Links: Asparagus Tarts, Potluck Nation, and Winners

Spring tiptoed in this morning at 6:28 am. While I know intellectually that it’s a mostly arbitrary dividing line, I can’t help but imagine that the air smells sweeter and that the quality of the light is warmer and more substantial. While I dream about local strawberries and asparagus (still weeks away), some links.

My friend Kristin has launched a lovely movement called Potluck Nation. She’s the author of the book Modern Potluck and is hoping to use the power of the potluck to bring people together heal some of what’s been fractured in this country over the recent months and years. As an avowed lover of potlucks myself, I am fully on board and hope to host a few potlucks of my own (I plan on making the asparagus tart pictured above. It’s one I developed for a column I wrote many moons ago. I’ve reprinted the recipe below). Perhaps some of you will be inspired to do the same!

Here’s the winner of the Ball Canning giveaway I hosted last week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Submit your March Mastery Challenge Projects Here!

Hello #fijchallenge folks! From the looks of things on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you’ve all been keeping quite busy making jellies and shrubs this month. I love seeing all the creative flavor combinations that so many of you have come up with!

We’re past the mid-point of the month, so it’s high time for me to give all your jelly and shrub makers a way to submit your March projects.

Instead of embedding the form, I’m going ask that you click here to access it. For some reason, the Google form made the blog behave oddly last time, so by leaving it off the front page, I’m hoping to avoid any functionality issues!

Submit your March Projects here! 

This month, there are just three required fields on the form. I’m asking you tell me is your name, where you live, and to mark a check-box telling me what you made.

Those are the only details I need to count you among the participants, but like last month, more fields do exist on the form. Because the challenge was two-pronged this month, there are questions relating to both jellies and shrubs. If you made one and not the other, skip the questions that do not apply.

There’s also a space in the form to share a link to your project. That link can go to a blog post, a specific picture on Instagram, a Tweet, a post on Tumblr, or to a picture on Flickr or Google Photos. Just remember that you need to set your privacy settings so that wherever your post is, it is publicly available. And remember, sharing a link is not a requirement.

With nearly than 1,800 people signed up for this challenge, I cannot do a comprehensive round-up. However, just like last month, I will do my very best to link out to as many people as I can, though.

Please remember that the deadline to submit your March project in order to be counted in the monthly total is Wednesday, March 29.

And if you haven’t made either a jelly or a shrub yet this month, there’s still time! All the details about this month’s challenge are here.

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Mastery Challenge: Sour Cherry Elderflower Jelly, Made Two Ways

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops by today to share her experience making jelly using both Pomona’s Pectin and homemade gooseberry pectin. Read on for her tale of experimentation!

Ah, jelly month. It’s time for me to reckon with pectin.

If I recall correctly, this Mastery Challenge is only my second time making jelly. The first was a few years ago when I worked as the buyer for an all-local foods store here in Philly, Fair Food Farmstand. We got some Japanese knotweed in early April, and I set to work making a tart, pale-pink jelly out of this invasive plant as a way to preserve it. But the set was unappealing and too firm for me, so I gave the still-sealed jars that were left to a friend excited about foraged foods.

For every time I’ve made jam or other preserves with pectin, I can count a time when set didn’t occur or occurred too well. So in recent years, I’ve avoided it, eschewing recipes using pectin for the whole-fruit preserves and confitures found in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, one of a select number of preserving books I own. These fruit preserves manage to be thick and spoonable, and I love them — but it was time to tackle working with pectin.

When it came time to consider this month’s challenge, I had a freezer full of fruit to work with (and thanks to the time I spent organizing my chest freezer last month, I knew exactly how much and where it all was). There were three gallon bags of West Philly-grown sour cherries in there that needed to become something great — so I pulled out two of them to thaw in the fridge. I’d also use the dregs of a bottle of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, since those flavors go so well together.

And, since I like to do things the hard way sometimes, I searched online for homemade pectin alternatives to the packaged stuff that had vexed me in the past. Mrs. Wheelbarrow came through yet again, this time with a post about how to make and use pectin from green gooseberries — a bag of which, harvested from my community garden two summers before, also languished in my freezer.

Roughly a quart of gooseberries, simmered with water, strained through a jelly bag, and cooked down again until the pectin formed a mass that could be picked up with a fork when dropped into alcohol, yielded me two four-ounce jars, one to use now and one to stash away for later.

Along with an unopened box of Pomona’s Pectin that had been in my pantry for a couple years — according to the manufacturer, it will last indefinitely if stored cool and dry — I had what I needed to find out (a) if I could be trusted to make something tasty from the packaged stuff and (b) if my woo-woo homemade method could be used for jelly made with low-pectin fruit.

The results? Yes, surprisingly, and sort of!

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How to Make Tart Red Cherry Jelly

Itching to make cherry jelly but don’t want to wait months? Try making a small batch of low sugar Tart Red Cherry Jelly using a bottle of juice from the store!

Last Thursday night, I did an hour-long live broadcast on Facebook Live. A bunch of you tuned in, I showed you how to make Tart Red Cherry Jelly using store bought juice, we talked about the various ways to make shrubs, and I answered a whole bunch of questions.

