2015 Gift Guide: Travel Mugs and Drinking Jars

Second in a series of concise gift guides for the 2015 holiday season. On the docket for today? Things that transform jars into travel mugs and water bottles, as well as one actual travel mug.

Drinking Jar Gift Guide - Food in Jars

For a brief time in the mid-2000s, I worked a horrible admin job at a local university (this was the situation that convinced me that it was time to go to grad school). In order to save money, I packed both my breakfast and lunch up in a trio of mason jars nearly every single day. Coffee was stashed in a regular mouth pint. A breakfast smoothie was contained in a pint & half jar (which was a rare bird indeed back then, well before Ball reintroduced that size). And most days, I brought soup for lunch in a wide mouth pint jar.

I tell you all this to say, I have done my time in the mason jar traveling circus and these are some of the best toppers, drink lids, and other accessories out there.

  1. iLid Drink Topper – A one-piece lid with a slider that can cover or reveal the drink opening. It’s not leakproof, but if you hate fussing with two pieces, it’s the way to go.
  2. Joco Cup – I know. There’s no jar here. However, if you are looking to give someone a travel mug this holiday season and they think that mason jars are entirely too uncivilized, this is the one I recommend. It’s made of glass and silicone, is quite sturdy, and feels nice in the hand.
  3. Cuppow Glass Travel Mug – This is the complete mason jar mug system. You get a wide mouth mason jar, a Cuppow topper, and a coozie made from recycled soda bottles. I use mine all the time and love the little loop on the coozie.
  4. EcoJarz Pop-Top and Denim Holster – I’ve paired two of EcoJarz products together for the perfect smoothie toting combo. The Pop-Top lid seals tight and the cute denim sleeve keeps your jar from clanking around your backpack or lunch bag.
  5. Mason Bar Company Bamboo Tumbler Lid – A bamboo lid that screws directly onto a jar and has a hole just the right size for a glass straw. It’s the most stylish jar sipping set-up I know.
  6. reCAP Mason Jar POUR – Most people use these pour lids for salad dressings and maple syrup. However, they just happen to also make a good drink lid, particularly if your goal is quick access to water.
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Cookbooks: Food Gift Love by Maggie Battista

Food Gift Love - Food in Jars

With the holiday gifting season upon us, there is no better time than now to share a few pages from Maggie Battista‘s lovely new book, Food Gift Love. Maggie is the founder and owner of Eat Boutique, and this book has the same beauty and generosity of spirit for which her work has long been known.

Food Gift Love interior - Food in Jars

Maggie and I have been friends for a long time now. She opened up her home for a celebratory potluck when my first book came out, and has often fed me and put me up in her cozy guest room when my travels have taken me to the Boston area.

A cornerstone of our friendship is the time we’ve spent talking about making, writing, and being businesspeople (she’s better at it than I am). Even when this book was just a wee spark of an idea, I remember thinking that it was going to be a grand addition to my bookshelf. Little did I know just how gorgeous and useful it would be!

Food Gift Love flowchart - Food in Jars

Food Gift Love is far more than just a cookbook. It is the guide to gifting that so many of us have often needed. There is advice on how to stock your pantry for easy gift making. Suggestions abound for simple items that will allow you to present your gifts beautifully (as someone who has long hated to bother with fussy wrappings, I’ve found this guidance infinitely helpful, because it has helped me elevate my game while managing to avoid the fuss). And, Maggie offers plenty of help in choosing just the right food gift.

Food Gift Love vinegar sauce - Food in Jars

As a canner, I often fall into the trap of thinking that ever food gift I give needs to be a pickle or preserve of some kind. Even just a quick flip through this book helps rid me of that notion. Not everyone wants a jar of jam, but I am certain that I know half a dozen people who might like the Vinegar Sauce that’s pictured above, or the Jam-Swirled Marshmallows in the picture below (and what a brilliant way to show off your homemade spread in a new way!).

