Upcoming Classes: Hillsdale General Store on June 2

Here in the Northeast, the canning season is finally starting to get going. This means that it’s also time for me to hit the road and start teaching classes.

On Saturday, June 2, you’ll find me teaching at the Hillsdale General Store in Hillsdale, NY (convenient for folks in the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires) in one of their Home Chef classrooms. From 11 am to 1:30 pm, I’ll be teaching a class on boiling water bath canning in which we’ll make both strawberry jam and strawberry chutney. You can register for that class here.

From 2:30 to 4 pm, I’ll be teaching a class focused on pressure canning. We’ll make and preserve a batch of onion jam with rosemary and balsamic. This class is a great one to take if you’ve been curious about pressure canning, but you’re a little scared. I’ll walk you through the steps and will send you home feeling empowered to safely preserve low acid foods. You can register for this class here.

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Giveaway: Printable Jar Labels from Worldlabel

Looking for affordable, beautiful labels for your canning jars that you can easily customize and print at home? Look no further than Worldlabel!

I confess that when it comes to labeling jars, I can be a bit lazy. My first line of labeling defense is typically a quick scrawl with a permanent marker. I write the contents of the jar and the month and year it was made across the top of the lid. This is done to ensure that I keep things like tomato jam separate from the pizza sauce (two preserves that look nearly identical once in the jar).

Often, my first act of labeling is also my last. I’ve been known to give these unadorned jars to my cousins and neighbors without a second though. However, as I move further into my life as a canner (this is my 11th active canning season! The mind boggles!), I find that I do really like having the option of giving people preserves with more detail on the label.

I’ve also been considering the possibility of making limited edition batches to sell, which would require nicer labeling that I currently can muster.

Happily, just as I was pondering ways to up my label game, I got an email from the folks at Worldlabel. They sell a huge assortment of blank labels that can be endlessly customized. They’ve got lots of templates that you can use to design your own labels, or you can use their assortment of free, pre-designed printable label templates.

I wanted to keep things simple for my first attempt at creating my own labels and decided that I would simply make Food in Jars logo stickers that I could use to dress up my jars (and potentially also use to dress up the packages of books I occasionally send out).

The folks at Worldlabel sent me 2 inch round labels (in both white and craft) and rectangular shipping labels (also in white and craft). I opted to try the white rounds first and headed over to Worldlabel to find the right template. They offer them in a variety of file formats (Word, PDF, Illustrator, etc) and identifying the one I needed was really easy.

Once I had the right file, I opened it up in Word (I am not a designer), and dropped in my logo file. I had to do a little bit of tweaking, but it wasn’t hard. Then, it was just a matter of saving and printing.

I’m pretty pleased with how approachable it was and how cute my labels look.

Now, if you don’t have a cute logo to drop into a template, fret not. The folks at Worldlabel have a really robust assortment of already-designed labels that you can download and print at home. They also curate a highly useful Pinterest page where they collect free printables that will work with their labels.

I think my finished labels turned out really well and I can’t wait to start using them. And while the company did send me this package of labels at no cost so that I could play around with them, 100 sheets of these labels costs just $18.75. That works out to less than $.19 a sheet, which is pretty darn accessible for even the tightest budgets (far cheaper than the name brands you get at office supply stores).

Because Worldlabel wants to help canners feel empowered to create their own labels, they’re also sponsoring a giveaway. Five lucky readers will each win 20 sheets of labels that they can customize. Use the widget below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Worldlabel paid to appear in this space and provided the labels pictured above at no cost to me. All thoughts and opinions are honestly conveyed and entirely my own.

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How to Make Ramp Butter

This week, regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones swings by with a recipe for preserving spring ramps in creamy butter. Enjoy! -Marisa

Clean ramps and softened butter on a cutting board

Spring is the time of year when everything seems to speed up: plants are growing, people emerge from hibernation, things are happening.

And while I do my best to cook with each of those early foraged and farmed foods — nettles, ramps, rhubarb — at least once a season, if not more, the bustle of springtime sometimes makes it tough to cook creatively while those goodies are in season.

