Food in Jars from around the internet

Jams and pickles

Last week, the New York Times food section featured Eugenia Bone and her new book Well-Preserved. Since then, she’s been answering reader questions on Diner’s Journal, and there’s lot of good info there for those of you who are looking to learn more from an expert (and Eugenia is a lovely, down-to-earth, experienced canner). There’s also a short video of Eugenia showing how to check the seal on a processed jar, if you’re curious about that.

Yesterday, I kept spotting gorgeous food in jars all over the city. First, I went to a short soap making demonstration at Duross & Langel (a most beautiful soap and body products store) and discovered that they keep their soap ingredients in an eclectic array of glass jars. Later, I stopped into the new flower/chocolate shop across the street called Verde and spotted a small selection of housemade preserves and pickles. I brought home a small jar of Rhubarb Caramel, as I’d never seen anything like it (and now have a burning desire to attempt to recreate it).

I’ve been spotting a lot of food in jars on the internet as well recently. Here are some of the ones that particularly caught my eye.

And on to the savory stuff…

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Homemade Pancake Mix

Pancakes on the griddle

As far as I’m concerned, my father is the king of pancakes (and waffles too). During his early twenties, he spent a spell working as a short order cook at the International House of Pancakes. After eating one doughy pancake too many, he determined that he could do better than the sorry mix that IHOP used. So, for a period spanning multiple years, he wholly devoted himself to the creation of a better pancake mix.

By the time my sister and I entered the scene (1979 and 1982), Mo was a self-declared pancake master. There was always a batch of dry mix in the fridge, ready to be combined with eggs, milk and glug of vegetable oil. It was perfect for those Saturday mornings, when nothing but a stack of pancakes would do.

During my lifetime, I’ve put in many hours studying the art of the pancake at my dad’s elbow. He taught me how to tell when a pancake was ready to flip (bubbles around the edges that stay open after popping) and to cook over a medium-low heat, so that cake gets cooked all the way through (to prevent the horror of a pancake where the outside is burnt, but the inside drips with raw batter).

Those pancake lessons were also my first instruction in the art of cooking by feel, as Mo eschewed exact measures when it came to batter mixing. Pulling out his favorite batter bowl, he’d beat an egg for each eater (and an extra for a leftover cake or two), add a nice pour of milk and a quick dollop of canola oil or melted butter. Once he had a loose emulsion, he’d scoop in a couple of serving spoonfuls of dry mix at a time, stirring until the batter was right. He’d look for something that wasn’t runny, but wasn’t stiff either. It’s something that you figure out over time, he’d say.

Since I’ve had my own kitchen in which to play, I’ve altered the sacred dry mix recipe a bit. Luckily, this is just the sort of creative thinking my father encourages, so all toes are intact. My favorite addition is the bit of toasted millet, as it adds a wonderful nutty crunch. This mix is a wonderful thing to keep stashed in a jar at the back of the fridge, because it means that a friend and family pleasing meal is always just a couple of minutes away. I occasionally make these for dinner and add a few chopped pecans and some sliced banana to each cake just after I spoon the batter on the griddle. By adding that bit of protein and some fruit, I convince myself that they’re a healthy and balanced meal (which I then drown in grade b maple syrup).

The mix recipe is after the jump. I make it entirely with whole wheat flour (a combo of regular and pastry), but if you like a lighter pancake, sub in some unbleached all-purpose. These are also divine if you splash a bit of vanilla extract into the batter just before griddling. The dry mix also makes a lovely housewarming or hostess gift, particularly for the pancake lovers in your crowd.

Continue Reading →

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Pick your own berries

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When my family moved to Oregon from Southern California in 1988, we were quick to adopt elements of the Pacific Northwest culture. We stopped carrying umbrellas when it rained, instead preferring to either dodge raindrops bareheaded or wear a hooded jacket when the rain was torrential. We became even more committed recyclers and created an elaborate sorting station in the basement or garage to house our plastics and papers, until we could take them an appropriate drop-off point. And we became devoted consumers of u-pick fruit.

Several times each summer, we’d make the trek out to Sauvie Island to pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches and apples (we’d pick up the windfall heritage apples from the Bybee-Howell House orchard. You’re not allowed to pick the fruit from the trees there, but the newly fallen apples are still quite edible and make excellent applesauce). My mom would turn into a fruit processing machine upon our return home, making batches of jam and apple butter, and freezing bags of slice peaches and applesauce (in mid-winter, spicy homemade applesauce is the best after dinner treat).

