Giveaway: Kefirko and Rocky Mountain Water Kefir Grains from Masontops

Looking to get started making your own fizzy, probiotic beverages at home? Try starting with water kefir, using the Kefirko and grains from Rocky Mountain Kefir. They make it super easy!

rocky-mountain-kefir-grains

I was first introduced to water kefir three or four years ago, at one of our Philly Food Swaps. One of my fellow swappers included several sets of grains in their collection of swappable goods. She told me they were easy to use and produced a fizzy, pro-biotic beverage that she liked better than kombucha. At the end of the night, one of those jars of water kefir grains went home with me.

top-of-kefirko

I’d like to tell you that I still have grains from that food swap, but sadly, that would be false. I did end up making my own water kefir for a period of months after that initial introduction and liked it very much. Sadly, they ended up getting shoved to the back of the fridge and then thrown out during a no-holds-barred cleaning spree.

side-of-kefirko

Happily, thanks to my friends at Masontops, I’m back making my own water kefir and am delighted with it once again. Several weeks ago, they sent me a set of their Rocky Mountain Water Kefir grains. Using my trusty Kefirko (Masontops sells this useful devise, though I bought mine during the Kefirko Kickstarter nearly two years ago), it is incredibly easy to hydrate dried water kefir grains and then keep them happy and productive.

supplies-for-starting-water-kefir-in-kefirko

In order to start making water kefir, you need a set of grains, four cups of filtered water, 1/4 cup of sugar, and a vessel like a Kefirko in which to combine them all (if you don’t have a Kefirko, a quart-sized mason jar will also work).

dry-rocky-mountain-kefir-grains

First, you dissolve the sugar into the water. You can do this by heating it and then bringing it back down to room temperature. Or a couple hours before you want to start your kefir, add the sugar to the water and stir it vigorously. Come back and give it a good stir every half hour or so. The sugar will eventually dissolve into the water.

soaking-rocky-mountain-kefir-grains

Put the dried water kefir grains into the bottom of your vessel and add the sugar water. If you’re using a Kefirko, screw the lid down loosely, so that there’s still a bit of air flow. If you’re using a mason jar, put a small kitchen towel, paper towel, or coffee filter on top of the jar and use a rubber band to keep it in place.

Let the grains spend three or four days rehydrating before you try to use them.

rocky-mountain-kefir-grains-in-kefirko

Once the grains are nice and plump, they are ready to use. Drain off the initial liquid (this is super easy using a Kefirko. If you don’t have one, make sure to use a nylon mesh strainer rather than a metal one, as the grains aren’t fans of metal). Then mix up another batch of sugar water and add it to the grains.

draining-rocky-mountain-kefir-grains

I typically let my batches of water kefir ferment for two days (though I let it go for a little less during really hot weather) before straining the grains and starting another batch. Sometimes I drink it plain and chilled for a light, fizzy pro-biotic drink (and despite what you might think, it’s not super sweet. The sugar serves as a food source for the grains that is transformed into the bright, tangy element in the water).

Other times, I do a second ferment, in which I combine the water kefir with chopped fruit, or even a bit of plain fruit juice. Either way, it’s refreshing and good for the gut!

plump-drained-grains

This week, thanks to my friends at Masontops, I’m giving away a Kefirko Home Kefir Making Kit along with a set of Rocky Mountain Kefir Water Kefir Grains. Use the widget below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Upcoming California Events: Pacific Grove! Healdsburg! San Francisco! Oakland!

naturally-sweet-chalkboard

Hello canners! On Wednesday, I’m hitting the road for the final big push of my Naturally Sweet Food in Jars book tour! This last flurry of events is taking place in California. If you live in or around one of the towns or cities I’ll be visiting, please mark your calendars and tell your friends!

Thursday, September 15 (Pacific Grove)
I’m kicking this trip off with a demonstration-style canning class at Happy Girl Kitchen (173 Central Avenue). I’ll show you how to make my strawberry cocoa jam, which is sweetened with coconut sugar and is set with Pomona’s Pectin and will talk about using natural sweeteners in canning. The event is from 6:30-8:30 pm and costs $35 (that free includes a copy of my new book). Sign up here.

