Honey Sweetened Apricot Thyme Jam at Simple Bites

apricots in a bowl

 

This time of year, I get a little bit obsessed with apricots. I buy them by the half bushel from a local orcharding family (I get the seconds, which are cheaper but just as tasty) and make five kinds of jam, butter, preserved halves, mustards, and ketchups, all from apricots. I also eat my way through a small mountain of them plain, because there is nothing in the world so good as an apricot that ripened on the tree, traveled all of 100 miles and has never seen the inside of a cold room.

I’ll have a new apricot recipe or two for you guys soon, but also wanted to point you in the direction of a apricot post and recipe I wrote for Simple Bites that went live today. I dearly love this simple, small batch of honey-sweetened apricot jam, made herbaceous with a few fresh thyme leaves. It’s still lovely on toast, but really shines when served with a creamy wedge of cheese or some succulent tidbit of roasted meat.

The recipe is here. I daresay that it will make you want to leap up and find your way to the closest quart of sunny stonefruit to make your own batch.

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Urban Preserving: Pickled Fairy Tale Eggplant

finished pickled fairytale eggplant

Two years ago, when I was still writing a weekly pickling column for Serious Eats, I made a little batch of pickled eggplant to feature in that space. The recipe was just slightly adapted from one in Linda Ziedrich’s book The Joy of Pickling. I did not have particularly high hopes for that particular pickle, but I had eggplant to use and an approaching deadline, so I made it.

fairytale eggplants

In the end, I was astonished by how delicious the pickled eggplant was, especially when removed from the jar, drizzled with olive oil and eaten on toast. I’ve made it several times and have even included a version of the recipe in my upcoming cookbook (of course, Linda is prominently credited as the inspiration).

slivered eggplants

In the past, the I pickled cubes from a standard bulbous eggplant (nothing fancy, it was just what I happened to have around). However, I’ve long thought that those beautiful, lavender-streaked fairy tale eggplants were an ideal candidate for pickling. Last summer, I bought them twice with intention of suspending them in vinegar, but each time used them up in summer braises instead. So, when I saw a few baskets of pretty eggplant at the farmers market last Saturday, I forked over $6 for a quart so that I could finally execute my pickle plan.

blanch in boiling vinegar

This pickle does have a few steps, but isn’t actually particularly complicated. You start by trimming away the stem end off a quart of fairy tale eggplant and slicing each fingerling into four or six wedges (use your judgement; more strips for larger eggplants, fewer for smaller ones). Place them in a bowl and toss them with two tablespoons kosher salt and the juice of one lemon (the salt draws out the liquid in the eggplant and the lemon prevents them strips from browning).

in the vinegar

Once the eggplant slivers have sat for an hour or two, you dump them into a colander and give them a quick rinse. Then, using your hands, gently press out as much liquid as you can without entirely smashing the eggplant. While you are rinsing and draining, pour three cups of red wine vinegar into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Put all the eggplant into the boiling vinegar. Once the vinegar returns to a boil, let the eggplant cook for just 2 minutes.

pickled fairytale eggplant

When the cooking time is up, remove the eggplant from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and place it into a bowl (keep the vinegar hot). Add 1/4 cup torn basil leaves, 1 minced garlic clove (I like to use a garlic press for applications like this one), and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and stir to combine. Funnel the dressed eggplant into two prepared pint jars (half pints are fine as well). Top with the blanching vinegar, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Using a chopstick, remove air bubbles and add more vinegar if the headspace levels have dropped.

two pints pickled fairytale eggplant

 

Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel (this removes any particulars that could interfere with a good seal). Apply heated lids and rings. Lower the jars into a small boiling water bath canner and process for 10 minutes (starting your timer when the pot returns to a boil). When the time is up, carefully remove jars from the canning pot and place them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the rings, check seals and (if seals are good), wash jars to remove any remnants of spilled brine.

These pickles need a little curing time for optimum deliciousness. Give them at least a week (if not more).

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Canning Classes: Brooklyn! Portland! Boston!

class image revised

 

Hey canners! Just a quick Monday morning reminder about my upcoming classes. There are still a bunch of spots left in the Portland class and I’d love to see some of you PDX-ers there!

July 18Apricot 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!

August 1 – Come learn to pickle your garden produce at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, MA. This class will walk you through the steps of pickling and boiling water bath canning in this two-hour hands-on Dilly Bean workshop. You’ll learn how to tackle a mess of beans and have the opportunity to ask all your burning preserving questions. The class runs from 6 – 8 pm and costs $55 ($50 for MassHort members). Click here to register.

August 2Free canning demo and book signing at the Hudson Public Library in Hudson, MA. The demo starts at 2 pm. There’s no sign-up required and I hope to see some of you there!

August 3 – Two classes at Create-a-Cook in Newton Highlands, MA. From 10 am – 1 pm, I’m doing a boiling water bath class featuring plum jam and pickled green beans. It costs $68 and you can sign up here. Then, from 2 – 5 pm, I’m offering a pressure canning class. I’ll talk about how to safely preserve low acid foods such as chicken stock, beans, and other vegetable products and will demonstrate how to make and preserve a batch of caramelized onion jam. That class is also $68 and the sign up page can be found here.

