Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

two loaves zucchini bread

I made my first loaf of quick bread when I was seven years old (under very close supervision from my mother). It was from the back of a children’s book called Cranberry Christmas and it quickly became a holiday tradition (I still make it, with just a few alternations to this day).

Twenty plus years later, quick breads are still one of my favorite things to bake (I have several beloved banana bread recipes, as well as that delicious yogurt loaf). This time of year, when the zucchini plants threaten to take over garden plots and summer squash can be gotten for pennies, the quick bread is most decidedly a good friend to the gardener and cook. This recipe is easy to stir together, makes quick work of a nice-sized zucchini and is amazingly moist. It’s also fairly healthy, packed with whole grains and containing just one stick of butter between the two loaves.

One thing to keep in mind when making this bread. It’s not a super sweet loaf, and I’ve made it that way by design. I like to eat it for breakfast, and at that time of the day, I don’t want to be eating cake. However, if you want a more assertively sweet flavor, I’d add another 1/2 cup of sucanat or sugar (or just spread your slice with a bit of peach or apricot jam).

Go forth and bake!

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Winners + Linkage

blue book picture

Wow. There were a lot of you who wanted this book. Unfortunately, I have but two copies to pass along (I calculated it out, and it would have cost more than $500 to send each one of you a copy. Until I become independently wealthy, that’s just not in the budget). I turned to the very handy Randomizer to pick the winners and it spit out numbers 9 and 43. That means that the lucky recipients are Pat and Meghan. I’ll be in touch with the two of you posthaste.

In other news, have you heard about the Can-volution? A bunch of us jar-crazy folk are putting together a coast-to-coast canstravaganza for the weekend of August 29th and 30th. The goal is for people to get together in groups and do a whole bunch of puttin’ up. I’m actually going to be heading out to Seattle that weekend, to attend a canning party with a few of my favorite bloggers and hopefully teach a canning class. Leave a comment if you’re interested in participating and I’ll do my best to hook you up with other canners in your area.

Also, I did an interview with Jen A. Miller (aka Jersey Shore Jen) recently in which we talk about canning, preserving and fresh produce. She posted it to NJ Monthly earlier this week and you can find it here if you’re inclined. .

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A happy jar encounter + giveaway

jars as target

I am always on the lookout for canning supplies. Whether I’m at a grocery store, hardware store or rummage sale, I constantly scan shelves and displays for jars, lids, pectin and more. It’s not that I’m in need of these supplies (I am quite well stocked at this point). I just like being aware of what’s out there, what new products Jarden Home Brands is releasing and the general availability of canning gear.

Last Sunday, I was seriously disappointed by both an Acme and a Giant out in Delaware County. We were on an errand out that way and stopped in to both grocery stores, looking for canning stuff (for me) and Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper (for Scott). We left both stores empty-handed on both fronts. However, the canning universe redeemed itself in a big way tonight. On a quick, post-dinner trip to Target tonight, I discovered a holy mother lode of preserving paraphernalia (unfortunately, I don’t see any of this stuff on Target.com). I practically danced with joy, right there in the main aisle of the South Philadelphia Target.

They had products I’ve never even seen before, including a freezer container that had knobs on top that allow you to indicate the date of freezing with a few clicks and a giant, one-gallon Ball storage jar, produced to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Ball company (yes, that’s me in the picture above, cradling the huge jar and grinning like I’ve just won the lottery).

The other thing the had tonight were copies of the very hard to find Ball Blue Book of Canning (the 100th anniversary edition, no less). Because I know just what a pain it can be to lay hands on this most useful little book, I bought two copies to pass along to a couple of Food in Jars readers. If you want one, leave a comment between now and Friday at 5 p.m., when I’ll pick winners.

And happy canning!

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Rhubarb Chutney

rhubarb chutney

After going completely crazy for rhubarb back in the spring, I took a bit of a break from it in June (with all the other summer fruits and vegetables coming into ripeness, there was plenty to keep me occupied). However, during that fallow time, I still had rhubarb that needed to be used, tightly wrapped and tucked into the bottommost corner of my left-hand crisper drawer. When the 4th of July weekend rolled around, I decided to have a weekend of many canning projects. I made multiple batches of pickles (bread and butter & dilly beans) and jams (apricot), and finally did something with that neglected rhubarb.

Though the ends of the stalks were a bit worse for the storage time, the rhubarb was still in acceptable shape and more than good enough to be turned into something wonderful. Back when I made that batch of grape catchup (has anyone tried that recipe? It’s okay if you haven’t, it is sort of a weird one), I also noted two rhubarb recipes in close proximity. One was a recipe for rhubarb butter and the other was a rhubarb chutney. I headed into my canning extravaganza with every intention of making the butter, but on that Friday night, when I finally got around to dealing with the rhubarb, I had just finished making six pints of apricot jam, and I was weary of all those sweet notes.

My fingers flipped to the chutney recipe and wouldn’t you know, I had every single ingredient the recipe called for right there in my kitchen. It was fated (or I have a ridiculously overstocked kitchen. I think Scott would argue for the latter) and so I made chutney from my beloved New York Times Heritage Cook Book.

Thing is, I don’t really come from chutney people. We McClellans like our condiments just fine (I grew up dipping steamed broccoli in mayonnaise and roasted potatoes in mustard), but my mother has never been a sweet-and-savory-in-the-same-bite kind of person, so I grew up unaccustomed to the ways in which a good chutney can transform a dish. And I must say, this simple recipe is fairly transformational (at least for this chutney innocent).

