Links: Stewed Rhubarb, Wilted Greens Pesto, and Winners

By the time you read this, Scott and I will be on a plane to Ireland! We’re heading off on a bit of vacation and I could not be more excited for the break from real life. I have some posts scheduled to run while I’m away and I’ll be dropping in now and then with some pictures from our travels. Additionally, thanks to the purchase of Irish SIM cards, I’ll be sharing snippets on Instagram (both in my feed and the Stories), so make sure to follow if you want to see some of our adventures. Now, links!

  • Because we’re having a long, cold spring, local rhubarb hasn’t appeared in any stores or markets yet. But I know it’s coming. When it does, I will make some of this gorgeous braised rhubarb.
  • Creamy date caramel. I’m making a “date” with this one as soon as I get back from my trip.
  • Wilted greens pesto. Deliciously preventing food waste is the best.
  • Nothing helps unify leftovers and make them feel like a fresh meal than a tasty sauce. This trio of sauces would all make your refrigerator proud.
  • Add some pickled red onions or tomato jam to this savory Dutch baby and I’m all in.
  • In anticipation of Ashley English’s new book (Southern from Scratch!), you should make a batch of her pickled eggs.
  • Wild garlic soda bread. I bet you could make this with ramps or even scallion greens to similar effect.

Last week, I ran a giveaway of silicone jar sleeves from Mason Jar Lifestyle. The winners on the blog are Annie Wyatt and Kelly Kerr. The Instagram winner is #1129/Meg Myers. Congratulations!

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How to Make Beet Raisins

Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops in to show us how to simmer and dry beet slices into beet raisins. It’s a great project for this in-between time, when we’re waiting for spring produce to arrive! -Marisa

Small slices of beets on a dehydrator tray will become beet raisins.

I’m not much of a cooking competition show watcher. The exceptions are the original Japanese Iron Chef, which I followed voraciously back in high school, The Great British Baking Show (of course), and a brief foray into MasterChef Junior — all shows that avoid the cutthroat, stressful nature of most reality TV.

So I can’t really blame myself for not knowing about beet raisins, with which chef Carrie Baird of Denver’s Bar Dough wowed the judges during an episode of Top Chef last year.

Cut beets on a cutting board for beet raisins.

A poster on the Food in Jars Community Facebook group mentioned them recently, and I was instantly fascinated. Beets are the kind of veggie I always wish I used more often. Now that I have an Instant Pot, it’s easy to quickly prep a bunch for a week of salads, but that’s as about as creative as I’ve gotten with them lately.

And while I’m waiting for the ever-so-slow unfolding of spring here in Philly, farmers’ market stands still have tons of sturdy storage beets in red and gold, harvested months ago. With strawberries still weeks away and grapes for actual raisins not available until high summer, I had to try this recipe.

Cut and peeled beets for beet raisins.

Baird’s recipe calls for melon balling the raw beets into uniform spheres, which is far more work than I wanted to put in. (A melon baller is also not one of the many culinary tools in my kitchen, and if I’ve managed to avoid getting one for this long, it’s not gonna happen now.)

So I peeled and trimmed my organic red beets, then halved them and cut each halves into five roughly equal slices, about half an inch thick and an inch or so long — cutting the pointy end, then slicing the remainder into quarters.

Cut beets in a pot that will become beet raisins.

Slices rather than balls also reduces waste, giving you more beet raisin for your buck. (My cuts gave me larger pieces in the end; if you want something more raisin-sized, do cuts closer to 1/2″ all around and cut the drying time.) The slices went into a pot with vinegar, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt.

Baird uses champagne vinegar, which you’re welcome to do; I used apple cider vinegar, because that’s what I had on hand (and I’m not trying to win a high-stakes cooking competition).

The slices simmered till they were very soft but not disintegrating, about two hours. Then, I drained the liquid — which you could use to make salad dressing, or add a little more salt and use it to quick-pickle some thinly-sliced hakurei turnips, for example — and let the slices cool for a bit.

Side view of beet slices on a dehydrator tray for beet raisins.

The cooked beet “grapes” then went into my Excalibur dehydrator at at 135oF, which is the setting recommended for fruit. After two hours, the beets were showing signs of dehydration, but their texture was still more like beets than raisins.

I upped the temperature to 145oF, which is the temperature I include in the recipe below. The beets took another three hours or so until they were sufficiently raisinlike for me to pull them out — next time, I might just turn the dehydrator up all the way to 155oF and see if that helps to shorten the dehydration time without overdrying.

