Links: Soups, Salads, and Winners

future tulips

I keep thinking about last year this time, when Preserving by the Pint was just coming out and I was preparing to fling myself out into the world. This year, I’m nearing a book deadline and so instead of heading out into the world, I’m spending April turning inward in order to get the work done. It’s interesting to have a job with two such defined and oppositional modes of being. Now, links!

purple ucap

The winners in last week’s Purple Blossom uCap from Spice Ratchet are #46/Alba, #98/Amy, and #263/Evelyn. Enjoy!

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Other People’s Preserves: We Love Jam Blenheim Apricot

We Love Jam apricot

Other People’s Preserve is my opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the very delicious jams, pickles, and condiments being made by dedicated professionals. If you see one of these products out in the wild, consider picking up a jar, tub, or bottle!

We Love Jam’s Blenheim Apricot Jam is one of the reasons I started canning as an adult. Back in the days when I was still working for the now long-defunct Slashfood, the folks at We Love Jam sent me a jar of their signature apricot jam in the hopes of getting some coverage.

Though I’d grown up with jars of homemade blueberry, blackberry, and plum preserves in the fridge, I wasn’t familiar the gloriousness of handmade apricot jam. However, I was an immediate convert. I wrote a glowing review and illustrated it with a terrible photograph (thankfully, my photography skills have improved some since those days).

We Love Jam apricot interior

Since then, apricot jam has become one of my staple homemade preserves. I get a half bushel of apricot seconds nearly every summer and turn the into jam, butter, bbq sauce, and halves in honey.

Last spring, thanks to Maggie at Eat Boutique, I found myself in possession of half a jar of We Love Jam’s Apricot once again. I was reminded that while my apricot products are good, there is something unique about the Blenheim and the jam it becomes. At $10 for a 9 ounce jar, it’s a worthy splurge for your favorite apricot lover (their other flavors are also delicious, but this one will always be my favorite).

Disclosure: I wound up with a half empty jar of this jam after an Eat Boutique tasting event last spring. I didn’t pay for it, but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

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Cookbooks: New German Cooking

New German Cooking cover

When I was growing up, any time someone suggested eating at a German restaurant, my mother would immediately make a comment about the heaviness of the cuisine and offer Vietnamese or Thai as an alternative. I absorbed her words and spent most of my lifetime assuming that German food was something best avoided.

New German Cooking soup

However, in the years since I’ve been living in Philadelphia, I’ve discovered that the spectrum of German food is much broader I had previously understood. This education has come thanks to Brauhaus Schmitz and their Reading Terminal Market deli, Wursthaus Schmitz.

New German Cooking sprouts

Happily, the goodness of Brauhaus Schmitz is now available to people beyond the wilds of Philadelphia, thanks to New German Cooking. Written by the husband and wife team behind the restaurant, Jeremy and Jessica Nolen, with local food writer Drew Lazor, it’s a gorgeous book that will no doubt make you hungry (the photography by Jason Varney is also fantastic).

New German Cooking pickles

The book has nine chapters (guess which one I’m most excited by?):

  1. Breads & Spreads
  2. Salads
  3. Soups
  4. Fish, Shellfish & Poultry
  5. Meat & Game
  6. Vegetables
  7. Noodles & Dumplings
  8. Pickles & Condiments (though I must point out, in the picture above, a threaded mason jar has been topped with a lid from an old time jelly jar. I can see that texturally it looks good, but it irritates the canning stickler in me).
  9. Desserts

New German Cooking spine

I have a list of ten dishes I’d like to try, with the Pilsner and Pickle Brined Chicken (page 102) being on the very tip top of the list (leftover pickle brine haunts my dreams). I may just go for a two-fer and make the Potato and Sauerkraut Gratin (page 157) to go with it.

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Preserves in Action: Kimchi Quesadilla

side of quesadilla

I taught a class Monday night and by the time I got home, I was ravenous. I’d eaten all the interesting leftovers for lunch and my husband had made himself a meal of hot dogs and peas from the freezer. Looking into the fridge, I spotted a package of whole wheat tortillas, a jar of kimchi, and a block of cheddar cheese. Kimchi quesadillas it was!*

tortilla with cheese and kimchi

To make the quesadilla, I plunk a skillet on the stove and start heat the pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, I put the bottom tortilla into the skillet. I don’t add any oil because my pan is seasoned well enough that for a quick job like this, it just doesn’t need it. If you were using a stainless steel pan, you might want a quick slick of oil to prevent sticking.

kimchi

Yes, I’m using store bought kimchi. I am out of my homemade version and with the book work going on around here, I just cannot muster the will to make a fresh batch.

