Guest Post: Transforming Your Jamming Fails

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We’ve all been there.

Staring with glazed and uncomprehending eyes at a dozen pints of our favorite “jelly” sitting on the counter: a jelly that never jelled.

How could this have happened?

We followed the recipe to the letter. We didn’t fall into the “a little less sugar won’t hurt” trap. Our choice of pectin was impeccable. We gave up most of a Saturday, standing over a pot of boiling, staining fruit that spattered our bare arms with specks of magma while our friends hit the beach or the bar.

The seal is tight; there’s nothing wrong with the preserves inside. Still, the truth is staring us in the face: our jam or jelly didn’t get the message it wasn’t supposed to turn out like maple syrup. After all, it wasn’t pancakes you wanted to eat it with; it was toast, darn it!

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Well, buck up, canners! Here’s what to do next:

  1. File this one under the “A rose by any other name smells as sweet” category! Did you think you were making marmalade? Surely you meant ‘marinade’! Through bitter experience, I’ve discovered that runny preserves work marvelously well as meaty accompanists. Use the old standbys as your guide: citrus and cranberry paired with poultry, for instance, or apple or rhubarb with pork. One of my family’s favorite recipes, the cheekily-titled “Becky’s Breasts” is basically runny cranberry sauce whisked up in equal parts with bottled Italian dressing. Souse your chicken with the above, leave in the fridge a few hours, bake, and serve!

2. Skip the sugar! Planning on whipping up the weekly apple crisp for supper? Be my guest, but why not sub in some of that failed jam or jelly as a sweetener? Some favorite failures: strawberry-rhubarb, raspberry un-jelly, and the blueberry-peach jam experiment that wound up tasting like cough syrup, but was vastly improved in its fruit crisp setting. Mix and match!

3. Your favorite neighborhood watering hole. Didn’t think that’s where you worked, did you? Now look at all of that black currant syrup you just put up. Are you going to throw out all that work, or are you going to go out shopping for some vodka and soda water and throw yourself a party? Doesn’t that feel better?

Life is a lot like canning, friends. Some relationships are going to jell beautifully, while others may require some serious adjustments in outlook. Canning pros like Marisa will tell you that it’s those willing to be flexible who enjoy the most delicious success.

Elizabeth Peirce writes books about how busy people can grow, prepare and preserve their own food. Exhausted parents get extra empathy and free pep talks at her blog, C.O.O.K. (creativeorganiconlinekitchen.com), along with recipes, how-to’s, and book links.

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The 2016 Class of Canning, Preserving, and Culinary DIY Books

In need of a new canning, preserving or DIY book for the holiday season? Look no further than this list of books published in 2016!

Oh friends, this last year was a very good one for canning and preserving books. I’ve done a thorough search of my shelves and stacks and have come up with 18 lovely volumes that came out in 2016. Let’s flip through the stack!

The Forager’s Feast – Written by Leda Meredith, this book contains everything you need to know about foraging wild edibles and transforming them into all manner of tasty things. If I can ever find enough rose hips, I plan on making the Rose Hip Freezer Jam. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars – My third canning book, this volume features recipes sweetened with honey, maple, agave, coconut sugar, fruit juice concentrates, and dried fruits. It makes a fabulous gift for anyone who is looking to reduce the amount of refined sugar in their home cooking. (Amazon | Powell’s)

