Pacific Merchants 10L Pickle Crock + Giveaway

pickling crock square

I made my first batch of sauerkraut in the fall of 2008 (in fact, that single jar of kraut was the first thing I ever wrote about here on Food in Jars). Since then, I’ve done a goodly amount of fermentation, from kosher dill pickles to kombucha to kimchi.

In all the years that I’ve been letting various fruits and vegetables gently bubble away in my kitchen, my vessel of choice has been a wide mouth jar (either a quart or a half gallon, depending on the volume I’m making). And while these jars have served me admirably, there was part of me that always wanted to try out a dedicated pickling crock.

crock overhead

So, when a rep from Pacific Merchants got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their 10L fermentation crock, I said yes.

It is a lovely crock, with thick walls, stone weights, and a gutter that you fill with water for an airtight seal. This crock, along will all the other stoneware vessels that Pacific Merchants sells, was made in Boleslawiec, Poland.

pickling crock open

You can use crocks like this one for all manner of ferments and I’m planning to christen it with a batch of sauerkraut. I’d intended to start a batch in it before this post, but I head out of town next week for nearly three weeks on the road and Scott asked that I not make him responsible for a large-scale ferment. I thought it was a fair request and so will start a batch (with step-by-step pictures for you all) when I get back in July.

pickle weights

Now, for the giveaway. The nice folks at Pacific Merchants are offering one lucky Food in Jars winner a $100 gift card for their website. What’s more, they’re also offering a discount code for their website. It’s good now through June 16. Just type in “foodinjars15″ at check out for 15% off your order.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your fermentation habits. Do you make your own lacto-fermented pickles? Do you have a jar of kimchi in the kitchen right now? Or is your only contact with a fermented vegetable is the tray of warm sauerkraut designed to top hot dogs at the ball park?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 8, 2014
  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: Pacific Merchants sent me the 10L fermentation crock, along with a pair of 1L Kilner jars, for photography and review purposes. They are also providing the giveaway unit. They have not compensated me beyond that to write this post and all opinions remain my own. 

Tonight! Preserves Dinner at High Street

high street PbtP image

Just a reminder that the first preserves dinner at High Street is tonight! I just got the menu and it reads like a perfect celebration of spring. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, there are still a few seats left and I would love to see some Food in Jars readers there!

This special menu (which you can find below the jump) will be served tonight starting at 9 pm at High Street (308 Market Street). You can make a reservation by calling (215) 625-0988. 

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June Sponsors: Cuppow, MightyNest, Fillmore Container, Mrs. Wages, and Preserving Now!

A very nice @cuppow display in Northampton!

It is June! It’s time to start looking forward to local cherries and to say thanks to the companies that help make it possible for me to write blog posts, answer questions, try out new products, and generally invest the bulk of my waking hours to this site. Please shower them with your love (and your dollars)!

First up is perennial Food in Jars favorite, jar accessory maker Cuppow! They are the creator of the original mason jar travel mug topper and, more recently, of the BNTO, a cup that fits into a wide mouth mason jar and transforms it into a lunch box. Now that the days have gotten warmer, I drink a lot of iced coffee and find myself reaching for a wide mouth cuppow nearly every day so that I can drink from a pint and a half jar without worrying about spills.

New to the official sponsorship rolls this month is MightyNest. They sponsored last week’s amazing giveaway (which is still open for entries until tomorrow) are one of the best resources around for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families.

Next comes our friends at Fillmore Container. They sell all manner of canning jars and lids, as well as a handful of books and jar accessories. They’re a family-owned business based in Lancaster, PA and they happily work with home canners and commercial producers alike. Visit their blog for lots of good canning tricks and tips.

Mrs. Wages is also back for another month of canning goodness! I’ve written for them for the last three summers and this year, we’re teaming up for an official partnership. They make all sorts of pectins and canning mixes. Make sure to sign up for their newsletter for monthly installments of canning goodness.

Last, but certainly not least is Preserving Now! Operated by Lyn Deardorff, Preserving Now is both a website and school dedicated to helping people expand their canning and preserving skills. If you’re in the Atlanta area, make sure to check out her schedule of upcoming classes and events!

If you’d like to be a sponsor, there are lots of spots available, starting at just $75 a month.
Please visit my sponsorship page for more details!

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Sponsored Post – Jam & Marmalade: The Blue Chair Way

apricot jam

This post is the next installment in my sponsored content partnership with Craftsy. This time, I took Jam & Marmalade: The Blue Chair Way, taught by Rachel Saunders.

I first met Rachel Saunders in the fall of 2010. It was in San Francisco, at the first ever Good Food Awards judging. Rachel and I were assigned to the panel that was judging the sweet preserves. We spent a day sitting around a table with a handful of other jam obsessives, tasting jar after jar, and talking about our impressions.

jam berries

All the judges had a deep understanding of what separated a good preserve from a great one, but Rachel was one of the few who could explain what was happening technically or scientifically that led to either good or great (as well as truly mediocre).

