My Imaginary Seder Menu

Jewish cookbooks

One of the joys of living in a city with a huge extended family is that our holidays are chaotic and deliciously boisterous. These days, my cousins regularly host just the kind of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Passover gatherings I longed for when I was young and lived far away from any grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

However, there is just one (very small) downside to these large, collaborative holiday meals for me, and that is the fact that I never get to be in charge of the menu. I certainly always make contributions to the buffet and over the years have graduated from bringing secondary side dishes to the main course. But, as a food writer/blogger who reads cookbooks for recreation, I often find myself longing to craft the entirety of a celebratory menu.

kippered salmon snacks

I could certainly have secondary holiday gatherings and next year, when I’m not working on a book and life isn’t quite so frenzied, I hope to do just that. This year though, with Passover (and my cookbook deadline!) fast approaching, I thought that I’d indulge in a little fantasy menu planning instead of tackling the real thing. This way, I get all of the pleasure of flipping through cookbooks and imagining a meal, without any of the work of shopping, cooking or cleaning.

For my imaginary Seder, I pulled out four cookbooks. The Jewish Festival Cookbook (first published in 1954, but available in more modern editions), The Kosher Carnivore (a particularly good resource if you have kosher friends), The Mile End Cookbook (classic Jewish food with pages and pages of pickles), and The New Jewish Table (beautiful food). After a couple hours of reading, marking and stomach rumblings, here’s what I’d serve if I was hosting my family for Passover this year.

pickled heirloom beets with hard boiled eggs

For when people first arrived, I’d put out the Kippered Salmon Snacks and the Pickled Heirloom Beets with Hard-Boiled Eggs, both recipes from The New Jewish Table. Kippered fish has been salted and hot smoked, so that it’s fairly dry and meaty (more like the smoked salmon you get in the Pacific Northwest than the moist Nova salmon you put on bagels).

The pickled eggs with red beets are traditional in a number of cultures and are a nice symbol of the fresh, newness of spring. I did a version for Serious Eats last year that was quite tasty and very easy (you cheat with already-pickled beets). Chances are good that I’d also pull out a few jars of other pickles and chutneys that would complement these two official recipes.

Matza Knaidlach

After we made it through the Hagaddah, we’d move on to Matzo Ball Soup. I’ve long meant to make matzo balls according to the directions in the Festival book and this could be my chance (I love the line in the headnote encouraging young housewives to develop their knaidlach skills to win laurels as a cook). I’d use homemade chicken broth that was cooked ahead and pressure canned to save space in the fridge.

gefilte fish

I think gefitle fish gets a bad wrap. Most of the time, the stuff served at Passover comes from a can and tastes a little stodgy, fishy and funky. But homemade gefilte fish? It’s actually incredibly delicious and deserves a spot on the table. I’m hankering to try this recipe from The Mile End Cookbook.

Classic Brisket

For the meat eaters, I’d make brisket. And actually, this is the one thing I actually am making this year. I will take some cues from this recipe (she uses lots of aromatics for flavor) from The Kosher Carnivore and combine them with my own tricks (lots and lots of sauteed onions).

I’m also a believer in making brisket the day before you plan on serving it, so that it can rest in the fridge over night and develop more flavor. This also gives you an opportunity to skim the fat from the sauce and make a luscious puree from the juices and vegetables in which to gently reheat the brisket.

vegetable kishka

For vegetarians, the Vegetable Kishka with Sage and Paprika from The New Jewish Table seem like a good fit. And ever since watching a recent episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in which they made kishka, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with it.

Along with those main course options, I’d also make a big salad with baby arugula, sheep’s milk feta, and pomegranate seeds. Because any big meal needs a mountain of greens to balance things out.

homemade matzo

If there was time, I’d also make a batch of homemade matzo (I may actually make a batch of this in the next few days, with half whole wheat flour and some finely chopped rosemary. Because it sounds awfully good). For dessert, my beloved flourless chocolate cake.

For those of you who are hosting holiday meals in the next couple weeks (Easter is coming up soon, as well), what are you planning on serving? Are there any cookbooks that you’re using particularly heavily?

