Good Things to Preserve in Late October

sugar pumpkin

It is a cool, rainy day in Philadelphia. I’m back to drinking hot coffee or tea in the morning, after months of wanting my caffeine doctored with ice. The summer fruits and vegetables are all gone from the markets and have been replaced by apples, pears, cauliflower, and massive bundles of leafy greens.

For many, this change in the season means that it’s time to put the canning pot away. I firmly believe that there’s still plenty to preserve this time of year (and hallelujah for that. I had a busy summer and still have far too many empty jars kicking around the apartment).

Here are some of my favorite jams, butters, pickles, and chutneys that are perfect for autumn preserving.

Pears

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I love making jams and chutneys with pears. I am smitten with their slightly grainy texture and delicate flavor. They are good on their own, but also play nicely with any number of herbs and spices.

  • Pear Vanilla Jam – This is, by far, my very favorite pear preserve. Look for a smooth, small batch approach on the blog next week.
  • Pear Cranberry Jam – Good on toast, even better with a turkey dinner.
  • Pear and Chocolate Jam – This version uses bits of a dark chocolate bar and is quite rich. Look for a lighter, cocoa powder-based take in Preserving by the Pint.
  • Pear Cinnamon Jam – For deepest flavor, use Vietnamese Cinnamon.
  • Pickled Asian Pears – This recipe is from Karen Solomon’s wonderful book, Asian Pickles. I love them tossed into baby arugula salads.

Apples

apples

Apples are just the best thing ever for a dedicated autumn canner. There’s just so much they can do, including playing a starring role in jams, butters, sauces, and chutneys. Get yourself a half bushel and go to town.

  • Honey Lemon Apple Jam – It’s bright, sweet, and perfectly spreadable. The secret is that you cook the apples down with the lemon juice before adding the sugar and honey.
  • Spiced Apple Butter – The slow cooker does all the work for you in this delicious preserve.
  • Apple Pie Filling – With a couple of pie crusts in the freezer, dessert will practically make itself.
  • Apple Cranberry Jam – For even more flavor, add a little cinnamon, ginger, and allspice to the cooking jam.
  • Apple Cider Syrup – Good in a mug of hot tea, great in a bourbon cocktail.

Pickles and Chutneys

peach chutney

What are you canning this time time of year? (My most recent fall preserve was this batch of Apple Pear Sauce for October Unprocessed!).

 

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Canning 101: An Applesauce FAQ

pint of applesauce

When it comes to my own canning, I like to make a mix of fun things and pantry staples. That means that while I make plenty of highly spiced jams and fancy pickles, I also make a point of putting up a goodly amount of tomato puree and applesauce each year. I stir applesauce into oatmeal, bake it into cakes, and eat it straight from the jar when lunchtime pickings are slim.

One would think that applesauce would be a fairly straightforward thing to preserve, but it can be surprisingly tricky, particularly for new canners. After getting a number of questions about applesauce recently, I thought I’d put together a list of commonly asked applesauce questions and my answers, in the hopes of putting many minds at ease.

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What is the best kind of apple for sauce?
I don’t really think that there’s any one apple that makes the best sauce and truly, the best apples to use are the ones you have. I have cooked any number of apples into sauce and it has always been delicious. I would advise that you start with apples that taste good to you and that are relatively free from damage or rot (cutting around a bad spot or two is totally fine).

If you’re working with relatively sweet apples, you can always add a little lemon juice to balance the flavor. If the fruit is quite tart, a little sugar or honey will help adjust the sweetness.

apples

What is the best way to make applesauce?
Your apple saucing approach depends on the gear you have in your kitchen. For basic batches, all you really need is a peeler, a paring knife, and a potato masher. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Dump them into a big pot with a little water to prevent burning, and cook them on low until they are soft. Use the potato masher to smash them into a chunky sauce.

If you have a food mill or a tomato press with a saucing screen, you can skip the peeling process and put the cored and quartered apples right into your pot. Add a little water, over the pot, and simmer until the apples are tender. Then, work them through the food mill or tomato press. You’ll end up with a peel-free sauce with a uniform texture.

If you want to include the skins in your finished product, core and quarter the apples. Put them in a pot with a little water and cook until soft. Once they’re tender, work the apples through a blender in batches, pureeing until the apple skins are integrated. This works best with a high speed blender, like a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja, but can be accomplished in regular blenders or with an immersion blender if you’re persistent.

I personally like a chunky applesauce, so often use an approach that blends the first and second techniques. I core and quarter my apples, but leave the peels on. I simmer the sauce until it’s tender. Once the fruit flesh has started to separate from the peels, I stand over the pot with a pair of tongs and pull the skins off the fruit. I work those peels through a food mill, to catch any bits of sauce, and then mash the remaining naked apples with a potato masher. You get the color and some of the vitamins from the peels and still retain the chunky consistency.

Apple-Pear Sauce

Do I have to add anything to my applesauce to make it safe for canning?
Nope. Because apples are naturally high in acid, you don’t have to add a thing to it to make it safe for boiling water bath canning. What’s more, apples also have a goodly amount of sugar, so they keep well once canned.

