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Chocolate Applesauce Muffins with Ball® Fresh Preserving Products Maple Applesauce

This post is sponsored by Ball® Fresh Preserving Products by Newell Brands.

Yesterday, I showed you how to make the Maple Applesauce from Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. Flavored with a hint of cinnamon and sweetened with earthy maple syrup, it’s good eaten straight from the jar or used as an ingredient in all manner of baked goods.

I love using applesauce in baking. It has a near-magical ability to bring both needed moisture and welcome lightness to cakes, muffins, quick breads, and breakfast bars. I often use it to replace up to half the butter or oil in recipes and typically find myself preferring the versions made with applesauce. Just know that replacing more than half of the fat with applesauce undoes the balance of the recipe and will push it over the edge to rubbery. Consider yourself warned!

The ingredients for these muffins are pretty simple. You start by beating sugar and softened butter together until it gets creamy and you don’t see too many individual sugar granules. I like to do this in a stand mixer, but you can also opt for an electric hand mixer. Once the first two ingredients are well-incorporated, you beat in eggs, the applesauce, and some vanilla extract.

While the wet ingredients are combining themselves, you whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (don’t worry if the cocoa is still a little clumpy. It will work itself out). I made this batch with unbleached all-purpose flour, but I’ve also made these muffins with whole wheat pastry flour for a bit more fiber. For a gluten-free version, just swap in one cup of your favorite GF baking blend.

Add the dry ingredients one-third at a time, until they are completely incorporated and the batter looks like glossy milk chocolate pudding. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or butter it well. Carefully divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffins.

Bake the muffins for 18 to 22 minutes at 350°F/177°C, until a toothpick inserted in one of the center muffins comes out mostly clean (a few damp crumbs are fine, wet batter is not). Turn the muffins out of the tin and let them cool on a wire rack. Once they are completely cool, store them in a zip top bag or airtight container. They’ll keep well on the counter for three to four days. For longer storage, wrap them well and freeze them.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Newell Brands as part of a compensated partnership. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

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Honey Cinnamon Pear Sorbet

This post is sponsored by Ball® Fresh Preserving Products by Newell Brands.

Yesterday, I showed you how to make Honey Cinnamon Pears. A building block of the homemade pantry, these pears are great at breakfast (in oatmeal! over pancakes!), lunch (with yogurt! in a smoothie!), or dinner (sliced over salad! as dessert!).

In addition to being something that you can serve straight from the jar, home canned pears can also be a really useful ingredient in other dishes and recipes. I often puree them and use them in baked goods (the same way you would use applesauce) and I love to turn them into homemade sorbet.

With the arrival of the hot weather, I’ve got my ice cream maker out for the season and have been turning any fruit I can get my hands on into heat-beating desserts. Because the primary ingredient in this sorbet is just fruit, the finished product is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without overdoing it. Sorbet is also a really thoughtful treat to make for dinner guests who can’t eat dairy.

You start with one quart or two pints of canned fruit. In this case, I canned my pears in Ball® Sharing Jars. and so I opened up two jars (you should have approximately three cups of fruit and one cup of canning liquid). The contents of these jars goes into the blender with 1/4 cup of sugar and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice and you puree it until really smooth (really work them so that the skin gets fully pureed).

Then taste the puree to ensure that the flavors are well balanced. Add more lemon if you find that the flavor is a little flat. If you can’t taste the cinnamon as much as you’d like, add a pinch of ground. Remember also that the puree should be a little sweeter than you’d like if you were eating it at room temperature. Freezing mutes the sweetness and if you want it to taste satisfyingly sweet once frozen, the base needs to be a little extra.

Chill the sorbet base until it is quite cold. Once it is well-chilled, you pour it into an ice cream maker and freeze it until firm. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can also pour it into a loaf pan and freeze it granita-style, scraping it with a fork several times during the freezing process to help aerate and break up the mixture.

The end result is a frozen dessert that is surprisingly creamy for something that doesn’t contain any dairy. It has pleasingly mild flavor that is really refreshing and cooling. I hope you try it!

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Honey Cinnamon Pears from Ball® Fresh Preserving Products

This post is sponsored by Ball® Fresh Preserving Products by Newell Brands.

