One Month Until Preserving by the Pint

Preserving by the Pint

Exactly one month from today, Preserving by the Pint will be released. I am thrilled (and only just a little bit terrified) to share this new collection of recipes with you all. There will be a number of blogger giveaways to celebrate the book when it is available (including one here), but if you don’t want to take your chances with lady luck, you can always pre-order a copy from AmazonPowell’sBarnes and NobleIndigo, or your local, independent bookseller.

I’m also going to be traveling a ton this spring and summer to share the new book in person. I’m updating the Classes and Events page on a near-daily basis, so please do make sure to check it often for news.

Comments { 17 }

Links: Citrus Salt, Winter Squash, and a Winner

February 12

The past few days have been glorious. For the first time in weeks, the weather has been well above freezing and the sun was shining to boot. The cold is coming back, but this temporary  reprieve has left me bolstered and feeling like I’m better prepared to handle whatever the meteorological gods plan on throwing our way (including, from what I hear, more snow later this week). Now, links!

you are unbeetable

Many thanks to everyone who shared their note writing memories in the League Street Press giveaway last week. The winner is #106/Terry.

Comments { 11 }

Sponsored Post: Complete Knife Skills with Craftsy

pickled carrot set-up

Friends! Welcome to my first-ever sponsored post. I’ve teamed up with Craftsy for a year-long series. See more about our partnership at the end of the post! Enjoy!

I am a self-taught home cook. I’ve never been to culinary school and I haven’t taken a cooking class since I was seven years old and my mom enrolled me in a “Kids in the Kitchen” series at our local community center. When I was young, I learned by watching my mom, my grandma Bunny, and my great-aunt Doris.

trimming and slicing carrots

During college, I picked up a few tricks from my roommates and discovered a lot through trial and error. And when I was in my early twenties, the Food Network was my guide (people may knock Rachael Ray, but I learned a lot from her in 2002).

I’ve done pretty darn well in this vein, but there’s always been one area where I knew I could do better. Knife skills. For years, I meant to take a class on the subject, but first the budget was too tight and then in later years, I couldn’t find the time.

red pepper

So, when Craftsy asked me to try out their free Complete Knife Skills course, I was a very willing pupil. Taught by Chef Brendan McDermott, the course consists of four components and takes just over an hour and 45 minutes to complete.

Chef McDermott starts out with an introduction to the necessary knives, moves into the four basic cuts, offers an array of tricks and short cuts, and finally gives you the details necessary to maintain your knives.

all ingredients prepped

You’ll also learn fun tidbits, like how to sharpen a knife using the bottom of a ceramic mug, how to quickly open a bottle of beer with a chef knife (!), and even how to split a handful of grape tomatoes with a single knife stroke.

I was particularly impressed by how easy he made it look to cut a carrot into gorgeous julienned strips. I’ve long struggled to create uniform matchsticks and so always opt to use a mandoline slicer when prepping a cut like that. However, inspired by his example, I decided to make thin-cut carrots and red peppers for a refrigerator pickle, sliced up with nothing more than my mighty chef knife.

zest confetti

Here’s how to do it. First, prepare the brine. Mix one cup apple cider vinegar with one cup fresh water, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Heat until the salt and sugar dissolves.

Grab two hefty carrots that weigh about a pound in combination. Trim the ends and cut the carrots in equal lengths. Trim away the sides of the carrots so that you end up with a neat orange rectangle. Carefully cut the carrots into slim planks. Stack two or three of the planks and cut them into matchsticks.

building pickles

Set the carrots aside and prep one red pepper by slicing off the ends. Cut the pepper into two equal halves and trim away the interior pith and seeds (Chef McDermott demonstrations this beautifully in Short Cuts component). Thinly slice the red pepper so that they roughly match the size and shape of the carrots.

Take a small lime and trim off both ends. Using a sharp paring knife, carefully slice away three or four strips of zest. Switch back to a chef knife and mince those strips into confetti.

cilantro

Using a clean, wide mouth quart jar, begin to build your pickles. Place 1/2 teaspoon each black peppercorn and crushed red chili flakes in the bottom of the jar. Add two garlic cloves (crushed or sliced, depending on your preference) and the lime zest confetti. Add a layer of fresh cilantro leaves and stems (about half a cup packed).

Then, gather up a handful of your carrot and red pepper matchsticks and place them in the jar. I like seeing them upright, but you can pack them in any way you’d like.

pouring brine

Once all the carrots and peppers are in the jar, carefully pour the warm brine over the vegetables. It should be enough liquid to fully cover the veg, but since this is a refrigerator pickle, it will be okay if there’s a bit uncovered. The carrots and peppers will act like straws and sip up the brine even if they’re not entirely covered.

Place a lid on the jar and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours before eating.

finished pickles

Note: For a spicier pickle, consider adding some fresh jalapeño pepper rings. I actually intended to do this, but managed to leave my jalapeño at the grocery store (truly, I know I put one in my basket, but it just didn’t make it home with me).

Sign up for Craftsy’s free Complete Knife Skills class to learn how to make these great cuts for your own batch of refrigerator pickles.

Sponsored content like this is virgin territory for me. I’ve not done anything like this up until now because I’ve never felt like the opportunities presented were the right fit. However, I’m working with Craftsy because I feel like their mission aligns with the things I try to do here. Over the next year, I’m going to be working with Craftsy on a series of sponsored content pieces and I’m excited to see where this partnership goes. I hope you enjoy the ride along with me!