 

Then I spread the grated cheese out on the tortilla, taking care to keep it on the tortilla and off the actual pan. Then I fork out some kimchi. Because I have a small obsessive streak, I try and make sure that my kimchi is placed so that I will get some in every bite. Then I put the second tortilla on top, pressing down gently with the palm of my hand to help adhere it to the melting cheese.

fish spatula

Because my burners heat incredibly unevenly, I end up rotating the pan during cooking, so that all sides get even toasting. Using a flexible fish spatula (the best tool ever for jobs like this), I peek underneath the bottom tortilla. If it is golden, it is time to flip. The second side needs just a minute or two. Once it’s done, I put it on a cutting board to let it cool for a moment and then cut it up into wedges using a big knife.

finished quesadilla

This would work just as deliciously if you cooked sauerkraut or some other tangy pickled vegetable into the quesadilla. I’ve also made something similar with a few spoonfuls of chutney to very good effect. Heck, you could even make a dessert preserves in action quesadilla using fresh ricotta cheese and some fruit preserves. The options are endless!

*I do not claim to have invented the kimchi quesadilla. As far as I can tell, the idea has been floating around the internet since late 2009, when Roy Choi’s recipe was printed in one of the final issues of Gourmet. Still, it’s a good one!

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Jar Storage: Sheet Pans and the Space Under the Couch

living room couch

This is my couch. It once belonged to my grandparents and family lore dates it back to around 1960. When I was very young, it was covered in a burnt orange upholstery. Sometime in the mid-eighties, my grandmother had it recovered in the very pink fabric you now see.

under the couch

Some might thing that after 55 years of service, it would be time for a new sofa, but I disagree. I am never getting rid of this couch (though it may well get another upholstery job sometime in the new future). It is impossibly comfortable (it is ideal for napping, sleeping even my 6’4″ husband comfortably), is built like a beast (our Pottery Barn loveseat is falling to pieces after two years. This one has served for a half-century), and best of all, has magical storage space underneath.

sheet of jams

I’ve had boxes of jars and preserves stuffed under this couch for years now, but it was always a haphazard arrangement. It was hard to keep track of what was down there and fishing out the exact box I was looking for was forever an exercise in frustration. A couple times I drove myself crazy looking for jars from a particular batch of chutney, finally discovering they were tucked away in the far corner under the couch.

jars overhead

Then a solution fell in my lap. I ordered a lot of seven old sheet pans from eBay in my on-going search for good photo backdrops (well-worn metal being a prized surface among food bloggers). My original intention was to keep just one or two. However, once they arrived, I started wondering what other role they might be able to serve.

sheets of jars

In a flash of genius, I realized that I could pull all the boxes out from under the couch and replace them with the sheet pans. It would be easier to slide the jars in and out and since I already label my jars on the lid, I’d be able to find the exact jar I was looking for with a single glance.

jars under the couch

And so, I started pulling my various jar storage mechanisms apart. It was one of those projects that felt insane halfway through. I had boxes and jars all over the apartment. I categorized, purged elderly jars, and even found a couple preserves that had lost their seal. My husband made a comment about productive procrastination (I do have a book manuscript due in just six weeks), but endured the days of chaos without complaint.

butters sheet

What I have now is a really workable storage system for half-pint jars (my couch isn’t quite tall enough to accommodate anything larger). They’re sorted into jams, pickles and chutneys, butters and marmalades, and jelly, syrups and whole fruit. While this doesn’t house the entirety of my pantry, it’s a goodly chunk and for that, I am grateful.

Tips to Implement Something Similar

  1. New sheet pans are expensive, but old ones can be had relatively cheaply if you know where to look. I paid $40 for seven on eBay and there are more to be had for similar prices. You can also call your local restaurant supply store. Often they sell new and used gear, and might have a stack of used pans that they’d be willing to part with for less than brand new retail.
  2. One of the reasons this works is that my floors are carpeted. If you have floors made of scratch-prone material, I’d suggest putting some felt pads on the bottom of the pans. These will help them slide and will protect your floors.
  3. Make sure to label the pans. This storage method is going to serve you best if you know where various categories of preserves live. My groupings might not make sense for you, but make sure you create some order within the chaos.
  4. If you don’t have a similarly cooperative couch, consider using this same approach with the space under a bed or dresser.

Now, it’s your turn. What creative approaches do you use to keep your homemade pantry organized and contained?

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Giveaway: Purple Blossom uCaps from Spice Ratchet

purple ucap

Spice Ratchet is the company that makes the Blossom Trivet, aka my favorite canning rack in all the world. Last fall, they premiered a line of Blossom uCaps. Crafted from food safe silicone, these snap on lids come in storage, drinking, flower arrangement configurations and have been a very welcome addition to the mason jar accessory world.

purple ucap packaging

This season, the Spice Ratchet team have released a purple addition to the Blossom uCap line to match Ball’s special edition jars for this year. Happily, I have some of these nifty purple lids to give away. Three winners will each get a pair of the new purple Blossom uCap storage caps along with duo of purple pint jars.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share what you’d store under a purple uCap!
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, March 22, 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: Spice Ratchet is providing the lids for the giveaway. They are also a Food in Jars sponsor and so do help contribute to the running of this site. And yet, all opinions remain entirely mine.