Food Gift Love marshmallows - Food in Jars

Other things you’ll find in this book include a handful of infused sea salts (orange-fennel! vanilla! saffron!), extracts and infused oils, chocolate-dipped spoons, pizza rolls (I’ve had these straight from Maggie’s oven – ridiculous!), a lovely selection of fruit preserves, limoncello, and rompopo (a Latin-style eggnog that is beloved in Maggie’s family).

Food Gift Love spine - Food in Jars

Just one more thing! If you’re in the Boston area, make sure to get yourself over the Eat Boutique Market. It’s popping up at 267 Western Ave, North Allston, MA (near the Harvard Business School), Wedneday through Sunday, with the last day being December 20. Having been to an earlier incarnation of Maggie’s holiday market, I can promise that it is well worth the trip!

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Giveaway: The Mason Tap Kit

Mason Tap Kit - Food in Jars

One of the things that started my preoccupation with canning jars, lo those many years ago, was their versatility. You could store just about anything in them, they could be a drinking glass or an inexpensive travel mug, and they allowed you to forgo specialty kitchenware for a more one-size-fits-all alternative.

Mason Tap Infuse - Food in Jars

However, back in those early days, even I was forced to admit that there were some things that a mason jar didn’t do well. Top of that list was pour. Sure, you could shake up a salad dressing in a pint jar and take it with you to a potluck, but when it came time to dispense that vinaigrette, you knew a mess was in store. Same went for batches of simple syrup or infused olive oil.

Mason Tap Kit Art - Food in Jars

Enter the Mason Tap. There is nothing better when it comes to dispensing and drizzling from jar to plate, cup or bowl. I have one on a small jar of fancy olive oil and another on my meyer lemon infused vinegar. My mom uses one on her dish soap and my sister keeps one on her homemade vinaigrette. It’s also a great item for avid home cocktail makers, as it puts your infused spirits within easy reach.

Mason Tap Kit Close - Food in Jars

Thanks to the lovely folks at W&P Design (makers of the Mason Tap and the Mason Shaker), I have one of these Mason Tap Kits to give away this week. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me how you’d use the Mason Tap Kit! If you’re stumped for ideas, there are plenty in their book, Infuse.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, December 12, 2015. A winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, December 13, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States and Canadian residents. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: The folks at W&P Design provided the kit you see pictured above for review and photography purposes as well as a second one for review, both at no cost to me. However, no additional funds were exchanged and the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

Links: Persimmons, Celery Salt, and a Winner

christmas tree

I realized yesterday that I had a choice. I could either let the heaviness of life and current events get to me, or I could embrace the holiday season and fling myself into it wholeheartedly. I decided to open my arms to the light of Hanukkah and the joy of Christmas. Even though I was alone in the apartment (Scott was away visiting his mom, who is still in the hospital in Long Island), I pulled out the menorah and lit the candles for the first night. I also set up our little artificial tree, finally filling the spot I’d cleared for it last week. Welcome to the season of intentional celebration! Now, links!

FarmCurious Kit - Food in Jars

Thanks to everyone who entered the FARMcurious fermenting set giveaway! The winner is #129/Kris.

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2015 Gift Guide: Kitchen Utensils

The first in a series of concise gift guides for the 2015 holiday season. Today, let’s talk about cooking utensils!

Gift Guide Utensils - Food in Jars

I first started collecting cooking utensils when I was in college. Any time I spotted a vintage spatula or a sturdy wooden spoon at a thrift store for a quarter, I’d add it to my basket. In those days, I wasn’t really buying for utility. I mostly selected based on age, price, and quirkiness.

Once two friends and I moved into an off-campus house, my motley collection of spoons, tongs, and spatulas were pressed into service in the kitchen. Rapidly, I developed opinions about what I liked and what needed to be returned to the flow of used goods. Now, nearly 15 years and three cookbooks later, I’ve become something of a utensil connoisseur. Here are the ones that I think are most worthy of your time, money, and gift list.

