Bake a Difference with OXO For Cookies for Kids’ Cancer + Oatmeal Muffins

It’s that time of year again, when the folks at OXO host a blogger campaign for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. The goal is to help raise both awareness and funds for childhood cancer research. For every blogger who dedicates a post to the topic, they donate $100 to the cause.

I participated last year, sharing my story of losing a friend to cancer when I was in middle school, and making a batch of tasty cookie bars from Dorie’s Cookies.

This year, I’m offering up a batch of muffins rather than cookies, thankfully, I’m told that they’ll still count. And if you missed Shianne’s story last year, consider hopping over to that blog post to read it.

OXO sent me their Non-Stick Pro 12 Cup Muffin Pan, a dozen Silicone Baking Cups, and Baker’s Decorating Tool and told me to be creative. I spent a little time worrying about doing that decorating tool justice before realizing that one should always write what they know (as it were).

And so I opted to adapt a simple oatmeal muffin recipe from the classic and invaluable King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and use the filling tip on the decorating tool to give them a plum butter center. It worked better than I’d even hoped. Next time I’m invited to a brunch potluck, I know what I’ll be bringing!

I’m not someone who typically goes in for fancy decorations on baked goods of any stripe (I’d be a terrible contestant on the Great British Bake Off), and so it was my first experience using a decorating tool. I was happy to discover that it was really intuitive to use and fun to booth. I predict that there will be more jam-filling and piped frosting in my future thanks to this devise.

Oh, and if you don’t have a nifty tool for filling your muffins with jam, they would be equally good if you split them and simply gave them a healthy dollop.

Disclosure: OXO sent me the tools you see above. No additional compensation was provided for this post. 

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Fruit Butter for the September Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

It’s September and that means it’s time to explore another food preservation skill in the crazy journey we know as the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. This month, we’re digging into fruit butters. For the purposes of this challenge, we’re including butters made from winter squash and sweet potatoes, provided that they are made for the fridge or freezer (since they are too dense to be canned). It can be sweetened in any which way you want and can even be made without additional sweeteners.

Remember that the goal of this challenge is to help you expand your skills while creating something that you’ll actually use. So choose an approach or recipe that will satisfy both your own learning and help you make something delicious.

What is a fruit butter?

A fruit butter is a product that is so named because it mimics the smooth spreadability of softened butter. It is made from a puree that is cooked low and slow for a number of hours, in order to evaporate the excess liquid, concentrate flavors and intensify the innate sweetness in the fruit. Thanks to this concentration, it typically contains a minimal amount of additional sweetener.

How do you make fruit butters?

The basics of making fruit butters are these. You puree some fruit. You cook it down slowly until thick. You add sweeteners, spices, and acid (to balance the flavors) to taste and preserve.

There are three standard approaches to making fruit butters.

  1. Slow Cooker – This is my favorite method for making fruit butters because it is relatively hands off, can be done outside of the kitchen (great for busy cooking days), and is produces the steady, low heat that fruit butters love. Just remember to prop the lid to allow for the steam to vent.
  2. Stove Top – When you’re in a hurry and you have the time to tend the cooking puree, small batches can be done on the stove top. Just keep stirring to prevent scorching.
  3. Oven – Another beloved technique. I often start with whole fruit when making fruit butters, roast them until soft, smash the fruit in the pan, and then continue to cook, stirring regularly. The best part of these oven roasted butters is that they develop a rich, caramelized flavor.

The Recipes

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August Mastery Challenge Round-Up: LTP and Steam Canning

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Hello canners! So sorry for the delayed August report. I came down with the flu on August 31 and it really threw off my work plans. Happily, I’m better now and back with a little round-up. I say little, because on the whole, a lot of you did not like this month’s challenge and so participation was super low. I get it. Not every technique is for every person. Hopefully we’ll all get back on track with fruit butters in September (they’re fun! and versatile! and so tasty swirled into yogurt!).

In August, 32 die hard canners reported their participation in the Mastery Challenge. Of those 32, 25 people tried their hand at low temperature pasteurization and seven took a stab at steam canning.

As is often the case, people reported feeling uncertain about the skills prior to trying them, but once they’d tackled them, those feelings improved. Here are the charts for LTP.

And here are the feelings about steam canning.

These numbers look a little wonky, because only seven people said they tried steam canning, but more are reporting here. I feel like we can probably safely discount four people who said they felt negatively after trying. Though I’m no statistician.

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Here’s what people made!

And that’s it for the round-up for this month!

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September Sponsors: Cuppow, Fillmore Container, EcoJarz, Mason Jar Lifestyle, CanningCrafts, and Mrs. Wages

Welcome to September! It’s the start of the month and so it is time to thank the businesses that help make this site possible. Please do show them that you appreciation their support with your time and attention!  

And if your company, shop, or family business is interested in reaching the food-loving and engaged Food in Jars audience, you can find more details here. Leave a comment on this post or drop me a note to learn more!

In the top spot are our friends at Cuppow. They are the creators 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’ve got their Glass Travel Mug back in stock and it’s the perfect way to tote your hot and cold drinks this fall!

Lancaster, PA-based and family-owned Fillmore Container are next! They sell all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. As always, their blog is an amazing resource for all things jar-related. This post on drying herbs in the oven is perfect for end-of-season putting up!

Our friends over at EcoJarz are on board again this month. They make an array of products designed to fit on top of mason jars, including cheese graterscoffee brewers, and stainless steel storage lids. AND, they’ve making their PopTop lids in new, fun colors!

Mason Jar Lifestyle is a one-stop shopping site for all the jar lovers out there. They sell all manner of mason jar accessories and adaptors. If you’re in the market for lids, straws, sprouting lids, and cozies to transform your mason jars into travel mugs, make sure to check them out. They’ve always got something new on offer, like these coffee and tea strainers that fit wide mouth jars.

Next up is CanningCrafts. Shop owner Alison sells an array of ready made and custom mason jar labels for all your various preserves, syrups, and backyard honey. I particularly love her line of labels encouraging people to return the jar! When next you need labels for a special project, check out CanningCrafts.

Our friends at Mrs. Wages are on the roster again this month. They make 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. If you need a little help getting your produce into jars, remember to seek out their products! They’re also sponsoring the giveaway this week, make sure to enter!

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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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