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Giveaway: New Blue and Green Lids From Ball

boxes of lids

Several years back, I had a small stash of red and white checked lids and rings that I’d picked up at a close-out sale. I rationed them carefully, using them on preserves I planned on giving as gifts or featuring her on the blog. Every time I posted a picture, someone would comment to ask where I’d gotten then. I hated always having to disappoint people by telling them that they weren’t available anymore.

colored lids

Happily, Ball recently released a new option for those canners who are itching to dress their jars up with something other than a basic silver lid. Called the Design Series, these new lids come in either metallic blue or green and are sold with matching rings. They come in boxes of six and currently retail for $5.95. Just like their silver siblings, they are BPA-free and are good for a single trip through the canner.

colored rings

I realize that these lids and rings are a bit pricier than the regular ones. If you can many hundreds of jars a year, they might not be the ones you reach for. What they are is a fun option for people who focus on small batches, are canning for an event (a wedding, perhaps?), or just want to give a few select jars a little extra sparkle. They also match up really nicely with the limited edition blue and green jars.

lids on colored jars

Thanks to the nice folks at Ball, I have five sets of these lids to give away. Each winner will get one of the green ones and one of the blue (each box holds six lids and rings, so each winner will receive a dozen lids and rings in total). Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me one thing you’re looking forward to canning this season.
  2. Comments will close at 12 noon on Sunday, March 2, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog later that day.
  3. Giveaway open to US and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Ball gave me a set of these lids for photography purposes and are providing the giveaway units as well. No money has changed hands and my opinions are, as always, my own. 

Giveaway: New Ball Heritage Collection Green Jars

green heritage jars

As you might remember, Ball released a line of limited edition blue glass pint jars last year. It was a fun throwback to canning jars of yore and I enjoyed using them throughout the 2013 canning season (though I will confess, they do make my peaches look a bit little sickly).

This year, Ball is continuing the special edition trend with a limited release of green jars. These jars will be available in both regular mouth pint jars and wide mouth quarts, which is particularly exciting for those of who like to use wide mouth quart jars as drinking glasses (I’ll actually have more about my habit of drinking out of wide mouth quarts later this week). Just like the blue jars, they will be making a finite number, so if you fall in love with this particular look, make sure to stock up sooner rather than later.

green heritage jars in situ

Typically, I don’t like to write about new jars and products without having had a chance to experience them personally, but we had a little shipping snafu and the jars that were coming to me got a bit delayed. However, I promised a good giveaway this week and so made an exception. When I do get these jars into my hot little hands, I’ll be posting a follow-up post and some photos, so that you can get a better idea of what they look like in the real world.

Fillmore Container recently published a post on their blog about these new jars and they have a couple of additional images if you’re interested. They’ll also be taking online orders for them soon.

Now, here’s the giveaway scoop. The nice folks at Ball have given me 10 cases of the green pint jars to give away to 10 lucky winners (each winner will receive one case, which contains 6 jars). Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share how you’d use these new jars in your home.
  2. Comments will close at 12 noon on Sunday, February 2, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog later that day.
  3. Giveaway open to US residents only (so sorry, my further-flung readers).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: The jars for this giveaway have been provided by the manufacturer at no cost to me. However, my opinions remain entirely my own. 

FreshTech Jam and Jelly Maker Review

FreshTech Jam and Jelly Maker

Earlier this summer, Ball released an automatic jam and jelly maker. Called the FreshTECH, this self-stirring pot promises fresh, homemade preserves in three easy steps.  It’s got settings for both jam and jelly and yields approximately 4 cups (that 2 pints) with each batch.

interior

When I first heard about this appliance, I was deeply suspicious. I really didn’t see why a counter top machine was necessary to make jam when it was so easily done in a pot on the stove. However, I’m also a fan of anything that helps people get interested in canning, so I couldn’t dismiss it without first-hand experience. So, I asked the nice folks at Ball if they would send me a review unit. They did so happily and I’ve taken it for several runs this summer.

