Fig Mostarda

This fig mostarda is a delicious and unconventional way to preserve this season’s crop of fresh figs!

Vertical image of jars of fig mostarda

Sometime in the middle of July, I got an email from the folks at California Figs. They were writing to see if they could send me some fresh figs from the new crop that was just coming into the market. There were no strings attached to the offer and no blog posts were required, they just wanted to send some figs*. As it happens, one of my guiding principles in life is to simply smile and say “thank you, yes please,” any time someone wants to give me fresh figs.

Figs in their packing boxes

A box from California Figs arrived two weeks ago and contained a bounty of figs. Four flats, each containing a different variety (Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Sierra, and Tiger figs, for those of you who are curious). It took me a week to work my way through them, but through steady preserving (and a good bit of snacking), I turned those four flats into five different preserves.

A tray of black mission figs

I’m going to dole these recipes out over the next couple weeks (I’ve been doing a LOT of preserving lately, so it’s going to be mostly recipes around these parts for the next month or so). The first recipe I have to share is this one for Fig Mostarda. Mostarda is a traditional Italian preserve, typically made by candying fruit in a simple syrup that’s been spiked with potent mustard oil.

Black mission figs in an All-Clad pot

We can’t get concentrated mustard oil in the US (it’s the primary ingredient in mustard gas and so it a controlled substance) and so the preserves that I call mostarda are more like chunky jams, made pungent with a liberal application of mustard seeds, a touch of cayenne pepper to tickle your nose, and cider vinegar to lend a certain tanginess.

Adding sugar to the black mission figs

Mostardas as I make them are really great condiments to eat with cheese (I have a feeling that this one would pair really nicely with a crumbly cheddar) or dolloped alongside a platter of cold grilled vegetables (I am imagining it with charred onions and summer squash). Oh, or what about spooning it into a freshly baked gougere that’s just been torn in half? Heaven!

Adding mustard seeds to the figs

The recipe starts with two and a half pounds of figs, which isn’t an impossible amount to obtain (in the past, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for figs at Trader Joe’s. They’re often affordable enough that I can buy a few pounds without too much pain). I used black mission figs, but if you have access to a fig tree, use those. The color will be different, but the flavor will still be good.

Black mission figs with sugar and mustard seeds

One more thing about figs. It’s always important to use recipes that have added acid, as their pH is typically a bit too high for safe canning. I used a goodly amount of vinegar to ensure that this mostarda is safe, but if you’re winging your fig jam, make sure to acidify them like tomatoes and use 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice for every pint of product that you’re canning up.

Line-up of jars of fig mostarda

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White Nectarine Jam with Rose Water

This simple, low sugar white nectarine jam uses a splash of rose water at the end of cooking to give it a hint of floral flavor. Try it stirred into yogurt!

White nectarine jam in jars

A couple weeks back, I got an email from one of my regular fruit dealers, asking if I might be interested in a half bushel of white nectarine seconds. Despite the fact that white nectarines need a bit of extra consideration in preserving (they’re lower in acid than their yellow counterparts), I said yes. Because they are transcendently good nectarines.

box of white nectarines

When I was in grad school and on a very tight budget, I’d go to the farmers market each week with $20 to spend on produce. If I was careful, I could get just enough to see me through the week. When these nectarines were in season, I would allocate one-quarter of my budget to spend on them. I would ration them throughout the week, so that I could have a taste of sweetness every day.

white nectarine jam beginning

So to have nearly 25 pounds of nectarines that had once been a major treat? I was all in. I’ve spent much of the last couple weeks working with these nectarines. I combined them with plums for a mixed fruit jam. I’ve pureed them down and made fruit leather with them. And I’ve also turned them into a pure white nectarine jam. This is a jam with plenty of lemon juice to make up for their lower acidity and a tiny bit of rose water, to emphasize the nectarine’s floral nature.

white nectarine jam end

As with all seconds, these needed a little careful knife work to prep for the jam. My rule of thumb when working with seconds is to cut away anything that looks particularly gross, but not to obsess too much over every single shallow bruise. Whenever I’m in doubt, I give it a good sniff. If the bruised part smells fresh and fruity, I use it. If it smells boozy and weirdly off, it gets thrown out.

white nectarine jam square image

The finished white nectarine jam retains a rosy color that I just love. This is one that I’m particularly careful about storing out of direct sunlight, so as to retain that pink hue for as long as I can.