When I did, they were wrinkly, chewy and toothsome, and pleasantly sweet and a little tart — just like real raisins! They’re super snackable and would be delicious in a bowl of yogurt with granola, or on a kale salad, as Baird served them on Top Chef. I could also see using them to top a tzatziki-esque cucumber salad along with lots of dill, toasted slivered almonds, and a pillowy pita.

Finished beet raisins in a small bowl.

They’re not quite as simple as stemming grapes and tossing them onto a dehydrator rack, but I’ll definitely be making these beet raisins again. Would you give them a try? Tell us in the comments!

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Giveaway: Silicone Sleeves from Mason Jar Lifestyle

Mason jars serve play many roles in my life. Of course, I use them for canning. But I also put them to work holding pantry staples, vinaigrettes and sauces, leftovers, and a wide array of drinks. I often brew loose leaf tea in a quart jar and when the weather gets warmer, a Pint & Half jar filled with ice coffee is my vessel and beverage of choice.

The one problem with using mason jars as drinking glass/travel mug is the breakability factor. Happily, thanks to the folks at Mason Jar Lifestyle, I now have a collection of silicone sleeve for every size jar possible. They help cushion my jars, they serve as a heatproof barrier when I fill a jar with coffee or tea, and they prevent the jars from sweating when I use them for cold drinks. All in all, it’s a really awesome accessory.

Mason Jar Lifestyle make silicone sleeves that fit quarter pints (so adorable!), wide mouth half pints (these are great for those times when you use your jars to pack snacks), regular mouth half pints, pint jars (both regular and wide mouth), my beloved Pint & Half jars, and even for quart jars. They also come in an array of fun colors.

All the larger sleeves have small holes in the bottom, to make it easier to slide the sleeves on and off the jars (the little ones don’t, but they’re still pretty easy to put on and then remove for cleaning). My sister has a stash of these sleeves that she keeps on a set of regular mouth half pints for her kids, and she leaves them on the jars and runs them through the dishwasher with the sleeves in place.

I like to pair these silicone sleeves with a drink topper and a glass straw when I’m sitting at my desk, to prevent messes and potential spills.

This week, I’m giving away two full sets of silicone sleeves here on the blog and another set over on Instagram. Make sure to enter in both places to increase your chances of winning!

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April Sponsors: Cuppow, Fillmore Container, EcoJarz, Mason Jar Lifestyle, and CanningCrafts

Happy April, dear readers! It’s the start of the month and that means that it’s time to thank the businesses that help make this site possible. Please do show them that you appreciate their support with your time and attention!  

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. There’s nothing better for iced coffee season (hopefully soon!) than a Pint & Half jar with a wide mouth Cuppow.

Lancaster, PA-based and family-owned Fillmore Container are next! They sell all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. We’re planning some fun collaborations for later this month, so stay tuned for that!

Our friends over at EcoJarz are another stalwart sponsor. They make an array of products designed to fit on top of mason jars, including cheese graterscoffee brewers, and stainless steel storage lids. If you’re looking to get into fermentation this spring, their fermenting kit is a useful and affordable option!

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 lidsstrawssprouting lidsfermentation weightsairlockstea light converterscozies, they are there for you. Look for a fun giveaway from them later today!

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. Make sure to subscribe to the CanningCrafts newsletter, because you’ll get a 10% off coupon code!

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!

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Links: Rhubarb Compote and Homemade Harissa

Happy April, friends! Happy Easter and Passover, as well! I hope you’ve all had lovely weekends, filled with family and celebratory meals. I’ve spent most of the weekend with my extended family, first on Saturday night for our annual Seder and then today for brunch and an extended hang out at my cousin Angie’s house.

Angie is starting the process of cleaning out after 50 years in her home, and so none of us left empty-handed. Scott and I came home with a terracotta fish baker that once belonged to my Aunt Doris, and a five branch candelabra that was originally part of the decoration in the Russian tea room that my family ran in Philadelphia many years ago. We’re all set if the power goes out!

I’m really sorry that it’s been so quiet around here lately. After nine years of writing here, my creative well seems to be running a little dry. I’m hoping that the return of warmer days will help me regain my footing. In the meantime, I’ve got some links for you!

  • I’ve yet to spot any rhubarb around these parts, but when I do, I’m sure to make some of this hot pink rhubarb compote.
  •  While we wait for spring produce, there’s always candied grapefruit peel!
  • My food processor makes a terrible noise when I ask it to make almond butter, but with the help of earplugs, it does turn into the most gorgeous, spreadable paste.
  • I love Alexandra Stafford’s Instagram Stories because she’s always making the most wonderful dishes. I’ve been particularly jealous about her homemade harissa and overnight focaccia lately.
  • It has nothing to do with canning or preserving, but doesn’t this vegan alfredo sauce look good?!
  • This olive oil cake speaks to me.
  • I love the idea of building a zero waste grocery kit. Whenever I go grocery shopping, I do try to think through my list and determine what bags and containers I can bring with me to reduce the amount of packaging I consume, but this takes it a step further!