peach jam recipe

First one of my first batches in the FreshTECH was a batch of Peach Jam. I used their Reduced Sugar recipe, because I couldn’t bear to follow a recipe that instructed me to add more sugar than fruit. However, even this reduced sugar version contains more sugar than the jams I typically make.

three peaches

The recipe I used called for 3 1/4 cups fruit. I got that from three large peaches. This is not an appliance for those who have massive amounts of fruit to preserve.

adding pectin

There’s a precise order to how you add your ingredients to the FreshTECH. You start by sprinkling the required pectin across the bottom of the pot. I used the traditional pectin from a canister of flex-pectin (something tells me that they designed those products to work in tandem).

adding peaches

Then you spread the crushed fruit evenly over the pectin.

bottled lim juice

The recipe calls for bottled lemon juice, but for this batch, I only had lime juice in the house, so I made a quick swap. Since the yellow peaches I used were high enough in acid to be safe for boiling water even without the addition of lemon juice, I knew that my swap wouldn’t have any impact on the safety of the finished product (and bottled lime juice is the functional equivalent of its lemony counterpart).

butter

I never add butter to my stovetop jams because in most cases you can easily control foaming by using a large pot and stirring regularly. Because I was adhering to the recipe for testing purposes, I popped in the required 1/2 teaspoon butter.

start

Then I pressed start. It was a very different jam making experience from my norm.

auto-stir

You let the pot stir with the lid off for four minutes. When the machine sounds four short beeps, you add the sugar and place the lid on the pot.

adding sugar

Here I am, adding the sugar. As you can see, I was oddly inspired to go all Pioneer Woman on you guys in this post. So many photos!

cooking

The lid fogs up while the jam cooks, though some steam does escape through the holes in the rim of the lid.

finished jam

When the jam is finished cooking, it will sound a final beep. You’re supposed to press cancel to end the process and remove the lid immediately. I was distracted when that finish alert sounded, so I let my jam sit for five additional minutes before I got the lid off. It didn’t seem to do any harm.

four cooling half pints

My yield was precisely four half pint jars, which was on point with the recipe. The jam took about 24 hours to fully set up and three of the four jars are now resting comfortably in my hall closet. I opened the final jar to give it a taste. It’s perfectly fine jam, though sort of without character (in subsequent batches, I went rogue and added some cinnamon and grated lemon zest — much better).

And honestly, that sort of sums up the experience of using this machine. It makes perfectly acceptable jam. Far better, in fact, than most of the stuff that you can buy at the grocery store. But it sucks all the soul out of the art of making preserves for me. I like standing by my stove and stirring. I like watching how the bubbles change in texture and consistency. And while I do like making small batches, I like having the option of making larger batches that fill seven or eight half pint jars (all the better for holiday giving).

Still, for those of you who are just starting out making jam, this pot offers something akin to training wheels. It’s a good way to get started and find your feet in this world of homemade sweet preserves. If your life is full of distractions and you can’t manage 30 minutes being tethered to the stove but still want freshly made jam, then add the FreshTECH to your kitchen. Though I don’t see it finding a regular place in my canning world, I really can recognize its utility for a number of folks.

Have any of you taken the plunge and gotten a FreshTECH this summer? What did you think?

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Ball Canning Books Giveaway

Ball Blue Book

Hey kids, it’s giveaway time! Though the canning high season is coming to an end, I firmly believe that truly, home preserving is an activity that can be done all year round. And sometimes, it’s helpful to have a new book or two in your culinary arsenal, to inspire you to keep putting foods in jars even in the colder months (consider, just for a moment, pickled cauliflower). And so, thanks to the kind people at Ball, I have two sets of cookbooks to giveaway.

Each set contains a copy of the Ball Blue Book of Preserving (like the one you see above, although probably it won’t look exactly like that, since that copy is at least three years old) and copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (it’s not pictured because I actually don’t own a copy of that one). To enter the giveaway, leave a comment and tell us a little about how the summer canning season treated you this year. Did it go well? Poorly? Did you achieve your canning goals? What would you do different next year?

The giveaway will close at 12 noon on Friday, September 24th, so step lively (I’m listening to an Irish jig as I type this) and leave your comment.