Giveaway: Mrs. Wages Perfect Pickle Sampler

Perfect Pickle Sampler 640

This week’s giveaway comes to us from long-time Food in Jars sponsor Mrs. Wages. I’ve been doing a bit of work with the folks from Mrs. Wages for the last five years and one element of our annual partnership is that they always offer up one or two awesome baskets of their mixes, spices, and starters for me to give away to my equally awesome readers. Happily, this summer is no exception!

This is the first of two baskets of goodies I’ll be giving away from Mrs. Wages this summer. This Perfect Pickle Sampler basket contains every single pickle product that Mrs. Wages makes, which should make the pickle lovers out there very, very happy. Here’s exactly what’s in the prize.

        • Pickling Lime
        • Pickling and Canning Salt
        • Kosher Dill Pickles Quick Process Pickle Mix
        • Zesty Bread & Butter Pickle Quick Process Pickle Mix
        • Polish Dill Pickles Quick Process Pickle Mix
        • Sweet Pickle Relish Quick Process Pickle Mix
        • Bread & Butter Pickles Quick Process Pickle Mix
        • Sweet Pickles Quick Process Pickle Mix
        • Spicy Pickles Quick Process Pickle Mix
        • Dill Pickles Quick Process Pickle Mix
        • Kosher Dill Pickles Refrigerator Pickle Mix
        • Filled Green Beans Refrigerator or Canning Mix
        • Sweet Pickles Refrigerator Pickle Mix
        • Polish Dill Pickles Refrigerator Pickle Mix
        • Spicy Pickles Refrigerator Pickle Mix
        • Pickled Beets Refrigerator or Canning Mix
        • Pickled Vegetables Refrigerator or Canning Mix
        • The Mrs. Wages Home Canning Guide and Recipes

If this massive collection of pickle spices and starts appeals to you, here’s how to enter the giveaway.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your current favorite pickle. Whether it’s one you make, one your mom always has in her fridge, or just your favorite local brand, I want to hear about it.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, June 13, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 15, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Mrs. Wages is providing the basket for the giveaway. They are also a Food in Jars sponsor and so do help contribute to the running of this site.

Upcoming Classes: Mullica Hill and Chestnut Hill

class image revised

Hello friends! I have both a free demo and a class on offer this week in the Philly region and I hope to see some of you there!

The first is tonight, Monday, June 8. I’ll be doing a small batch strawberry jam canning demo at the Gloucester County Library’s Mullica Hill Branch starting at 7 pm. Because of the library rules, I won’t have any books to sell, but if you bring your own copy I would be delighted to sign it! This event is free.

Then, on Wednesday, June 10, I’m teaching my second class in my Weaver’s Way series. In this session, we’ll pickle cucumbers two different ways. I’ll show you how to make both preserved vinegar pickles and slower fermented ones in the kitchen at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House. 7-9 pm. Click here to register.

As always, my complete teaching and demo schedule can be found over on my Classes and Events page. I’m also planning on adding a few more online classes to the calendar soon, so check back!

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Links: Strawberries, Cauliflower Hummus, and a Winner

If you happened to see a woman carrying a flat of strawberries through Center City earlier today, chances are it was me. These beauties were from the fair food farmstand. #strawberries #localproduce

This last week was blissfully mellow. I played tourist with a dear friend who was visiting, managed to get to the bottom of my overflowing inbox, and took care of some necessary household tasks like laundry and car maintenance. I also finished a book for the first time in a couple weeks. It was good. Now, links!

Drift Away Coffee

The winner of the Driftaway Coffee giveaway is #47/Kari K. Thank you all for taking the time to enter!