Saturday, September 17 (Healdsburg)
Next, you’ll find me up north in Somona County, offering a hands-on canning workshop at the Shed Grange in Healdsburg (25 North Street). This workshop is from 1-3 pm and costs $60. Students will go home with a jar of preserves and a coupon for 10% off of SHED purchases. Register here.

Sunday, September 18 (San Francisco)
I’ll be at the Fort Mason Farmers Market (2 Marina Boulevard) from 10 am to 1 pm. The plan is that I will do a jam making demonstration every hour, on the hour, starting at 10 am. I’ll also samples of jam on hand for tasting, as well as books for sale and signature. Free!

Monday, September 19 (Fremont)
You’ll find me at The Nursery at Dale Hardware (3700 Thornton Avenue) at 6:30 pm. I’ll make a batch of jam and will offer plenty of time for questions (so come prepared with your quandries). Sign up by calling 510-797-3700. Free!

Tuesday, September 20 (San Francisco)
I’ll be at the San Francisco Public Library (100 Larkin Street), in the Latino/Hispanic Rooms A&B from 6-7:30 pm. I’ll demonstrate how to make a small batch of naturally sweetened jam and will have books on hand for sale and signature.

Wednesday, September 21 (Oakland)
The last stop on my California tour is a demo-style class and book signing at Pollinate Farm & Garden (2727 Fruitvale Avenue) from 6:30-8:30 pm. $17.50. Sign up here.

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Links: Fridge Pickles, Muscadine Jam, and a Winner

measuring-cup-of-tomato-jam

It’s been something of a rough week over here at Food in Jars HQ (plus, there’s the general heaviness of today’s date). I got home from Nashville on Wednesday afternoon, just barely recovered from food poisoning and promptly came down with a cold. I think my non-stop summer is starting to catch up with me. I’ve got just one last trip to get through (California! I’m headed your way later this week!), and then things will quiet down a bit. As much as I love the teaching, demonstrations, and book signings, I’m ready for a break!

labeled jars of tomato soup concentrate

The winner of the Fillmore Container giveaway is Jessica A. Stay tuned, another giveaway coming up tomorrow!

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Links: Peach Butter, Pickled Okra, and Winners

five jars of tomato jam

I think I’m finally coming to accept that I can’t do everything all the time. I’ve been away from home for the last week and a half, and while I had grand plans to post in this space every day, I just couldn’t make it happen. There have been canning demos, time with my sister and her family, more travel, more demos, and then a wicked 24 hour bout of food poisoning keeping me away.

I’m currently in Atlanta, recuperating under the watchful eye of Lyn from Preserving Now. Tomorrow, I’m headed to Nashville for a class at the Green Door Gourmet (I will be completely recovered by then).

running HarvestPro

I never officially announced the winner of the freshTECH HarvestPro Sauce Maker from a couple weeks back. That person is Allison W. I will be in touch soon! And don’t forget, the Fillmore Container giveaway is still going on. You can enter here!

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September Sponsors: Cuppow, Fillmore Container, EcoJarz, iLids, MightyNest, and more!

green ecojarz

It’s the beginning of September, which means it’s time to thank the companies that help make Food in Jars possible! Tell them you appreciate their support of my work with a purchase or a social follow!

In the top spot are our friends at Cuppow. They are the creator of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box. Parents and kids love their EIO set, with its grippy silicone sleeve and a lid that makes for easy sipping.

Lancaster, PA-based and family-owned Fillmore Container are next! They sell all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. I’m currently running a giveaway of their 26 ounce square sided jars and a $50 credit to spend on the site, so make sure to enter!

After some time away, our friends over at EcoJarz are back as a sponsor. They make an array of products designed to fit on top of mason jars, and they just released their PopTop lids in a regular mouth size. They also make stainless steel rings for both regular and wide mouth jars, and if you buy 10 or more, they’ll discount the price by 40%.

iLids is a Seattle-based small business that makes both storage and drink lids in both regular and wide mouth sizes for mason jars. Their storage lids are water tight and the drink lids can accommodate a straw. Best of all, their lids come in a whole bunch of different colors, so there’s something for everyone!

MightyNest is an amazing resource for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families. I’m a big fan of the MightyFix, their monthly product subscription program. For $10 a month, you’ll get a item for your home that will help you keep it greener and more sustainable!

