Be a Recipe Tester for my Natural Sweeteners Book

plum jam

Friends, I am delightfully honored and just slightly overwhelmed by your excitement and interest in being recipe testers for my new book. Over 300 of you have signed up since I published this post earlier today. Thanks to this abundance in volunteers, I am closing the tester sign-ups.

If you missed your chance, please know that I will be sharing a few new, naturally sweetened recipes here on the blog this summer, so you’ll get a chance to preview some of the types of recipes you’ll see in the book. 

One of the things I came to understand while I was writing the recipes for my next book is that they were going to need more external testing than I undertook with my first two books.

Because there’s been so little work in the area of naturally sweetened preserves, I didn’t have nearly as deep a well of knowledge on which to draw when developing these recipes. Additionally, just because something works in my kitchen doesn’t always guarantee that it’s going to work in yours.

So I’m asking for your help. There’s a form at the bottom of this post where you can sign up to be a recipe tester. Tell me what sweeteners you’re interested in working with, how many recipes you’d like to test, and if there are any fruits you avoid. In about a week, I’ll send you some recipes to try.

Recipe testing is a volunteer gig for which you purchase the supplies (but also get to keep the results). When I send you the recipes, I’ll also include a short questionnaire that you’ll complete for each recipe you try. Of course, I will thank all the recipe testers profusely in the acknowledgements of the book!

I have no idea what kind of response I’ll receive to this request, but I will do my very best to include as many people as possible. All recipe testing will need to be completed by August 15, 2015, so please do take that into account before signing up!

Thanks to you all!

Cold Brew Coffee + Driftaway Coffee Giveaway

four varieties Drift Away

I started drinking coffee when I was 14 years old. It was the early 1990s and Portland, Oregon was ground zero for the onslaught of espresso bars that was soon to sweep the nation. Boyd’s, one of the early local chains, had a location just a block from my high school and whenever my budget allowed, I’d get myself a latte (often with hazelnut syrup) or when the weather warmed, an iced coffee.

Drift Away tag detail

I’ve been a fairly regular coffee drinker ever since. And so, when the nice people at Driftaway Coffee got in touch a few months back to see if we could team up in some way, I said of course. They are a subscription coffee company that will send you installments of freshly roasted beans every two weeks.

They trick is that they like each new subscriber to start with their Rise & Grind kit, which includes four different varietals in one-ounce samples. Once you’ve brewed through each one, you let them know which one you liked best and that’s the one you’ll get in each shipment. It’s a pretty great idea, particularly for people who are just starting to explore single origin coffees.

filling grinder

They sent me one of the two-ounce Rise & Grind kits and once I was finished admiring the packaging (I’m a sucker for good design), I popped open one of the 2 ounce packets and got to work making a batch of cold brew.

I’ve been a cold brew coffee fan for years now (you can see that the first time I mentioned it was way back in 2010) and make it a lot when the days warm. I’ve refined my approach and upgraded my equipment slightly in the last five years, so an updated post on the topic seemed like a good idea.

ground coffee

I’ve found that everyone has their own ratio for cold brew. My preferred recipe is 2 ounces of coarse ground coffee to 3 1/2 cups cold, freshly filtered water. This makes a strong brew that produces enough to last 2-3 days (depending on how many deadlines I’m pushing to meet). I don’t typically add water to thin it out, but instead add a couple of ice cubes and a generous pour of milk and call it good.

pouring water

I grind the beans and funnel them into a quart jar. I add a splash of cold water and swirl the jar a little to dampen the grounds and let them bloom a little. Once they’ve grown a little, I add the remaining water and put a lid on the jar. I tuck into the corner of the kitchen and let it sit for 12 to 18 hours.

top of brewing coffee

The next day, I perch a cone filter over a clean quart jar and fit it with one of Coffee Sock cloth filters that Cuppow sells. I pour the sludgy coffee through the filter in a couple of batches, until the lower jar is filled with perfect, ready to drink coffee.

jar of brewing coffee

One of my favorite things about cold brew is that it has the ability to take mediocre or slightly elderly beans and make them drinkable. However, when you’re shooting for more than just simply drinkable, using good, freshly roasted beans creates a brew that is transcendently good.