Last month, I teamed up with my friends at Ball®Fresh Preserving Products by Newell Brands to share their recipe for Mixed Berry Jam and the Jammy Baked Oatmeal that I made with it. This month, we’re talking pears.

Honey Cinnamon Pears, to be precise. In this recipe, quartered pears are briefly simmered in a syrup made from apple juice and honey before being packed into Ball® Pint Jars with a cinnamon stick, topped with the syrup, and processed in a boiling water bath. It’s a really easy and approachable recipe (no peeling!) that produces perfectly sweet pears kissed with a hint of cinnamon.

To make these pears, start by getting your jars warming in the canning pot (for this project, I used the Ball® Sharing Jars). Fit your canning pot with a rack, place the jars on top and fill both the jars and the pot halfway with water. Bring it to a simmer over low heat and keep it around 180F until you are ready to fill the jars. Wash lids and rings in hot, soapy water and set them aside.

Once your canning gear is all set, you turn your attention to the pears. Wash them well (make sure to remove any stickers!), cut them into quarters, and cut away the cores.

As you work, place the cut pears into a bowl of acidulated water (that’s a fancy word for water spiked with either lemon juice or Fruit Fresh) to prevent the pears from browning.

Once the pears are prepped, make the syrup. Combine water, apple juice, and honey in a large saucepan (you want to use something large enough to eventually hold all the pears.

When the syrup comes to a simmer, add the pears to the pot and let them stay in the syrup just until they’re heated through (too much time in the syrup will lead them to overcook and fall apart, so stay attentive).

As soon as the pears are warm, it’s time to fill the jars. Remove a single jar from the canning pot and place it on a folded towel or cutting board. Place a cinnamon stick in the bottom of the jar and funnel the warm pear quarters into the jars. Use a chopstick to help settle them into place (I found that I could get 6-7 pear quarters into each jar).

Top the pears with the syrup and remove any trapped air bubbles, taking care to maintain a headspace of 1/2 inch. Wipe the rim of the jar, place a lid on top, secure it with a ring (finger tip tight, please), get that jar in the canner, and repeat with the next jar.

These pears are good to eat with yogurt or cottage cheese. You can warm them and serve them over pancakes or waffles. Or you could turn them into sorbet. Check back tomorrow to learn how to do just that!

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Giveaway: Decorative Lids from Mason Jar Lifestyle

An assortment of decorative lids from Mason Jar Lifestyle

In my household, mason jars are our default vessels. Canning is certainly one of their primary uses, but we also employ them for storing leftovers, corralling LEGO collections, stashing office supplies, arranging flowers, and displaying rocks gathered on vacation. They are truly all-purpose containers.

Decorative lid with grab handle from Mason Jar Lifestyle

One issue that I’ve run into in the past when using mason jars for all manner of things is that sometimes, you get weird olfactory cross-contamination when it comes to the lids (ask me what happens when you store Q-Tips under a lid that once protected pickles).

Assortment of decorative grab handle lids

To keep this weirdness at bay, I’ve got a small assortment of decorative lids from Mason Jar Lifestyle that are not designed for food use. This means I keep them expressly for all the other things that I stash in jars, thus keeping the cotton balls free of relish memories and ready to serve another day. They also can fit over the flat lids on most jars, if you want to use them to dress up jars you’re giving as gifts.

Decorative flower frog jar lids from Mason Jar Lifestyle

If you find yourself in the market for decorative lids, I highly recommend checking out the assortment that Mason Jar Lifestyle sells. They’ve got everything from lids with vintage styling (galvanized or oil-rubbed), lids with handles (you can tuck a flat canning lid into these if you are desperate to use them in your pantry), flower frogs, and so much more.

Decorative lid with grab handle from Mason Jar Lifestyle

This week, I’m giving away two sets of decorative lids (winners get to choose an assortment of eight lids) here on the blog and another set over on Instagram. Make sure to enter in both places to increase your chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Mason Jar Lifestyle is a Food in Jars partner and this giveaway is a component of our partnership. Their continued sponsorship helps keep this blog afloat. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely my own.

