Links: Linzer Cookies, Dorie’s Jammers, and Winners

This weekend was all about finishing up gift shopping, making a bit of candy for sharing, and finally getting the tree decorated (it’s been up for about a week, and just had a few lonely ornaments hanging about for all that time). I fly away to Austin on Tuesday for some merry making with my family. Now, links!

Time for some winners! You’ll find the EcoJarz winners in the widget below. The winner of Wusthof giveaway I hosted a couple weeks ago is #98/Louise.

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Gift Guide 2016: Stocking Stuffers

We’re in the final stretch before Christmas and the start of Hanukkah. Thus far in my series of short gift guides, I’ve featured a couple upgrades for the canner who has it all, things I give to my favorite coffee lovers, and lovely things for your favorite home cook. In this, the final gift guide, we’re talking stocking stuffers. These are all relatively small, useful, affordable items that I reach for all the time.

1. AnySharp Pro – This is a small, powerful knife blade sharpener that suctions to your countertop and makes quick work of your knives and scissors. It doesn’t entirely replace occasionally professional sharpening, but it’s a huge help on busy cooking days.

2. Cuppow – The classic Cuppow is perfect for any jar lover looking to expand the utility of their jar stash. Pair one with a skinny glass straw for a waste-free way to drink more water.

3. GIR Wine Stoppers – These low-profile silicone wine stoppers make a leak-proof seal on all manner of bottles and look good doing it.

4. GIR Scraper – The best tool for easing sticky bread doughs and batters out of mixing bowls. I use mine nearly every time I bake.

5. The Ringer – Made from stainless steel chainmail, this scrubber is designed to remove tough bits of food from cast iron while leaving your seasoning intact.

6. Bürstenhaus Redecker Bottle Brush – I have used a lot of bottle brushes in my day, but this the best one ever. You can tell I use it a lot, because when I grabbed it for this picture, it hadn’t had time to dry between uses.

7. ThermoPop – The best little instant read thermometer money can buy.

8. Blossom Trivet – Good for canning and for protecting your surfaces from hot dishes.

9. Caramel Pot – Years ago, a PR firm sent me this little pot from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cookware line. I use it all the time. It’s great for caramel sauces, but is also magical for homemade bechamel and cheese sauces.

10. Stuff Every Cook Should Know – Written by my friend and Local Mouthful co-host Joy Manning, this little book is packed with useful tips and information for home cooks of all skillsets.

And that wraps up my gift guide series for another year. May your holiday celebrations be joyous!

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Holiday Berry Jam for Gift Giving

This holiday berry jam combines frozen strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with fresh cranberries. The result is a bright, flavorful jam that works beautifully for holiday gift bags and baskets.

Four jars of holiday berry jam.

No matter how much jam making I do during the summer season, I almost always find myself a little short on the desirable jams come gift giving time. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have mountains of preserves. But many of them were experimental batches that just don’t work for neighbors and Scott’s coworkers.

Fruit for holiday berry jam.

This year, instead of relying only on pears and apples to make up the shortfall, I headed for the freezer section at the grocery store. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to make giftable jam exclusively with frozen fruit, because I find it almost always ends up with a softer set and a slightly dull flavor.

Ingredients for holiday berry jam in a pot.

But last week, the solution came to me in a flash. Cranberries. Combine frozen berries with a small portion of cranberries and you get perfect jam every time. The cranberries provide both ample pectin and welcome acidity to ensure that the jam sets and tastes terrific. Holiday berry jam is born!

Finished holiday berry jam in the pot.

I made this jam with 24 ounces of raspberries, 12 ounces of strawberries, 12 ounces of blueberries, and 8 ounces of cranberries. You can easily change up the frozen fruit, but maintain the basic ratio of three pounds frozen berries to 8 ounces of cranberries.

Holiday berry jam in an open jar.

The yield on this sucker was just a little bit more than 6 cups. I canned it in four 12 ounce jelly jars because those were the easiest jars to put my hands on. You could also do six half pints or even a dozen 4 ounce jelly jars. Make it work for you.