For the batch of cold brew that is pictured here, I used Driftaway Coffee’s Guatemalan beans and it was magical. Earthy and a bit chocolatey, with just a bit of acid for lightness. Oh, and if making your own cold brew feels like too much work, I hear that Driftaway Coffee is soon going to be making their own concentrate.

Drift Away Coffee

The nice folks at Driftaway Coffee want to give a three-month subscriptions away to one of my readers so that’s what we’re going to do. Here’s how to enter!

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me what you’re drinking these days. Cold brew coffee? Homemade kombucha? Hot tea with honey?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, June 6, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog soon thereafter.
  3. Giveaway open to US residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Driftaway Coffee sent me their Rise & Grind kit and are providing the giveaway subscription, both at no cost to me. No additional financial compensation has been provided and all opinions expressed are mine alone.

June Sponsors: Cuppow, iLids, Fillmore Container, MightyNest, Mrs. Wages, Fermentools, and Preserving Now

pickled carrots fermentools

Happy first of June! The change in calendar means it is time to thank those companies who help support Food in Jars. It would not be sustainable for me to write here so often without their support! If you like something they do, please do follow a link or two and show them that you care.

Cuppow is 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. They also recently expanded their product line to include branded jar coozie (which I’ve been using non-stop) and they’ve teamed up with the EIO Kids Cup folks to bring the manufacturing of that kids drinking system onto US soil.

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. Add some to your kitchen today!

Fillmore Container is a family-owned business based in Lancaster, PA and sells all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. Check out the recipe for low-sugar strawberry rhubarb jam they recently posted on their blog.

MightyNest is an amazing resource for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families. If you’re looking to stay hydrated this summer, make sure to check out all their selection of reusable water bottles.

Mrs. Wages makes 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. Make sure to sign up for their newsletter for monthly installments of canning goodness.

Fermentools offers a brilliant fermentation starter kit that involves a heavy-duty glass pickling weight, an airlock, a lid with a reusable rubber seal, and mineral-rich salt. I’m using one as I type for a batch of pickled carrots. Get one (or several!) before the summer growing season gets going!

Preserving Now is a small business based in Atlanta, Georgia run by Lyn Deardorff. This summer, in addition to teaching her regular Canning Immersion Classes, Lyn has added a Summer Preserving Series at Serenbe in Atlanta and Nashville. Each class in the series features both a seasonal fruit preserve and a pickle or relish.

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.

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Links: Strawberries, Rhubarb, and Winners

Half of yesterday strawberries have become a big batch of low sugar strawberry vanilla jam. #foodinjars #strawberries #localproduce

This last weekend was a good one. On Saturday morning, I wandered my favorite farmers market and turned a flat of berries into batches of strawberry vanilla jam and strawberry butter. Annelies stayed with us on Saturday night and we went out for a unhurried brunch this morning. A few hours after she left, I picked my dear friend Andrea up at the train station. We met the very first day of college and have been close ever since. She lives in Southern California, so we don’t get to see each other often, but whenever we do, it’s as if no time has passed. Now, links!

The winners in last week’s Candy in a Jar giveaway are #33/Alicia, #86/Madeleine, and #104/Sandy. Thanks to all who shared their favorite sweet preserves!

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Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote + OXO GreenSaver

shipped rhubarb

A couple months ago, I started hearing some positive buzz about the new OXO GreenSaver containers. I like to keep a variety of greens on hand for smoothies and salads but it’s always something of a race against time to eat them before they get turn slimy. More often than I care to admit, I’ve pitched the last quarter of a bag because it’s gotten too funky to be good.

rhubarb in the greensaver

In an attempt to waste less, I bought myself the medium GreenSaver and started packing it full of greens as soon as I got them home from the grocery store. After the first week, I was a believer (hallelujah!). Those greens stayed good days longer than they would have if stored in bags in the crisper drawer. Week after week, I used up every last spinach leaf and arugula tendril.