I left that day impressed with her expertise and ordered a copy of her beautiful cookbook (then brand new) as soon as I got home. To this day, I turn to it when I’m hunting for jammy inspiration and fresh flavor combinations.

cranberry apple jam

Recently, I spent a few hours immersing myself in Rachel’s approach to preserving when I took her class on Craftsy. Called Jam & Marmalade: The Blue Chair Way, it is an exhaustive introduction to the art of preserving with just fruit and sugar.

After a brief introduction to Craftsy and Rachel, the true meat of the class begins with a primer on equipment. For seasoned canners, this section might feel a little unnecessary, but there were several good reminders in this lesson, including remembering to make sure that when you prep your fruit, you take care to find a clean cutting board that has not been used for garlic or onions.

blood orange marm cooking

One thing to know about Rachel’s approach to jam and marmalade making is that she is devoted to the French-style copper preserving pan. These very beautiful and highly conductive pans are a joy to cook in (I treated myself to one some years back) but are very expensive.

Rachel’s alternative suggestion of an 8 quart or larger Dutch oven is one to consider, as it is still a very good vessel for jam making and will have many more uses in a regular home kitchen.

Enter to Win Jams & Marmalades: The Blue Chair Way!

The next two lessons focus in on jam making. First is a quick, simple blackberry jam and the second is a strawberry jam in which the fruit is macerated in sugar and lemon juice for seven days before cooking.

honeyed tomato jam

Lessons five, six, and seven are all focused in on marmalade making. Rachel’s technique is meticulous and produces a very beautiful product.

Part of her secret is that in addition to prepping, simmering, and softening the fruit that will go into the marmalade, she also simmers a second potful of lemons in order to create a flavorful, pectin-rich liquid to add to the cooking fruit. This ensures that she has ample jelly in the finished marmalade and is a technique I plan on using during next winter’s citrus season.

2+ cups of tomato mango jam

The final lesson in the course is the one in which Rachel shares her technique for processing the jars. She uses an oven method as opposed to the boiling water bath. This is a somewhat controversial method in canning circles, because while it is not approved for home use by the USDA, it is one that is commonly used in commercial production.

My feeling is that as long as the preserve being bottled is one that is high in sugar, the risks are minimal.

empty jam pot

Despite the fact that I’ve been making jam for most of my life and have written two cookbooks on the topic, I still felt like I gained something of value from this course. It was useful to hear the ways in which Rachel explained certain principles of jam making (I appreciated seeing her explain her frozen spoon method of testing for set, as I’d never quite understood it before) and I am so impressed by her marmalade process.

strawberry fig jam

Whether you’re looking for a thorough introduction to home preserving, or you want to brush up your skills, I wholeheartedly recommend Rachel Saunders’ course.

Enter to Win Jams & Marmalades: The Blue Chair Way!

For more about this series of sponsored posts and my year-long partnership with Craftsy, please visit this post.

Official disclosure statement: This is sponsored post from Craftsy. I was compensated for this post. However, all opinions remain my own.

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Storing Fresh Produce Without Plastic Bags + Giveaway

farmers market haul

The season of farmers markets, CSA shares, and home gardens is finally here. After our long winter and equally extended spring, I couldn’t be happier to have access to fresh greens, tasty brassicas like kohlrabi, and local asparagus (and soon, the tomatoes will be here!).

fridge interior

One thing that often trips me up for those first couple weeks as I adjust from grocery store produce to fruits and vegetables that are straight from the farm or orchard is storage. Each week, there is a basket of entirely unpackaged food that needs to be processed a little (to make it as ready to use as possible) and put away.

three containers

In past years, I’ve been heavily dependent on a motley assortment of plastic bags. This year, I’m working hard at eliminating unsustainable plastic from my produce storage. Thanks to the nice folks at MightyNest, I’ve had some new glass food storage containers, reusable produce bags, and dish towels to play with that have made tucking my farmers market haul easier (and even something of a pleasure!).

I’d thought I’d take some time to share my tips for stashing my greens and goods without plastic in the hopes that it might be helpful for some of you!

butter lettuce

For lettuces that I want to prep for easy use but still keep in whole leaf form (in case I want to slip a leaf or two onto a sandwich), I pull the head apart, wash the leaves, and dry them. A salad spinner is nice for drying greens, but if you don’t have one, lay out a clean kitchen towel and lay the lettuce out in a single layer. Put another towel on top, pat it down, and then carefully roll it all up. Give the lettuce bundle a gentle shake over your sink and unroll again (these Full Circle bamboo towels are incredibly absorbent!). The lettuce should be dry enough to store!