Oh, and one last thing. If you have an Aldi near you, know that it’s an excellent spot to pick up your frozen fruit. Their prices are awesome and they often have organic options.

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Guest Post: Transforming Your Jamming Fails

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We’ve all been there.

Staring with glazed and uncomprehending eyes at a dozen pints of our favorite “jelly” sitting on the counter: a jelly that never jelled.

How could this have happened?

We followed the recipe to the letter. We didn’t fall into the “a little less sugar won’t hurt” trap. Our choice of pectin was impeccable. We gave up most of a Saturday, standing over a pot of boiling, staining fruit that spattered our bare arms with specks of magma while our friends hit the beach or the bar.

The seal is tight; there’s nothing wrong with the preserves inside. Still, the truth is staring us in the face: our jam or jelly didn’t get the message it wasn’t supposed to turn out like maple syrup. After all, it wasn’t pancakes you wanted to eat it with; it was toast, darn it!

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Well, buck up, canners! Here’s what to do next:

  1. File this one under the “A rose by any other name smells as sweet” category! Did you think you were making marmalade? Surely you meant ‘marinade’! Through bitter experience, I’ve discovered that runny preserves work marvelously well as meaty accompanists. Use the old standbys as your guide: citrus and cranberry paired with poultry, for instance, or apple or rhubarb with pork. One of my family’s favorite recipes, the cheekily-titled “Becky’s Breasts” is basically runny cranberry sauce whisked up in equal parts with bottled Italian dressing. Souse your chicken with the above, leave in the fridge a few hours, bake, and serve!

2. Skip the sugar! Planning on whipping up the weekly apple crisp for supper? Be my guest, but why not sub in some of that failed jam or jelly as a sweetener? Some favorite failures: strawberry-rhubarb, raspberry un-jelly, and the blueberry-peach jam experiment that wound up tasting like cough syrup, but was vastly improved in its fruit crisp setting. Mix and match!

3. Your favorite neighborhood watering hole. Didn’t think that’s where you worked, did you? Now look at all of that black currant syrup you just put up. Are you going to throw out all that work, or are you going to go out shopping for some vodka and soda water and throw yourself a party? Doesn’t that feel better?

Life is a lot like canning, friends. Some relationships are going to jell beautifully, while others may require some serious adjustments in outlook. Canning pros like Marisa will tell you that it’s those willing to be flexible who enjoy the most delicious success.

Elizabeth Peirce writes books about how busy people can grow, prepare and preserve their own food. Exhausted parents get extra empathy and free pep talks at her blog, C.O.O.K. (creativeorganiconlinekitchen.com), along with recipes, how-to’s, and book links.

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The 2016 Class of Canning, Preserving, and Culinary DIY Books

In need of a new canning, preserving or DIY book for the holiday season? Look no further than this list of books published in 2016!

Oh friends, this last year was a very good one for canning and preserving books. I’ve done a thorough search of my shelves and stacks and have come up with 18 lovely volumes that came out in 2016. Let’s flip through the stack!

The Forager’s Feast – Written by Leda Meredith, this book contains everything you need to know about foraging wild edibles and transforming them into all manner of tasty things. If I can ever find enough rose hips, I plan on making the Rose Hip Freezer Jam. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars – My third canning book, this volume features recipes sweetened with honey, maple, agave, coconut sugar, fruit juice concentrates, and dried fruits. It makes a fabulous gift for anyone who is looking to reduce the amount of refined sugar in their home cooking. (Amazon | Powell’s)

