Sponsors: Fillmore Container and Cuppow

mason jars

Like I mentioned on Tuesday in my introduction to the new design, there’s now space on Food in Jars for individual companies, Etsy sellers, bloggers, authors and other folks with a jar-friendly message to advertise. These sponsors make it possible for me to spend more time on this site and continue to bring you interesting recipes, canning tips, and giveaways.

I relaunched on Monday with two sponsoring companies who have long been friends of the site. The first is Fillmore Container. They are a jar and container distributor based in Lancaster, PA.

Fillmore sells the complete line of Ball jars, as well as smooth sided pints, half pints, and quarter pints. If you want to give your preserves a more professional look, you can also pick up an array of cute jam jars, just like the ones used by commercial folks. They were also my source for some of the tall jars featured recently in this post about asparagus jars.

new Cuppow colors

The second sponsor is Cuppow. They produce lids that convert canning jars into travel mugs and I couldn’t love their product any more. I particularly like teaming up one of the wide mouth lids with Straw-Tek with a Pint & Half jar for meeting my iced coffee and tea needs during the summertime.

Make sure to check back to blog on Tuesday, because Cuppow is announcing a new product and I’ll have some details to share!

If you’re interested in becoming a Food in Jars sponsor, please check out all the details on the sponsorship page. Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a note if you have any questions about this new feature.

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Cookbooks: Little Jars, Big Flavors

Little Jars, Big Flavor

I like making small batches of preserves (you probably know this already). I appreciate their relative ease and speed, as well as the fact that they mean that I wind up with a lot of variety in my pantry (instead of 12 jars of the same thing). In fact, I like them so much that my second book is entirely devoted to tiny batch canning (it’ll be out next spring!)

basic gear spread

I also like seeing what other people are doing with small batches and so when I heard that Southern Living was putting out a book devoted to just a few jars at a time, I was excited to check it out. Called Little Jars, Big Flavors, it’s a beautifully photographed volume that contains both preserves as well as a generous handful of recipes that suggest ways to use them.

canning tips

One of the things I really like about this book (in addition to its many tasty-sounding recipes) is its tone. It delivers information in a way that is useful, clear and does not encourage the reader to be at all fearful about what they’re about to do. For instances, the troubleshooting section called “Not Ideal, But Usually Not a Big Deal.” It’s so no-nonsense and helpful. To my mind, that’s a very big part of what a canning book should be.

tomato jam with lemon verbena

There are a number of recipes I’ve marked in this book to try someday. However, there’s one that particularly leaps out at me as one I must make. It’s for a Refrigerator Tomato Jam with Lemon Verbena. I had every intention of making it before I wrote about this volume, but once again, I seem to have overestimated the amount I’d be able to get done in a week’s time. Happily, the publisher has given me permission to share the recipe anyway. If any of you try it, tell me if it’s actually as good as it sounds!

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Upcoming Canning Classes: Brooklyn! Phoenixville! Philly! Portland!

class image revised

July 6 – Blueberry jam two ways at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn, New York. Class runs from 2-4 pm and costs $65. Click here to sign up.

July 11 - Make two kinds of jam (peach and blueberry) at Cooking Spotlight in Phoenixville, PA. This class is from 6:30 – 9 pm and  costs $59. Click here to sign up.

July 13 – Plum-Apricot Preserves at Indy Hall! This class will focus on boiling water bath canning and combining different kinds of fruits for successful pectin-free jam making. This class costs $50. Leave a comment or email to sign up.

July 18 – Apricot jam two ways at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn, New York. Class runs from 6:30 – 8:20 pm and costs $65.Click here to sign up.

July 20 – Come learn about jam making and boiling water bath canning with me at Longview Farm Market in Collegeville, PA. We’ll be making a batch of low sugar plum jam using Pomona’s Pectin. The class runs from 11 am – 1 pm and costs $35 to attend. Click here to sign up.