The way the GreenSaver works is that the filter pack absorbs the ethylene gas that ripening produce releases, while improving airflow around the produce, and helping control the humidity in the container (the door the holds the filter pack in place slides back and forth to help either retain or release the moisture).

rhubard after 1 week

So, when I got an email from OXO, saying they were looking for bloggers to participate in a campaign they were running with Melissa’s Produce featuring the GreenSaver containers and an assortment of seasonal produce, I submitted my name for consideration (since I was among the converted).

I danced a small jig when I heard I was picked and waited anxiously for a large GreenSaver and a bundle of rhubarb to arrive.

rhubarb strawberries sugar

Now, this is not the first time in my life that I’ve received produce in the mail as part of some blog campaign. Typically I clear my schedule when I know fruit is arriving, because I know it’s going to need to be used within a fairly short window of time.

In this case, the point was to store the rhubarb for a bit in order to prove the efficacy of the GreenSaver so when it arrived on May 15, I simply trimmed the stalks down enough so that they’d fit in the container and popped them in the fridge.

roasted rhubarb and strawberries

There they sat until the following Thursday. I could have let them go longer, but we were headed out for the long weekend and I wanted to couple those rhubarb stalks with some strawberries and they weren’t going to last until we got back.

After a week in the GreenSaver, the rhubarb was in amazingly good shape. It had aged some, but had it been stored in a plastic bag it would have been unusable (just a few weeks back, I’d neglected some rhubarb in the crisper and it molded and liquified after a five days. It was tragic).

roasted rhubarb and strawberries side of jar

I trimmed the rhubarb into lengths of about 2 inches long and quartered the strawberries. I tossed the fruit with a scant half-cup of cane sugar and rubbed the seeds from a split vanilla bean into the mess.

The pan went into a 350 degree oven and the fruit roasted for 20 to 25 minutes. I like the rhubarb to have retain some structural integrity and so pull it out when it has softened but before it fully disintegrates.

roasted rhubarb in a jar

I like to eat this rustic compote with plain yogurt and a sprinkle of simple granola (Cheryl’s nutmeg crunch would be good too). It’s also good as a topper for oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, and french toast. Hey, I wouldn’t judge if you ate it straight out of the pan (I may have done a bit of that myself).

For more information about OXO GreenSavers, visit their website. If you long for rhubarb and live in a place where it’s hard to come by, Melissa’s Produce has got you covered.

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Steeped Book Events in Philly

Look what arrived late last night! @mizmaggieb & @anneliesz

I’m not sure when I first met Annelies Zijderveld. Our paths have crossed at more food blogger gatherings than I can count and I am always happy when I spot her face in the crowd at registration or those oft-uncomfortable opening receptions.

Annelies recently published her very first book, called Steep: Recipes Infused with Tea, and is currently zigzagging across the country promoting its release. She’s going to be in Philadelphia tomorrow doing an event in the City Kitchen at Reading Terminal Market, demoing her recipe for Walnut White Bean Tea Toasts. It starts at 12 noon, runs until 1:30 pm and is free. The Cookbook Stall will be there as well, selling books.

On Saturday, Annelies will be at the Locust Moon Gallery (34 South 40th Street) from 1-4 pm, in conjunction with Alexandria Quarterly’s magazine launch. She plans on sampling the Buddha’s Hand Rooibos Marmalade there.

If you’re not in Philly and want to know if Annelies is coming to your town, follow her on Twitter or Instagram. She’s also sending out regular newsletters detailing her travels that you can subscribe to here. Her blog, The Food Poet, is a very good read as well.

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