Upcoming Classes: Philly! Phoenixville! Greensgrow!

class image revised

Hello canners! Summer is coming to a close, but I’ve still got plenty of canning classes on the schedule. Check ‘em out!

September 14 – Tomato Jam at Indy Hall! In this class, we’ll make a batch of tomato jam and talk about all the ins and outs of canning tomatoes. Both boiling water bath and pressure canning will be discussed. Class is 11 am – 1 pm and costs $50. Leave a comment or email me to sign up.

September 18 – Tomato canning demonstration class at Henry Got Crops in Philadelphia’s Roxborough neighborhood. The class is from 6:30 – 8:30 pm and costs $10 for CSA members, $15 for non-members. Email henrygotcropsATweaversway.coop to sign up.

September 19 – Hands on tomato canning basics at Cooking Spotlight in Phoenixville, PA. Class runs 6:30 – 9 pm and costs $60. All participants will go home with a jar of tomatoes. Click here to sign up.

September 21 – Tomato Jam at Greensgrow. Class is from 12 noon to 2pm and costs $35. Click here to sign up.

October 12 – Spiced Apple Pie Filling at Indy Hall! This class will give students an opportunity to help peel, chop and process 10 pounds of apples down into a batch of fragrant, spicy apple pie filling. Class is 11 am – 1 pm and costs $50. Leave a comment or email me to sign up.

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A Food in Jars Workshop at the Rowe Center

six cases of jars

As you might have noticed, I teach a lot of canning classes and workshops. Most of the time, these events are just two or three hours long. It’s enough to hit the high points, work through a recipe, and get people comfortable with the basics of boiling water bath canning. But it’s not always enough, particularly for those of you who want to go a little deeper with your canning knowledge.

So this fall, I’m trying something new. I’ve teamed up with the Rowe Center (a camp and conference center based in Western Mass) to offer a weekend long canning workshop. The workshop will be a three-day, hands on canning extravaganza that will focus in on the many different ways to preserve autumn fruit.

We’ll make applesauce, apple butter, roasted quince chutney, pickled Asian pears, pear vanilla jam, apple mint jelly and apple rosemary jam and in doing so, make nearly every style of sweet and puckery preserve I know. Participants will go home with a jar of everything we make, along with a far deeper understanding of preserving.

This workshop will start on the evening of Friday, November 1 and will run through to the afternoon of Sunday, November 3. The workshop fee is based on a sliding scale and there are a number of different housing options and price-points.

I do hope some of you will join me for this week. I think it’s going to be fun!

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My Berlin Kitchen in Paperback + Oven Roasted Apricot Butter

oven roasted apricots

Right around this time last year, My Berlin Kitchen, Luisa Weiss’s beautiful memoir, was published. I got a copy when it first came out and read the whole thing in less than a day. As soon as I had a few moments, I used her recipe for spiced plum butter and made some of the most luscious, silky plum preserves.

It was such a nice style of preserve-making that I used it again a few weeks back on apricots instead of plums (without really meaning to, I’ve canned my way through nearly 50 pounds of apricots this year). I quartered them, combined them with a little honey and a few spices, and roasted them until they slumped and were slightly caramelized around the edges. Once they were entirely soft, I used an immersion blender to puree them and then canned up the resulting apricot goodness in half pint jars.

My Berlin Kitchen paperback

I hesitated to write about this apricot and honey butter because their season is mostly over for the year. However, I thought it couldn’t hurt to plant a seed now, for next year when the apricots return again. I also thought it was good timing to share this adaptation of Luisa’s technique because her glorious book came out in paperback last week. If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it (I also recommend her plum butter. And the season’s not yet over for Italian plum prunes!).

And here are the specifics for my apricot approach. I used four pounds of pitted and quarters plums and 1 pound of honey. For one batch, I used 1 cinnamon stick and 2 cloves like Luisa suggests for her plums (it was delicious). For the second batch, I tied a heaping tablespoon of dried lavender buds up in a length of cheesecloth and let them sit with the fruit and honey overnight. The next day, I fished it out and roasted the fruit just as the plum recipe describes. This one may be my very favorite preserve of the year.