Then, layer the lettuce leaves in a container, separating the leaves every couple levels with a small cloth or paper towel (I have a stash of these Bird-E Towels, which are great for this purpose). As far as the container goes, I like to use the 109 ounce Duralex lidded bowl, as it is large enough for a whole heck of a lot of lettuce.

Side note: I also love that you can buy replacement lids for these bowls when the original wears out. I hate having to give up on a container simply because the lid has gone bad. Someone out there was thinking!

packed produce

For heartier things, like kohlrabi, kale, asparagus, green garlic, harukei turnips, and even celery or lovage, any sturdy glass container will do the job. These items don’t need a whole lot of absorbent padding or breaking down, so I simply grab any vessel that can hold the food and will fit in my fridge.

I really like the long low six cup ones with the tight fitting lids (those Duralex bowls in smaller sizes are also good). What’s nice about these long, low containers is that they’re also oven safe, so you can bake and store in them as well! They also stack evenly and securely. And as you can see, sometimes I double things up if I feel like it won’t impact the flavor or consistency. Kale and green garlic can hang out nicely without flavor transfer or texture degradation.

bundled spinach

For large bundles of spinach or mustard greens that I want to keep whole, I use the towel technique. I get a tea towel slightly damp and roll the greens up in it, tucking the ends in and trying to get at least two layers of material around the veg. It should be just damp, but not sopping.

Tucked into the crisper, this helps keep the greens fresh and perky, at least for a few days. I do make it a priority to use these tender greens in the first couple days after bringing them home, because they aren’t going to last an entire week (the kale will last much longer because it’s simply sturdier by nature).

produce bags

Other tips for storing.

  • If you’re going to use them promptly, cucumbers don’t need to be refrigerated. They actually do better above 50 degrees F and so can be kept on the counter for up to three days.
  • When we get into tomato season, keep them away from the cold and store them stem end down for the best lifespan.
  • Use that tea towel technique described earlier for asparagus as well as tender greens.
  • Any time you store radishes, small turnips or beets that came with their greens, separate the roots from the leaves upon bringing them home. Wrap and store the greens separately to keep them crisp and useable.
  • Leeks don’t need any special treatment at all. Just shake off the worst of the dirt from the roots and pop them into the crisper.
  • Conventional wisdom used to be that you never washed berries before storing, but research has shown that washing them in a vinegar solution before storing actually extends their lifespan.

spinach in towel 640

So, now to the giveaway portion of this blog post. I’ve teamed up with the nice people at MightyNest to give a set of storage containers, towels, and other goodies away to one lucky Food in Jars winner. This giveaway is working a little bit differently than some have in the past. Instead of simply signing up in the hopes of getting some free stuff, I’m going to ask you to take a pledge. A promise that this year, you’ll do your best to enjoy seasonal produce as much as you possibly can (seems like a good thing to work towards, right!).

The other cool thing about this pledge is that in the process, you’ll also be able to earn points for your local school to help them win $1000 this month in the MightyNest for Schools “Get Fresh” Challenge. It doesn’t matter whether you have kids in school or not. Pick your local school, the one you attended for 4th grade, or the one your favorite child attends. Just click the button that says “I Pledge” to enter!

Disclosure: MightyNest provided containers, towels, produce bags, and a produce brush to me for photography purposes and at no cost to me. They are also providing the giveaway package for the winner and are a site sponsor. However, my opinions still remain entirely my own.

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Upcoming Events: Manhattan! Philly! And More!

Not a bad price for bright red rhubarb!

Things have been a little bit quiet on the book tour front around these parts, but things are going to start picking up with a vengeance this weekend. I’ll be at the 79th Street greenmarket in Manhattan (it’s just behind the American Museum of Natural History) this Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm. I’ll be at High Street for our first preserves dinner on Tuesday.

And from there, it just keeps rolling. Here are the most imminent events, but check my Classes and Events page for the full line-up of class, demo, and book signing goodness!

  • June 1 – New York: Demo and signing at the 79th Street Greenmarket, 11 am – 2 pm.
  • June 3 – Philadelphia: Preserving-focused dinner at High Street at 9 pm. Call (215) 625-0988 to reserve your seat.
  • June 4 – Brooklyn: Preserving strawberries at The Brooklyn Kitchen, Brooklyn location. Click here to sign up.
  • June 5 – Perkasie, PA: Canning clinic and book signing at Blooming Glen Farm, 1-8 pm.
  • June 6 – Hatboro, PA: Demo and signing at the Hatboro Farmers Market, 6-8 pm.
  • June 7 – Philadelphia: Small batch canning demo and signing at Philly Mag’s Be Well Boot Camp, 10 am. Register here.
  • June 7 – Honey Brook, PA: Demo and signing at Wyebrook Farm, 2-4 pm.
  • June 8 – Havertown, PA: Canning class at the Havertown Free Library, 2-4 pm. Call (610) 446-3082 ext. 216 to register. There is a $5 fee that must be paid by check prior to the class.
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