It’s quite tasty (although I think if I make it again, I’ll make it just a bit spicier) and I have plans for it to encounter a nice slab of chevre sometime in the very near future (my latest party trick, when called upon to bring a contribution to a potluck or evening of in-home drinks with friends is to bring jam, goat cheese and crackers. It is so simple and people are completely impressed). If you’ve got some rhubarb to use up and you are tired of jams, cobblers, slumps and crisps, this is a good way to go.

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Sour Cherry Winner, Classes + More

sour cherries

Once again, I’m a bit later in announcing the giveaway winner than I had intended. However, I’ve had a lovely weekend, in which I taught a peach jam class (I’ll be posting the recipe tomorrow), spent some quality time with my fiance, finally got the mess of the apartment under control and ate some delicious summer produce (I think the highlight was the purple potato salad with sweet onions and homemade mayo), so I just don’t feel bad about my tardiness.

This little jar of sour cherry jam goes to Heather, commenter #14. Congratulations Heather (I’ll be emailing you shortly). I do wish I had enough to share with all of you, as this was a particularly delicious batch, but sadly, my supplies are quite limited. I do have good news for those of you in the Philly area, though. I was down at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market this morning, and I spotted sour cherries at Three Springs Fruit Farm, so there are still some to be had if you want to make your own jam.

In other news, I’ve got a new class to announce. I’m going to be leading a community canning workshop at Philly Kitchen Share on Saturday, July 25th, from 2-6 p.m. The reason for the extended block of time is that this a hands-on session in which we’ll peel and process 120 pounds of tomatoes. The workshop is limited to ten people, and all participants will be taking home 4 quarts of tomatoes. There are still a few spots left, so click here if you want to sign up. Cost is $30 per person.

And now, some links!

Veggicurious has been making savory jellies. They look gorgeous.

Culinate’s Caroline Cummins remembers her father-in-law and the jams he made.

Canning is so hot right now that it’s getting a mention in the Washington Post.

Minimally Invasive made a rosemary-thyme syrup that sounds totally divine.

Rich in peaches? Check out Doris and Jilly’s post on how to have homemade peach sherbet in January.

The Kitchn makes Blenheim apricot jam and discusses the differences between jams, jellies, conserves and more.

And pickles! Pickled mustard greens. Pickled shallots. Tarragon-garlic pickles.

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In Praise of Bruised Fruit

bruised fruit

One of my fondest fall memories from childhood is that of driving out to Sauvie Island to visit the Bybee-Howell House. My mom, sister and I would wander the antique apple orchard and pick the newly fallen apples off the ground. When we first moved to the area, we asked the groundskeeper and he requested that we not to touch the apples still on the trees (they used them to make fresh-pressed cider in September), but that we were welcome to as many windfall apples as we could carry.

We’d fill paper grocery bags until they were nearly ready to split open and then head home to make applesauce. I’d help my mom with the peeling and chopping, and I quickly learned from watching her that it was easy enough to cut around the bruises and occasionally wormholes, leaving behind perfectly useable (and delicious, fragrant, delicately-flavored) fruit.

Because of that early education in the use of imperfect fruit, I’ve never been one to shy away from damaged apples, overripe pears (pear butter), brown bananas (banana bread) or a peach with a bit of mold on one end (peach jam, sauce or butter). I see the potential in each piece and feel compelled to help all the remaining good parts of the nectarine achieve its delicious destiny.

One might think that living in the center of a large city would preclude me from having opportunities to find and use this less than perfect produce. However, it is not solely the provenance of aging orchards and roadside farmstands. I see it everywhere. Just last week I bought four pounds of slightly squished apricots at Reading Terminal Market for $2.97 (which was enough for a full batch of jam). Sue’s Produce often bags and sells their declining fruit and veg for pennies. And the vendors at my local farmers markets adore handing over bags of imperfect fruit to people who appreciate it and will put it to good use (don’t forget, these are people who love the act of growing food and dislike letting their food go to waste).

I am not advocating using fruit that has gone off or has begun to ferment (that’s a whole other kind of preservation). However, in these times, when we’re all looking for ways to spend less and save more, it’s important to accept the imperfect and learn just how useful a good paring knife can be.

Several days ago, Salon.com published an article about canning, in which the author ruminates on the economic realities of home canning and concludes (after some first hand experimentation) that while it can be a rewarding hobby, it is neither an effective use of time nor a frugal endeavor (in one paragraph, she calls canning “a small, sustainable luxury and a craft”). While I can see the position she’s coming from (she bought her ingredients at a New York Greenmarket, which is conceivably one of the most expensive possible ways to buy produce), I find myself distraught by her thesis. While it’s true that jars cost money, and that if you’re not careful, you can spend more on fruit that you might have planned, to me, canning is an essentially frugal act. Particularly if you search out the imperfect fruit like I talked about above.

Canning is also about choosing to take the act of food creation out of the hands of large corporations and return it to the home. It’s about knowing where your food came from and what went into it. It’s about always having a delicious gift to give to friends and family. It’s about stashing away the peak of summer for the dark, cold days of December and January. It’s about investing your time in the things that matter. It’s about creating something soul soothing and beautiful.

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