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Low Sugar Strawberry Vanilla Jam

cluster of strawberry vanilla jam

Last Friday, I stopped in to Reading Terminal Market to see Annelies and pick up a few things. While there, I wandered by the Fair Food Farmstand and commented on the gorgeous, fragrant strawberries. In response, the operations manager Anne, offered to sell me a flat of seconds*. Cheap.

berry seconds

I am unable to resist fruit bargains and so ended up walking the eight blocks home hugging a flat of berries. I found that people responded to the berries in much the same way they do when I’ve found myself carrying a new baby through a grocery store. They smile at your parcel and murmur under their breath, “Baby! (Berries!).”

hulled strawberries

I made it home, berries intact, and set my load down near the air conditioner to cool (there was no space in the fridge). There they sat until later that evening. When I finally started disassembling the flat, I discovered that these were true seconds and needed careful culling.

discarded strawberry bits

I put on a podcast and sidled up to the sink. I hulled and sliced, ruthlessly eliminating all the bits that moldy, slimy, or had started to smelly boozy. In the end, I had enough berries for some slow cooker strawberry butter (a batch of this, sweetened with cane sugar instead of maple) and a batch of low sugar strawberry vanilla jam.

strawberry puree in slow cooker

I pureed the berries for the butter and set them up on low in my ancient four quart cooker to reduce overnight. I put the rest of the berries into a large bowl and pummeled them with a potato masher until I had about nine cups of pulp. That went into a eight quart pot with 2 cups of cane sugar and 2 split and scraped vanilla beans.

cooking strawberry jam

Now, had my refrigerator not been packed to the gills, I would have put the sugared berry mash in there and kept it cold overnight. However, there was no space in the inn, so I cheated a little. I brought it to a rolling boil for a couple minutes and then turned off the heat. I covered the pot, shoved it to the back burner, and left it there overnight.

steamy strawberry jam

Food safety experts might ding me for this practice, but the quick boil kills off the worst of the bacteria and the sugar acts as a preservative (plus, it was a relatively cool night. I don’t do this during the true heat of summer).

It was entirely fine when came back to it the next morning, and so I pulled the pot back to my most powerful burner, added 1 tablespoon of calcium water and the juice of 2 small lemons, and brought it back to a boil.

strawberry jam overhead

I boiled the fruit for 25 minutes (or so), until it had reduced by about half, was thickening up a little, and the worst of the foaming had subsided. I stirred 1 tablespoon of Pomona’s Pectin into 1/2 cup cane sugar and whisked it into the jam in a thin, steady stream so that the pectin didn’t clump.

pint of strawberry vanilla jam

Two more minutes of rapid boiling and it was done. The batch made 4 1/2 pints and I processed them in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. The finished is sweet, but the primary flavor is strawberry. It’s a very good one for stirring into plain yogurt because it doesn’t overpower the pleasing tartness of the yogurt.

empty berry boxes

And remember, you can always treat this recipe as a template. You can add different flavors (strawberries with a little cinnamon and nutmeg is always nice). You can also slice the batch in half if 4 1/2 pints of a single flavor is more than you want in your pantry.

*If you’re in Philly and want in on cheap flats of berries, Anne has yet more. Leave a comment on this post and I’ll connect you.

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Be a Recipe Tester for my Natural Sweeteners Book

plum jam

Friends, I am delightfully honored and just slightly overwhelmed by your excitement and interest in being recipe testers for my new book. Over 300 of you have signed up since I published this post earlier today. Thanks to this abundance in volunteers, I am closing the tester sign-ups.

If you missed your chance, please know that I will be sharing a few new, naturally sweetened recipes here on the blog this summer, so you’ll get a chance to preview some of the types of recipes you’ll see in the book. 

One of the things I came to understand while I was writing the recipes for my next book is that they were going to need more external testing than I undertook with my first two books.

Because there’s been so little work in the area of naturally sweetened preserves, I didn’t have nearly as deep a well of knowledge on which to draw when developing these recipes. Additionally, just because something works in my kitchen doesn’t always guarantee that it’s going to work in yours.

So I’m asking for your help. There’s a form at the bottom of this post where you can sign up to be a recipe tester. Tell me what sweeteners you’re interested in working with, how many recipes you’d like to test, and if there are any fruits you avoid. In about a week, I’ll send you some recipes to try.