Disclosure: I received review copies of The New Jewish Table, The Kosher Carnivore, and The Mile End Cookbook for consideration. I bought my copy of The Jewish Festival Cookbook years ago. All opinions are my own. 
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Blog Update and Meet the Intern

adding vinegar

For the last few months, I’ve had an intern helping me make some updates to the blog. She has done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes and so we thought it was time to introduce her! In her post below, she details some of the updates she’s made to the site. Check back tomorrow for her grandmother’s pickled green tomato recipe! – Marisa

Hello Canners!

I’m Olivia, Marisa’s intern. Most people call me some sort of version of Liv or Livie Dee. I’m a junior at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, but hail from Milford, Connecticut, and thus have permanent ties to the beach and its the soothing sound of waves on walks and car rides (I’m a little lost in big, bustling Philly).

I’ve grown up shaped by a strong sense of family, friendship, and creativity — my mother nearly always had a book in hand, my father a paintbrush, and my brother an instrument. I’m studying both English and Communications at SJU, where I work as a tutor in the Writing Center. I’m still trying to figure things out, but I know I’ve never been happier doing anything else. I get stressed easily, but I try to take pleasure in the little things, work hard for what I want, and keep a smile on my face.

Initially I was interested in interning with Food in Jars because it combines two of my greatest passions—writing and food—while also allowing me to get some WordPress and social media experience under my belt; I’ve also been in limbo with the idea of starting a vegan food blog and was hoping I could take away a clearer understanding of what it takes to run a food blog as a hobby, as a business, or as just one of the many things in the balancing act of life.

There are some new things going on here at Food In Jars. If you direct your focus to the top of the webpage, you’ll see that our menu has changed a wee bit. Although it may look as though some things have disappeared, they have merely been moved to a drop-down menu of an already existing page. This allowed us to organize things more clearly and remove the clutter that the new pages would have caused.

Yes, I said new pages.

You will now find under the “Canning Resources” menu header that there is a page called  Canning 101. This is a neat little compilation of all Marisa’s Canning 101 posts that offer tips, explanations, general instructions, etc. For those of you who own the Food in Jars Cookbook, there is a new Food in Jars Errata page under the “Cookbook” menu, which lists all the errors in the various printings of the book.

I hope these changes are helpful. Feel free to explore the site and look for my guest post, coming tomorrow!

Keep canning, Livie Dee

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Love the Bulk for Earth Day

bulk bin buys

When it comes to grocery shopping, I like to spend as much of my food dollar in the bulk section as I can. I deeply appreciate the fact that I can get just the amount I want and that I end up bringing home less packaging. On days when I’m feeling particularly organized and ambitious, I take my jars with me and refill directly into them (as detailed in this post). I also keep a few of these lightweight kootsacs in my bundle of reusable grocery bags for those days when I don’t want to drag jars along with me.

Knowing that I’m something of a fan of buying from the bulk section, a representative from the Bulk is Green Council got in touch and asked if I’d help spread the word about Bulk is Love. It’s a campaign to promote the benefits of bulk buying in advance of Earth Month. They’re asking people to take a pledge to shop from the bulk section once a week throughout April as a way to prevent waste and eat high quality food. If you need more data, there’s an infographic at the bottom of this page with some compelling facts and figures.

jar storage

Taking the pledge also enters you into a giveaway for a chance to win a very nice I Love Bulk for Earth Month prize pack. It includes a pair of lovely jars and an assortment of food products that are frequently found in your local bulk section. Click over to their site for more information about the Love Bulk campaign.

How are you all using your bulk sections these days? Any new favorites or useful discoveries?

Disclosure: The Bulk is Green Council sent me one of their prize packs to sample. They did not pay for this post and my opinions remain my own. 
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Three Ways to Repurpose Chipped Jars

scrub brush jar

About a week ago, I pulled one of my very favorite vintage pint and a half jars out of the dishwasher and discovered a big chip in the rim. I spent a moment feeling sad that I wouldn’t be able to use it as a drinking glass anymore (my favorite application for that particular vessel), but then set about finding a new use for it.

