Links: Quick Pickles, Savory Pies, and Winners

Pies in jars!

Last Tuesday, I flew down to Austin to meet my brand new nephew and hang with my sister and her family for a week. I fully intended to keep posting here on the blog (I even had a schedule) but I quickly slipped into the rhythm of their life and lost my grip on my best laid plans.

Instead of writing, I’ve spent countless hours snuggling (and bouncing) a three week old, playing trains and reading books with the three year old, and making food (squash gratin! soup! pasta sauce! granola!). I taught my brother-in-law how to make jam and gave my sister a crash course in homemade sauerkraut. In my book, it has been time very well spent.

Now, links!

Quench cover

The winners in last week’s Quench giveaway are #70/Jen and #298/Kim Murphy. Thanks to all who took the time to enter!

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Canning 101: Is Condensation Inside Sealed Jars Safe?

plum jam

Like so many Canning 101 posts that have come before, this week’s post is prompted by a handful of emailed questions I’ve gotten recently. People have been writing to ask about the condensation droplets on the undersides of their mason jar lids. Is it safe, they wonder?

It is entirely normal to have a few drops of moisture on the underside of freshly processed mason jar lids. You experience condensation when warm, moist air is cooled. The cooling air doesn’t have the same capacity for water vapor as the warm air, so the water transforms back into its liquid state. It just makes sense to see some drops of liquid inside the jar.

It is not a sign that your jars are spoiling or that some water from the canning pot leaked into the finished product. Typically, the condensation will eventually reintegrate into the product. If it doesn’t, it’s still not a sign that it is spoiling. As long as the seal is still good and the product doesn’t look significantly altered, all is well.

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Giveaway: Quench by Ashley English

Quench cover

For first 23 years of my life, homemade drinks were limited to coffee, tea, and orange juice reconstituted from frozen concentrate. Soon after I moved to Philadelphia, I learned what a pleasure it could be to make infused iced teas (black spiced with lavender and green steeped with a few apple slices are still favorites from those days). Since then, I’ve played with syrups, shrubs, kombucha, and the occasional homemade soda carbonated with champagne yeast.

Quench intro

However, Ashley English‘s new book (which officially comes out tomorrow!) makes me realize that I’ve only just tapped at the surface of what is possible in the world of homemade beverages. Called Quench, this lovely little hardback features shrubs, infused spirits, fermented sips, herbal tisanes, sweet/tart sodas, party punches, and inventive cocktails.

Quench infused liquors

What I particularly like about this book is that there is something here for just about everyone. Kids will love helping to make the homemade Lemon Lime Soda (page 23), while parents will be happy that it only requires five ingredients (and other than citric acid, they’re all kitchen staples). Hard core DIY folks will dig the wine making tutorial (page 155), while those of us who like a good infusion will happily explore the chapter called Spirited (it starts on page 103).

Quench gin and tonic punch

I am also taken by the fact that Quench includes both recipes for seasonal, serviceable basics (like the Pear Bitters on page 143) and then suggestions for how to use them in something delicious, like the Cozy Cardigan Cocktail, (further down on page 143). I’ve also made a mental note that I must someday frost a cake with the Lavender and Honey Ganache that is used in the Lavender Hot Chocolate on page 84.

Quench back

I’ve had a serious crush on this book since last winter, when Ashley’s editor sent me a copy of the bound manuscript and asked if I might write a blurb for the back. I spent half a day lost in the words and recipes, and have looked forward to the finished book ever since. The completed version is better than I could have imagined, printed on sturdy paper and illustrated with Jen Altman’s perfect photography.

Quench spine

Thanks to Ashley and Roost Books, I have two copies of Quench to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite homemade beverage. It can be hard or soft, simple or complex. OR, if you prefer, share something that’s on your to-make list.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, November 1, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by the end of the day on Sunday, November 2, 2014.
  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: Roost Books sent me three copies of Quench. One was for photography and review purposes, and the other two were to give away. No additional compensation was required and, as always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely mine. 

 

Links: Seed Saving, Shrubs, and a Winner

Pear and chocolate jam, with some gorgeous bread from Talking Breads.

