Cookbooks: Saving the Season

Saving the Season

I discovered Kevin West’s beautiful blog, Saving the Season, soon after he started writing it in 2009. I was only a handful of months into this canning blogging gig myself and appreciated knowing that there was someone else out there with similar tendencies towards large scale fruit purchases (Local Kitchen and Hungry Tigress also appeared around the same time and gave me equal comfort).

Saving the Season

Now Kevin’s book is available and I couldn’t be more pleased to add it to my shelf of canning volumes. Also called Saving the Season, it is gorgeous, hefty and impressively comprehensive.

Saving the Season

The recipes are written in a tone that is clear, cool, and welcoming. There are more steps and stages than in the recipes I tend to write, but that is to their benefit. I have a nasty habit of streamlining things for results that are perfectly fine. Kevin’s recipes shoot for preserve perfection.

Saving the Season

This is a text heavy book and it’s as much as joy to read as it is to cook from. Recipes come with stories and heritage. It is not something you want to scan quickly, but instead should be taken slowly and with great pleasure. It’s one that I predict will yield fresh inspiration for many seasons to come.

Saving the Season

There are tales of his produce road trips and the canning he’s done in borrowed kitchens, along with photos of his quiet adventures. Makes me think that I’ve not done nearly enough traveling and canning.

Saving the Season

The photography is both spare and incredibly appealing. Just look at that cauliflower. I also appreciate the sentiment in the first line of the headnote for his curried cauliflower pickle. He says, ” There should be more cauliflower pickles.” Kevin, I couldn’t agree more.

Saving the Season

My only complaint about this book is that is has just a hint of text book. The cover reminds me ever so slightly of my 8th grade biology book and the interior photos are disappointingly small. I can’t help but find myself wishing that its design was as lush and generous as the stories and recipe it contains.

That said, I still recommend it entirely without reservation. It should be on the reference shelf of all home canners.

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Canning 101: How to Substitute Pectin

pectin containers

During the time I was writing my first cookbook, I was something of a liquid pectin fan girl. I liked its ability to create a natural, not-too-firm set. However, as time has gone by, I’ve become more of an equal opportunity pectin user. I regularly use regular powdered pectin, Pomona’s Pectin, and even sometimes boost the set of my jams with some grated apple or ground lemon peel. I also make preserves without any additional pectin at all (thanks to the size of the batches, there’s not a drop of extra pectin at all in the next book).

I get a couple of pectin questions a lot. The first is, how do you choose the kind of pectin you use in each recipe? Unfortunately, I don’t have a really great answer for that one. I typically just reach for whatever’s closest in the kitchen. There’s no true formula. I do tend to use powdered pectin when I’m working with lower pectin fruits, but if there’s no powdered pectin around that day, I reach for the liquid. If I don’t have either kind of traditional pectin, I’ll use a splash of calcium water and a little bit of pectin from a box of Pomona’s Pectin.

The second thing I’m frequently asked is, how do you swap powdered pectin for liquid? Happily, I have a more concrete answer for this one. You use two tablespoons of powdered regular pectin for every packet of liquid pectin. The difference in usage is that instead of adding the pectin at the end of cooking like you do with liquid, you whisk the powdered pectin into the sugar before you combine it with the fruit. It responds better when you cook it the entire time and you avoid the risk of pectin clumping that can appear if you try and add powdered pectin at the end of cooking.

I’ve not come up yet with a perfect formula for converting full sugar recipes to lower sugar ones that use Pomona’s Pectin. The only tip I have about that pectin is that I always use about half as much as the recipes in the packet call for. I find that if you follow their instructions, you end up with a VERY firmly set jam. As someone who prefers a softer set, I find that using half as much gives me a satisfying outcome.

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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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