August 7Plum jam two ways at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn, New York. This session features both demonstration and hands-on components and all participants go home with multiple jars of jam. Class runs from 6:30 – 8:30 pm and costs $65. Click here to sign up.

August 10 – Pickles at Indy Hall in Philadelphia. A deeply hands-on class, students will make quick cucumber and preserved green bean pickles (both vinegar based) and will take both varieties home to compare and contrast. Class is from 11 am – 1pm and costs $50. Leave a comment or email me to sign up.

August 15 – Tomato canning with the Fair Food Farmstand! We’ll preserve pints of whole peeled tomatoes in a boiling water bath canner. Participants will take home a jar of tomatoes and the knowledge necessary to do it at home. 6 – 8 pm in the Rick Nichols Room at Reading Terminal Market. Click here to signup.

August 17A massive tomato canning workshop at Blooming Glen Farm in Perkasie, PA. I’m going to set up a bunch of burners and we’ll can enough tomatoes for everyone to take home 2-3 quarts (final yield will depend on how much we’re able to get through that day). It costs $75 and will be a sweaty, fun, productive day with a potluck lunch. Click here to sign up.

August 18 – Canning demo and book signing at Wyebrook Farm, with a few tastes of preserves from my pantry. I’ll make a batch of spiced plum jam and will have books to sign. The event starts at 2 pm and a sign-up link is coming soon.

August 20 – Spicy Tomato Chutney at Greensgrow in Philadelphia. Class is from 12 – 2 pm and costs $35. Click here to sign up!

August 24 – An all-inclusive tomato canning class at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn, NY. Students will receive a demo on how to safely can their own fresh tomatoes and receive a take home kit that include detailed directions, a case of wide mouthed pint jars, and a flat of canning tomatoes. Class runs from 2 – 4 pm and costs $85. Click here to sign up.

August 25Plum jam two ways at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn, New York. This session features both demonstration and hands-on components and all participants go home with multiple jars of jam. Class runs from 2 – 4 pm and costs $65. Click here to sign up.

August 26 – An all-inclusive tomato canning class at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn, NY. Students will receive a demo on how to safely can their own fresh tomatoes and receive a take home kit that include detailed directions, a case of wide mouthed pint jars, and a flat of canning tomatoes. Class runs from 6:30 – 8:30 pm and costs $85. Click here to sign up.

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Links: Honey Sweetened Preserves, Apricots, and a Winner

The food swap potluck table is looking mighty lonely.

Last Sunday, I picked up a half bushel of apricots and a flat of sour cherries and then proceeded to spend every spare minute throughout the rest of the week trying to turn them into an array of jams, butters, sauces, and preserves. I lost a few of the very ripest apricots, but by sheer determination, managed to get everything else put up before time irreparably took its toll. I’m heading to Portland in just a week for a little family vacation, so I’m avoiding large fruit purchases and focusing on getting ahead in my freelancing work and blogging, in the hopes that I can focus on my parents, sister and nephew. Fingers crossed that the plan works! Now, to the links!

My offerings for tonight's food swap. Bourbon sweet tea and lemon basil syrups.

Now, a few links either by me or about me…

OXO Berry Pack

 

Big thanks to everyone who took the time to enter the OXO berry pack giveaway last week (thanks are also due to OXO, for sponsoring the giveaway. They are too nice over there). It was so fun to read about all your favorite OXO products. The winner is #730, Rachel C. She said, “My favorite is actually my OXO can opener. The grippy handles are absolutely AMAZING for getting the screw tops off of bottles with sticky contents that sit too long in my fridge.”

Make sure to check back in on Monday, because I’ll have another fun giveaway up that I think you guys are going to like!

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New to Canning? Start Here: Boiling Water Bath Canning

stock pot and trivet

For years, there has been a something missing from this site and that was a post that detailed the basics of boiling water bath canning. I didn’t do it in the very beginning and then, as time went on, I felt a little embarrassed about writing that kind of post so late in the game. Whenever people would ask me for it, I would refer them to other websites. However, I’m happy to finally be filling in that gap with this post here today.

pot with trivet inside

So, a little disclaimer to start out with. I’m going to detail my particular canning workflow. This might not be exactly how you do it in your kitchen and that’s okay. We all find ways to make it work with the tools, equipment and space that we have. In the end, the most important things are that you get your jars hot, that you fill them to the proper headspace, and that you process them for the amount of time prescribed by your recipe. There’s a good deal of flexibility in the rest of the details.

filled with jars

As I mentioned in the first post in this series, any pot can be your canning pot as long as it’s tall enough to hold a rack and your jars, and that it allows the jars to be fully submerged in the water. I like this one, but the best pot to use is the one already in your kitchen. Once you’ve picked out your pot, position a rack in the bottom. I have a silicone trivet pictured here, but any round rack, collection of old canning jar rings or a hand towel will work. Then put your jars in the pot.

filling with water

Then, fill up the jars and pot with water. I like to use the hottest tap water available, as it speeds up the boiling process a bit to start.

