Tag Archives | open jars

Canning 101: Extending the Life of Open Jars

a fruit butter bar

One of the dangers of doing as much preserving as I do is the number of open jars that are constantly in the fridge (jars from brunches, from tasting events and those jars holding the overflow from recent projects). No matter how much I use, there’s always a fresh flow of jam, fruit butter, chutney and pickled things rushing in to fill the void. Because I can only eat so much on a daily basis, part of my refrigerator management is making sure that I’m taking steps to extend the lifespan of my preserves.

Now, for those of you who live in bustling households where a jar of jam empties in a day, you might not be particularly concerned about this issue, but for those of us with small households (and partners who aren’t interested in anything having to do with fruit), preventing spoilage is a real concern. Here are a few things that you can do to keep mold and other funks at bay.

  • Use clean utensils. This might sound obvious, but often, the temptation to dip into the jam jar with a buttery knife is there. Using clean knives and spoons every time you go for a dollop will keep foreign bodies out of your preserves and keep them fresher longer. 
  • Keep jars tightly closed. This is particularly true if you’re keeping fermented foods in your fridge. If things aren’t sealed well, you run the risk of having the fermentation bacteria leap from sourdough starter to jam. Not good.
  • Label the jars with the date that you open them. This keeps you aware of just how long the jar has been opened and will remind you that the jar of peach jam from last summer should be finished before the more recently opened jar of cranberry jelly.
  • Wash off dried, gloopy jam from the lid. I don’t have any scientific evidence here, but I have found that when I wash the lid of the jar, the preserve lasts longer. Less medium for the mold to grow, I think.
  • Eat the fruit butters first. Sugar is a preservative. Because fruit butters typically have less of it, they just don’t last as long once opened. The same goes for preserves sweetened with honey. Eat them first.
  • Consider canning in smaller jars. If you’re finding that you’re losing much of your preserves to mold, consider using smaller jars. This will mean that you’ll have less open in the fridge at any one time and so will be able to move through it at a more timely clip.

Do you have any other tips for extending the lifespan of your open jars?

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Open Jars: Granola Cookies

cookies from above

I have made a lot of granola in the last month (a mighty understatement). I was testing recipes for the book and even after giving large containers of it away, I still had enough granola on my kitchen shelves to supply a small restaurant through a busy weekend brunch service, three or four times over. Though Scott and I both embrace a breakfast of granola topped yogurt, there more that we could handle in a reasonable about of time. Steps had to be taken before all that home toasted granola went fusty and stale.

granola cookies

While flipping through Baking on Saturday afternoon in search of Dorie’s cream scones, another recipe caught my attention. Called Granola Grabbers, it is essentially a heartier-than-average oatmeal cookie, made with granola as the primary ingredient. I stuck a magazine subscription card in to serve as reminder to come back and take a closer look. After all, I had a bounty of granola in need of transformation.

granola cookie dough

Last night found me standing in the kitchen wanting to make something for all of you. I’ve been feeling a little bit lost in the face of late winter. I know citrus is the thing this time of year, but somehow I can’t summon the energy to chop lemons for marmalade right now. So instead of putting something in a jar, I took the remains of a batch of granola (it’s a dried cranberry and orange-scented thing that will be in the book) and made cookies inspired by those granola grabbers.

granola cookies

Though I restrained myself from healthy-ing up the cream scones I posted about on Monday, I wasn’t able to keep from making a few adjustments here. I replaced some of the dairy butter with apple butter (another open jar finished off!), cut the sugar by half (and they’re still quite sweet) and used whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose. I also added some cinnamon and nutmeg that weren’t in the original recipe, to help bolster the fading flavors of my aging granola.

granola cookies

Having made this recipe as a basic cookie, I think I’ll try it as a bar next time. They are so dense and crumbly (but in a good way) that I think I’d like to be able to grab a smaller bit than these hefty cookies allow. That said, I am not at all unhappy to have them in my cookie jar. In fact, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bring one or two along to work today, to nibble after lunch (plus, I could use something homemade after my cafeteria salad).

Oh, there’s one more thing you should know before you tackle this one yourself. Dorie’s original recipe asks that you use granola without added fruit. Her very valid concern is that the fruit in store-bought granola can be very dry. However, my homemade granola included plump, moist dried cranberries and lots of slivered almonds. Because of that, I used four cups of granola and omitted the additional cranberries and almonds. I know that granola will vary, so I’ve included her original proportions here. Feel free to use your best judgment when you make these for yourself.

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Open Jars: Apple Butter BBQ Sauce from Coconut & Lime

Got more apple butter than you can eat? Here’s a tasty idea from Rachel at Coconut & Lime. She combined her homemade apple butter with a bit of vinegar, a variety of spices and a little bit of booze for a tasty barbecue sauce. It looks incredibly easy too, just a bit of measuring, a trip through the blender and a bit of reducing over low heat. Make sure to head over to her site to check out the full recipe.