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Canning Demos at the Central Farm Markets this Saturday and Sunday!

my demo set-up

Hi everyone! Just a reminder that I’m doing a pair of free canning demos at the Central Farm Markets in Maryland’s DC suburbs this weekend. On Saturday, I’ll be at the Pike Central Market from 10 am to 12 noon, making plum jam and demonstrating my small batch canning technique (I’ll also have books to sell and sign). On Sunday, I’ll be at the Bethesda Central Market from 10 am to 12 noon, doing the very same thing. Hope some of you can come.

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Honey-Sweetened Peach Vanilla Jam

one half pint of peach jam

A couple weeks back, I was on something of a peach tear (thanks to the folks at Sweet Preservation). I wrote about my Lazy Peach Preserves and my Honey-Sweetened Peach Chutney. I promised that I’d have one final peach jam for you and then I went and fell off the recipe map. However, I’m here to make good. Without further delay, my recipe for Honey-Sweetened Peach Vanilla Jam.

three half pints of peach jam

This is one of those preserves that has just a few ingredients and so depends on you getting the best-tasting players as you possibly can. Search out those super sweet end-of-season peaches. Find a light honey that won’t demand center stage. And please, please, use a real vanilla bean. I know they’re pricy at grocery stores and gourmet markets, but if you buy them online, they are quite affordable. Go in with a friend or two. The flavor just can’t compare.

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Giveaway: Roma by Weston Electric Tomato Strainer and Sauce Maker

assembled tomato strainer

For years now, the bulk of my tomato canning has been in the form of the whole peeled tomato. It’s quick to prep, is hugely versatile, and always felt like the best use of my time. I’d make a few jars of basic puree each season, but I never found as easy a groove with sauce. However, a new appliance has come into my life that has made me rethink my preserved tomato allegiances.

sauce shute

This year, I’ve been a puree making machine thanks to the Roma by Weston Electric Tomato Strainer. It operates much like the hand crank tomato presses (one of which I’ve had for years, but never managed to fit it comfortably into my work flow), only instead of using your own brute force, the 200 watt motor gets things moving.

tomato strainer warning

It’s always important to be careful when using electric appliances that press and grind.

You cut your tomatoes into manageable bits and then pile them into the hopper. Using a tamper, you press them into the machine’s shaft, where they meet the auger, which pushes them through a screen (it comes with three different sizes, so you can also use it for fruit sauces).

The tomato pulp then comes pouring down the chute and the skin and seeds are ejected out the end of the screen. It’s incredibly effective and makes it possible to do things like break 20 pounds of tomatoes down into pulp in just 15 minutes. Once the tomatoes have been milled, you can cook them down into sauce or take them further into paste or conserva.

tomato strainer in the kitchen

One thing I particularly like about making sauce with a strainer is that the tomatoes go in raw and then you cook down the resulting puree. So often, sauce recipes have you simmer your tomatoes to soften, then press them through a food mill and then return them to the pot.

It’s a good technique (and one that I advocate in my cookbook), except that if you take too long in milling your tomatoes and they cool down considerably, you risk ending up with sauce that separates (more on separation, fruit float, and liquid loss here). It’s not the end of the world if it separates (just give it a good shake to reintegrate), but it sure does look prettier when your finished product is uniformly integrated.

working tomato strainer

The only issue I have with this tomato strainer is that motor portion is a little too light. It means that as you’re pressing the tomatoes into the shaft, you need to rest your elbow on the top of the motor to keep it stable. Otherwise, you’re liable to flip the machine.

It’s not hard to hold it in place once you realize that it’s necessary, but a metal body would have given it a little more weight and heft. But metal is heavier and more costly, so I understand why it’s been made as it is.

finished jars of sauce

I got this tomato strainer from the nice folks at Weston Products. They’re a company devoted to tools for those of us who like to make our food from scratch and carry an extensive collection of food mills, pasta makers, dehydrators, and sausage makers. Want to press your own wine or cider? They’ve got you covered. Because they’re awesome, they’ve given me a second Roma by Weston Electric Tomato Strainer to give away to one lucky Food in Jars reader. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me your favorite canning helper (animal, vegetable, or mineral).
  2. Comments will close at 5 pm east coast time on Sunday, September 8, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted to the blog later that day.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Weston Products gave me a tomato strainer for review and photography purposes and are also providing the unit for giveaway. No money changed hands and all opinions expresses are exclusively mine.