Homemade Peanut Butter in an Omega Nutrition Center Juicer

peanut-butter-in-a-jar

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you might have noticed that I have an enduring fascination with homemade nut and seed butters. I included a handful in my first cookbook. There are nearly half a dozen recipes in the archives of this site (as well as this very worthy chocolate sun butter I wrote for Simple Bites a few years back).

omega-nc800hds-in-box

A large part of my nut butter quest has been the search for the best tool for the job. At one time or another, my go-to nut butter machines have been a 40 year old Cuisinart, a Blendtec (best when used with a Twister jar), a Vitamix, and a newer Magimix food processor. I have also spent more than a few minutes lusting after Margo’s commercial peanut butter maker.

omega-nc800hds-set-up

However, I think my search for the best nut butter method is over. The piece of gear that has brought my journey to an end? The Omega Nutrition Center Juicer. I tried it for the first time yesterday, and it transformed a pound of roasted peanuts into smooth, spreadable butter in less than two minutes. I was agog at how fast and easy it was.

roasted-peanuts

The folks from Omega sent me this juicer last month, wondering if I might find it useful for prepping fruit for jelly making. However, I was more intrigued by the line in the description that mentioned its ability to make nut butters. Could this be the piece of equipment I’ve been looking for?

roasted-peanuts-in-the-hopper

Here’s how it works. The Nutrition Center comes with two screens. One is designed for juicing, but the other blocks off the hole where the pulp is ejected, allowing the entirety of the product to go through the machine. As long as you use one of the wider aperture nozzles on the end of the juicer, the auger grinds the nuts and out comes butter!

peanuts-in-the-omega-shute

I added some salt as the nuts went through the machine, so that the finished butter would be uniformly salted. That worked well enough, but going forward, I plan on seasoning the nuts during the roasting step, to ensure that there aren’t any pockets that are spicy or salty.

making-peanut-butter-in-the-omega

Now, I’ve only used the Omega for peanut butter, but judging by how beautifully it worked with peanuts, I have a feeling it will do other nut butters really well. I’m looking forward to trying other nut and spice combinations as well!

finished-omega-peanut-butter

Do you have a favorite method for making nut butters at home? If you have an juicer, have you ever tried using it to make nut butters?

Disclosure: As stated above, this juicer was sent to me as a review unit. No additional payment was provided for this post and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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Low Temperature Pasteurization + Crab Boil Pickles

cafe-du-monde

I have spent the last five years working as an independent, creative person. One of the things I’ve learned about myself in that time is that my path towards getting things done is shaped like a snail shell, with the product at the center and the track towards it running in a spiral shape.

grasshoppers-in-new-orleans

I orbit around the goal for days, weeks or even sometimes for months until I final land on the thing in the center. This is the process I take whether it’s a small project or a large one and people who know me understand that when they ask me how something is going, my response is often along the lines of, “I’m getting closer.”

zatarains-silo

The reason I’m sharing this with you today? This blog post is one I’ve been circling around for a very long time. I first started thinking about low temperature pasteurization for pickling six or seven years ago. A tool to accomplish it effectively (the Anova Precision Cooker) came into my life more than two years ago.

And the recipe I’m sharing at the bottom of this post was directly inspired by a press trip I took to New Orleans with the folks from Zatarain’s back in January (nine months).

zatarains-products

Finally, it’s all come together and I’ve landed on center of the circle.

The story starts with low temperature pasteurization. For many people, this approach is the answer to the question, “How can I make crunchy, shelf stable pickles?” It is preservation technique in which you simmer your filled jars in water that’s between 180 and 185 degrees F.

You do this for a longer period of time (typically 30 minutes) than you would normally process them in a boiling water bath canner. The longer, lower temperature allows you to kill off bacteria while retaining a firmer finished texture.

immersion-circulator-processing-set-up

Now, the trick to low temperature pasteurization is finding a way to maintain the proper temperature over an extended period of time. I have tried it on my ancient electric stove, but found that it was nearly impossible to consistently hit and sustain the target range.