This makes me wonder what other butters and jams could be turned into more full-bodied barbecue sauces. I think that my peach plum ginger jam might make a really good player in a sweet/savory sauce like this.

Do you have a spread in your pantry that is due for a transformation like this one?

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Open Jars: Peachy Carrots from Queen of the Castle Recipes

purple carrots

When I was growing up, my mom kept dinnertime simple by rotating through a mix-and-match array of main and sides. One such side that came up on a fairly regular basis was a dish of sliced carrots, steamed until just tender and then glazed with butter and a bit of brown sugar. I always loved it, although as I got older, it faded from the cycle.

I’m reminded of those delectable carrots, thanks to Lynn from Queen of the Castle Recipes. She cooked up a batch of carrots and glazed them with some of the peach pit jelly she made last summer. Here’s what she has to say about them…

The very best recipe I’ve made in the last two weeks, the one I’ll be making again? It’s Peachy Carrots, from The Four Ingredient Cookbook. Who’d have thought such a simple little recipe would surpass the others? Here’s the recipe, and I will save you all that time-consuming experimenting.

1 lb. package of carrots (the authors recommend you slice and cook them; I simply took a 12-oz. bag of petite carrots and used them whole, without pre-cooking)
1/3 c. peach preserves (I used peach pit jelly I had made over the summer)
1 T. butter

In small skillet or saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until heated through.  That’s it.  Sweet and yummy and pretty darned simple.

They really do sound good. I’m thinking about making them using the nectarine-lime jam I made last summer. Something tells me that the hint of citrus would be a perfect accompaniment to the sweetness of the carrots and the jam.

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Open Jars: Turkey Taco Salad

pickled jalapenos

I have long been a fan of homemade turkey tacos, particularly ones based on this recipe (thanks Molly!). A couple of nights ago, I cooked up a batch of the taco meat to spill over big bowls of greens (though folding these crumbles up in freshly warmed corn tortillas is my idea of heaven) and managed to get not just one, but two jars of home canned food into the mix.

browned turkey for tacos

The taco-spiced meat calls for a pound of turkey, spiked with minced garlic, cumin, a pinch of cayenne, lime and some jalapenos. I look at this recipe as a perfect way to use up some of those unfancy jalapeno peppers that I canned last fall. Because the pickling process takes some of the sting out of peppers, I simply mince up two or three, seeds and all, and add it to the mix. Frequently, I skip the cayenne and just rely on the heat of the jalapenos to flavor the turkey (we’re something of a heat sensitive household around here).

pickled carrots and daikon

As I assembled the salads, I started longing for something tangy to go along with the turkey, greens and sauteed vegetables. Thinking back over what remains in my pantry, I remembered that a single jar of those pickled carrots and daikon I made last February (good grief, is time flying) remained. They weren’t quite as crunchy as they’d been when first canned, but their flavor was spot on for the salad and they added the perfect amount of zing.

assembled salad

I realize that this isn’t groundbreaking cooking, but I thought you guys would appreciate seeing some of the basic ways that I incorporate what I can into my everyday eating. Oh, and if you determine to eat this as tacos (as is truly intended), I highly recommend making a batch of this Cumin Cabbage Slaw to go with it. They match up really well.

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Open Jars: The Oregonian’s FOODday Turns Sweet Jams into Savory Dishes

looking towards the dining room

If you follow the Food in Jars Facebook page, you may have already spotted this on Tuesday when I posted it over there. However, being that this Thursday post is all about ways to use up those preserves, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share this article again.

You see, when I was out in Portland in December, Deena and I got together in a beautiful borrowed kitchen (it belongs to friends of my parents) and cooked up a bunch of amazingly delicious food so it could be made pretty and photographed. Each recipe was designed to feature a sweet preserve in a savory application. Deena wrote up everything we made in that afternoon of cooking and the result is this terrific piece that ran in the Oregonian on Tuesday, in their FOODday section.

Included in her article are recipes for a jam-based vinaigrette, marmalade shrimp, apricot chicken wings (so good!), an all-purpose savory jam glaze, and blue cheese savories (but you’ve seen those already). Truly, everything was delicious (although since I’m allergic to shrimp, I’m just taking the emphatic enthusiasm of others in the case of that dish). It was also such a thrill to be included in a piece that ran in my hometown newspaper. My parents got emails and calls all day Tuesday from friends and old neighbors. Very fun!

Also, in an act of delightful synchronicity, author of Put ’em Up! Sherri Brooks Vinton, recently had a piece run on Foodista about using up her preserves. Everybody’s doing it!

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