Can I add things to my applesauce?
Yes! You can add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, citrus zest, citrus juice, sugar, honey, or maple syrup (though use maple syrup in conservative amounts. It is lower in acid than other sweeteners and if added in large quantities, can impact the finished acidity of the applesauce.

How long do I process applesauce in a boiling water bath canner? 
If you live under 1,000 feet in elevation, you process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes. If you live above 1,000 feet, your processing time adjustments can be found here. Times and pressure amounts for processing a pressure canner can be found here, though it is not necessary for safety and can often lead to product loss.

apples

I just took my jars of applesauce out of the canner and they are leaking! What did I do wrong?
First of all, know that applesauce almost always siphons like that. It’s hard to prevent it entirely, but you can do a couple of things to help minimize it.

The first is to minimize the amount of air you work into the apples during the saucing process. Apples pushed through a food mill or tomato press can take on more air than those mashed with a potato masher. The air isn’t the end of the world, but it will expand during the processing, which will then force some sauce out of the jar.

The second thing to do is to let the jars cool gradually once the processing time is up. The worst siphoning typically happens in the moments just after you pull the jars out of the canner, when they’re still really hot. Instead, let the jars sit in the canning pot for 10-15 minutes after the canning process is done. Once your timer goes off, you slide the pot off the burner and remove the lid. Let the jars cool slowly in the pot. After the 10-15 minutes are up, pull the jars out. They may start to siphon some, but it will (hopefully) be less than you’ve experienced in the past.

apples for pie filling

If my jars siphon, but the lids eventually seal, is my sauce still safe? 
Yes! No matter how much they leak, if the seals are nice and tight, they are still safely shelf stable.

The surface of my applesauce has turned brown! Is it still safe? 
It is! That is normal oxidation. You can either scrape off the brown layer or just stir it into the rest of he sauce.

If there is mold on the outside of my applesauce jars, is it still safe? 
Yes! Sometimes you end up with a little bit of residual applesauce on the outside of the jars because of the siphoning I mentioned up above. It’s that applesauce residue that is molding. As long as the seal is still good and firm, the sauce inside the jar is perfectly safe.

There are some air bubbles in my finished, sealed jar of sauce. Is it still safe? 
As long as those air bubbles aren’t moving around, they are fine. You can read more about air bubbles in finished products in this post.

If you have an applesauce question that you don’t see here, please make sure to leave a comment and I’ll update this post.

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Giveaway: A Kitchen Box + Discount Code

a kitchen box front

One trend that I’m very much enjoying these days is the rise of the curated subscription box. It used to be that subscriptions were limited to books, magazines, music, and occasionally, cheese. These days, you can sign up to receive all manner of items on monthly or quarterly basis.

A Kitchen Box is one such subscription box company. They focus on products and recipes designed to inspire you in the kitchen and they make sure to include something to see, taste, learn, and try in every box.

Recently, I teamed up with the folks at A Kitchen Box on a Food in Jars-themed box and it turned out even more beautifully than I could have imagined.

a kitchen box

The box includes a gorgeously printed copy of my recipe for Orange Tomato and Smoked Paprika Jam, a pretty picture postcard of that jam, a packet of Sweet Smoked Paprika from Whole Spice, two Le Parfait 324 ml French Jam Storage Jars (you treat these like any other lug lid jar), canning labels, music downloads, and a grey flour sack towel. They also donate $1 from each purchase to Rogue Valley Orphanage Outreach.

Brooke and Ang from A Kitchn Box have offered one of these Food In Jars Box for this week’s giveaway. Additionally, they’re offering all Food in Jars readers $10 off the first month of any new AKB Subscription, along with a free Mini Box (while their limited stash lasts). If you want in on the deal, use the code ‘foodinjars’ in the coupon field at check-out.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about either something to which you subscribe, or something you wish you could subscribe to (I once had a subscription to toilet paper through Amazon. It was an amazing way to never run out).
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, October 25, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by the end of the day on Sunday, October 26, 2014.
  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: A Kitchen Box sent me one of the Food in Jars boxes for photography purposes. No additional compensation was provided. 

Giveaway: Bake Your Bundt Off with MightyNest

warm glass bundt pan

This blog post is sponsored by MightyNest. They are an online retailer with a mission to provide the natural, organic, and non-toxic products that parents seek for their home while also giving back to schools.

offset bundt

I like glassware. Truly, this should come as no surprise to anyone who has read this blog for longer than five minutes. I love a good jar like nobody’s business. I’m a big fan of vintage glass Pyrex bowls and bakers, as well as the newer glass food storage containers. I’m even a sucker for a well-made drinking glass (oh Duralex Picardie, you will always have my heart).

buttered bundt

So, when the non-toxic avengers over at MightyNest asked if I might be interested in replacing my ancient avocado green, Teflon-coated bundt pan with one made of glass, I was helpless to resist. I said yes and signed on to participate in their “Bake Your Bundt Off” promotion.

chopped walnuts

The bundt pan arrived late last week and it sat on my coffee table for most of the weekend, looking more like modern art than bakeware. I had an itch to bake, but wanted to make sure that I chose just the right thing for the maiden voyage of this glamorous pan. Needing to use a recipe from a cookbook I owned (Scott and I have been purging books lately, and so if it’s not getting used, it can’t stay), I turned to Eat Your Books and searched for bundt recipes.

filled bundt

The search turned up a number of options, but wanting to incorporate the flavors of fall, nothing sounded more perfectly on the nose than Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Double Apple Bundt Cake (it’s from her fabulous book, Baking). I made just a few small changes, it is essentially still hers.

