Why You Should Store Your Jars Without Their Rings

broken seal

Whenever I teach a canning class, I always mention the fact that it’s important to remove the rings from your jars before you put them away. You see, those rings are only necessary to hold the lids in place during processing and then again when you open the jar to use the contents.

There are two really good reasons why the rings should be stored separately from the jars. The first is that they last longer when they are removed, washed, dried, and stashed in a plastic bag (they have a tendency to rust if not stored properly).

The second reason is that if the contents of the jar happen to spoil (though it happens rarely, it does happen), you’ll know more immediately. That’s because when things spoil, it typically happens because there’s some sort of bacterial growth that off-gasses. That creates pressure which eventually breaks the seal.

a jar that broke its seal

The reason I’m writing about this topic today? It’s because this tip that I’ve shared so many times in canning classes actually proved useful in my own canning life yesterday. I was in my hall coat closet (one of the spaces that doubles as my pantry in this small apartment of mine) to get some whole peeled tomatoes. I picked up the jar and the lid slid right off onto the flour.

I stared at it for a moment, unbelieving that one of my precious jars had gone bad, but then felt so grateful to have followed my own advice. If the ring had been on the jar, I truly might not have known that the seal was no good. I walked those tomatoes over to the garbage disposal and sent them on to a watery grave (they actually smelled fine, but I take no chances).

So, if you’re storing your jars with the rings still on, do yourself a favor and go pull them off. Your future self may thank you.

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Giveaway: Eat Boutique Preserves Collection

eat boutique box

Many times over the years, I’ve been asked the question, “What is your favorite thing to preserve?” Typically I hedge a little, saying something about my allegiance to seasonality or simply that there are too many delicious things in the world to preserve. However, when absolutely pressed, I’ll finally admit that there are a few jams and spreads I love best of all.

Sour cherry jam, featuring big hunks of fruit suspended in a ruby syrup. Thick, sticky tomato jam for spreading on toasted cheese sandwiches or dolloping on roasted sweet potatoes. And a long-cooked onion spread, gently caramelized and tangy with vinegar or beer.

When Maggie Battista from Eat Boutique came to me and suggested that we team up on a box, I knew immediately that I wanted it to include some of my favorites. And so we constructed a box that includes We Love Jam Tart Cherry Jam, Blue Chair Fruit Early Girl Tomato Jam, Wozz Triple Ale Onion Spread, and a signed copy of my book. And at $58 for all those goodies, it’s something of a deal for the preserves lover in your life.

Thanks to Eat Boutique, I also have one of these Preserves Collection boxes to give away to a lucky Food in Jars reader. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite preserve. Be it jam, chutney, pickle, or spread, tell me about your very favorite thing to preserve.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, November 2, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted on Sunday, November 3, 2013.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Eat Boutique is a Food in Jars sponsor. Additionally, I receive a portion of the profits from the sale of this Preserve Collection box. However, I still had a delightful time helping pick out the preserves to put in the box and my opinions about these Eat Boutique are spoken from the heart and remain entirely my own. 

Upcoming Classes: Reading Terminal Market! Western Mass! Wyebrook Farm!

class image revised

Though tomatoes and peaches are finished, there’s still plenty to be canning this time of year. Come take a class and preserve the fruits of autumn.

  • October 29 – Chutney making class with the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market. We’ll make a batch of apple pear chutney (using all local fruit) from 6-8 pm in the Rick Nichols Room. Click here to sign up.
  • October 30 – A hands on pickling workshop with the Lower Merion Conservancy. We’ll make cauliflower pickles, taste a few things from my pantry, and dig into the basics of the boiling water bath canning. Class runs from 7 – 8:30 pm and costs $35 for LMC members and $45 for non-members. Click here to register.
  • November 1 to 3 – Join me in Western Mass. for a weekend-long canning class at the Rowe CenterMore details can be found here.
  • November 4 – Get ready for Thanksgiving by making a batch of Honey Sweetened Cranberry Sauce at the Plymouth Meeting Whole Foods Market. Class is from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and costs $35. Click here to sign up.
  • November 16 – Spiced applesauce class at the Tyler Arboretum. We’ll cover the basics of boiling water bath canning and walk through the steps necessary to make a batch of delicious, low sugar applesauce. Class is from 10 am – 12 noon and costs $60 for Arboretum Members, $70 for non-members. For more details, click here and select the “Health and Wellness” drop down.
  • November 17 – Mulled Cider Jelly class at Wyebrook Farm in Chester County, PA. Class runs from 2 – 4 pm. Click here to sign up.
  • November 18 – Prep for Thanksgiving and make cranberry preserves with me at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. Class is from 6-8 pm in the Rick Nichols Room. Click here to sign up.
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Links: Autumn Canning and Winners

Mustard greens, sungold tomatoes, and two sunny-side eggs.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. There were two classes in Washington, D.C., four canning demos across three counties, and a visit from my sister and her touring partner Becca. I’ve logged about 1,000 miles on the road and have canned my way through a bushel of pears. It has been good and it has been intense. I have one more crazy weekend coming up, and then things are going to quiet down a bit (and I couldn’t be more pleased). Now, links!