The truth of the matter is though canning jars are incredibly sturdy, some do eventually succumb to the bumps and collisions of life. To my mind, these small chips, cracks, and hairline fractures are simply opportunities to get a little bit creative (do use your judgment here and only reuse jars that aren’t an active safety hazard).

leaky jar

This first jar has long been a favorite in my kitchen. It was a birthday gift from my mom, sometime during my early twenties. We’d looked at these jars many times at the Antique Alley (a fabulous antique mall in the basement of a funky rental strip in NE Portland) and she surprised me with one.

One day, I went to fill it with water and discovered that it had sprung a leak. Because it was a precious jar, I didn’t want to drop it into the recycling bin. As I studied it, I realized that a hole near the base could actually be a boon if I used it as a scrub brush holder because instead of gathering water, it would drain. I used a bit of fine grit sandpaper to dull a few sharp edges and put it to work. It’s been serving in this capacity for years now and I have absolutely no plans to replace it.

chipped rim

Next up is a jar with a crack in the top. The funny thing about this jar is that the rim is actually entirely smooth. You don’t know there’s a problem with it unless you look at it from the side. The crack means that the jar lets in a very small amount of air. I discovered this after canning peaches in it a few years back. The seal was perfect but the peaches turned brown. It took me a while to figure out what the heck was happening.

However, this jar makes a fabulous container for Aleppo pepper (or any other spice you tossed in it). Because there’s no sharp edge, there’s no risk in going in and out of the jar regularly.

soap dispenser jar

Another way to reuse a jar with a chip or ding in the rim or threads is to use it as a soap or lotion dispenser. You can either order a mason jar pump lid ready-made from a variety of internet vendors, or you can follow a tutorial (there are a bunch out there) and make one yourself. It’s a great way to extend the life of an imperfect jar, because the only times you’ll expose the broken rim is when you open it briefly for refilling.

How do you guys repurpose cracked and dinged jars?

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Giveaway: Cozy Family Jar Cozies and Pattern

pints and quarts

When I was in my early years of jar love, a girl could get some pretty funny looks when she sidled up to the counter at a coffee shop and asked the barista to fill a pint jar with 16 ounces of hot brew. Happily, with the advent of the Cuppow, EcoJarz, and other drink toppers, seeing someone use a mason jar as a travel mug has gotten downright ordinary. The only issue these days is finding an appropriately heat resistent wrapper, so that you don’t burn your tender fingertips.

pint jar cozy

Looks pretty nice on one of the new blue glass jars, doesn’t it!

Katie Startzman, one half the crafty pair known as Duo Fiberworks and a fan of reusable containers of all stripes, could see that as more people used jars as coffee mugs and lunch-time travelware, there was a world of vessels that needed a little extra insulation and padding.

And so, as an expert in the world of fibercraft, she has devised a pattern for knitted and felted cozy that can be made to fit 11 different sizes of jars, bottles, jugs, and vessels. Called the Cozy Family, this pattern is available on Ravelry and makes me wish even more fervently that I’d get my act together and relearn how to knit.

food in jars cozy

Recently, Katie got in touch with me and offered up a couple pre-made cozies and five copies of the complete pattern for a Food in Jars giveaway. Because I’m always interested in supporting small businesses (particularly those with jar-related products), I said yes and she sent over the cozies so I could photograph them for this post. Included in the package was a hand-painted, quart-sized cozy featuring the FiJ logo!

This giveaway will have five winners. All five will get a copy of the complete Cozy Family pattern and one super lucky winner will also get a pair (pint and quart sized) of Katie-made cozies that they can slip onto jars immediately. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your favorite crafty outlet. Do you like fabric and fiber? Paper and pigments? Or are you more like me and go in for the edible crafts? All creative endeavors are welcome!
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Friday, March 22, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog over the weekend.
  3. Giveaway open to all.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Links: Waffles, Parfaits, and Pickle-brined Chicken + a Blue Jar Winner

Grain-free waffles with grapefruit curd.

Ball Heritage Jars
blue jar winner Thanks to everyone who took the time to share your memories, recollections, and experiences with the old blue glass jars, as well as your excitement for these new editions.

The winner is commenter #577, Amy from Texas. She’ll be getting one of the first 100 cases of the limited-edition jars produced. Congratulations, Amy!

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