Links: Marmalades, Bread Crumbs, and Winners

Engaged in a slightly insane jar reorg project involving sheet pans, my label maker, and the space under my couch.

I hope everyone has had a nice weekend! Mine was focused on work related to the new book and spending a little time with a friend who was in from out of town. In other news, I’ve restarted the Food in Jars newsletter, after letting it sit fallow for most of the winter. I’ll be sending it out twice a month from here on out, so if you want to join in on the fun, sign up here. You can also see the latest edition here. Now, links!

Ecojarz Giveaway

Time to announce the winners of last week’s EcoJarz giveaway! They are #14/Monica, #79/Julie, and #124/Anna B. I’ll have another fun jar accessory giveaway up tomorrow, so check back for that!

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Other People’s Preserves: S&V Artisanal Jams

S&V Jams top label

Other People’s Preserve is my opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the very delicious jams, pickles, and condiments being made by dedicated professionals. If you see one of these products out in the wild, consider picking up a jar, tub, or bottle!

S&V Jams are all made in Manhattan, by hand and in small batches by Victor Eskenazi. I know for a fact that Victor is passionate about his preserves, because we’ve had long email exchanges over the years about pectin, sweeteners, and sourcing jars and he took one of my Brooklyn Kitchen classes a couple of summers ago.

S&V Jams front label

Last summer, Victor came to one of my Greenmarket demos in New York and gave me a jar of his strawberry jam. It tastes assertively of berry, with the sugar supporting the fruit but not overwhelming it. Made with ripe, seasonal fruit, it’s an gloriously perfect example of how strawberry jam should taste.

S&V Jams strawberry

S&V Jams come in 18 flavors and can be ordered directly from Victor through his website. Just know that he works in small batches, so inventory may be limited. If you do order, tell Victor I say hi!

Disclosure: S&V Jams provided the pictured jar at no cost to me. No other compensation changed hands.

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Cookbooks: Brown Eggs and Jam Jars

cover of brown eggs

I met first met Aimée Wimbush-Bourque in person at one of the early Big Summer Potlucks. We’d known each other online for some time before that, so in many ways, that first encounter was like reuniting with a friend, just one I’d happened never to have met before. We bonded over our shared love of canning and have stayed in touch ever since.

brown eggs and jam jars Aimee

When Aimée announced that she was working on her first book, I knew immediately that it would be one that I’d add to my shelf for the long haul. There has been little that Aimée has posted on Simple Bites over the years that I didn’t want to cook immediately and so I was certain that Brown Eggs and Jam Jars would be full of just the kinds of things I would crave.

Maple Walnut Granola

This book has far exceeded my hopes and expectations. It is a gorgeous, hefty paperback, bursting with delicious words, recipes, and images. The book is organized by season, with each time of year broken down further by the special activities that time of year contains. I particularly want to crawl right into the Sugaring Off chapter which kicks off the meat of the book.

making canning work

In addition to the very useful recipes, you’ll find that the book is studded with essays that deal with topics like making your canning work for you, tips on urban homesteading, and how to thrive with kids in the kitchen. There’s also a great introduction that goes through equipment and basic ingredients to keep in the pantry.

Gingery Pickled Asparagus

A note for those of you without kids. This book has a strong family focus. That makes sense because Aimée and her husband Danny have three young children. If that fact makes you pause, worry not. There is plenty in this book for households of just one or two.

Baba's Sweet Mustard Pickles

All told, this is a lovely book, bursting with appealing recipes and a personable voice. There are so many preserves I’ve added to my list for the coming season, from Baba’s Sweet Mustard Pickles pictured above, to the Roasted Peach Barbecue Sauce and the Cranberry Pear Mincemeat. I am certain that this is going to be a well-loved and much stained book by this time next year.

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Preserves in Action: Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Squash and Pickled Cauliflower

finished couscous salad

Like so many of the salads I’ve in the past, this one came to be thanks to a chorus of ingredients that were clamoring for attention. I had a trio of rapidly softening shallots in the fruit basket, an aging butternut squash on the counter, and both some pickled cauliflower and wilted cilantro in the fridge.

butternut squash & shallots

I used Israeli couscous because it was the vehicle I could most easily put hands on (the bag was on the counter). Farro, wheat berries, orzo, or quinoa would also be good options. I happen to adore Israeli couscous because it has such a nice bite, but if you’re avoiding refined carbs or wheat entirely, know that the salad won’t suffer from a swap.

pickled cauliflower

Here’s how it came together. I peeled the squash, removed the seeds, cut away a soft spot, and diced it. I combined those cubes with slivers of shallot and a good glug of olive oil on a roasted sheet and tucked it into a very hot oven (450 degrees F). The couscous I cooked in a large pot of salted water brought to a rolling boil (it cooks quickly, so watch carefully).

steamy israeli couscous

Once the couscous was done, I drained it and turned it out into a large bowl. I added chopped bits of pickled cauliflower and minced cilantro. Once the squash and shallots were done, they went in too. I dressed it with pickle juice, olive oil, a squirt of lemon, a little freshly ground black pepper, and some of the orange zest salt I made recently.