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Homemade Barbecue Sauce + Canning in Sauce Bottles with Lug Lids

Impress your friends with tasty homemade barbecue sauce, preserved in commercial sauce bottles and capped with one-piece lug lids. Enter here to win a case of the sauce bottles and a $50 store credit to Fillmore Container!

four finished jars of barbecue sauce

In the last few years, I’ve gone from being barbecue sauce ambivalent to being pretty into the stuff. A big part of my change in attitude stems from the fact that I make most of the barbecue sauce I consume these days. That means that I get to customize the flavor, sweetness, and heat and create something that I’m actually excited to paint on chicken or use as a braising medium for a meaty pork shoulder.

ten pounds of tomatoes

In the past, I’ve made barbecue sauce from peaches, cherries, and apple butter. This time, I’ve embraced the traditional approach and have made a version that starts with tomatoes. To maintain the classic theme, I’ve also preserved it in honest-to-goodness twelve ounce barbecue sauce jars from Fillmore Container (enter the giveaway for these jars and a $50 Fillmore Container store credit!).

Twelve ounce bbq sauce jars

Let’s talk about preserving in these bottles before digging into the making of the sauce. They are designed for commercial production, so they will give your sauce a professional look (which is particularly fun if you’re giving the sauce away as a gift or taking it to a food swap).

Sauce bottle and lug lid

These bottles come in two different versions. One uses lug lids, and the other uses a continuous thread (just like mason jars do). I typically opt to use the jars that take the lug lid closure because the lids have a button that depresses when the jar has sealed. I find that that makes it easier to tell whether you’ve gotten a good seal or not and I always appreciate that kind of clarity.

sauce bottles in the canning pot

You prep these bottles the same way you do mason jars. Wash them with warm, soapy water and then when your sauce is nearing completion, put them in a boiling water bath canner and bring them up to temperature. You also want to warm the lids you’ll be using, to ensure that the plastisol is ready to form a good seal. For more on canning with one-piece lug lids, read through this post.

narrow mouth adaptor for canning funnel

Once the jars are hot and the sauce is sufficiently cooked down, it’s time to fill. It can be tricky to fill these bottles because the opening is fairly narrow. I’ve solved that issue by using the wide-ish funnel from this set to adapt my regular stainless steel funnel to fit. It helps to get the sauce into the jars without splatter or mess.

sauce bottle filling station

I fill the jars to approximately 1/2 inch headspace, wipe the rims, and twist on the lug lids. At this point, you want to take care to twist the lids tightly enough to ensure that the plastisol comes into contact with the rim of the jar, but not so tightly that the air can’t vent during the boiling water bath. Then you process.

Because the jars are nearly 8 inches tall, it can be a bit of a trick to find a pot that’s tall enough to hold them fully submerged. Make sure to test the jars for size in your pot before you get everything set up.

six pounds of tomatoes in a colander

Now, to the sauce. As I was creating my recipe, I referenced a number of sources, including the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the Ball Blue Book, and the old Complete Book of Home Preserving. All three sources had nearly identical recipes, and so I used their work as a starting place.

I opted to leave out the peppers and celery, used a combination of brown sugar and molasses to sweeten, and upped the amount of vinegar a little to make a sauce that was a bit tangier.

barbecue sauce starting ingredients

Making a sauce like this is a multi-stage process, but the end result is worth the effort. First, you combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and jalapeno in a large pot and cook them down until totally soft. Once the onions are tender (because they’re the toughest to start with), push the vegetables through a food mill fit with its finest screen. This separates the fibrous solids from the sauce and makes for a better finished product.

finished barbecue sauce in the pot

Then you add the remaining ingredients and cook the sauce until it has reduced to a thickness that satisfies your sense of what barbecue sauce should be. At this point, I like to puree it with an immersion blender, to get rid of any clumps that formed during cooking.

filled sauce bottles

Then you funnel it into your bottles, cap them, and process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. When the processing time is up, you want to remove the bottles promptly. The seal is formed when the pressure changes thanks to the temperature differential and so you want to create a situation in which the pressure is strong so that they seal tightly and well.

