Canning Catch-up


I have a confession to make. I haven’t canned anything in over a month now. I’ve been collecting groceries with every intention of committing them to jars, but I’m experiencing something akin to canning block (as you can see from the picture above, my kitchen’s been messy enough lately without pulling the canning pot out of the hall closet).

However, I’ve got a nice, big daikon radish that needs to be pickled (as well as some green tomatoes), some cranberries that are intended for chutney, salmon to be packed in oil and pressure canned and 25 pounds of apples sitting on my dining room table, so unless I want all these lovely things to go bad, can I must (and there’s no better way to beat a block than to charge straight through it).

In the meantime, here are some links I’ve been collecting lately for inspiration and emulation.

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Vintage Canning Jar Art


Back before the wedding, a friend from church gave me more than dozen boxes of canning jars from her basement. Recently retired, Debby was trying to follow through with a personal pledge to clean out her cellar and after some soul searching, had determined that her canning days were long past.


I was totally delighted to receive the jars (although my apartment is now officially overcome by glass vessels) and as she unearthed them from a nook by the washing machine, I was instantly charmed by the box art (they just don’t design packaging the way they used to!).


Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to save many of these boxes, as the years, a few leaks and a bit of crumbling drywall had not been kind to them. But before I sent them to the big recycling plant in the sky, I was careful to capture some of their simple appeal.


This canning wax wasn’t from Debby’s basement, I actually spotted it at a thrift store while we were on our honeymoon, and could resist grabbing a photo (even though it’s not recommended to can with wax anymore).


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Cauliflower Soup with Leeks, Carrots and Cheddar


I grew up in Portland, OR, at a time when it wasn’t quite as cool or slick as it is now. Back in those days, Balony Joe’s still fed the homeless off the Burnside Bridge, thrift stores weren’t particularly hip and the best place in town for a quick lunchtime cup of soup was Winchell’s Donuts (sadly, most of the old Winchell’s locations have been turned into Starbucks in recent years).


As an occasional treat on those drizzly Portland Saturdays, my mom would take my sister and me to the Winchell’s that used to be on 82nd Avenue in SE Portland. It was located between the now-defunct Bargain Station thrift store (razed to make way for a Walmart) and Value Village (happily, still there). We’d each order the $2.49 lunch special, which consisted of a cup of soup, a drink and a donut for dessert (a rare indulgence).

It’s such a cozy memory, sitting on battered stools along the counter, spooning cream of potato soup out of a thick, contoured china cup and watching the rain pattern down the side windows of the restaurant. Since then, I’ve associated sturdy, creamy soups with rainy days and deep comfort.


Monday, feeling the need for a little homey-ness, I made a huge batch of cauliflower soup that was inspired by those Winchell’s lunches (I couldn’t, however, justify a full-on homage, as the soups we ate back in those days were heart-stoppingly heavy). Mine was full of vegetables (cauliflower, leeks and carrot) simmered in home canned chicken stock (learning to can homemade chicken stock in the pressure canner has revolutionized my pantry) and enriched with a quick, cheddar-y white sauce.


We’ve been eating this soup all week, garnishing the bowls with some browned ham cubes or just a handful of pretzel twists. As I write this, there’s just enough left for one final bowl. I’ve got my sights set on having it tomorrow for lunch, unless Scott gets to it before I do.

Think of this as more of a soup method than a recipe and play around with it. Swap broccoli in for the cauliflower. No leeks? Use onions instead. Want a pure white soup? Skip the carrots (although they do lend a nice sweetness). Want to make it vegetarian? By all means, use veggie stock in place of the chicken. Have a spicy-loving palate? Add a dash of cayenne pepper. You get the picture.