Last week was the first since March when I didn’t have a book events to do. It was singularly amazing. I made dinner every night and made serious progress in shifting some of the clutter that has built up in the corners around my desk. We even managed to have a few friends over for a little soup potluck earlier tonight. It was nice to experience normal life again.

My time at home is short lived, though. I head for Austin, TX on Tuesday to meet my increasingly alert new nephew and celebrate nephew number one’s third birthday. Now, links!

a kitchen box

The winner of last week’s A Kitchen Box giveaway is #91/Michelle in VA. If you didn’t win and are still curious about these kitchen-themed subscription boxes, don’t forget that they’re offering all Food in Jars readers $10 off the first month of any new AKB Subscription, along with a free Mini Box (while their limited stash lasts). If you want in on the deal, use the code ‘foodinjars’ in the coupon field at check-out.

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Other People’s Preserves: Department of Sweet Diversions

The Suite Surprise

Other People’s Preserve is my opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the very delicious jams, pickles, and preserves being made by dedicated professional canners. If you spot one of these products in the wild, make sure to scoop up a jar.

This week’s featured preserve maker is the Department of Sweet Diversions. Based in Los Angeles and run by Virginie and Thomas, the Dept. uses traditional jam, jelly, butter, and marmalade techniques combined with modern flavor profiles in order to create a tasty little product line.

Dept of Sweet Diversions

I had a chance to dig into a jar of their The Suite Surprise. It’s a nicely textured, highly spiced apple butter that’s sweetened with agave nectar instead of sugar. It’s a good one for stirring into plain yogurt or spreading into a peanut butter sandwich.

apple butter top

Thomas, one half the Dept. of Sweet Diversions team, recently took the time to answer a few of my questions about their preserves business. Read on to learn a little bit more!

Continue Reading →

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Cookbooks: Honey & Oats

honey & oats cover

I have been interested in cookbooks for nearly as long I can remember. I picked up the habit of reading them cover to cover when I was eight or nine years old and haven’t stopped since. One aspect of this blog that brings me an awful lot of pleasure is that it grants me the opportunity to share particularly good cookbooks with all of you.

honey & oats spine

Since mid-March, I haven’t done as good a job as I would have liked with this cookbook sharing. Shepherding my own cookbook through the world took up a goodly amount of my attention and just didn’t leave me with a whole lot of energy with which to pore over the new cookbooks that find their way into the unsteady stack by my desk. I’m finally starting to work my way through the pile and I’m going to be better about writing about the best of the books that find their way into my life.

honey & oats interior

One book that I’ve been itching to share is Honey & Oats by Jennifer Katzinger. It’s a book devoted to baking with whole grains and natural sweeteners and it couldn’t be a better fit for the way I like to eat. The featured grains are oats (obviously), einkorn, wheat, barley, buckwheat, spelt, kamut, teff, and tapioca. The sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, and sucanat.

buttermilk biscuits

There are 75 recipes in the book and they are divided into six sections – Scones & Muffins, Cookies & Bars, Quick Breads, Yeasted Breads & Crackers, Pies & Tarts, and Cakes & Frostings. Ten of the recipes are vegan and another ten are gluten-free. If you have a strictly GF household, this probably isn’t the book for you. However, if you occasionally find yourself needing to product a GF bread or dessert option for a party or potluck, it would definitely be a good addition to your library.

sweet potato skillet cornbread

I have marked a number of recipes to try. In the very near future, I’d like to make the Pear Ginger Muffins with Streusel Topping (barley flour, einkorn flour, and sucanat), the Buttermilk Biscuits (kamut and einkorn flours), Snickerdoodles (teff flour and sucanat), the Applesauce Currant Snack Bread (buckwheat flour, einkorn flour, and maple syrup), and the Sweet Potato Skillet Corn Bread (kamut flour, cornmeal, and honey).

barley walnut boule

As far as the look and feel of this book, it’s entirely lovely. It’s a sturdy, hardbound book that lays flat and open with just a firm press of the pages. The photography stays tight on the food and makes it easy to imagine the various breads, cookies, and pies in your own home. I do wish that a few more of the recipes had images, but knowing how much time, energy and money it takes to produce good food photography, I understand why there aren’t more pictures.

If you like to bake with whole grain flours and less refined sweeteners, you will love this book.

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