A Prepper’s Cookbook – While not specifically a canning or preserving book, this slim paperback by Deborah D. Moore is an incredibly useful volume for those of us who have a homemade pantry that we’re trying to put into better use.  (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Big Book of Kombucha – I’ve been a semi-regular kombucha brewer for years with mixed success. It wasn’t until a copy of this hefty book by Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory came my way that I actually starting having consistent success with my finished product. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Preserving Italy – This book by Domenica Marchetti is the best one on the market about canning, preserving, curing, and infusing in the Italian style. If you’re looking to make jams, cured meats, pickles, and liqueurs like the ones your nonna used to make, this volume should be on your shelf. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Foolproof Preserving – Written by a team from America’s Test Kitchen, this book is a nice addition to the small batch canon. I don’t love that so many of the recipes aren’t safe for a water bath, but the flavor combinations are spot-on and recipe variety is appealing. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Art of the Cheese Plate – On the face, this book by Tia Keenan doesn’t much look like it belongs in this stack. But any cheese plate book worth its salt contains a trove of recipes for tiny batches of fabulous condiments and boy, does this one deliver. There’s sweet potato butter, apple chutney, pickled blueberries, and so much more. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Modern Preserver – This charming book by UK-based professional preserver Kylee Newton bursts with appealing recipes and beautiful pictures. There is nothing in this volume that I don’t want make and many things I wish I’d thought of first. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Food Swap – Whether you’re an active food swapper or not, there is so much in Emily Paster’s useful and clever book to like. It’s got jams, pickles, syrups, and baked goods, all that travel well, are easy to create, and make great gifts. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Beyond Canning – Smoky carrot coins. Banana ketchup. Hibicus lime jelly. You’ll find those things and so much more in this creative and varied book by Autumn Giles. If you’re tired of the same old thing, this book will breathe new life into your canning practice. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Cultured Club – I picked up this book while in Ireland in October. Written by fermentation expert Dearbhla Reynolds, it contains a wild range of ferments (fermented potato mash and lacto-fermented pestos!) and I can’t wait to explore it even more than I already have. (Amazon)

Batch – This massive book by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison is the most comprehensive preserving book that we saw this year. It contains more than 200 recipes for jamming, pickling, dehydrating, infusing, and fermenting as well as  cooking, baking, using, and serving those varied preserves. It’s a must-have for avid canners. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Not Your Mama’s Canning Book – This book by Rebecca Lindamood is totally brilliant. When I first opened it up and flipped through the recipes, I found myself wished fervently that I’d thought of the Instant Hummus-In-A-Jar or the Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie filling first. The recipes are unusual, approachable, and unlike anything else you have on your shelves. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Canning for a New Generation – The updated and expanded edition of this now-classic book by Liana Krissoff was published this summer and it’s even better than the original. If you don’t have the first edition on your shelf already, make sure to seek out this new one. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Joy of Pickling – Another new edition of an old favorite, this volume by Linda Ziedrich is another must-have for an avid canner. An earlier version of this book was my first pickling primer and I’m delighted to have this edition, with its expanded section on pickling theory. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving – This new giant Ball book is gorgeously photographed and exhaustively tested. I’ll confess that I didn’t manage to use any of the recipes this summer, but everytime I flip through its pages, something catches my eye and I add it to my to-make list. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The New Milks – It’s a tiny bit of a stretch to include this book by Dina Cheney on this list, but its sneaking through on its DIY cred. I like it because I dig the non-dairy milks and I appreciate all the ideas for how to use them in my cooking and baking. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Fermented Foods at Every Meal – You’ve got a fridge full of fermented foods, but you struggle to use them up. Hayley Barisa Ryczek is here to help you weave those ferments into every meal of the day. So smart! (Amazon | Powell’s)

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Giveaway: EcoJarz PopTop and Jar Band Gripper

Let’s chat about our friends over at EcoJarz! They make a wide variety of jar accessories out of high quality stainless steel and sturdy silicone. I rely on their stainless steel band when fermenting in mason jars (because it doesn’t rust or corrode like the conventional bands) and have been known to take my Dose (a little jar-based pour over coffee set-up) on vacation with me to help meet my caffeine needs.

The nice folks at EcoJarz offered up three sets of their PopTop lid, along with a wide mouth stainless steel band, and a silicone Jar Band Gripper (which snugs onto the band, making it easier to twist off when it’s time to clean out the jar) for this week’s giveaway. This drink topper is easy to use and is the perfect thing if you find yourself on the move with a smoothie or a big jar of water.

To enter the giveaway, use the widget below. However, if you think this topper would make a great gift for someone on your list and you don’t want to wait and see who wins the giveaway, use the coupon FOODINJARS2016 to get 20% off your order. Enjoy!

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