Cookbooks: Put ‘Em Up, Love Your Leftovers, and Starting from Scratch

cookbook stack

One of the things I haven’t been doing enough of lately is sharing some of the excellent books that regularly land in my mailbox. The stack next to my desk is getting precariously tall and so I’m going make a concerted effort to bring the Friday afternoon cookbook feature.

This week, there are three books that I want to share. One is a book that contains the answer to every canning question you’ve ever had. The next is a paen to the humble leftover. And the third wants to inform young cooks and help them get excited about getting into the kitchen.

Put 'em Up answer book

First up is the final book in Sherri Brooks Vinton’s excellent canning trilogy (the first and second books were Put ‘em Up! and Put ‘em Up! Fruit). Called The Put ‘em Up! Preserving Answer Book: 399 Solutions to All Your Questions, this spiral-bound volume packs a mighty punch when it comes to useful canning knowledge.

While you’ll find a few recipes in this book, it’s not designed to be the book you turn to for inspiration on what to make. Instead, it plays the role of reliable canning teacher, who is always there with a helpful suggestion to make your preserving process better, faster, and more fun. You’ll find everything from tips on how to improve the quality of your seals, to the design for Sherri’s ideal canning porch (I want one!).

I think this book should be a required resource for all new canners, as it dives deep while also managing to be accessible and unintimidating.

Love Your Leftovers

Next up is Nick Evans’ book, Love Your Leftovers. Some of you might remember an earlier version of this book, called Cornerstone Cooking. The core of Nick’s concept is that instead of making meals from scratch every single day, once or twice a week, you make a large amount of something (like a couple roast chickens or a braised pork shoulder) and then use those items as central players in any number of other dishes.

I thought it was a great concept in Cornerstone Cooking and I’m so pleased to see that Nick got a chance to expand on the idea in Love Your Leftovers and make is even prettier and more user friendly. If you’re in the market for some fresh culinary inspiration, check this one out.

Starting from Scratch

The last book on today’s stack is Starting From Scratch. Written by food journalist Sarah Elton, this book wants to teach kids everything they need to become informed home cooks in today’s dizzying culinary landscape.

While the book does include some basic recipes, the emphasis is more on building knowledge about the properties of flavor, how to read a recipe, and even how to pick the right tool for the job. There’s even a short section devoted to various food preservation methods, which delighted me.

This is the kind of book that I would have devoured when I was seven or eight years old and I plan on buying copies for all my friends who have kids in that age group.

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Upcoming Events: Hatboro! Wyebrook Farm! Havertown! Jenkintown!

First sighting of the new book in the wild! It is a rare and unique joy.

I’ve got a full weekend of events in store today, tomorrow, and Sunday (and Monday, too)! Here’s where I’ll be!

Friday, June 6
I’ll be at the Hatboro Farmers Market tonight from 6-8 pm, demoing the Honey-sweetened Strawberry Jam from Preserving by the Pint. The demo will be set up on the front porch of the Hatboro Baptist Church, which is at 32 N. York Road, Hatboro, PA.

I’ll have samples of the jam to share when it’s finished cooking, and will have copies of both books available for sale and signature. And, as always, if you already have copies, bring them along. I’m happy to sign those as well.

Saturday, June 7
I’m starting the day at the Philly Mag’s BeWell Boot Camp over at Drexel University’s recreation center. I’ll be on stage at 10 am, making the fastest batch of strawberry jam you’ve ever seen.

Later that same day, you’ll find me out at Wyebrook Farm. I’ll be doing two Honey-sweetened Strawberry Jam demos, one at 2 pm and another at 3 pm, and will also have copies of both books for sale and signing. That address is 15O Wyebrook Road, Honey Brook, PA.

Sunday, June 8
I’m teaching a Strawberry Vanilla Jam class at the Havertown Free Library from 2-4 pm. There are just a couple spots left in the class. If you want in, call (610) 446-3082 ext. 216 to register. There is a $5 fee for this class.

Monday, June 9
This is my last Philly-area event in June! I’ll be at the Jenkintown Whole Foods Market, teaching a demo-style jam making class. The class runs from 6:30 – 8:30 pm and is free! Call the customer service desk at 215-481-0800 to sign up!

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Strawberry Maple Butter

strawberry puree

For weeks now, I’ve been meaning to write up my recipe for the strawberry maple butter (hinted at here) I made recently (I liked it so much, I made it twice in rapid succession). And so, I finally sat down to do so tonight, only to realize that I didn’t take any pretty finished pictures of it.