I ate it warm over some baby arugula for dinner the first night and then cold for lunch for the next couple of days. I found that it benefitted from an extra dose of olive oil on the second and third days, as it needed just a hint of moisture.

couscous salad over greens

It’s a formula that is endlessly flexible for the season and the contents of your kitchen. In the summer, I make something similar with barley, pickled red onion, minced cucumbers, parsley, and crumbled feta. Once spring is more firmly here, I’ll be roasting asparagus and spring onions for a turn in a quinoa salad. The secret is to limit the number of ingredients to no more than six, use a fresh herb if you can get it, and chop the pickles very fine.

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Canning 101: Can You Preserve With Artificial Sweeteners?

sweeteners

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a Canning 101 post about the different roles that sugar plays in preserving. This was my attempt to conclusively answer the questions I regularly get from people wanting to reduce the amount of sugar in their preserves.

There was one thing I didn’t address in that post and that was question of artificial sweeteners, like Splenda, Equal, Truvia, or xylitol. Personally, I don’t work with artificial sweeteners much simply because I don’t like the way they taste. I do understand, though, that for some folks it is necessary to use these products as a way to cut back on sugar. So here we go.

First, let’s talk about the situations in which artificial sweeteners aren’t going to work. When you make jam in the traditional manner, you are relying on the fact that as you cook, the sugar you added to the fruit is going to thicken as heat is applied, eventually thickening to the point where it bonds with the conventional pectin (either natural or added). If you remove the sugar from the equation, the jam is never going to set.

Sure, you might be able to boil it down into something to stir into yogurt, but it’s not going to be jam. What’s more, lots of the artificial sweeteners become bitter during extended cooking, so if you added your sweetener at the beginning of the cooking and then boiled the heck out of the fruit for 45 minutes, the finished product may well be inedible.

What this really means is that you can’t take a traditional recipe for jam, swap in Splenda and think you’re going to get anywhere near the same result. I know this might feel frustrating to some of you, but truly, this advice will save you buckets of aggravation in the long run.

So, here’s what you can do. You can use pectin that was designed to work in low or no-sugar environments. There are a couple different versions out there. Ball makes a special modified pectin and the package insert will be able to guide you through the process of creating serviceable jams.

Pomona’s Pectin is another good option. Known as low methoxyl pectin, it’s requires both a pectin made from citrus peels and a calcium solution. Instead of needing sugar to trigger the set, the calcium activates the pectin. This means that you can make spreadable preserves with whatever sweetener you choose, including a wide range of artificial sweeteners.

Another option is to start making fruit butters rather than jams and jellies. When you make a fruit butter, you cook a fruit puree at low temperature for a long period of time. In doing so, you remove much of the moisture, and concentrate the natural sugars in the fruit. You can then either leave it as-is (though the juice of a lemon or two will help preserve the color and brighten the flavor) or adjust it slightly with the artificial sweetener of your choice.

Just remember, as discussed in this blog post, when you reduce or remove sugar, shelf life and the quality once open shortens. I combat this by making low sugar or sugar-free preserves in small batches and canning them in four ounce jars, to ensure that they are as good and fresh as I can make them.

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Giveaway: EcoJarz Jar Hugger Handle and Green Pop Top

Ecojarz Giveaway

I’ve got a good giveaway for you this week! Our friends at EcoJarz are on a quest to make it ever more convenient to use mason jars a travel mugs and this pairing may well take the cake on that front. They’ve created a cozy called the JarHugger Handle made of recycled denim that has a large, sturdy loop built in for easy gripping.

Coupled with their sealable silicone Pop Top, this is accessory duo will have you ready for portable coffee, smoothies, and iced tea drinking.

This week, I have three of these cozy and topper sets to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post share one thing you’re looking forward to about spring!
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, March 14, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, March 15, 2015.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: EcoJarz is providing the cozies and pop tops for this giveaway. They have not paid for promotion and at the time of this writing, are not current Food in Jars sponsors. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.