Our friends at Mrs. Wages are on the roster again this month. They make pectin, vinegar, and more canning mixes than I can count. Their website is an incredible preserving resource and I can’t say enough good things about their salsa mix. If you need a little help getting your produce into jars, remember to seek out their products!

Orchard Road makes mason jars, lids, and rings for home canners. Their jars are sold in packs of six and come in sturdy boxes that can be used for storage. Orchard Road’s physical distribution is limited, but their online store is open for business, so you can now order them straight from the source.

Mason Jar Lifestyle is a one-stop shopping site for all the jar lovers out there. They sell all manner of mason jar accessories and adaptors. If you’re in the market for lids, straws, and cozies to transform your mason jars into travel mugs, make sure to check them out!

If your company or small business is interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more details here. I offer discounts for multiple month purchases and am always happy to work with your budget. Leave a comment on this post or drop me a note to learn more!

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Tomato Soup Concentrate for Canning

Having a stash of homemade tomato soup concentrate in your pantry is like doing a favor for your future self. Portioning it out in 26 ounce jars from Fillmore Container makes it look extra snazzy!

labeled jars of tomato soup concentrate

My tomato preservation approach is one that is forever evolving. I make a point of trying at least one new-to-me tomato recipe to each season, always hoping that I’ll discover something particularly delicious and worthy of my time, resources, and shelf space.

tomatoes in a bowl for tomato soup concentrate

This year, there were two experimental recipes. The first was this barbecue sauce (which is quite delicious, but probably won’t be something I make every single year). The second is the tomato soup concentrate that I’m sharing today. I’m already hoping that when I get home from the trip I’m currently on (I’ve been away for a week, which accounts for the blog silence), I’ll be able to get enough tomatoes to make another batch.

washing tomatoes soup concentrate

Recipes for tomato soup concentrates that are safe for the boiling water bath canner aren’t always easy to find. I did a lot of reading and worked out more math problems than is typically required for a basic canning recipe in order to bring this to you today. I built my recipe upon the framework laid out in the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s water bath safe Tomato and Vegetable Juice recipe.

chopped tomatoes for tomato soup concentrate

The thing in that recipe that made everyone here possible is the fact that it specifies that, “Not more than 3 cups of other vegetables may be added for each 22 pounds of tomatoes.” Taking my cue from there, I used 15 pounds of tomatoes, and a scant two cups of diced onions. I felt comfortable doing that, because I was keeping to their approach while reducing the batch size by one-third.

milling cooked tomatoes for tomato soup concentrate

From there, it was a matter of chopping the tomatoes and cooking them down with the onion. Once they were soft, I pushed them through a food mill fitted with its finest screen. At that point, I had approximately 24 cups of flavorful tomato juice.

I added Italian seasoning and granulated garlic, and cooked it down until I had a thick, tasty 16 cups. Once I was finished cooking, I added salt to taste (it’s always best to wait until you’ve finished cooking something down before salting it. Otherwise, you can end up with something inedible).

cooked tomato soup concentrate

Then I portioned 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid into five square sided 26 ounce jars from Fillmore Container and filled them up with my soup concentrate. I added five minutes to the processing time required by the NCHFP for the tomato and vegetable juice, to compensate for the increased thickness.

I love canning tomato products in these square sided jars because they give it a more professional look, and I find that the squared off sides make them easier to grab when I’m moving quickly. The 26 ounce size is also great from a portioning perspective. Reheated with a bit of milk, there’s just the right amount for two people to enjoy bigs bowls with a side of cheesy toast or garlic bread.

Oh, and if you find yourself liking the looks of the square shape, know that they’re also available in 8 ounce and 16 ounce sizes.

five jars of tomato soup concentrate

This week, the good folks at Fillmore Container have offered up a case of 12 square sided 26 ounce jars and a $50 credit that’s good in their online store for a giveaway. To enter, use the widget below. The recipe for the tomato soup concentrate is after the jump. Enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Fillmore Container is a Food in Jars sponsor. Their sponsorship helps keep the site afloat. They provided the jars you see here and are providing the giveaway prize, both at no cost to me. All opinions expressed are entirely mine. 

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