However, instead of being defeated by my lack of artful images (I’ll add one tomorrow), I decided to dig in and write the post anyway, since strawberry season is starting to wane around these parts (and is already entirely over for some of you).

cooking strawberry butter

This one is much like the other fruit butters I’ve made in the past (and is nearly identical to the blueberry butter from four years ago). You start by pureeing enough fruit to fill your slow cooker up at least 3/4 of the way. For my four quart cooker, I found that four pounds of berries did the job nicely. Then, turn the cooker on low and let it run.

If you’re going to be in and out of your kitchen, you can leave the lid off and give it a good stir every half hour or so. The reason for the stir is that if you leave the lid off and don’t stir regularly, a skin forms on the surface of the butter that makes it impossible for the steam to escape.

If you’re not going to be around, set a chopstick across the rim of the slow cooker and then put the lid on. This allows the slow cooker to vent a little, but also ends up trapping just enough moisture to prevent the growth of the skin.

maple strawberry butter

I tend to let this butter cook anywhere from 16 to 24 hours. So much depends on the volume of fruit you start with, the amount of water it contains, and how much heat your slow cooker produces when set to low (I prefer older slow cookers for this task because they cook at lower temperatures). I have been known to cook my fruit butters overnight, but I don’t recommend doing that until you understand how your particular slow cooker works with butters.

So, once your strawberries have cooked down to a dense product that doesn’t have any visible liquid on the surface, it is done. I like to hit it with an immersion blender at the end of cooking, to ensure that it’s perfectly smooth.

Once you like the texture, you add maple syrup to taste. My batches each produced about three half pints, which I sweetened with 1/3 cup of maple syrup. I also included two tablespoons of lemon juice to help keep the color, brighten the flavor, and increase the acid load just a little (strawberries are typically quite high in acid, but maple syrup is low in acid, so a little extra lemon juice makes sure that all is well, safety-wise).

You can process this butter in half pint jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. It’s a good one. If you can still get beautiful strawberries, I highly recommend it!

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Today! Canning Clinic and Book Signing at Blooming Glen Farm

six cases of jars

I am trying something new today. I’m doing a drop-in canning clinic and book signing out at Blooming Glen Farm. I’ll be there from 1-8 pm (during their CSA pick-up window) to answer canning questions, offer recipe suggestions, and sell/sign cookbooks (I’ll have copies of both Preserving by the Pint and Food in Jars).

If you’re in the Bucks County area and have a window of free time today, please do stop by! The address is 98 Moyer Rd., Perkasie, PA 18944. See you there!

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Pacific Merchants 10L Pickle Crock + Giveaway

pickling crock square

I made my first batch of sauerkraut in the fall of 2008 (in fact, that single jar of kraut was the first thing I ever wrote about here on Food in Jars). Since then, I’ve done a goodly amount of fermentation, from kosher dill pickles to kombucha to kimchi.

In all the years that I’ve been letting various fruits and vegetables gently bubble away in my kitchen, my vessel of choice has been a wide mouth jar (either a quart or a half gallon, depending on the volume I’m making). And while these jars have served me admirably, there was part of me that always wanted to try out a dedicated pickling crock.

crock overhead

So, when a rep from Pacific Merchants got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their 10L fermentation crock, I said yes.

It is a lovely crock, with thick walls, stone weights, and a gutter that you fill with water for an airtight seal. This crock, along will all the other stoneware vessels that Pacific Merchants sells, was made in Boleslawiec, Poland.

pickling crock open

You can use crocks like this one for all manner of ferments and I’m planning to christen it with a batch of sauerkraut. I’d intended to start a batch in it before this post, but I head out of town next week for nearly three weeks on the road and Scott asked that I not make him responsible for a large-scale ferment. I thought it was a fair request and so will start a batch (with step-by-step pictures for you all) when I get back in July.

pickle weights

Now, for the giveaway. The nice folks at Pacific Merchants are offering one lucky Food in Jars winner a $100 gift card for their website. What’s more, they’re also offering a discount code for their website. It’s good now through June 16. Just type in “foodinjars15″ at check out for 15% off your order.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your fermentation habits. Do you make your own lacto-fermented pickles? Do you have a jar of kimchi in the kitchen right now? Or is your only contact with a fermented vegetable is the tray of warm sauerkraut designed to top hot dogs at the ball park?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 8, 2014
  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: Pacific Merchants sent me the 10L fermentation crock, along with a pair of 1L Kilner jars, for photography and review purposes. They are also providing the giveaway unit. They have not compensated me beyond that to write this post and all opinions remain my own. 

Tonight! Preserves Dinner at High Street

high street PbtP image

Just a reminder that the first preserves dinner at High Street is tonight! I just got the menu and it reads like a perfect celebration of spring. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, there are still a few seats left and I would love to see some Food in Jars readers there!

This special menu (which you can find below the jump) will be served tonight starting at 9 pm at High Street (308 Market Street). You can make a reservation by calling (215) 625-0988. 

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