Official disclosure statement: This is sponsored post from Craftsy. I was compensated for this post. However, all opinions remain my own.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 8 }

Cookbooks: Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits

Homemade Liqueurs

Despite the fact that I don’t drink a whole lot, I love making little batches of infused booze. They make really great gifts and are always hugely popular at food swaps. My repertoire is fairly narrow, most years featuring just cherry bounce, rhubarb liqueur, and honey sweetened limoncello.

tools for infusing

This season, it’s going to be different. Thanks to Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits by Andrew Schloss, I plan on significantly upping my game. The book includes both a vast amount of interesting flavored concoctions as well a goodly number of recipes to help you use them up.

Elderflower Blush

The book breaks down into three main sections. The first is all the information you need to get started. Next comes the recipes, which are divided into fruits, vegetables, herbs & spices, nuts & seeds, florals, beverages & chocolate, creamy sippers, caramel & butterscotch, and finally infused syrups. Truly, there’s something here for every possible boozy situation.

Homemade Liqueurs back

The thing that I find most useful in this book is that if a recipe is designed to mimic the flavor of a commercial liqueur, that detail is indicated prominently under the recipe name. That way, if you long to make your own Frangelico, just turn to page 138 and start a batch of Toasted Hazelnut. It’s a good way to start playing around if you make liqueurs that can replace what you typically keep in your liquor cabinet.

Comments { 6 }

Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam

four jars meyer lemon jam

Meyer lemons are a large part of what make the winter months bearable for me. Smooth-skinned, mildly tart, and with a fresh, slightly floral fragrance, they bring a welcome brightness to February (particularly this month. Every time the weather report predicts more snow, I feel ready to weep).

one and a half pounds

Over the years, I think I’ve done nearly everything that one can do with a Meyer lemon. I’ve preserved them in salt, turned them into curd, chopped and sliced into marmalade, dehydrated them, made jelly with their juice, and packed the zest into both salt and sugar.

simmered lemons

I think this whole fruit jam might be my final meyer lemon frontier. I’d been thinking along these lines for a while and then Shae over at Hitchhiking to Heaven posted a similar whole fruit jam using grapefruit and it cemented the deal for me.

lemons in a blender

Because I find that honey sweetened preserves are best done in small batches, I started with just one and a half pounds of lemons. I put them in a saucepan where they’d fit in a single layer and added some water (you need two cups of water to make the jam, so I started with a bit more than that to account for evaporation).

pouring meyer lemon sludge

I simmered the lemons for about 25 minutes, until the were tender but not falling apart and then I left them in the pot for a day because life got busy. Had my fridge not been packed to the gills, I would have poured them into a container and popped them in there, but there just wasn’t room.

meyer lemon jam

When I was ready to cook, I put the lemons in the blender with two cups of the cooking water and pulsed until they were broken into relatively small pieces but not uniformly pureed (I wanted some texture). The puree went into a low, wide pan with two cups of honey (approximately one half of the meyer lemon mixture by weight). Cooked over high heat, it was setting up nicely in just 15 minutes.

I’m really pleased with the way this jam turned out. It shows off all the charms of the meyer lemon, is pleasingly bracing, and manages to avoid being over-sweet. I also love the fact that it skips all the work of a traditional batch of marmalade. I still have a few meyer lemons left and am planning to make a second batch.

Updated to add: I’ve gotten some questions about the seeds. Meyer lemons are a hybrid fruit, so they typically don’t have many seeds. I used a small slotted spoon to skim them out of the jam during cooking. If your lemons are seedier than mine, cut them in half and remove the seeds before pureeing.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 54 }

Canning 101: How to Use a Thermometer to Achieve Set

three thermometers

We are currently smack dab in the middle of marmalade season. Though citrus is available all year round, it is both at its peak and most affordable during January, February, and March. Because of this, I’ve been getting a number of questions about marmalade making, in particular, the art of using a thermometer to determine when a batch of marmalade has reached its set point.

The reason this comes up more during marmalade season than other times of the year is that citrus is naturally high in pectin and so many marmalades can be made without the addition of any commercial pectin. The trick then becomes cooking the fruit and sugar combination to around 220 or 221 degrees F, which is known as sugar’s gel point.

When the sugar reaches that gel point, it undergoes a physical transformation and thickens. That increased thickness gives it the ability to bond with the natural pectin in the citrus and create a thick, spreadable marmalade.

thermometer probes

The issue that people are having is that they are finding a mismatch between the temperature that their thermometer is displaying and the consistency of the cooking marmalade. Typically, the marmalade appears far more cooked than the temperature on the thermometer read-out would indicate. The result is a burnt, overset preserve that is deeply frustrating, given how much work is involved in prepping a batch of marm.

There are two reasons that this can occur. One is that the thermometer is giving a faulty reading. The way you can test to determine whether your thermometer is reading accurately is to bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Once it starts rolling, insert the thermometer into the water. If you’re at sea level, it should read 212 degrees F. If you’re at higher elevations, that rolling boil will be achieved at lower temperatures. If the reading is wildly different from that which your elevation would indicate, get yourself a new thermometer.

thermometer probes with notes

The other reason that your thermometer might not be reading accurately is that is may not be be sufficiently covered with the cooking preserve. Every thermometer has a mark indicating how much the probe must be submerged in order to give a true reading. As you can see in the picture above, the three thermometers in my kitchen all need to be submerged to different depths in order to perform accurately.

If you’re making a small batch of marmalade, you sometimes run into a situation where there’s just not enough volume in the pot to fully submerge a traditional candy or deep frying thermometer (I often run into that problem with the left and center thermometers). In my case, I deal with that situation by using the Thermapen on the right or by using other methods to check my set.

Try the plate/saucer test or if it’s a truly small batch, use your eyes and ears. As it reaches the set point, marmalade will simmer more vigorously. As you stir, watch to see if it is leaving an open space for a moment after you pull your spoon through. That’s a sign of thickening as well.

Comments { 7 }