  1. Microplane Zester – Sturdy, sharp, and speedy, I reach for mine any time I need to grate citrus zest, nutmeg, or hard cheeses.
  2. GIR Perforated Spoon* – Though I have a number of slotted and punctured spoons available, this one feels best in the hand and has become the one I reach for first.
  3. Earlywood Classic Ladle – This ladle has heft and makes even a basic pot of soup feel special. It’s also one of those tools that gets better with time and use. Handmade in Montana.
  4. Perfect Masher – This masher has pointy cutting blades that make a world of difference when you’re pressing cooked apples into sauce or smoothing hunks of stonefruit into jam. I also like their pastry blender.
  5. KitchenPro Silicone Tongs* – I use tongs a lot and since this pair landed in my utensil jar, it has occupied the number one spot. They have just the right amount of resistance and the silicone-coated heads are gentle on cookware, serving bowls, and your food. Use the code “PFVBE9VI” for 10% off your order.
  6. GIR Mini Spoon* – I thought this little spoon was sort of ridiculous until I realized I was using it every day. I reach for it any time I make a single serving of oatmeal or heat up leftovers for lunch. Cute and useful is a potent combination.
  7. Koe Premium Silicone Utensils* – The flat-headed spoon you see here is part of a set (this one is my favorite of five) of high quality silicone tools. It’s a vast step up from the nylon cookware sets so often for sale at department stores and would make a very nice gift for a beginning cook.
  8. Mastrad Silicone Spoon Spatula – If I was forced to pick just one utensil to use for the rest of my days, this would be it. It is flexible yet sturdy. Easy to clean (and dishwasher safe). And the unibody means that you never develop mold under the head. I have at least four in my utensil jar at all times.
  9. Utility/Petty Knife – Nine times out of ten, when I have a quick prep job to do, I reach for a utility knife rather than a smaller paring knife. It’s the perfect marriage of maneuverability and durability. If you’re ready to splurge, the one from New West KnifeWorks* is gorgeous and keeps its edge for ages. On the low (but still excellent) end is the OXO 6 Inch Utility Knife.

And now, for the fine print. Most of the links above are affiliate ones, meaning that I earn a few pennies if you happen to use the above link to make a purchase. Anything marked with an asterisk initially came into my life as a review sample. Everything here is worthy of your time and money.

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Low Sugar Apple Ginger Butter

A light, silky apple butter with shot through with fresh ginger. Try it with latkes instead of plain applesauce.

Apple Ginger Butter - Food in Jars

Back in October, Janet sent me two boxes. One contained an assortment of apples and the other was filled with fragrant, fuzzy quince. I laid the fruit out on big, rimmed sheet pan and spent a day admiring it (and sniffing the quince for the pleasure of their rosy scent).

apples for butter - Food in Jars

Soon though, it was time to get down to the business of preserving. There were enough apples for two recipes (we’ll talk about the quince later). I transformed half the apples into a batch of maple sweetened butter (like this one, but with several tablespoons of apple cider vinegar stirred in at the end for extra tang). The remaining six pounds became this light, gingery butter.

apple butter on the stove - Food in Jars

I’ll confess, I’ve gone back and and forth inside my head, debating as to whether or not to actually call this recipe a butter. You see, most of us think of fruit butters as intensely dense things, brown from spices and hours on the stove.

This apple and ginger preserve is light in color and silky in texture. It is zippy and bright where a traditional butter is earthy. But jam isn’t quite right. Neither is jelly, conserve, sauce, or puree. Until I come up with a better name, butter will just have to do.

apple ginger nectar - Food in Jars

If you decide to make this preserve, make sure to save those cores and peels left over from prepping the apples. Heap them into a saucepan, add more fresh ginger, and fill the pot with water.

Let it simmer away on the back burner for an hour or so, until the peels are soft and translucent. Once strained, you’ll have an apple-ginger nectar that is delicious sipped warm or chilled. It’s an almost effortless way to get all the goodness from your apples that you can.

Apple Ginger Butter close - Food in Jars

In this, the season of latkes (Hanukkah starts on December 6!), I can think of no higher calling for this butter than a top a disc of fried potatoes. However, if latkes aren’t your thing, don’t think you can write this one off. It’s awfully good stirred into a bowl of steel cut oats and I can’t stop imagining it layered into shortbread bar cookie.

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