Tag Archives | Mighty Nest

Giveaway: Sustainable Picnic Gear from Mighty Nest

Picnic gear header

Living in a city without even a scrape of outdoor space to call my own means that I have to be extra intentional about certain things like gardening, repainting furniture, and eating outdoors on beautiful days.

For the moment, my gardening ambitions are paused because trying to maintain a community plot during my busiest season is too much right now. To satisfy my furniture refinishing needs, I occasionally turn my living room into a painting studio (with all the windows open wide). And during the most beautiful days of the year, I pack a picnic and head for one of the many green spaces that dot Philadelphia.

lifefactory containers (1)

I have always loved picnicking. I have many happy memories of meals eaten on beaches, in parks, and at battered tables at highway rest stops. The only problem I see with picnics is that sometimes we trade sustainability for convenience, packing disposables that we use just once before tossing them away.

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), Mighty Nest and I have teamed up to bring you some ideas for packing a more sustainable picnic (and we’re giving away a set of this fabulous gear as well. See the end of the post for more details).

plates cups utensils

The first thing to think about when you’re planning a picnic is, what’s the main event? Is the plan to keep things simple, with just sandwiches and some cut-up fruit? A few of these Bee’s Wrap sandwich wraps and a mason jar work just fine!

I often like to bring a grain salad with me on picnics for variety. These tight-sealing Lifefactory containers are a great option for toting all manner of salads, pickles, and carrot sticks. The silicone sleeves make them easy to handle and offer an added layer of protection from bumps and bangs, as well.

If you’re bring salads, you’ll need plates and forks. These stainless steel plates are indestructible and take up very little space in your picnic basket. On the utensil front, these bamboo RePEaT kits can’t be beat. They come with a fork, spoon, knife, and a pair of chopsticks for good measure. I keep at least one set in the car at all times because you just never know when you’ll want a spoon or fork handy. They also make a kids version that is scaled for small hands and mouths.

drink cooler (1)

Once the meal is settled, the next question is, what we’re going to drink? Is it a hiking adventure where all we’ll want is water? If it’s an outdoor concert picnic, is wine permitted (screw tops are your friend on those nights)? Should we treat ourselves to a jug of homemade lemonade?

I’ll often pack small reusable water bottles for all picnickers, and then fill up the monster, 40 ounce Hydro Flask with some homemade iced green tea to share. Whatever the answer ends up being, having a large, insulated drink container and a few stainless steel cups to bring along is a very good idea.

freezable cooler bag

The last question that arises in sustainable picnicking is how to tote your meal. A standard picnic basket is a good option if your meal is impervious to heat. However, if you want to keep things chilled, something with insulation is is the way to go. A standard cooler works well, but this soft-sided freezable bag is the best thing I’ve seen.

It folds down small so that you can keep it stashed in the freezer until you’re ready to go. Then you just unfold and pack, knowing that your lunch will stay fresh and cool for hours.

One issue that sometimes comes up with picnics that include reusable gear is what to do with the dirty dishes once you’re done eating. I like to bring a few clean dish towels (ones that already have stains are the best). I scrape our dishes off as best I can and then bundle them up in the towels before packing everything back up in our tote. Once I’m home, the dishes go in sink and the towels head for the laundry basket.

To enter the giveaway, use the widget above. You can enter until Monday, May 4. The prize includes the picnic tote, stainless steel plates and cups, the bamboo utensils, the Hydro Flask, and the Lifefactory containers you see pictured at the top of the post (valued at $150). Additionally, Mighty Nest will also donated $100 to a school of the winner’s choosing. The giveaway is open to US residents only and is void where prohibited.

I’m not the only blogger hosting a Mighty Nest Earth Day giveaway. Make sure to visit these other folks for even more chances to win!

Disclosure: Mighty Nest is a Food in Jars sponsor. They provided the gear you see pictured above for photography purposes at no cost to me and they are also providing the entirety of the prize for this giveaway. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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March Sponsors: Cuppow, Fillmore Container, Spice Ratchet, Mighty Nest, and Fermentools

At the PA Farm Show with @fillmorejars! I'll be making dilly carrots at 1:30 pm!

It’s the beginning of March and that means it is time to highlight the businesses that help make it possible for me to write this blog! Please do visit them if they offer a product that interests you!

First up is jar accessory maker Cuppow! They are the creator of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box. They also sell the Mason Tap, which is an awesome tool for turning a regular mouth mason into a dispenser. To make it totally leak-proof, I pair mine with one of the rubber gaskets designed to work with the Tattler regular mouth lids.

Our friends at Fillmore Container are back this month as well. They’re a family-owned business based in Lancaster, PA and sells all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. Over the weekend, they published my recipe for Strawberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade on their blog. Delicious!

Next up is Spice Ratchet. They make the blossom trivet that I use as a canning rack, and last fall they released a line of silicone Blossom uCaps for mason jars. They are available as a storage cap, a sipping cap, and a flower frog. I hear they have new products on the horizon, so stay tuned for more on that!