I swapped out some of the AP flour for whole wheat, reduced the sugar a tiny bit, and used my own homemade apple butter for the store bought version for which she calls (and any time I can shoehorn homemade preserves into a baked good, I am a happy girl).

baked bundt

I also skipped any kind of frosting, because I want to be able to justify eating a slice of this cake for breakfast, and I just can’t make the rationalization work if it’s got a powdered sugar glaze drizzled over the top.

And just a note about the slight bits of char on my cake. This is not the pan’s fault. I forgot to set a timer after deciding that it needed a few more minutes. I got distracted and let five minutes turn into more than ten (and I am not the type to remake a cake for pictures). Happily, thanks to the apple butter and grated apple, the cake was still entirely moist inside. I just use a serrated edge knife to scrape away the worst of the burnt bits before eating.

unmolded bundt

Another reason this particular cake spoke to me was that Dorie mentions that it improves in both taste and texture when you let it rest for a bit. I keep a mental list of baked goods that just get better over time, because they allow me to take advantage of a sliver of free time mid-week to bake for parties and gatherings scheduled for the weekend.

bundt giveaway gear

So, on to the giveaway portion of this post. MightyNest is offering one lucky Food in Jars reader a chance to win a 10 inch glass bundt pan, a Cakebox (from the makers of Piebox), a sweet tea towel, and a sturdy stainless brownie spatula (also good for cake!).

open cakebox

The prize pack has a retail value of $100, and to sweeten the deal, MightyNest is also going to donate $100 to the winner’s school of choice. It’s a mighty good deal. Use the widget below to enter.

A little more about MightyNest, the sponsor of this post:

Everything they sell is selected with the highest standards for safety and quality. Glass and stainless baking gear and food storage. Green cleaning supplies. Natural bath products, and other home essentials. And everything is selected to be free from known toxic ingredients such as: BPA, PVC, Phthalates, Lead, Formaldehyde, flame retardants, Parabens and more.

Anytime you order from MightyNest, they’ll give 15% back to the school of your choice. It’s a great way to be healthier and support your local school.

sliced bundt in box

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. MightyNest sent me a set of the gear that we’re giving away and is also an occasional Food in Jars sponsor.

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Canning 101: How to Swap Vinegars

white vinegar

When I first started canning, I used a lot of distilled white vinegar. It was cheap, readily available, and a lot of the traditional recipes used it so I figured I should too. However, I found that I didn’t always love the flavor of white vinegar.

It was unrelentingly acidic and just didn’t bring anything interesting to the jars of pickles and chutneys in which I used it. Gradually, I started shifting from white distilled to apple cider, red wine, and white wine vinegars (I’ll use champagne vinegar when I can get it, but it’s pricy).

You might think that I was doing something potentially unsafe with my vinegar switch, but I wasn’t. That’s because I was making sure to only swap other 5% acidity vinegars in for the white distilled. As long as the vinegar has the same acidic concentration, you can always pull out one vinegar and replace it with another.

Whenever you buy a jug of vinegar, it should say right on the label (like the one in the picture above) that it has either been diluted or reduced with water to 5% acidity. There are a couple of cases when your vinegar won’t be 5%. Rice vinegar is typically sold between 4% and 4.3% acidity (however, Linda Ziedrich has a formula that allows you to still use it with all your favorite recipes) and in some commercial settings, apple cider vinegar is being sold at 4%.

The moral of the story is that as long as you read the vinegar labels carefully and make sure that you’ve got a bottle containing vinegar that has a 5% acidity, you can use whichever you’d like in your pickles!

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Upcoming Events: Philly, Carlisle, PA, and Harvest on Henry Festival

Marisa at Williams Sonoma

Upcoming events!

October 14, Philadelphia
I’m teaching a sauerkraut class at the German Society of Pennsylvania tonight 7-9 pm. Everyone will make their own quart jar of sauerkraut to take home with them. Class fee is $15 and you can register by emailing librarian@germansociety.org. More details about this class can be found here. I believe the class is full, but I know there was a waiting list, for any of you who feel moved to see if you can get in on a spur of the moment jar of sauerkraut.

October 15, Carlisle, PA
On Wednesday, I’m heading out to the center of Pennsylvania to do a canning demo at the Farmers on the Square market. I’ll be there from 3-5 pm and will have books on hand for sale and signature. I’m also happy to sign books you already own, so if you’re nearby and you’ve got copies, bring them with you!

October 18, Philadelphia
Canning demos and book signing at the Weaver’s Way Farm at Saul HS Harvest on Henry Festival. I’ll do a couple of demonstrations and will help judge the pie contest! More details can be found here. The festival runs from 1-5 pm and is open to all.

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