A Trip to Fishers, IN with Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products to Fishers, IN, where I spent an action-packed day and a half with three other bloggers to peek behind the scenes and participate in Can-It Forward Day festivities.

I flew in to Indianapolis and met up with Linda and Kathryne, of Garden Betty and Cookie and Kate, respectively (Heather from Whipperberry arrived a little after we did). Our first stop was Minnetrista in Muncie.

Minnetrista is the original Ball family homesite and now houses an extensive collection of artifacts and archival material from the Ball family as well as East Central Indiana. If you’re a jar lover, it’s most certainly worth a visit, but if you can’t swing a trip, start by browsing their collection database online (try the random image search. It’s fascinating).

Their collection includes vast number of unique jars, tea sets, old jar molds, and even a small collection of Bob Ross painting (happy little trees!) I particularly loved the story of the jar pictured above. They were made specially for the Southern Methodist Orphan Home during the Great Depression.

The Home distributed them to residents of Waco, TX and asked that each household fill one or two jars while they were putting up their harvest. This way, the orphans had plenty to eat, even during the leanest of years.

After our tour of Minnetrista, we had dinner at Thr3e Wise Men in Muncie. We had a ton of food, including some seriously delicious fried pickle chips.

After dinner, I snuck away for a couple hours to see an old friend who moved to Muncie a several years ago. I met his kids, held their youngest (just a week old!), and caught up on their life.

The next day started bright and early, with breakfast with the Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products team. After we were fed and had coffee, it was time to take a tour of the packaging plant. I kind of loved the toe protectors we were given to wear (they looked oddly good with my red clogs). Not pictured were the neon vests, hard hats, safety glasses, and earplugs we were also assigned.

Ball® jars are made primarily in a factory north of Muncie, and then they’re transported (stacked and strapped to pallets, like you see pictured above) to the facility in Fishers. This is where they’re checked over, given lids and rings, grouped into boxes, and wrapped in plastic.

The machine they use to put the lids and rings on the jars was fascinating (it was kind of steam punky), but sadly it is proprietary equipment and so I couldn’t take any photos or video of it work its magic.

They process Ball®, Kerr, Golden Harvest, and Bernardin (Canada!) jars in that facility. This is also where they package jars up into smaller lots for various retailers. When you see a fancy jar end-cap display at your grocery store, it probably started life in Fishers.

Looking out at row after row of jars, I couldn’t help but imagine a game show for canners in the style of Supermarket Sweep. Winner gets to run around and grab all the jars they can in just 60 seconds (sadly, it’ll never happen. But it’s fun to dream!).

Once our tour was over, we had a short canning class with Jess Piper. She’s a member of the customer support team at Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products and if you reach out to them with a question or issue, she may well be the one to help you resolve your query. Jess also does the bulk of the on-camera presentations for Ball, is a certified canning expert, and is a delightful human.

You might think I’d feel silly taking a canning class, but I always find it useful to hear how other people present canning information. One tidbit I picked up is the fact that mason jars are designed to withstand a 90 degree F temperature change, but more than that and you risk thermal shock. I hadn’t know the exact temperature range before. Never stop learning!

After our class, we had lunch and then got down to the business of filming the Can-It Forward video segments. My segment was going to be the last to air and so we were the last to film. We demonstrated Habanero-Apricot Jelly (made with dried apricots and perfect for off-season canning!) and Sriracha Ketchup and then used them in a recipe (you’ll have to watch the segment to see what we made!).

The time flew by and before I knew it, we were done. Everyone piled into the bus and we headed to dinner. There had been talk of going to the Indiana State Fair afterwards, but it had been a full day and we were all ready to tumble into our respective beds after dessert came.

The Preserving Summer Canning Series we filmed aired throughout August. You can watch Kathryne, LindaHeather, and me over on the Ball® Fresh Preserving Products Facebook page. Make sure to let me know what you think!

Disclosure: I am a paid partner for Newell Brand, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

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Red Currants, Dry Canning, and Family Traditions

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is back with another post from her canning trenches. This time, she’s sharing her experience trying dry canning (aka open kettle canning) with her Canadian relatives. -Marisa

As I’m sure is the case with many of you readers, I first learned to can thanks to recipes and tips here on Food In Jars.

Marisa’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and clear, well-researched recipes and instructions have always made it easy to understand the principles of safe and delicious canning. Ever since then, I’ve felt confident in putting up seasonal produce and even developing or tweaking recipes of my own, knowing that they were based on safe, tested, well-researched information. And I’d never known anyone who practiced home preserving any other way.

That is, until I paid a visit to family in Quebec earlier this month.

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Cookbooks: Artisanal Preserves

In the last ten years or so, we (the cookbook consuming population) have become accustomed to cookbooks that burst with juicy images. However, there’s much to be said for quieter books that put the focus on the words and recipes rather than the art.

One such book that landed on my desk recently is Madelaine Bullwinkel‘s Artisanal Preserves. It’s a revised reissue of her Gourmet Preserves that was first published in 1987 and is unassumingly charming.