The fab folks at MightyNest are back again this month. They are an amazing resource for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families and even have my beloved 4th Burner Pot in stock.

Last up is Fermentools. They make a brilliant fermentation starter kit that involves a heavy-duty glass pickling weight, an airlock, a lid with a reusable rubber seal, and mineral-rich salt. The pickles I made using their kit turned out deliciously!

If your company or small business is interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more details here. I offer discounts for multiple month purchases and am always happy to work with your budget.

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Links: Apple Butter Pulled Pork and Desperation Pie

Whole wheat baguette, goat cheese, smoked salmon, and dilly beans.

Late last week, I had my first anxiety dream about the book I’m currently working on. The first draft is due in just 10 weeks, and it’s all starting to feel very real. With each book, it gets both easier and dramatically harder to get it all done. Back to work!

beans in the jar

I don’t have a winner in the Mighty Nest giveaway because the giveaway is still! going! on! If you haven’t done so already, use the widget below to enter.

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A Pressure Canned Bean Reminder and A Mighty Nest Giveaway

pressure canned beans in Weck jars

There are a lot of people out there who think that there’s nothing to can during the winter months. That when the cold days roll in, the best thing to do is just hang up the canning pot and apply one’s energy to emptying the jars they spent so much time filling up during summer and fall.

And while it’s true that there’s less to can this time of year, there are a number of pantry building projects you can do during this time of year, particularly if you have a pressure canner.

fully soaked beans

Restocking my supply of home canned beans is one of my particular favorite projects to take on when outdoor temperatures plummet (it’s just 8 degrees F today in Philly). While store bought canned beans are plenty cheap for most budgets, dried beans are even more affordable. When you soak, simmer, and process your own beans, you’re reducing the amount of waste you product (no cans into the recycling) and you’re making better tasting beans. It’s a winning situation, if you ask me.

I wrote a post all about how to process beans in a pressure canner this time last year and it’s such a useful post (if I do say so myself) that I thought it merited a reminder.

close on pinto beans

Once you have a stash of home canned beans in the pantry, you use them just like you would cans of beans from the grocery store. I regularly stir them into batches of soup or chili, and use them to top trays of homemade nachos. They’re also good for burrito bowls and adding extra protein to salad.

You can also pre-season the beans with ground spices, a sliver of chile pepper or some fresh herbs before canning, so that they become even more useful meal starters (later this week, I’ll be posting a variation on this pressure canning technique that I use to make ready-to-use white bean and rosemary soup).

canned beans square

Last year when I first posted this bean tutorial, the post also included a giveaway from the nice folks at Mighty Nest. Happily, they’ve agreed to offer a giveaway with this one as well! Use the widget below to enter for a chance to win a 6 Quart Dutch Oven, a set of six 1/2 liter mold jars (they’re the same ones pictured above), and a People Who Love to Eat Tea Towel. Additionally, Mighty Nest will donate $150 to the winner’s school of choice.

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Rosle Giveaway from Mighty Nest

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Hey friends! Here’s a fun weekend treat for you! Mighty Nest is hosting a holiday weekend giveaway. The lucky winner will get a trio of sturdy, stainless steel kitchen utensils from Rosle (they make seriously high quality gear).

Just plug your info into the pledge form below to enter! The giveaway closes its doors on Monday, so get your entry in now!

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How to Pressure Can Dried Beans in Weck Jars + Giveaway

canned beans square

As I’m sure is the case for many of you, canned beans are a staple in my pantry. I try to always keep an assortment of pinto, kidney, garbanzo, and black beans in my kitchen cabinet. Even when I’ve not been shopping in awhile, I nearly always have tortillas in the freezer and some kind of cheese in the fridge. Combined with a can of beans, I’m only a few steps away from a bean and cheese quesadilla lunch (and all the better if there’s a jar of salsa on the shelf).

dry beans in bowls and jars

In recent years, instead of sourcing my stash of canned beans from the store, I’ve been making them myself. That’s because as cheap as canned beans are, dried beans cost even less (I typically get  at least four 1/2 liter or pint jars from a single pound of dried beans). And by using my own jars, I avoid the chemicals in can liners and also keep that waste out of the system.

soaking beans at the beginning

If you have a pressure canner, making your own canned beans is incredibly simple (though I’ll grant you that the first time through it will feel like there are a lot of steps but it will get easier). If you don’t have one, this might just be the technique that convinces you to get one. If you’re looking for a good starter pressure canner, I use a 16 quart Presto and love it. It’s affordable and fits easily on to my small stove.

fully soaked beans

As is the case any time you use dried beans, you start by soaking them. If I’m canning on a weekend, I’ll soak the beans overnight so that they’re ready for a morning canning session. During the work week, I’ll set them to soak while I make breakfast and will can them up after dinner. I like to pressure can in the evenings because it means that I can let the canner cool overnight. I’ve found that the longer you let the canner cool undisturbed, the better the jars seal.

soaking beans

When you soak your beans, take care to use a bowl big enough to hold the beans and water to cover by 2-3 inches. As you can see in one of the pictures above, I didn’t use a bowl quite large enough for the white beans and so they soaked up everything I gave them and threatened to spill out of the bowl entirely.

prepped Weck jars

Once the beans are sufficiently soaked, it’s time to start to prep them for the canning process. Like I do in all canning situations, the first thing I do is get the jars and canning pot set up. In this case, I put the rack in the pot, set the jars on top, and fill the jars with hot water from the tap (because the water isn’t coming into contact with food, I don’t worry about using hot water).