July 23 – Low sugar plum preserves in PORTLAND, OREGON! Class runs from 7 – 9 pm and will be held at the Subud Center in NE Portland. Class costs $40. Click here to sign up!

There are also lots more classes coming up in August. Click through to my classes page to see the entire schedule.

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New to Canning? Start Here: Equipment

canning pots

For months now, I’ve had it in my head to do a series here on the blog that would give new canners everything they needed to know to get started. A collection of posts that would detail necessary equipment, the boiling water bath process, best safety practices, good starter recipes, tips for successful jam making, and hints on how to make flavorful, texturally pleasing pickles.

As is the case with so many ideas, it’s taken me a while to bring it from concept to execution, but my plan is to start this series now and continue for the next six to eight weeks. As we move along, if you feel like there’s something that belongs in a canning primer that I’m missing, do get in touch and let me know.

trivet canning rack

One of the misconceptions about canning is the belief that you must have a dedicated canning pot in order to can. This is not true. All you need is a pot that is tall enough to hold a rack, your jars, an inch of water above the jars and an additional inch or so of space where the water can boil.

Most often, I use this 12 quart stock pot made buy Cuisinart (in the picture above, it’s the one on the left). For batches that only make three or four jars, I use the yellow stock pot in the middle of the photo (made by Dansk, that one was an eBay find). And for when I only have two or three half pints to process, I use a 4th burner pot.

Any time you turn a stock pot into a canning pot, you need to find a small rack to drop into the bottom. I’ve used round cake cooling racks, kitchen towels, a layer of old canning jar rings, dedicated racks like this one from Progressive International (it’s quite good). However, my favorite is this silicone trivet. It folds up for easy storage, never rusts, and because it’s flexible, it works in a fairly wide array of pots.

Obviously, you don’t need to have all three of these pots when you’re starting out. The idea is simply to show that nearly any tall pot can serve as a canner and that if you’re only canning a few jars, you can use a smaller pot, should you have one in your kitchen arsenal.

jam pans

Once you have your canning pot figured out, you need a pot in which to cook your product. For jams, jellies, tomato products, chutneys, and other products that need to be cooked down, I typically opt for a roomy Dutch oven. I really like the my nine quart Le Creuset that’s pictured above for its ability to conduct heat.

I also regularly use an 8 quart stainless steel All-Clad Dutch oven, particularly when I’m cooking something that I know has a tendency to burn (my tomato jam springs to mind). You can always scrub a burnt spot off stainless steel. It’s harder to do without ruining the finish on an enameled pan. I also recently added a Sur La Table 8 quart pan to the set of cookware I take to canning classes and I like it. It’s not quite as low and wide as the All-Clad model (a plus when trying to encourage evaporation), but is of equal tri-ply quality for about $100 less.

I also use a stainless steel skillet for a lot of my very small batches. The one I have is from that crazily high rated set of tri-ply cookware made by Tramontina that only Walmart* appears to sell. It’s also a third of the price of a comparable All-Clad model. Sur La Table makes a nice one that falls in the middle of the price range. Because these small batches quickly over very high heat, you want something that will perform well under those conditions and I’ve found that any heavy, low, wide stainless skillet will do.

For heating pickle brines, I always turn to the 4th burner pot pictured above. Because it’s got both the spout and the handle, it makes it a breeze to pour the brine into the jars.

favorite canning utensils

Finally, we come to the small tools. You’ll need a knife and a cutting board, but I figure most of you have those, so they’re not pictured here. A heatproof tool for stirring and scraping is always good and that silicone one on the left end is my favorite because it can go in the dishwasher (have five of them, to ensure that at least one is always clean).

A wide mouth funnel is always useful for getting your products into jars without a huge mess. I like the stainless steel ones just a little bit better than the plastic, but use both regularly. A jar lifter is a handy tool to have and I’ve found that the one made by Progressive International is my favorite (it’s got a stronger magnet than most, which makes retrieving lids a bit easier).