Now, here’s where the Anova Precision Cooker comes in.

bushel-of-pickling-cucumbers

Several years ago, various companies started making immersion circulators for home use and the thought occurred to me that it would be the perfect tool for low temperature pasteurization. The reason being that immersion circulators are designed for sous vide cooking, a process in which you bring water to a certain temperature and then hold it at that temperature for an extended period of time to fully cook various kinds of food without overcooking them.

cucumbers-in-a-colander

Two years back, the folks from Anova got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in trying one of their immersion circulators. Thinking about low temperature pasteurization, I said yes. They sent me the unit, and then life got the better of me. I moved it from corner of the apartment to another for nearly a year, and then finally tucked it into my closet, forever promising myself that I would eventually use it for processing pickles.

washed-pickling-cucumbers

That brings us to 2016. Back in late January, I went on a press trip to New Orleans to learn more about Zatarain’s. Before that trip, all I knew about that iconic brand was the fact that they sold boxed rice mixes. While on the trip, I discovered that Zatarain’s is synonymous with New Orleans food. Never before had I encountered a brand that was so interwoven with the food culture of a place.

sliced-cucumbers-in-jars

It was a magical trip and I came away feeling moved by the welcome of the city and motivated to devise a cucumber pickle recipe that employed the Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil flavoring. The reason for the recipe idea was this. They told us that originally, people would flavor their crab boil with packets of pickling spices. Over time, they’d created the concentrated liquid flavor out of a blend of extracted oils from those classic pickling spices.

zatarains-crab-boil

Always dreaming up preserving recipes, it seemed obvious that I should make a pickle using the liquid flavor, if for no other reason than it would create a classically flavored pickle without the mess of the whole spices.

finished-jars-of-crab-boil-pickles

So, that brings us up to mid-August. I was home between book events and was determined to finally make my crab boil pickles, and preserve them using the low temperature pasteurization process, facilitated by the Anova immersion circulator. I went to Reading Terminal Market, intending to buy 10 or 15 pounds of pickling cucumbers, and ended up coming home with a bushel (it weighed nearly 50 pounds).

so-many-pickles

I proceeded to make a lot of pickles. I made horseradish pickles. I make classic garlic dills. I cut them in spears, coins, and halves. All in all, I made nearly 30 quarts of pickles, thanks to an idea, a tool, a trip, and a little bottle of crab boil seasoning.

I realize that cucumber season is done for most of the country at this point, but since I finally managed to pull these things together experientially, I wanted to get this blog post written in this calendar year (and plant the seed that if you value crunchy pickles, perhaps an immersion circulator should be on your holiday list this year).

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Homemade Low Sugar Concord Grape Jelly

Homemade, low sugar Concord grape jelly is a fun one to have in the pantry and makes the most delicious nut butter sandwich imaginable!

Concord grapes for Concord grape jelly

I was certain that I was going to miss the Concord grape season this year. I spent most of September away from Philadelphia and while I did plenty of canning while out in Portland, I didn’t manage to get any grapes.

Concord grapes in a colander for Concord grape jelly

Now, it’s easy enough to get good quality Concord grape juice any time of year for jelly making (and I tell you how to do exactly that in my first cookbook). But I do so like to make it straight from the grapes when I can, because there’s nothing like the fragrance and flavor of fresh Concord grapes.

simmered Concord grapes for Concord grape jelly

A couple weekends ago, I spent the morning demonstrating how to make honey-sweetened jam at the Antietam Valley Farmers Market. When I was done with my demo, I made a quick circuit to pick up a few things for the week and one of the vendors had three quarts of Concord grapes left. They all came home with me.

Concord grape pulp in a food mill for Concord grape jelly

This preserve is halfway between a jelly and a jam. Instead of simply extracting the juice from the grapes, I simmer them and then push them through a food mill, so that I can get as much pulp as possible into my finished product.

