmother can from a copy? Did you learn to can from an earlier edition? Was your family loyal to a different canning bible? Or, is this the first you’re hearing of it?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, June 27, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 28, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: The PR team for Jarden Home Brands (parent company of Ball Canning) sent me a review copy of the Ball Blue Book that you see pictured here. They have not compensated me for this post and all opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Live Online Canning Basics on Tuesday!

canning tools

Tomorrow night, I’m teaching my second live online class via Concert Window. This session will dig into the basics of boiling water bath canning. I’ll show you the gear I find essential for safe and easy canning, talk about the things that are nice to have but not necessary, and walk you through prepping, filling, and processing a batch of jars.

One of the cool things about the Concert Window app is that it includes an interative chat stream. As you watch, you can type in questions and comments and I’ll respond to them live.

This class starts at 8 pm eastern time and will last about an hour. It’s a pay what you wish session, so if your budget is tight, you can pay just a dollar to participate. If you feel like you’ve gotten a lot of value from the class, you can leave a tip at any point while the class is still live.

The only downside of using this platform is that there’s no way to offer the workshop for view once it’s over. So unfortunately, if you’re not available at during the class session, there’s no archive for you to watch (but you can check out this post for detail on boiling water bath canning).

Please do let me know if you have any questions in advance of the class. I hope to see a bunch of you there!

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Links: Cherries, Chick Pea Crackers, and Winners

It's sour cherry day! Thanks for growing such great fruit, @3springsfruit!

I’m not sure when it started, but somewhere in the last few years, I started marking the passage of summer by seasonal fruit. And so by the fruit calendar, summer is flying by (despite the fact that it only officially started today). Rhubarb and strawberries are gone and the cherries are present but they last so briefly. I’m just grateful that there’s still so much more wonderful stuff to come. Now, links.

stars on paper straws

Time to announce the winners in last week’s wildly popular Fillmore Container giveaway! They are #51/Marie and #802/Kristine. Thank you all for taking the time to enter!

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Preserves in Action: Honey Mustard Chicken

homemade garlic maple mustard

There is a recipe for a maple and roasted garlic mustard in my next book that I made three times before I got it right. The final result is a great condiment, but all that testing left me with a veritable bounty of mustard to use up. I’ve been plugging away at it, making salad dressings and decanting it into smaller jars to give to friends.

honey mustard for chcken

One of my favorite uses for this mustard is a super simple marinate for chicken. I use a wide mouth half pint jar as both a measurement device and a mixing bowl. I use about a 1/2 cup of the mustard (filling the jar about half full) and then pour in 2-3 tablespoons of honey.

chicken with honey mustard

I stir it the two together until they seem mostly integrated. Sometime before I started making the honey mustard, I pulled an appropriately sized baking dish out and set the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the sauce is ready, it’s just a matter of arranging the chicken in the pan, rubbing the sauce into the chicken, washing your hands, and then applying an even dusting of salt and pepper.

honey mustard chicken

Baked until the skin browns and bubbles and the meat is cooked through, it makes a delicious dinner that reminds me of the food my mom used to cook when I was growing up. I serve it with whatever vegetable I can pull together and call it good. In the summer, it’s particularly good with corn on the cob and sliced cucumbers.

How are you using up your preserves these days?

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CSA Cooking: Strawberry Chutney

strawberry chutney total yield

Last week, I mentioned that I’d combined the quart of strawberries from my latest Philly Foodworks with two additional quarts to make a batch of strawberry chutney. This chutney is much like the sweet cherry version I wrote about last summer and it’s a good one to eat with cheese or in grain bowls.

four pounds strawberries

It starts with about four pounds berries. Once chopped, that adds up to about 12 cups, if you prefer volume measurements to weight (though really, a kitchen scale is one of the most useful tools there is).

strawberry chutney ingredients

The strawberries are combined with chopped red onion, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, golden raisins (though you could use dark ones if that’s what you have), mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and a couple star anise blossoms.

cooked strawberry chutney

Once all the ingredients are in the pot, you bring it up to a boil and then cook it until the fruit softens and the liquid thickens. I like to start on high and then reduce the heat as the chutney cooks down. You know it’s getting close when you get that tell-tale sizzle as you stir.

strawberry chutney close jars

Once the chutney is finished cooking, fish out those star anise pieces (they add good flavor in small measure, but if you leave them in the jars, they will overwhelm all the other ingredients). Once in the jars, the chutney has a lovely, dusky color.

Oh, and remember. If the flavor of vinegar overwhelms your chutney eating experience, open the jar and let it breathe a little before serving. Half an hour or so should be enough to help the most intense fumes dissipate.

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