all filled up

It’s a little hard to see in this picture, but at this point, I only fill the pot enough to just barely cover the tallest jar I’m using. This should be more than enough water for the processing stage, because once you lower your filled jars in the pot, they will displace enough water to sufficiently cover the jars (sometimes, you need to remove a little water from the pot to prevent overflow. If this becomes necessary, use something heatproof, like a Pyrex measuring cup so that you don’t burn yourself).

white vinegar

It is always a good idea to pour a generous glug of white vinegar into your canning pot before you start heating it. This will prevent any minerals present in your water from depositing on your canning pot or jars. I don’t live in a place with particularly hard water, but I still do this because it keeps my pot in good shape and makes it easier to clean.

canning pot on stove

Now the pot is ready to go on the stove an come to a boil. I do all of this before I ever apply heat to my preserves. That way, the canning pot has a head start on my product and the jars will be nice and hot when I’m ready to use them.

lids

Here’s where my practice diverges a little from what the  canning books will tell you. Almost all instructions (even those printed in my cookbook), will instruct you to take out a small saucepan, place the lids in it, cover them with water and bring it to a very gentle simmer. While this is good in theory (you don’t want to over soften the sealing compound), I rarely do it in practice.

Instead, I watch my heating canning pot. When it reaches a boil, I turn it down to a simmer and drop my lids in. Everything stays nice and hot until I need to use it. The sealing compound gets to the perfect level of softness and I am a happy canner.

removing hot jars

When the product is ready to go into the jars, I slide the canning pot off the heat and pull out the jars with a handy jar lifter. Just a note: These jars are hot, but not sterilized, because I turn the heat down to a simmer as soon as the pot boils. This works because the filled jars get boiled for at least ten minutes (and often longer) during the processing step.

However, if your recipe calls for a processing time that is shorter than ten minutes, you either need to increase the processing time to ten minutes, or you need to actively boil your jars for at least ten minutes before filled, to ensure you have sterilized jars.

ready to fill

Now you fill up your jars.

filled jars

Before applying the lids and rings, wipe the rims with a damp paper towel (I use the hot water from the canning pot as my dampening water, as the heat helps remove any stubborn sticky spots). Then, center a lid on each jar and secure it with a ring. Don’t over tighten the rings, because there needs to be enough space for the oxygen in the jars to escape. The term for this level of tightening is called “finger tip tight” meaning that you only tighten as much as you can with the tips of your fingers. I always tell my canning students that you turn just until the ring meets resistance.

processing

Once all the jars have lids and rings, lower them into your canning pot. Make sure the jars are fully submerged and are covered with about an inch of water (you need that much to ensure that they won’t become exposed during boiling). Turn the burner to high. When the pot returns to a boil, set a a timer to the prescribed amount of processing time. You do want to maintain an active boil throughout the processing of the jars, but make sure you control your boil. If the pot is madly rolling, the chances that you will burn yourself increase. Turn it down a little, to minimize splashing and injury.

removing finished jars

When time is up, turn off the heat. If you have an electric stove that stays hot for a while, slide the pot off the burner. You don’t want the water to be rolling when you reach in with your jar lifter. Then, lift your jars out of the pot and place them on a folded kitchen towel to cool (if you have countertops made from marble, granite, stainless steel or some other surface that stays cool, the towel is really important so that you don’t shock your jars).

all done

Once the jars are out of the canner, leave them alone and let them cool. Hopefully, you’ll hear a symphony of popping and pinging lids. This is good, it means that the seals are being formed. However, don’t freak out if you don’t hear those noises. Jars sometimes seal slowly and quietly. Once the jars are cool enough to handle, remove the rings and test the seals by holding onto the edges of the lids and lifting up an inch or two. If the lids hold fast, the seals are good.

Sealed jars should be stored in a cool, dark place without the rings. If the jars are at all sticky after processing, make sure to wash them before you put them away. Any sticky residue can attracts ants and other pests, so make sure your jars are squeaky clean.

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Introducing BNTO! New Product From the Makers of Cuppow

bnto

Fun news, jar lovers! Today, the folks that make the Cuppow have released a new product that I predict will have a giant impact on how we use canning jars to tote meals and snacks. Called the BNTO (a nod to the Japanese bento boxes that served as inspiration), it’s a 6 ounce cup made in the USA from recycled and BPA-free plastic, that nests into a wide mouth mason jar.

bnto in use from Cuppow

What it does is give you the ability to stash both wet and dry ingredients in a single jar. This means that your granola won’t get soggy, you can keep your peanut butter off your apple slices or crackers, and you can even pack up chips and salsa in a single container.

bnto in a jar

It’s designed to work with a canning jar lid and ring. The rim of the BNTO has raised strip which nestles into the sealing compound in the lid and creates a leakproof seal. You’ll notice that the ring doesn’t tighten quite as far as it does with just a lid, but there’s still plenty of space to ensure security.

For more on BNTO, click over to the Cuppow website. There’s a video here that will give you a peek at all BNTO can do.

Disclosure: The folks at Cuppow sent me a couple of samples of the BNTO to try out. They are also a sponsor of this site. Even if I had no relationship with them, I’d still think that this was a super cool product. 
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