Just remember. Concord grapes stain like crazy, so wear dark colors or your least favorite apron when making this. And if you have marble countertops, take care!

Concord grape jelly in Lock Eat jars

This is a lower sugar grape jelly that you often find (I used a ratio of 4 parts juice to 1 part sugar). I’ve got a similar preserve in Naturally Sweet Food in Jars that is sweetened with maple sugar, if you want to avoid the refined stuff entirely.

I like this version because the flavor of the grapes is the one that it spotlights, and there’s nothing better on piece of peanut butter toast than a smear of grapey goodness.

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Giveaway: Lock Eat Jars from Luigi Bormioli

Lock Eat jars from from Luigi Bormioli are the first jars designed with both canning and serving in mind.

Lock Eat jars with their brand embossing

You might not know this about me, but I get positively giddy when I discover new canning jars. The most recent line of jars to send me over the moon? The Lock Eat jars from Luigi Bormioli. They are sleek, easy to use, and have a very pleasing heft to them.

An assortment of sizes of the Lock Eat jars.

They’re the first jars designed with the understanding that they will have multiple uses in our homes. They work beautifully for all manner of boiling water bath canning, but are also perfect for portable meals. The lid detaches completely and once removed, you’re left with a smooth container that’s ideal for yogurt, grain salads, and smoothies.

Lock Eat jars designed for holding juice

They come in two different shapes, and a number of sizes. The juice jar shape is available in 8.5, 20.5, and 34 ounces, and the straight-sided jars hold 2.75, 4.25, 6.75, and 11.5 ounces. All the Lock Eat jars are made in Italy, and are safe for both the microwave (once the lid is removed) and the dishwasher.

A GIF of how to securely close Lock Eat jars.

The lid is really easy to lock into place as well. Holding the base of the jar firmly, you just push the stainless steel arm down until it slides into position.

Lock Eat jars in a canning pot

I’ve had a small assortment of the Lock Eat jars in my kitchen for a little over a month now and have used them for leftovers, dry good storage, packed lunches and canning. So far, I like them a whole lot.

Hot Lock Eat jars ready to be filled

Using them for canning feels very much like processing preserves in Weck jars. Before you start making your preserve, arrange your selected jars in a canning pot (I’m using the Lagostina Martellata pasta pot here – more on that next week). Remove the rubber seals from the lids and arrange the glass lids in the pot as well. Bring to a boil. In a separate pot, simmer the rubber seals to soften.

Lock Eat jars filled with grape jelly.

Once your preserve is ready, remove the jars from the canner and fill them to the bottom of the solid glass band that runs around the top of the jars. This is a little more headspace than one leaves when working with mason jars, but it makes sense once you remember that the lid sits in the body of the jar and so takes up some of the header space.

The lid of a Lock Eat jar

Once the jars are filled, you ease the rubber seals back onto the lids, taking care to ensure that the tab is positioned so that it won’t be in the way of the latch when you go to lock the lids into place.

Three filled and closed Lock Eat jars

Then you wipe the rims and the top interior of the jars, place the lids onto the jars and carefully lock the lids into place.

(If you’re curious about the contents of these jars, check back tomorrow, when I’ll be sharing a recipe for low sugar grape jelly.)

The Lock Eat jars play nicely with regular jar lifters, provided that you take care to place the lifter on the sides of the jars, rather than get them tangled up with the lid latch. Set them into your canning pot and process as your recipe instructs.

Using a jar lifter to move Lock Eat jars

Once the processing time is up, remove the jars from the canner and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. Once the jars are completely cool, you can check the integrity of your seal by carefully releasing the clamp, grasping the lids, and lifting. If the lids stay firmly in place, the jars are sealed and can be stored in the pantry. As always, any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.

The rubber seals can be safely reused for canning as long as they remain springy and in good shape. If they seem to be losing their elasticity, you’ll want to order new ones prior to canning with them again.

Cooled and sealed Lock Eat jars.