That’s why I love preserving what grows this time of year. There’s five pounds of rhubarb in my fridge, ready to be diced and frozen for pies later this summer. I have nettles on a drying rack in my apartment to add to tea blends once I’ve harvested other herbs later in the season. And I’m preserving ramps in one of my favorite foods: butter.

Clean, trimmed ramps

This compound butter is super simple to make, so it’s easy to fit it into a busy schedule. It’s got a long shelf life in the freezer and myriad uses once you thaw it out, too.

This batch is scaled for just one bunch — about four ounces — of ramps, which also makes it budget-friendly, as these rare alliums can be pricey at the farmers’ market. Of course, if you forage them yourself, you can easily multiply it if you come across a trove in your woodland wanderings.

Soaking ramps in a measuring cup

A note about sustainably harvesting ramps: if you’re foraging for ramps yourself, harvest no more than ten percent of the ramps you see growing in a given area. An even more sustainable way to enjoy ramps is to simply snip off the green leaf that grows aboveground and leave the white bulbs behind — because if you pull the whole plant, it won’t grow back next year. (The forager I got these from pulled their ramps out; hopefully, they only harvested a little bit and left the rest so as not to diminish the supply year over year.)

To make ramp butter, wash your ramps well — they grow on the forest floor, after all — and trim off any roots. Next, give the ramps a 30-second blanch in boiling water, followed by a dip on cold water to stop the cooking. I do this the lazy way by filling and heating my electric kettle to boiling, then pouring the water over the ramps in a heat-proof bowl.

Finely minced ramps

After you’ve cooled down your ramps, ball them up in your hand and give them several strong squeezes to get out as much water as possible — you may want to bundle them into a clean dish towel or a few paper towels to help get more of the moisture out.

Now it’s time to mince. You can do this by hand (like I did), which takes extra time and effort, or you can feel free to chop them small in your food processor. Once your ramps are minced finely, it’s time to combine them with your softened butter.

Combining ramps and butter in a stand mixer

Combine the butter and ramps in a bowl and use a silicone spatula or wide wooden spoon to mix them well; you can also do this with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. I used a cultured, lightly salted butter, so I waited to finish the recipe to add salt to taste — but if you’re using unsalted, I’d add at least one big pinch along with the ramps.

Next, you can store your ramp butter in a resealable plastic tub, or, my preferred method, shape it into a roll using parchment paper. Just roll it up, fold down the sides, and stash in a labeled zip-top bag to store in the freezer for up to six months. You can also chill the roll in the fridge and then cut the butter into single-serving slices for melting over a rare steak, schmearing onto crusty bread or dabbing onto fried eggs.

Making rolls of ramp butter

How to Make Ramp Butter

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces ramp (leaves only or leaves and bulbs will work)
  • 8 ounces grassfed butter, softened (sweet cream or cultured butter will both work, as will salted and unsalted)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash the ramps well and trim off any roots or bruised leaves. Blanch ramps in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain and shock with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain ramps again and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. It may help to bundle the ramps in a dish towel or paper towels to help absorb more liquid.
  2. Finely mince your ramps using a sharp knife or food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Combine with softened butter and a big pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter). Mix well using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, or combine the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix using the paddle attachment until well blended.
  3. Taste the mixture and add more salt if necessary. Portion your ramp butter into airtight reusable containers or roll and wrap it into logs with parchment paper and then store in a sealed zip-top bag. Ramp butter will last in the fridge for a few weeks or the freezer for up to six months.
http://foodinjars.com/2018/05/how-to-make-ramp-butter/

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Comestible: A Print Journal About Food

Years ago now, on a visit to Western Mass, a friend and I sat around her dining room table and dreamed of creating a scrappy journal dedicated to home cooking and eating. It was going to be in the spirit of the zines of our youth, would be published a few times a year, and would strive to build community and pay its writers.

As you might guess, we never managed to pull this concept from dreamspace into reality. However, fellow food writer Anna Brones imagined a publication along similar lines and has brought hers into being. Called Comestible and launched in 2016, it is a 100% reader supported publication, with no advertisements. Printed twice a year, each issue is 64 pages, 5.25 x 7.75 inches and printed on recycled, FSC-certified paper in the Pacific Northwest.