Progressive lid lifters

lid lifter winners Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter the lid wand giveaway and shared their bargain stories with me. They were fun to read! The winners are…

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Cookbooks: Who Wants Seconds?

Who Wants Seconds? Cover

I do the bulk of my day to day cooking without recipes. Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly reliable set of dishes and cooking techniques that I call on and adapt on the fly. However, the one problem with cooking in this manner is that no matter what I make, much of what I eat on a regular basis tastes very much the same. I regularly find myself deeply weary of my own food.

Who Wants Seconds?

Once of the reasons I love going to potlucks so much is that it’s a chance to get a break from my food and eat something prepared by home cooks working in other kitchens. And when there’s no potluck on the horizon, I turn to cookbooks that feel friendly, familiar, and like the author might well bring a dish to share at my table someday.

Who Wants Seconds?

Who Wants Seconds? by Jennie Cook appeared in my mailbox, it immediately felt like the kind of book I’d turn to for a home cooking palate cleanser. It’s bright and feels more like Jennie’s personal kitchen notebook than the highly designed cookbooks we see so much these days. Obviously, both book styles have their places, but it’s refreshing to see something that feels like a modern Moosewood in a world of perfectly styled images.

Who Wants Seconds?

Jennie is lifelong cook, former restaurant owner, and currently runs a plant-based catering company in the Los Angeles area. This book is imbued with her personality and character, and I want to eat everything she writes about.

I’ve only had the opportunity to try out a single recipe from the book, but it did everything I want from a friendly potluck-style cookbook. I made the Sunshine Ginger Soup (the recipe follows) and it was a happy change from my regular versions of carrot and squash soups. I will be employing the combination of coconut milk and citrus again in future soups, as it tastes fabulously alive.

Sunshine Ginger Soup

If you’re located in or around Portland, OR, Jennie is going to be in your area in about a week, offering cooking classes. She’ll be at In Good Taste on, talking about Holiday Appetizers on November 5 (click here for more info) and at the Whole Foods Market at Bridgeport Village on November 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm (sign up by calling 503-639-6500. For even more of her events, click here.

Continue Reading →

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Preserves in Action: Baguette with Ricotta, Fig Jam, and Baby Arugula

baguette with ricotta, fig jam, arugula

On Monday night, I took a cheese class at Metropolitan Bakery with Madame Fromage and Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm (she is one of my very favorite Pennsylvania cheesemakers). It came just after a weekend in which I had taught and demo-ed enough to make my voice go hoarse, so it was doubly nice to sit back and let someone else do the teaching and explaining.

We began the tasting with an orienting sip of Birchrun’s raw milk, just hours from the cow and then, starting with fromage blanc, we sampled our way through six cheeses. There were slices of baguette and French berry roll from the Metropolitan ovens, and at the end, a little splash of madeira to drink with slices of Birchrun blue. It was one of the nicest evenings I’ve had in a while.

baguette with ricotta, fig jam, arugula

At the end of the class, we were packed off into a chilly night with warm cheeks and fresh baguettes. Scott is currently off carbs, so the work of eating this pointy loaf has been entirely mine (truly, it’s not a hardship). This morning, when I opened the paper bag, it was quite hard. Happily, I have a trick for refreshing bread that always works with Metropolitan’s loaves (they use a long fermentation period, which builds the interior structure and makes it more resilient).

I hacked off a chunk, sliced it down the middle and ran the pieces quickly under a dribbling kitchen faucet. I toasted the slices twice, once to help dry them out and again to give them some color. The end result is four-day-old toasted baguette that is flavorful, with just the right amount of crunch and chew.

Now, here’s where the Preserves in Action component comes in. I spread the toasts with fresh ricotta cheese (what I really longed for was Sue’s fromage blanc, but Claudio’s ricotta is a more than acceptable substitute), dolloped on fig jam, and piled up baby arugula. I added a few turns of a pepper grinder and breakfast was ready. This meal could easily serve as lunch, or if cut into smaller pieces, as a starter for a party.

Curious why I know so much about this bakery’s practices? Many moons ago, Scott and I used to make an online cooking show called Fork You and in one episode, we visited Metropolitan’s baking facility and made bread with James Barrett, one of the founders. The old blog appears to be corrupted, but the video is still available on Viddler’s blog if you’re interested in finding out more about them (and seeing the glasses I was wearing five years ago).

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