Because they want to spread the word about their new jars, the folks at Luigi Bormioli are offering up five sets of Lock Eat jars for this week’s giveaway. Each of the five winners will receive an assortment of 14 food and juice Lock Eat jars, at a retail value of $125.

To learn more about Lock Eat jars and watch a video of them being used for canning, make sure to visit this page on the Luigi Bormioli website. Use the widget below to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you like the looks of the Lock Eat jars, you can follow Luigi Bormioli on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Make sure to use the hashtag #LBandME if you post about them.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Luigi Bormioli sent me the jars you see pictured here and paid a small fee to compensate me for my time and attention. All opinions remain entirely my own. 

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Upcoming Events: Fante’s! Terrain! Morris Arboretum!

Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

Friends! It’s hard to believe, but I have just nine events left in 2016. Help me make this final handful of classes, demos, and gatherings fun and successful! Mark your calendars, tell your friends, and come out and say hi!

Saturday, October 8 (South Philadelphia)
You’ll find me at Fante’s in the Italian Market from 11 am to 3 pm. I’ll be demonstrating how to make pear vanilla jam (a fresh demo starts every hour on the hour) and will have samples for tasting. I’ll also be signing books and answering canning questions. If you’ve never been to Fante’s, it is an independently owned kitchenwares store that is very much worth a visit.

Saturday, October 15 (Glen Mills, PA)
I’m teaching a canning class at Terrain at Styer’s. This gorgeous shop and garden center is a fabulous place to visit during the fall (so many gourds and pumpkins). In this class, we’ll collaboratively make a large batch of Pear Jam with Cinnamon and Vanilla and everyone will go home with a small jar. $25. Sign up here.

Sunday, October 16 (Chestnut Hill, PA)
The Bloomfield Farm at the Morris Arboretum is having their Fall Farm Day and I will be there from 12 noon to 4 pm demonstrating how to make honey sweetened jams and signing books.

Saturday, October 29 (Chestnut Hill, PA)
I’ll be back at the Morris Arboretum, this time for a canning class! In this morning workshop, I’ll show you how to make honey sweetened jams that are set with Pomona’s Pectin. Everyone who takes this class will go home with a small jar of the jam we made in class, along with a packet of information so that they can go home and do it themselves! 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. $40-45. Sign up here.

Thursday, November 3 (Exeter, PA)
I’m returning to the Reading area for a autumn-themed canning demonstration at the Exeter Community Library. I’ll be making honey-sweetened Cranberry Apple Jam and will have books available for sale and signature. 6-8 pm. Free.

Saturday, November 5 (Lawrence Township, NJ)
Fellow food writer Tenaya Darlington and I will be at Cherry Grove Farm for their annual Cow Parade Festival. I’ll do a short canning demo, and Tenaya will pair some of my preserves with the cheeses they make at Cherry Grove. We’ll both also have books on hand for sale and signature. Time TBD.

Tuesday, November 15 (Philadelphia)
I’m teaming up with the crew from Urban Farmer for a night of preserve-inspired menu items. More details to come! 6-9 pm.

Wednesday, November 16 (Glassboro, NJ)
My last library demo of the year is at the Glassboro branch of the Gloucester County Library. I’ll show you how to make a naturally sweetened autumn-themed preserve and will have books on hand for sale and signature. 7 to 8:30 pm. Free.

Thursday, December 1 (Easton, PA)
My final class of the year is at the Easton Public Market. We’ll make apple preserves and everyone will go home with a small jar of the preserves made in class. 7 to 9 pm. $30. Sign up here.

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Giveaway: Halloween-themed Jar Gear from Mason Jar Lifestyle

food-in-jars-halloween

Happy October, friends! To kick off the season of spooky, I’ve got a fun giveaway for you guys from our friends at Mason Jar Lifestyle (they’re a regular site sponsor). These lids, straw toppers, straws, and straw holders are the perfect way to get into the fun of Halloween in a way that’s reusable and sustainable!

Here’s what the winner of the giveaway will get:

To enter this fun giveaway, use the widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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