Once the bottles are cool, they’re ready for labels and either the pantry or your gifting closet.

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Giveaway: BBQ Sauce Bottles & Store Credit from Fillmore Container

Twelve ounce bbq sauce jars

Happy Monday, friends! I’m doing something a little different with this week’s giveaway. Often, when I have a tutorial or recipe to share that’s part of a giveaway, I put it all together in the same post.

However, things can get a little tangled when people want to ask questions about the information I’m offering when leaving a comment is also how you enter the giveaway. So this week, I’m splitting them apart.

four finished jars of barbecue sauce

This is the giveaway post. You’ll use the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a dozen of these nifty BBQ sauce jars and lids and the $50 Fillmore Container store credit. To learn how to use these jars and to get the barbecue sauce recipe, visit this post. This division of content will allow me to better answer any questions you guys may have about the jars and the recipe.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Fillmore Container is a Food in Jars sponsor. Their sponsorship helps keep the site afloat. They provided the jars you see here and are providing the giveaway prize, both at no cost to me. All opinions expressed are entirely mine.

In Praise of Seconds + Other Good Things

nectarines in a bowl

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll often see me posting pictures of the seconds I buy for my various canning activities. Seconds are simply the slightly-less-perfect produce that farmers typically can’t sell for full price. I never mind working around a few bruises or superficial marring and so embrace these seconds (both for their affordability and the fact that it helps prevent food waste) for jam, fruit butters, chutneys, and more. I wrote about my love of seconds for the summer issue of Edible Philly and you can read my full piece right here.

I was recently a guest on the 2 Weird Hungry Girls Podcast. We talked all about canning and preserving in this episode (we actually recorded two, so another one will be airing soon), and if you want to hear me get geeky about food preservation, make sure to tune in.

Finally, don’t forget that I’ll be at Philly’s Headhouse Square Farmers Market this Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm with Food Swap! author Emily Paster. We’ll both have books on hand for sale and signature, and I’ll have some white nectarine and lemon jam for you to come and taste.

Oh, and if you need a canning project for this weekend, I highly recommend this Spiced Nectarine Jam. It’s a great one for holiday giving, if you’re starting to think about such things.

Happy weekend, friends!

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Whole Foods Market Field to Store Program + Tangy Eggplant Tomato Spread

Today, I’m partnering with my area Whole Foods Markets to tell you about their 24 Hours Field to Store program and to share my recipe for Tangy Eggplant Tomato Spread. This is a sponsored post!

Whole Foods Market 24 Hours Field to Store sign

One of the things I love most about living in Philadelphia is the amazing access we have to really great, local produce. I’ve been here for nearly 15 years now and have watched how the city has changed for the better. Between the farmers markets, CSA shares, buying clubs, corner stores, and merchants at Reading Terminal Market, it is easier than ever to get my heads on hyper-fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables that are grown nearby.

Local eggplant at Whole Foods Market

Now, thanks to a partnership between our 11 area Whole Foods Markets and the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, you can add one more option for incredibly fresh, local produce to the list. They have teamed up for a program called 24 Hours Field to Store. Certain products from LFFC are harvested from the field and delivered to all Philadelphia-area stores within 24 hours.

eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic

The featured item in the Field to Store program changes every two weeks. Last week, they were highlighting gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, and starting today and running through August 16, the featured item is eggplant!

prepping tomatoes for peeling

I was at the Callowhill store on Saturday, and picked up a plump, firm, glowingly fresh eggplant and brought it home for a little experimentation. Knowing that eggplant is a low acid vegetable, I had to be careful when developing a recipe using it that would eventually go into a jar.

simmering eggplant and tomatoes in red wine vinegar

After doing a bit of research, I decided to make a highly acidified spread using eggplant, tomato, and garlic. I peeled and chopped the eggplant, and cooked it down with a small amount of olive oil, a pound of peeled and chopped tomatoes, three cloves of minced garlic, and a full 1 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar.

tangy eggplant and tomato spread

The resulting eggplant tomato spread is a luscious, tangy condiment. It is perfect on slices of toasted ciabatta or in place of tomato sauce on a homemade pizza. The yield is relatively small, so I plan on making more before eggplant season is done.

finished jars of tangy eggplant tomato spread

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next in the 24 Hours Field to Store program!

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