During the broadcast, I promised to post the recipe I used to make the jelly. It’s taken me a little longer than anticipated, but here it is. I demonstrated how to do it using a bottle of tart cherry juice from Trader Joe’s, but you can use any bottle of 100% fruit juice that you’d like. In the past, I’ve done this with Concord grape juice and blueberry juice, both to good effect.

This recipe also works with honey. If you go in that direction, reduce the amount by approximately one-third. Oh, and before you put the jelly into jars, taste it. Some batches of juice are sweeter than others, and so occasionally a bit of fresh lemon juice is needed to help balance the flavors.

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Giveaway: New Ball Canning Products for 2017

Despite the fact that most of the Eastern seaboard is hunkering down for a massive storm (they’re predicting 11-17 inches for Philadelphia!), spring is really just around the corner. And in anticipation of the coming canning season, I thought today would be the perfect time to feature all the new goodies the folks from Ball Canning are rolling out this year.

First up are the new Spiral Jars. I’d seen a sneak peek of these a month or two ago on Facebook, but was uncertain whether I liked them or not (my initial thought was, why do we need our jars to spiral? What’s wrong with the classic shape?).

However, having now seen them in person, I’ve changed my tune. These are really great jars. The twisting shape feels good in the hand and I like how simple the branding is. The sizing on these jars is a little different from what we’re used to. The smaller jar is a traditional 16 ounce pint, but the larger jar clocks in at just 28 ounces rather than a full quart.

I can already tell that place where these jars are really going to shine is when it comes to to canning slightly taller things. I can’t wait to can up a batch of dilly beans or pickled carrot spears in these jars, knowing that there won’t be as much trimming involved.

I took a picture of the spiral jars side by side with a regular pint and quart so that you can get a better idea of the new height. And if you do plan on canning in the taller spirals, make sure to measure your canning pot to ensure that you’ll be able to keep them fully submerged during the canning process.

Next up are the new Sharing Jars. I’d not seen any previews of these jars before I opened up the box for this post and so they were a really fun surprise. These eight-sided jars are a charming addition to the Ball Canning line-up and they have a charitable component. Newell Brands (the new Ball Canning parent company) will donated four meals to Feeding America for every package of these jars purchased.

The sharing jars are only available in a regular mouth 16 ounce pint size and come with a little Feeding America ribbon tied around the neck of the jar.

Last up are the new Sure Seal Bail Storage Jars. Designed to hold dry goods, these jars seal tightly with a lid that locks into place. They come in two sizes, 14 ounce and 38 ounce. I must confess that in comparison to the rest of the new jars, these feel a little clunky. Jars from Ball normally have a certain elegance that these two are just missing.

Finally, the spices and accessories. The drink lids are one piece devises that screw onto jars without the aid of a ring (they’re more like those made by iLids and less like the ones from Cuppow) and allow you to use mason jars as travel mugs. A package comes with two lids and two straws and you can get them to fit either regular or wide mouth jars.

The spices are particularly fun. Made in partnership with McCormick, they are designed to make it easy for home canners to make and preserve things like tomato salsa, bread and butter pickles, fruit salsa, and pasta sauce.

Now, for the giveaway! One lucky winner will get a set of everything featured in today’s blog post! Please use the widget below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Links: Citrus, Taproot Mag, and the Yohann iPad Stand

I hope you all had a really lovely weekend. It’s been so fun to see all the pictures the March Mastery Challenge folks have been posting on Facebook and Instagram of their jellies and shrubs. And thanks to everyone who tuned in for the live broadcast on Facebook last Thursday. If you missed it, you can still watch it here. Now, links!

In other news, the latest issue of Taproot Mag hit newsstands and mailboxes in the last week. The theme of this issue is Weave and I contributed a piece on woven baked goods. The cinnamon braids included in the story was one of the very first things I ever made and it is dear to me because it’s something I would make with my Aunt Doris.

If you spot a copy in the wild, please do pick it up. In addition to my story, you’ll find other recipes, a pattern for a lovely knitted hat, and much, much more.

And finally, let me tell you about the best iPad stand I’ve ever used. I often bring an iPad into the kitchen when I need to reference an online recipe. In the past, I’ve used little tripods or the folding cover that attaches via magnets to prop up the iPad in order to read the recipe. However, they’ve never felt particularly secure and they didn’t really keep the iPad out of the fray of my workspace.

Then, a couple months ago, the folks from a Swiss company asked if they could send me one of their stands. Because this was an area where I have been looking for a better solution, I said yes and I’m so glad I did. I love this stand. It holds my iPad Air securely and is able to display the screen in three different orientations. Though I yearned for their wooden stand, I opted for the black plastic one because I knew that it would clean up better (and that’s always a concern in the kitchen). I have nothing but good things to say about this sleek and useful stand. If you’re in the market for something similar, I suggest you take a look at the Yohann.

(The unit you see above was sent to me at no cost. I was not obligated to write about it, but have chosen to do so because I really like it and thought some of you would find a similar item useful. I was not compensated for this post beyond the sample unit.)

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