Unlike with boiling water bath canning where you need a full pot, pressure canning works with steam so the jars don’t need to be submerged. An inch or two of water in the pot itself is really all you need.

lids and seals

When I use Weck jars, I take care to also tuck the glass lids and rubber rings into the pot to heat (leave the clips out). When I use conventional mason jars, I tuck new lids into the pot, but keep the rings out as they’re hard to work with when hot. Settle the lid on the pot and bring the pot to a boil. No need to lock the lid into place yet, you’re just warming the jars.

simmering beans

While the canner heats, pour the beans and their soaking water into a pot and bring them to a boil. You may need to add some additional water as they still should be covered by about 2 inches of water. They need approximately 25-30 minutes on the stove in order to heat through and begin to soften.

Take note that the beans should not be cooked fully when they go into the jars. If you cooked them fully before pressure canning, your finished product would be total mush.

filled Weck jars

When the jars are hot and the beans have simmered for about half an hour, it’s time to fill the jars. Remove the jars from the canner and place them on a kitchen towel. If you’ve boiled out most of your water from the bottom of the pot, pour the contents of the jars back into the canner. If your water level looks good, dump the water from the jars out into the sink.

Fill the jars with the prepared beans. You want to add enough beans so that they come up about 2/3 of the way up the jar. Then cover the beans with cooking liquid, leaving 1 inch of headspace.

Ideally, you’ll have about an inch of water above the bean level. Don’t skimp on the water because the beans are going to continue to cook in the jars and so will need additional liquid in order to soften fully.

three clips for pressure canning

Once the jars are filled, wipe the rims with a clean towel. Settle the rubber seal onto the lid of the Weck jar and place the seal and lid onto the jar. Secure the lid with three Weck jar clips. When canning Weck jars in a boiling water bath you only use two clips, but the increased intensity of the pressure canner means that you need an additional clip to ensure that the lid stays in place. If you’re using conventional mason jars, apply lids and rings in the usual fashion.

To avoid chipping the lid with the clips, place the clip on the lid first and then push down towards the side of the jar. If you start from the side of jar and push towards the lid, you risk breakage.

jars in the canner

Once the lids are secured, lower the jars into the canner. My 16 quart canner can hold five 1/2 liter Weck jars, seven quart jars, or nine pint jars. Pour a glug of white vinegar into the pot to help keep the jars and pot clean and then lock the lid into place.

Bring the pot up to a boil and let the steam vent for at least 15 minutes. You do this by running the pot without the pressure regulator in place. That’s the little black and metal hat that sits atop the vent shaft. The reason for this is that a canner that has been properly relieved of its oxygen through venting can reach a higher temperature than one that is full of oxygen. The higher the temperature, the more effectively the canner will kill any botulism spores present.

11 pounds of pressure

Once the canner is properly vented, apply the pressure regulator and bring up to pressure. If you live at 1,000 feet elevation or below (as I do), you bring the pot up to 11 pounds of pressure. If you live at higher elevations, you need to increase your pressure (find those exact elevation adjustments here)

pressure canner working

Once the canner reaches the appropriate pressure, start your timer. If you’re working with pint or 1/2 liter jars, you process the beans for 75 minutes. If you use quart or liter jars, process for 90 minutes. Make sure to check the pressure gauge often to ensure that you’re at the proper pressure levels. If your pressure drops below the required level, you have to bring the pot back up to pressure and restart your timer.

close up black beans

Once the time is up, turn the heat off and leave the pot alone. I like to let it cool for at least an hour after the pot depressurizes, but the longer you can let it cool, the better. Even after the pot depressurizes, there is still a huge amount of heat in the jars. It’s perfectly normal for the contents of the jars to be bubbling hours after the canning process has finished.

slipping seal on Weck jar

Weck jars work really well for pressure canning, but there are a couple tricks to it. I’ve already mentioned the first, using three clips instead of two. The second is that you really must ensure that the seal is in its ideal position before you settle the lid on the jar. As you can see, my seal slipped a little with this jar. It wasn’t enough to compromise the seal, but I knew that this rubber ring wasn’t as perfectly positioned as the rest when that jar went into the canner. I got lucky and didn’t ruin the seal, but that won’t always be the case.

pressure canned black beans

Now, for the giveaway portion of this post, which is sponsored by Mighty Nest (they also provided the Weck jars you’ve seen pictured throughout this post). They are offering one lucky Food in Jars reader a chance to win one dozen 1/2 Liter Weck jars (I like these jars for canning beans because hold about the same volume of beans that you get from a store bought can) and a 6 quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven. To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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