A Prepper’s Cookbook – While not specifically a canning or preserving book, this slim paperback by Deborah D. Moore is an incredibly useful volume for those of us who have a homemade pantry that we’re trying to put into better use.  (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Big Book of Kombucha – I’ve been a semi-regular kombucha brewer for years with mixed success. It wasn’t until a copy of this hefty book by Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory came my way that I actually starting having consistent success with my finished product. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Preserving Italy – This book by Domenica Marchetti is the best one on the market about canning, preserving, curing, and infusing in the Italian style. If you’re looking to make jams, cured meats, pickles, and liqueurs like the ones your nonna used to make, this volume should be on your shelf. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Foolproof Preserving – Written by a team from America’s Test Kitchen, this book is a nice addition to the small batch canon. I don’t love that so many of the recipes aren’t safe for a water bath, but the flavor combinations are spot-on and recipe variety is appealing. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Art of the Cheese Plate – On the face, this book by Tia Keenan doesn’t much look like it belongs in this stack. But any cheese plate book worth its salt contains a trove of recipes for tiny batches of fabulous condiments and boy, does this one deliver. There’s sweet potato butter, apple chutney, pickled blueberries, and so much more. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Modern Preserver – This charming book by UK-based professional preserver Kylee Newton bursts with appealing recipes and beautiful pictures. There is nothing in this volume that I don’t want make and many things I wish I’d thought of first. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Food Swap – Whether you’re an active food swapper or not, there is so much in Emily Paster’s useful and clever book to like. It’s got jams, pickles, syrups, and baked goods, all that travel well, are easy to create, and make great gifts. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Beyond Canning – Smoky carrot coins. Banana ketchup. Hibicus lime jelly. You’ll find those things and so much more in this creative and varied book by Autumn Giles. If you’re tired of the same old thing, this book will breathe new life into your canning practice. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Cultured Club – I picked up this book while in Ireland in October. Written by fermentation expert Dearbhla Reynolds, it contains a wild range of ferments (fermented potato mash and lacto-fermented pestos!) and I can’t wait to explore it even more than I already have. (Amazon)

Batch – This massive book by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison is the most comprehensive preserving book that we saw this year. It contains more than 200 recipes for jamming, pickling, dehydrating, infusing, and fermenting as well as  cooking, baking, using, and serving those varied preserves. It’s a must-have for avid canners. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Not Your Mama’s Canning Book – This book by Rebecca Lindamood is totally brilliant. When I first opened it up and flipped through the recipes, I found myself wished fervently that I’d thought of the Instant Hummus-In-A-Jar or the Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie filling first. The recipes are unusual, approachable, and unlike anything else you have on your shelves. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Canning for a New Generation – The updated and expanded edition of this now-classic book by Liana Krissoff was published this summer and it’s even better than the original. If you don’t have the first edition on your shelf already, make sure to seek out this new one. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Joy of Pickling – Another new edition of an old favorite, this volume by Linda Ziedrich is another must-have for an avid canner. An earlier version of this book was my first pickling primer and I’m delighted to have this edition, with its expanded section on pickling theory. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving – This new giant Ball book is gorgeously photographed and exhaustively tested. I’ll confess that I didn’t manage to use any of the recipes this summer, but everytime I flip through its pages, something catches my eye and I add it to my to-make list. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The New Milks – It’s a tiny bit of a stretch to include this book by Dina Cheney on this list, but its sneaking through on its DIY cred. I like it because I dig the non-dairy milks and I appreciate all the ideas for how to use them in my cooking and baking. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Fermented Foods at Every Meal – You’ve got a fridge full of fermented foods, but you struggle to use them up. Hayley Barisa Ryczek is here to help you weave those ferments into every meal of the day. So smart! (Amazon | Powell’s)

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Giveaway: EcoJarz PopTop and Jar Band Gripper

Let’s chat about our friends over at EcoJarz! They make a wide variety of jar accessories out of high quality stainless steel and sturdy silicone. I rely on their stainless steel band when fermenting in mason jars (because it doesn’t rust or corrode like the conventional bands) and have been known to take my Dose (a little jar-based pour over coffee set-up) on vacation with me to help meet my caffeine needs.

The nice folks at EcoJarz offered up three sets of their PopTop lid, along with a wide mouth stainless steel band, and a silicone Jar Band Gripper (which snugs onto the band, making it easier to twist off when it’s time to clean out the jar) for this week’s giveaway. This drink topper is easy to use and is the perfect thing if you find yourself on the move with a smoothie or a big jar of water.

To enter the giveaway, use the widget below. However, if you think this topper would make a great gift for someone on your list and you don’t want to wait and see who wins the giveaway, use the coupon FOODINJARS2016 to get 20% off your order. Enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Salted Maple Walnut Granola

This salted maple walnut granola is perfect for gift giving and holiday brunch buffets. Pair it with a jar of homemade jam for your favorite people.

Every year, I try to make something to supplement the holiday gifts of jam that I give to my friends, family and neighbors. Sometimes I make shortbread cookies. Other times, I roll out cracker dough and use a wavy pie cutter to slice them into diamond shapes. Occasionally, I work up a giant batch of my dad’s pancake mix and package it in ziptop bags the way he always did when I was a kid.

This year, I made a giant batch of spiced and salted granola to pair up with the jams and fruit butters I’m sharing this year. Made with walnuts because I bought a giant bag at Costco (so many of my recipe development choices are spurred by what I happened to have in excess), it is nutty, crunchy, and perfect for topping bowls of yogurt and preserves.