Jar lifters are designed to give you a secure grip on the jars as you move them in and out of the water. Though the jar lifter has been redesigned repeatedly over the last few years, I find that I still like the classic model the best (even if the rubber on the grips does have a tendency to peel away over time).

Finally, you want a good tool to move your product from the pot and into the jars. For years, I used an 8-ounce measuring cup to do this job (since it’s the same size as a half pint, you knew that with each scoop, you were getting enough to fill a jar). However, since getting this canning ladle from Progressive International last year, I find that I turn to it for almost every batch. Like my measuring cup, it’s sized to hold one cup,  really does a good job of getting those tricky last drops out of the bottom of the pot, and has a little hook that allows you rest it on the pot between scoops so that it doesn’t slide away and make a mess. If they made it in stainless steel, it would be the most perfect ladle ever.

bubbling the relish

Other tools that I like.

  • Potato mashers! They help break down large chunks without pureeing like an immersion blender does. I like this one and this one.
  • Skinny silicone spatulas! They are the perfect tool for easing air bubbles out of pickles and whole canned fruit because they can slip in without doing a lot of damage.
  • Paper towels or reusable cloth towels, like these from Athena Creates. I use these for wiping jar rims, cleaning up spills, and generally controlling the mess of canning.

As you’ve read through this post, you’ve probably noticed that a number of the things I call for are items that already exist in your kitchen. And if you don’t have exactly what I’m recommending, chances are you have something similar. Truly, it’s a kitchen task that many are already equipped to do.

Finally, remember that this post details just my opinions. You may have or discover favorites that aren’t mentioned here anywhere. Such is the way of life.

*I know Walmart isn’t for everyone (and they aren’t typically for me), but this particular line of cookware is of amazingly high quality and is ridiculously affordable.

Disclosure: This post is liberally peppered with affiliate links. If you follow those links and subsequently make a purchase, I get a few cents. Additionally, the Progressive International tools I mentioned above were received last year for review and giveaway. The opinions expressed here are the result of a year+ of regular use. No one asked me to update my thoughts or include them in this post, I wrote about them because they’ve proven to be useful. 
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Preserves in Action: Pickled Carrots and Daikon in a Sandwich

pickled carrots on a sandwich

Back in March, I cooked up a batch of quick pickled carrots and daikon radish. I thought they were long since gone, but while digging through the fridge in the hopes of making more space for the increasingly large CSA shares we’ve been picking up, I found one last jar. I’ve been making very good use of these rediscovered pickles. I’ve been chopping them into ribbons and adding them to salads, have been eating them straight from the jar and have been layering them into lunchtime sandwiches.

pickles in a sandwich

 

I come from a family who likes pickles in a sandwich for crunch and pucker, and these thin slices of carrots and radishes serve admirably in this role. I always make sure to blot them lightly before applying them to the sandwich (to prevent soggy bread). We’re having a little indoor cookout for two around here tomorrow and I plan on curling these pickles around my hot dog (though I may alternate between pickles and spoonfuls of this fennel relish).

How have you been using your preserves lately? And are you going to be including any homemade pickles in your 4th of July spread? Do tell!

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Welcome to the New Look of Food in Jars

food-in-jars-new-look

For many months now, my friend Roz has been working on a refresh for this site. She has squeezed it into her evenings and weekends and finally, this last Sunday night, she and Scott flipped the switch and made the new look live. I am entirely delighted by it.

You’ll notice that the navigation has moved from the header bar to the left rail of the site. A few people have mentioned that they miss the list of links out to other blogs. It still exists and can be found here (currently, the link is buried on my about page, but I’m trying to find a better, more obvious home for it).

Another thing that might jump out at you is that there are some new ads up in the right sidebar. Instead of simply using an ad network, I’m now offering anyone with a Food in Jars-appropriate ad to buy space in my sidebar. Prices start at $75 for a small ad and there are price points for lots of different budgets. Click here if you’re interested in learning more.

Finally, there are still a few bugs, broken links, and issues, but we’re working on fixing those as soon as we can. If you notice anything looking amiss, please do let me know!

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