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A Fig Jam Recipe and My Community Garden Harvest

Throughout the beginning of September, my friend Albert kept tweeting about all the figs he was picking throughout the city. While I’m a big fan of urban gleaning (and I LOVE figs), during those weeks leading up to the wedding, I just didn’t have time to run around town, looking for fruit. Happily, Albert and I settled upon a plan. He’d bring some of his scavenged figs to my place and I’d teach him how to make jam with them. Then we’d split the fruits of our labors.

It was a fun early evening project and it was a kick to do a private jam tutorial. You can find the recipe we used at the bottom of this post.

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The photo you see above is the final harvest from my teeny, tiny garden plot that I’d mostly abandoned over the last month. My tomatillo plan seemed to really like the cooler days of fall and suddenly exploded with growth. It gave me pangs to rip it out, but sadly, with the first frost coming, it had to go. I have pickling plans for all those green tomatoes and I’m excited for the hot peppers!

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Empty Kitchen French Toast

french toast makings

We’ve been back from our honeymoon for the last couple of days, but I haven’t done much of anything creative in the kitchen as of yet. I’m still eying the pile of wedding gifts, trying to incorporate the new gadgets and pots into my already overfull galley (truly, a blessed problem to have). However, the very first morning we were back, weary of having to shower and dress before venturing out for breakfast, I made my lazy morning specialty.

French toast is one of those meals that doesn’t really require a recipe. It’s about taking a few end bits from the refrigerator and making a meal that elevates those humble, half-stale, slightly sour ingredients into something satisfying (and refreshingly cheap)! In our case, I didn’t even have to resort to the slightly sour, as there was an unopened quart of half and half in the fridge with an expiration date that was still three weeks in the future. There were also three lonely eggs and four slices of multi-grain bread (two of which were the heels).

Soaking bread

I beat those eggs in a shallow dish with several glugs of the half and half, until it was a mellow lemon color. Some cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg joined the egg mixture and a slice of bread went in. I heated my pancake/french toast griddle over medium heat and added a mostly unnecessary slick of butter (that griddle has been so well loved that it’s seasoned to the point where grease is hardly needed. But butter is so delicious).

My dad taught me to make french toast when I was young, and the point he always stressed was that it was important to give the bread a good soaking (but to watch carefully that you don’t oversoak). You want to get enough egg mixture into the fibers of the bread so that it puffs up like a custard while cooking. If your bread is particularly stale (which mine was), use a fork to score the slices in order to aid egg absorption.

french toast on griddle

Once your first slice is sufficiently saturated, carefully transfer it your pan. Follow suit with the rest of the slices of bread, as they’re ready. My griddle can accommodate four slices of bread, but if you don’t have such a roomy cooking vessel, feel free to cook them one or two at a time in frying pan (just don’t let them soak to bits if you’re using a smaller pan). Cook over medium heat, so that the slices have a chance to cook all the way through.

Scott eating french toast

Serve on a messy dining table, with some previously canned pear butter or some Vermont maple syrup.

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Wedding Favors – Herbs in Jars

Wedding favors

Thank you all so much for all the lovely wishes you’ve sent my way in the last week. Our wedding last Saturday was one of the most wonderful and fun events I’ve ever attended in my life and I feel so fortunate being able to say that (truly, it was everything I had hoped for). It was a simple ceremony (click that link if you want to read our vows), followed by a potluck. People brought amazing dishes to share and I served the cakes I had made.

There wasn’t a whole lot of food in jars at the wedding (I did bring an assortment of jams/chutneys for people to take home if they so desired). However, I had to work jars into the day and so used varying sizes of canning/jelly jars to house live herb plants. These were the centerpieces and favors and I loved how they ended up looking, clustered on the butcher paper-covered tables. I spent a large chunk of the summer searching out the jars we used, and I was so delighted that they worked out so nicely.

Scott and I are now driving around Vermont and New York State, really enjoying our honeymoon. We’ve visited Bennington Pottery, The Vermont Country Store and the tallest man-made structure in Vermont. Tomorrow we head to King Arther Flour and a museum/farm. I am totally delighted by life right now.

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