The book features traditional jams, jams without added sugar, jellies, marmalades, preserves, breads and muffins, and desserts. As you can see from that list, it’s a volume that focuses on the sweet side of preserving rather than trying to cover the entire spectrum.

There’s much in this book that intrigues me. Ones that are particularly triggering my interest are Tomato and Prune Jam (page 50), Rosemary Red Onion Jelly (page 103), Lime Zucchini Marmalade (126), Pear and Grape Preserves (page 158), and Marmalade Muffins (page 172).

If you like vintage cookbooks that burst with voice and personality, then the reissue of this canning classic is very much for you. If you can’t abide books without pictures, you should probably give this one a pass.

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Submit your August #fijchallenge Projects!

August is nearly over! Yet another month that has gone whooshing by with dizzying speed! I hope everyone has enjoyed their summer and managed to sneak in at least a little food preservation.

I posted the link to the submission form for this month’s Mastery Challenge in the monthly introductory post, but wanted to share it again here in case there were some of you who didn’t see it.

If you want to be counted in the August tally and included in the round-up, please use this form to submit your project by Wednesday, August 30 (that’s tomorrow!). The form is below!

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Wild Blueberry Jam with Berries from Maine

A few weeks ago, I did a slightly crazy thing. On Friday morning, I packed up my car, did some quick grocery shopping, and spent eight hours driving to Maine to teach a class at Frinklepod Farm. I got there around 10:30 pm, tumbled into a cozy bed tucked into stone room in a majestic barn, and woke up to a gorgeous morning, ready to teach.

I spent seven hours setting up, teaching (such a delightful group of students!), and cleaning up (thankfully, I had plenty of help from Flora and MaryJo) and then hopped back in the car and drove myself home. All told, I was only there for about 16 hours. I wish I’d managed to spend a little more time in Maine, but the craziness of late summer didn’t allow for me to spend any more time away from home.

Despite the shortness of my visit, I did manage to bring a little bit of Maine back home with me. Three perfect pints of intensely flavorful wild Maine blueberries.

Now, we get plenty of cultivated blueberries here in Philly, but these tiny wild berries are a different beast. Sturdy, tart, and intensely flavorful, they make gorgeous jam. They are also a little fiddly to separate from their stems (which is why, if you look closely, you’ll see a few stems. I lost my patience with trying to remove them all).

I used a ratio of three parts fruit to one part sugar for this batch (calculating by weight). This means, if you have access to wild blueberries and don’t have the exact amount that I used, you can still proceed with what you’ve got.

I might need to drive to Maine again next summer, so that I can make more of this tasty jam. (The jar labels pictured above are from site sponsor CanningCrafts and the jars are from site sponsor Fillmore Container).

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The Dinnertime Hand-off with Blue Apron

Today’s post is sponsored by Blue Apron.

Over the last year, I’ve had several opportunities to write about my experiences with Blue Apron meal kits. I’ve shared how I used them to be a good houseguest, how they helped me avoid take-out while preparing for a conference, and how they bumped me out of my weeknight dinner rut.

This time, our box of three meal kits (we get the plan designed for two people. Bigger households might like the family plan better) made all the difference during a week when I down with a rotten cold. Here’s why. Most of the time, when I make dinner, all the information lives in my head. I don’t follow a lot of recipes and often simply improvise with what we have.

This is an approach that works well for us when I’m functioning at the top of my game. But on those nights when I am sick, tired, or have to teach a class, keeping everything in my head makes it hard for Scott to step in and make dinner happen.

However, when we have a Blue Apron recipe to make, the hand-off is seamless. We’ve already got all the high-quality ingredients necessary, so there’s no shopping necessary. Then, I can start things, tell him exactly what I’ve done, and he can simply pick up where I’ve left off. Being able to surrender dinner responsibility to him without worry made all the difference for me this week. It was magical.

Another really exciting thing that happened for us with this Blue Apron box was the fact that one of the recipes helped push the boundaries of Scott’s culinary comfort zone. The chef-designed recipe for Chicken Tagine with Cherry Tomatoes, Dates, and Couscous initially did not speak to him (he’s not typically a fan of dried fruit in savory dishes). But after his plate was clean, he said he enjoyed it and would happily eat something like it again. Score one for Blue Apron!

In addition to the Chicken Tagine, we also had these Heirloom Tomato, Lamb, and Beef Burgers with Loaded Cheesy Potatoes (the burgers were really good, but those potatoes were amazing!) and the Fairytale Eggplant and Mozzarella Pizza (another winner).

One of the worries that people often have about Blue Apron is the amount of packaging involved. I continue to be impressed with how the amount of packing materials seems to reduce with every order I receive (and most of it is recyclable). If you can’t recycle the materials in your area, you can also opt to return the packing materials through the mail for reuse and recycling.

If you’re intrigued by my experience with Blue Apron, they’ve got an offer for you, too! The first fifty readers to use this link to sign up for the service will get three meals for free on their first Blue Apron order.

Oh, and if you want to take a peek at more of the possible meals you’ll get from Blue Aproncheck out their recipe page.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. They sent me a 2-Person box, containing three meals for two people. They’ve also compensated me for my time and attention. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely mine.

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