The first couple of years after I moved to Philadelphia, I didn’t look for places in the area to pick fruit, and instead planned a vacation out to Portland each summer, timing it to coincide with blueberry season. Eventually, I couldn’t keep up the mid-July trip home and so found myself searching for other places to pick. Over the last few years, I’ve picked fruit at several area farms.

My very favorite is Mood’s Farm Market in Mullica Hill, NJ. Their prices are reasonable, they grow a variety of fruit (sweet and sour cherries, blackberries, blueberries, concord grapes, peaches and more) and they have a farm market where they sell the most delicious apple cider doughnuts. Unfortunately, they don’t grow strawberries, which is what I want to pick this weekend, so yesterday I found myself searching for other area farms that offer u-pick strawberries. I made a bunch of phone calls and the results of my research, along with u-pick ettiquette and more resources are after the jump. Unfortunately, the farms are only going to be helpful for those of you in the PA/NJ/NY area, but the tips are still good. Continue Reading →

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Update on the canning classes

gumballs

I recently heard from the folks at Foster’s Homewares that my summer canning classes are beginning to fill up. The first class, on strawberry-rhubarb jam is totally full (with one person on the waiting list) and the others are in various states of enrollment. If you were thinking about taking one of the classes, the time to sign up is now. In each class, I’ll be going over the basics of home canning, including safety tips and how to do the hot water process, in addition to focusing on a particular recipe. Each class costs $39 and all students get to take home a jar of whatever we made that day.

June 13th (sold out)
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

July 11th
Peach Halves in Light Syrup

August 8th
Polish Style Dill Pickles

September 12th
Chopped Tomatoes

Click here to sign up for a class!

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Jar Serendipity

my favorite leftover storage jar

For years now, this has been my very favorite jar for storing leftovers. The wide mouth makes it easy to get ladle food in and out and the size means that it typically can handle what remains of the chili or soup in its entirety, without need for splitting across multiple containers. I found it a vast warehouse of a thrift store that stood on North Broad Street, just south of Girard (for those of who live elsewhere, this is not the greatest of neighborhoods, but oh! the deals!), for at least 40 years.

My mom shopped there while she was in college in the late sixties, picking up wardrobe staples for $.25 a piece. Sadly, sometime in the last couple of years this bargain mecca vanished, replaced by yet another vast, characterless Family Dollar. I think the neighborhood was better served by the thrift store, but things inevitably change.

jar find

This is the jar I bought over the weekend, at our very first stop upon entering Lancaster County. It was tucked in the corner of a junk barn that was part of a summer-long yard sale. With the exception of the label, it is twin to my favorite jar, and was just $5 (not bad when you consider the price of plastic food storage containers that get so easily stained and imbued with the scent of chili).

I was also delighted to learn from the label what the jar had originally held.So often, I buy things with unknown origins and create applications for them that aren’t necessarily exactly what they were initially intended for. It’s always a treat to know a little bit more about them (I had a similar discovery experience about ten years ago, when I discovered that the drinking glasses rimmed with embossed stars that I had grown up with were actually the packaging for Hormel-brand dried beef) and be able to imagine a time when that preferred jar was readily available at the local grocery store (although, it might have been a special order type of thing. There’s not a ton of call for three pound jars of peanut butter in ordinary life).

Kitchen King Peanut Butter

However, now I find myself in something of a quandary. In order to make this jar as useful to me as possible, I’m going to need to remove that oh-so-carefully preserved label. I have a personal rule that I don’t collect anything that doesn’t have a purposeful application in real life (every one of my jars is clean and ready to use) and so to justify having this jar, it needs to be cleaned. However, I’m feeling a bit resistant towards stripping the label off, knowing that I’m going to probably end up ruining it in the process. Any preservations experts out there have tips on how to get the label off without destroying it?

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Pictures of jars from Lancaster County

So far this weekend, I’ve purchases five wonderfully unusual jars (big ones for storing grains, flours, cereals and more), dug through a wagon of free stuff to discover two sandwich plates that match the ones in my kitchen cabinets (as well as five Fire King coffee mugs and an old grater), wandered many antique store aisles and eaten far, far too much. I’ve also been taking pictures of jars wherever they’ve caught my fancy. Here are a few.

canning jars
John Deere Jars
jars of pickled brussels sprouts
jars of pickles, chow chow and jelly
me with 1/2 gallon jar

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