Free Canning Demo at Williams-Sonoma at the Bellevue

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Hey Philadelphia area folks! This Saturday, June 29, I’m going to be doing a apricot jam demonstration and book signing at the Williams-Sonoma at the Bellvue (the entrance to the store is on Walnut Street, half a block west of Broad Street).

The demo starts at 1 pm and last about 45 minutes. When the jam is finished cooking, I’ll have tastes of it available, as well as books to sell and sign. I’m also planning on bringing a couple other jars of goodies from my pantry, so there will be plenty to sample and get you excited about canning up your own summer produce.

This event is totally free and I’d love to see some of you there! If you can’t come, make sure to follow the Williams-Sonoma Philly Twitter account, as they’ll be posting photos from the event.

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Canning 101: Tall Jars for Asparagus, Green Beans, and More

pickled asparagus in different jar styles

Whenever I’m about to start a canning project, I spent a few moments thinking about what I’m making, to ensure that I grab the best jars to do the job. This means that when I can jams, jellies, and fruit butters, I reach for the half pint (or smaller!) jars, aware that it will take me awhile to move through a sweet preserve.

When I pickle vegetables or can whole fruit that have a tendency to float, I use a regular mouth jar, knowing that the jar’s shoulders will help keep the veg positioned under the level of the brine. I do  tomatoes in quart jars, since I’ve found that’s the most useful size in my day-to-day cooking. And I frequently reach for a pint & a half jar when making pasta sauce, as a pint is never quite enough and a quart is always too much.

pint & a half jars

And when it comes to pickling tall, skinny things like asparagus, green beans, and garlic scapes, I reach for lanky jars that will give me plenty of real estate for the vegetable’s full length. I’ve found that there are three readily available versions of the long, tall jar and so thought I’d do a little show and tell post, to make everyone aware of their options.

First is the Ball Pint and Half Jars. They are sold in boxes of nine, hold 24 ounces and are 6 3/4 inches tall. Like all traditional mason jars, the jars and rings are reusable, while the lids need to be replaced with each batch.

Depending on where you buy them, the price on these jars starts at around $9.99 for a box and tops out around $20. The best deal I’ve found online is through True Value. The jars cost $11.99 a box and if you select their free “ship to store” option, you don’t pay any shipping fees. The only hitch there is that you need to have a True Value store nearby.

Weck asparagus jars

The next option is 1/2 liter cylindrical jar from Weck. It holds a little more than a traditional pint jar, but instead of having that space in a short, squat jar, it’s been stretched out so that you get about 8 1/4 inches of canning real estate.

These jars are beautiful, feel substantial, and are endlessly reusable. According to the US directions, the seals need to be replaced each time they are used. However, European instructions say they can be reused until they start to crack or show signs of age.

The price for a box of six of these jars ranges from $18.25 (from weckjars.com) to $29.95 (that’s the regular Williams-Sonoma price. However, these jars are currently selling for $23.96, because they’ve got their canning stuff on sale). Shipping varies for jars bought through Weck Jars. Right now, shipping is including on Williams-Somona, but I don’t how long that will last.

16 ounce Paragon jars

Finally, we have the dark horse jar. It’s a 16 ounce Paragon jar. It is 6 3/4 inches tall and seals with a one-piece lug lid (make sure to get one with a button, so you easily tell that it has sealed).

Made in the US and sold through jar distributors like Fillmore Container, this is the style jar that commercial producers are using for their tall, skinny preserves. Home canners can reuse these jars, but do need to replace the lids with each new batch.

They cost $5.61 a dozen. However, the lids are sold individually and cost $.25 a piece, which adds $3 to the total. The shipping can also add up, particularly if you’re buying just a single box. In the end, a dozen of these jars with lids would cost around $22 to get to me in Philadelphia. If this is the style you want to go for, see if you have friends who’d like to go in on an order with you, as it can save you cash in the end.

five jars

There you have it! A round-up of tall, skinny jars! Which one will you choose for your next tall project?

Disclosure: Fillmore Container gave me a box of the Paragon jars for review purposes. They didn’t pay me to write this post and my thoughts and opinions remain entirely my own.
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Giveaway: New Cuppow Colors

new Cuppow colors

There is fun news from our friends at Cuppow. Earlier today, they announced that they’ve added two new colors to their line-up. This means, in addition to being to choose from clear, blue and orange, you can now also get your Cuppow in mint (wide-mouth) or bright pink (regular-mouth).

old and new updated

What’s more, the original wide-mouth Cuppow is now available with the Straw-Tek opening, making it increasingly useful for the iced drinks we’re all so fond of this time of year. As you can see, I tried my hand at the whole “write on the image” thing that’s so popular these days, to call out the differences.

new mint colored wide mouth Cuppow

As always, the colors are each associated with a charity, which receives 5% of the profits from that particular lid. When you buy the mint lid, Cradles to Crayons benefits. A portion of the profits from the shocking pink version go to Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Cuppow prize pack

Thanks to Cuppow creators Joshua and Aaron, I have five prize packs to give away. Each winner will receive one regular-mouth pink lid, one wide-mouth mint lid, and one Team Cuppow cycling cap.