Each issue includes original stories, artwork, and recipes. The spring/summer issue that’s currently available (and is pictured throughout this blog post), features work along the theme of reclaiming and includes stories by Andrea Bemis, Sara Bir, and many others.

You can order the current issue, buy back copies, and pick up prints of Anna’s paper cut art work here.

You should also head over to my Instagram account, because this week I’m giving away a 2018 subscription to Comestible. The winner will get the issue featured here, as well as the fall/winter edition (it will arrive in October).

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Spiralized Pickled Golden Beets with Ginger

I bought a spiralizer three years ago and while I enjoy the novelty of vegetables cut into shapes other than that which I can achieve with a knife, I can’t quite convince myself that long strands of zucchini or eggplant are actually noodles. Still, I find that it has a place in my overstuffed kitchen, if for no other reason that it is fun (and sometimes that is enough).

I first made these spiralized pickled golden beets a little over a year ago and they are one of my favorite things to add to soba noodle salads or heap on top of an Ak-Mak cracker spread with fresh ricotta cheese (I realize that’s an oddly specific application, but darn if it isn’t delicious).

You can certainly make these pickles without having a spiralizer at your disposal, but it does lend a bouncy, curly-fry spring to the finished pickle, which I enjoy. Without a spiralizer, you’d just cut the raw beets into thin slices and then cut those slices into narrow matchsticks (a mandoline would help with this, though I find that they are a little iffy with dense vegetables like raw beets).

The most important thing when making these pickles is to strive for thin cuts. The only cooking that the beets receive is a short simmer in the brine, so in order to keep them from being aggressively crunchy, you need to aim for narrow matchsticks or curls.

I make these pickles with an assertive volume of ginger, which I find both boosts and balances the earthiness of the beets. I tried spiralizing the ginger for one batch, and found that it didn’t do a good enough job of distributing the ginger throughout the jar of pickled beets. Instead, every so often, I’d take a bite expecting beet and get a mouth full of *ginger* instead. While not exactly unpleasant, it wasn’t what I was aiming for. A fine dice works better.

I make these pickles to keep in the fridge, because I find that I like the texture best, and it also means that I don’t have to use quite as much vinegar, rendering them a bit more mellow. They do fade over time, so if you can’t abide still delicious, but slightly grey pickles, make them in smaller batches or eat them quickly.

I’m curious if you guys are using spiralizers to prep vegetables for pickling. Any experiences you’d like to share?

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Cookbooks: Pretty Simple Cooking

I have been feeling a little lost lately. I’m in the strange place where a book I’ve written is nearly finished but there’s still nearly a year before it will be out there in the world. I am turning 39 in a few days and am finding that my life looks much different than I thought it would at this age. And, after seven years of working by myself in my living room, I’m starting to wish for a place to go and be each day.

During times when I feel out of sorts like this, one of the first things that often slips away is my grasp on useful, utilitarian, daily cooking. I still manage to make preserves and turn them into breads and bar cookies, but the alchemy of making dinner feels impossible to master.

When this happens, I find myself casting around for culinary lifelines (because one cannot live on take-out alone, even in a neighborhood as rich in fast casual joints as mine is). I shop the farmers markets. I allow myself to spend $10 on plump, purple asparagus. And I read cookbooks for hours, until I spot a recipe that hooks onto my soul and compels me to return to the kitchen.

One cookbook that has performed that trick for me lately is Pretty Simple Cooking by Sonja and Alex Overhiser. They’re the pair behind the blog A Couple Cooks and their breezy, vegetable-forward style proven to be the exact right thing to help me stitch myself back together again (Alana Chernila’s Eating From the Ground Up has also been working double-time on this front).

I think part of the reason Pretty Simple Cooking is working for me is that the food is a whole lot of stuff that I enjoy eating, put together in ways that I’d not thought of. It’s easy to love a book when you can open it, say yes to a recipe, and not have to do a lot to track down the components (I’m looking straight at you, Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos on page 190).

Another fun thing is that Joy sat down and interviewed Sonja for our podcast recently, and the episode containing their conversation went live today. Give it a listen, if you’re so inclined!

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