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Gift Guide 2016: Things for Your Favorite Home Cook

Here we are with the third installment of my brief gift guide series. In the title of this post, I call this a guide for your favorite home cook, but really I had my sister in mind when I put this list together. She has two young boys, cooks a lot, and loves to have friends over casual dinners. If you’ve got someone like her on your list, I imagine they’d love any one of the items on this list.

1. How to Celebrate Everything – This book by Dinner: A Love Story blogger Jenny Rosenstrach is perfect for parents of young kids who are in the process of building their family rituals and traditional celebrations.

2. A Beautiful Cutting Board – A lovely board is an easy way to up your cheese board game and make it look like you’ve put more effort into your array of snacks than you did.

3. Wooden Weck Jar Lids – These pretty lids transform Weck jars into storage canisters. They come in a variety of sizes and would make a fabulous present for a jar lover.

4. Tart Cherry Jam from Three Springs Fruit Farm – A delicious preserve for someone who loves tart cherries but either can’t get them in their region, or just didn’t have time to can this summer. It’s been made with my recipe, so you know it has to be good. Use the code FoodInJars at check-out for 10% off your order.

5. Salve from Folk Potions – This time of year is rough on hands, particularly if you cook and do dishes. Treat your favorite cook to a tin of All Purpose Salve-Vation or a jar of Shea Mango Body Butter to prevent those fingertip splits and cracks.

6. Old Blue Raw Honey – Sweet, sustainable, and raised by good people, this honey is some of the best I’ve had. The limited edition Winter Honey Sampler is an especially great option, because it’s a way to taste flavor variations and is really fun to pair with cheese.

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Gift Guide 2016: For the Coffee Lovers

Driftaway Coffee for the Coffee Lover Gift Guide

Today’s gift guide features things that coffee lovers of all stripes would like to receive. These are things that I either use in my own kitchen on a regular basis or am actually planning on giving to a family member this year. Oh, and if you need suggestions for travel mugs and drinking jars, check out last year’s guide on that topic!

1. Driftaway Coffee Subscription – A Driftaway subscription is just the thing to give to someone who is starting to explore the wider world of coffee. Every subscription starts with four 2-ounce packets of freshly roasted, single origin coffees, so that your gift recipient can hone in one their favorite flavors and origins. As they drink through their sampler packs, they use the Driftaway app to input tasting notes and rate the coffees the beans they tried. The folks at Driftaway use those notes and rating to determine what coffee they send next. It’s a delicious and interactive way to get your morning brew!

Coffee dripper and pour over kettle for the Coffee Lover Gift Guide

2. The Little Dripper from Constellation Supply Co. – This lovely ceramic coffee dripper is just the thing for someone who is looking to start a pour over routine, or who is currently using a beat-up plastic dripper and needs an upgrade. It’s sturdy, beautifully made, and comes in three different colors. If that one is out of stock, a classic white Bee House dripper is a nice option as well.

3. Hario Pouring Kettle – These spouted kettles were pricy and hip when they first hit the US market several years ago. Now that the hype has died down, their price has come down and they’ve become more accessible for the average coffee brewer. If you’ve got the patience for the slow pour over technique, it’s great for controlling water flow for the perfect cup.

Handmade mug and milk warmer for the coffee lover gift guide

4. A Beautiful, Handmade Mug – As any coffee drinker knows, while a beautiful mug isn’t required, it sure does improve the experience of your first (or fourth!) cup. Over the years, I’ve amassed a wide collection of lovely, handmade ones that bring me great pleasure. The one pictured here is made by Melissa Bridgman of Bridgman Pottery and is a favorite. If you’re feeling really flush, Melissa offers a three-month subscription wherein the recipient gets a new cup or mug every month.

5. Dansk Milk Warmer – Pots for warming milk come in many different shapes and sizes. The one I use is a vintage Dansk version that I got at an antique mall in Portland last year. The handle was coming off so it was dirt cheap (my dad fixed it for me before I left town). If you can’t hold out for vintage, you’re in luck. This is one of the pieces that Dansk has reissued and you can get it in turquoise, navy, red, or yellow.

Disclosure: The folks from Driftaway sent me some beans to feature in this post. Everything else are items that I use, love, and bought. 

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