If you want a chance to win, here’s what you do.

  1. Leave a comment on this post, telling me what you’re drinking to cool down this summer. Water with herbs? Home-brewed kombucha? Iced coffee? Gin and tonic? Whatever your drink du jour is, I want to hear about it.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, June 29, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 30, 2013.
  3. Giveaway is open to all.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Cuppow gave me review units of the new Cuppows to try and are also providing the goods for this giveaway. However, my opinions remain, as always, entirely my own. 

A Very Large Bowl of Pickles for a Potluck

ingredients for pickles

Last Saturday, I taught a class about cucumber pickles. We made quick pickles, we made preserved pickles, and spent the afternoon filling a church social hall with the arresting scent of boiling vinegar. Everyone went home happy and with jars of pickles clutched in their hands. I went home exhausted (my standard state after a class) and with a 12 cup measuring cup filled with the leftover cucumbers.

green onions

When I got home, I made turkey sandwiches for Scott and me, and contemplated those cucumbers. I considered a batch of preserved pickles (the canning pot was already on the stove, so it wouldn’t have been too much of a hassle), or cooking up a salt brine for a round of kosher dills. Eventually though, my brain skipped ahead to the next afternoon. I was invited to a cookout at a friend’s house and needed something to bring. A bowl of quick pickles seemed like just the thing.

garlic

In my years of canning, one of the things I’ve learned is that while people appreciate it when you bring jars of preserved pickles and condiments, there’s really nothing that thrills a pickle-loving crowd more than when you show up holding a very large bowl filled with crunchy, slightly sweet, gently spicy, tangy pickles.

cilantro

I was introduced to the idea of the very large bowl of pickles many years ago. I was the potluck host that time, and my friend Wendy brought a full-to-the-brim bowl of homemade pickles to the party. At the end of the evening, the bowl thoroughly emptied of every cucumber spear and their deliciousness was all anyone could talk about.

In addition to keeping the leftover brine that night (Wendy okay-ed it), I have long since adopted the practice of making and bringing massive batches of quick pickles to parties. I know how to spot a good idea when I see it.

mint

On Saturday, the concept of a very large bowl of pickles also had the added benefit of using up some lingering ingredients. I had green onions, cilantro (both also leftover from the class) and a bundle of mint. None of it was going to weather more than a day or two more and so needed to be used.

Now, let it be said right now that if you’re not a fan of cilantro or you can’t stand mint, they can be omitted or swapped for some other tasty green herb. Because this is a quick pickle, nearly every component of the dish can be altered, traded or left out completely.

bed of pickle flavor

I pulled out a large bowl that happened to have a tight-fitting lid (to control the inevitable pickle brine slosh). Into the bottom, I heaped green onion segments, slivered garlic, chopped cilantro, torn mint leaves and a generous palmful of red chili flakes (had I had a fresh hot pepper, I would have used that instead).

cucumbers in bowl

I cut up 10 or 12 large Kirby cucumbers and crammed as many as I could on top of the green onions, mint, cilantro, garlic, and red chili flakes.

pouring brine

Then came the brine. I used 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 cups water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and a generous pinch of salt. I will also confess that instead of preparing the brine on the stovetop, I combined all the ingredients in the measuring cup you see there and microwaved it until the sugar was dissolved (since it wasn’t being preserved, there was no real reason to bring it to a full boil).

covered in brine

Once the brine was in (magically, I had the exact right amount), I jiggled the bowl a little and squeezed in a few more cucumber slices. Then, the lid went on and the bowl went into the fridge for an overnight rest. Just to give you an idea of the time commitment these pickles require, once I had all the ingredients in place, it took less than ten minutes from start to finish (and that included pauses to take these photos).

finished pickles

On Sunday afternoon, I wrapped the bowl in a towel (just in case of leakage) and toted them out to West Philly for the party. Happily, the pickles were very well-received. More than once, I heard people commenting on their crunchy, sweet, spicy, pucker. Later that evening, I also got a quick follow-up text from the host that simply said, “Your pickles were amazing!”

The very large bowl of pickles wins again!

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Links: Kimchi, Cherries, and Winners

carrots

The last week has been an intensely frenzied one. Lots of classes, lots too many deadlines, and an inability to stop buying fruit has left me dashing from one project to the next. Still, I managed to collect a handful of links to share with you.

Fern & Fisk pickle towel

 

tea towel winners Now, on to the Fisk & Fern tea towel winners. I was so pleased that so many people entered this one and shared their feelings about the recent rise in the popularity of canning. Our three winners are:

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Strawberry Picking at Rowand Farms

In an effort to switch things up a little, today I have a post of pictures and no (or at least, not very many) words. These are from a recent trip to pick strawberries at Rowand’s Farm in Glassboro, NJ. The strawberries and sweet cherries are now done for the season, but if you’re in the area, I hear they’ll have sour cherries through the weekend.

Rowand Farm Market
strawberries
upick boxes
strawberry boxes
rows of strawberries
strawberry fields
hidden strawberries
berries at the farm market
nine pounds of strawberries

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