Recipe testing is a volunteer gig for which you purchase the supplies (but also get to keep the results). When I send you the recipes, I’ll also include a short questionnaire that you’ll complete for each recipe you try. Of course, I will thank all the recipe testers profusely in the acknowledgements of the book!

I have no idea what kind of response I’ll receive to this request, but I will do my very best to include as many people as possible. All recipe testing will need to be completed by August 15, 2015, so please do take that into account before signing up!

Thanks to you all!

Cold Brew Coffee + Driftaway Coffee Giveaway

four varieties Drift Away

I started drinking coffee when I was 14 years old. It was the early 1990s and Portland, Oregon was ground zero for the onslaught of espresso bars that was soon to sweep the nation. Boyd’s, one of the early local chains, had a location just a block from my high school and whenever my budget allowed, I’d get myself a latte (often with hazelnut syrup) or when the weather warmed, an iced coffee.

Drift Away tag detail

I’ve been a fairly regular coffee drinker ever since. And so, when the nice people at Driftaway Coffee got in touch a few months back to see if we could team up in some way, I said of course. They are a subscription coffee company that will send you installments of freshly roasted beans every two weeks.

They trick is that they like each new subscriber to start with their Rise & Grind kit, which includes four different varietals in one-ounce samples. Once you’ve brewed through each one, you let them know which one you liked best and that’s the one you’ll get in each shipment. It’s a pretty great idea, particularly for people who are just starting to explore single origin coffees.

filling grinder

They sent me one of the two-ounce Rise & Grind kits and once I was finished admiring the packaging (I’m a sucker for good design), I popped open one of the 2 ounce packets and got to work making a batch of cold brew.

I’ve been a cold brew coffee fan for years now (you can see that the first time I mentioned it was way back in 2010) and make it a lot when the days warm. I’ve refined my approach and upgraded my equipment slightly in the last five years, so an updated post on the topic seemed like a good idea.

ground coffee

I’ve found that everyone has their own ratio for cold brew. My preferred recipe is 2 ounces of coarse ground coffee to 3 1/2 cups cold, freshly filtered water. This makes a strong brew that produces enough to last 2-3 days (depending on how many deadlines I’m pushing to meet). I don’t typically add water to thin it out, but instead add a couple of ice cubes and a generous pour of milk and call it good.

pouring water

I grind the beans and funnel them into a quart jar. I add a splash of cold water and swirl the jar a little to dampen the grounds and let them bloom a little. Once they’ve grown a little, I add the remaining water and put a lid on the jar. I tuck into the corner of the kitchen and let it sit for 12 to 18 hours.

top of brewing coffee

The next day, I perch a cone filter over a clean quart jar and fit it with one of Coffee Sock cloth filters that Cuppow sells. I pour the sludgy coffee through the filter in a couple of batches, until the lower jar is filled with perfect, ready to drink coffee.

jar of brewing coffee

One of my favorite things about cold brew is that it has the ability to take mediocre or slightly elderly beans and make them drinkable. However, when you’re shooting for more than just simply drinkable, using good, freshly roasted beans creates a brew that is transcendently good.

For the batch of cold brew that is pictured here, I used Driftaway Coffee’s Guatemalan beans and it was magical. Earthy and a bit chocolatey, with just a bit of acid for lightness. Oh, and if making your own cold brew feels like too much work, I hear that Driftaway Coffee is soon going to be making their own concentrate.

Drift Away Coffee

The nice folks at Driftaway Coffee want to give a three-month subscriptions away to one of my readers so that’s what we’re going to do. Here’s how to enter!

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me what you’re drinking these days. Cold brew coffee? Homemade kombucha? Hot tea with honey?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, June 6, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog soon thereafter.
  3. Giveaway open to US residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Driftaway Coffee sent me their Rise & Grind kit and are providing the giveaway subscription, both at no cost to me. No additional financial compensation has been provided and all opinions expressed are mine alone.