Also, a reminder! I’ve restarted my Facebook Live series. This month, I’ll be doing a live stream demo on Monday, April 2 at 9 pm eastern (6 pm pacific). I’m going to make a batch of the Strawberry Cocoa Jam from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars (if you have the book, you can follow along!). Just head over to the Food in Jars Facebook page to join the fun!

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Guest Post: Fruit Leather from the Mid-winter Pantry

Today’s guest post comes to us from Janet Reich Elsbach. Based in Western Massachusetts, Janet writes wildly beautiful things about food and life at A Raisin and a Porpoise. Her first cookbook, called Extra Helping: Recipes for Building Community One Dish at a Time, will be out this fall (and is available for pre-order now!). I also highly encourage you to follow her tiny dog Sylvester on Instagram. He is delightful.

There’s a poem by Wendell Berry that I keep taped up inside my closet so I can see it every day, because it helps me feel calm and serene when the circumstances of the world around me are not conducive to that state of being.

The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

What this has to do with canning is that a similar feeling of calm, also rooted in gratitude for the natural world and thoughts of what my life and my children’s lives may be, can be switched on in me by going down to the basement and into the pantry where I keep the jars of fruit that I have preserved from the summer harvest. I have the great good fortune of living next to my parents’ prolific orchard, and most years there is more fruit streaming out of it than I can tackle, even with the help of my canning coven.

My daughter lines up the jams and sauces and so forth in her very tidy way, sorting by color and type and size of container. If I have done it correctly, the sealed jars produce no aroma or other emission. But standing in the narrow, windowless alcove, between the skinny little shelves and among the crates of empties and other supplies that line the floor, I might as well be standing in the forest, inhaling the negative ions that wild places are said to give off to great tonic effect. I just feel a little bit safer, seeing the peaches and plums and tomatoes and apples lined up so neatly.

Possibly because a healthy population of jars is connected to my sense of calm, I struggle with the math that governs the pace at which the jars are opened. Ok, let’s be clear: I don’t do any math. I vacillate between periods of hoarding and bouts of lid-popping. By this point in the winter, it’s usually clear that we can probably increase consumption and I can stop being quite so careful. And nobody seems to eat as much applesauce as they once did. And I don’t like to keep anything more than two years from its canning date. So around this time of year, once holiday giving has cleared what it is going to clear from the inventory, I start making fruit leather.

Or rather, I continue making fruit leather. We (and by “we,” I primarily mean my son, though he does get a good bit of help) eat a lot of fruit leather. Given the yardage of fruit leather I have produced for this child in his 13 years of life, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to experiment and to refine my thinking. The main refinement is this: What is fruit leather, really, but dried applesauce? And now that I have determined that the tenderest texture derives from both adding some sticky sweetener (honey, for example) and using a blender to grind everything super-fine (think baby food consistency), I’m all set to experiment wildly.

Some of you in the audience may have already figured out that these wild, adventurous experiments I allude to basically take the form of adding different things to applesauce. Winter in New England, people! CRAZY TIMES UP IN HERE.

My usual formula involves zipping the applesauce up with a handful of the peaches or strawberries I’ve frozen, then adding lime juice, honey and a little heat from cayenne or some other type of chile. Tossing a piece of preserved lemon into the mixture as well makes a very complex and mysteriously delicious leather that reminds me of those wildly sweet-tart-hot mango chile pops you can find in Mexican markets.

But lately when I am breathing deeply in the canning closet, I see there is a good amount of jam that also needs to be deployed before its sell-by date. Honey and jam are not all that different, as you know if you have ever run out of one and used the other in your tea or on your pancakes.

In the fruit version here, I paired a jar of plum preserves with some fresh lemon juice, which adds a little tang and generally brightens the flavors, and included some fresh ginger to give it a little kick. Any fruit jam can substitute for the plum.

For the chocolate leather, I combined a jar of pear butter with the applesauce base. Pears and chocolate play so well together, as do strawberry or raspberry if you have a surplus of either of those.

My dehydrator is an ancient old workshorse that I inherited. In lieu of tray liners, which it does not possess, I use parchment paper. If you have a more modern appliance, by all means use the liners it probably came with. Fruit leather can also be made on lined cookie sheets in an oven that has a very low setting, which mine does not (and I’ve made the fruit shards to prove it).

Odds are you’ll soon be off on your own wild experiments. However you mix it up, it’s a new life for the jars lingering in the pantry and definitely not your standard lunchbox snack.

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