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Mixed Berry Jam from Ball® Fresh Preserving Products

This post is sponsored by Ball® Fresh Preserving Products by Newell Brands.

Nearly every summer since 2012, I’ve been issued a preserving challenge by my friends at Ball®Fresh Preserving Products by Newell Brands. Some years, they’ve asked me to develop a few new canning recipes. Other years, I’ve trekked to New York or Indiana to offer canning demos. This year, I’m really excited because they’ve given me a handful of their most popular recipes and asked me to create new ways to use them (a concept that’s much like my upcoming book!).

So from now until September, once a month I’ll be sharing my process for making the preserve and then unveiling a recipe that transforms it into something new and delicious. For this first month, the preserve was Mixed Berry Jam (I preserved it in some of the Ball® Smooth Sided Half-Pint Jars pictured above and available for purchase here. These are the best jars for labeling!).

Right off the bat, I was delighted with their pick of recipe. It’s a relatively small batch, with a short, simple ingredient list. I also know berry jams to be really versatile, so I knew I’d be able to make something interesting with it.

You start by washing and mashing enough fruit to yield 4 cups. For me, this wound up being about 1 3/4 pounds fruit (I used single 1 pound package of strawberries, and 1 1/2 clamshells of blueberries).

You want to make sure you have your jars warming and the lids washed before you start cooking the jam, because the cook time is quite short and you do want the jars to be ready for you when you’re ready for them.

Once the berries are well-mashed, they get scraped into a large pan. You add the pectin powder (4 1/2 tablespoons), stir well to combine and bring the fruit to a boil, stirring constantly.

Always take care when moving pots of hot jam!

Once the fruit is boiling madly, you stream in the sugar and stir to combine. Bring that to a rapid boil and cook for just a minute longer. Once the time is up, you pull the pot from the stove. As it starts to cool from the boiling point, you should see visible signs of set, both on the spatula and the walls of the pot.

Then, working one at a time, fill each jar to 1/4 inch headspace, wipe the rim clean with a damp cloth, and apply a new, clean lid and ring. When all jars are full, process them in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes (adjusting your processing time for altitude, if necessary).

The finished jam is well-set, brightly flavored, and gorgeously colored. Click here to see the Jammy Baked Oatmeal I made with this jam!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Newell Brands as part of a compensated partnership. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. 

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Sponsored Post: Meet McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies

I’ve learned a lot about gear in my years as an avid home cook and canning teacher. Nothing is more useful than a freshly sharpened knife. Always bring extra jars and containers to classes. And most of the time, the best place to buy durable, portable, affordable equipment is your local restaurant supply store.

Recently, the folks from McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies reached out and asked if I might be interested in dedicating a post to some of the tools they sell that are just as useful at home as they are in more professional food settings. Of course I said yes!

First, a little about McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies. Founded in 1994, they’re based in the New York metro area and carry more than 20,000 items for restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, supermarkets, catering companies, and home cooks.

If you visit their 25,000 SF showroom in Brooklyn (open M-F, 7am – 7pm; Sat, 8am – 2pm), you’ll find professional cutlery, food prep tools, kitchen hand tools, mixing bowls, cookware, and extra-sturdy commercial grade dinnerware (great for households that are hard on their dishes). Home mixologists will find shakers, muddlers, cocktail prep tools, and kits that can help raise their cocktail game to the pro level.

Now, on to the gear!

  1. Giant, polycarbonate measuring cups – These big, indestructible measuring cups are amazing tools for canners. You can easily see how much produce you’ve prepped, they’re relatively light, and they can go in the dishwasher. For maximum versatility, get both the 2 quart and 4 quart versions.
  2. Stainless mixing bowls – They come in a huge range of sizes, but I like the 8 quart for holding produce and mixing salads.
  3. Stainless steel skimmers – These are the best for lifting foam from the top of your jam and scalding tomatoes and peaches for peeling.
  4. Rasp-style zesters – These are a quarter of the price of the name brand zesters and work just as well.
  5. Large, polycarbonate food storage containers – I use glass in my kitchen wherever I can, but there are times when nothing serves quite as well as a really large, plastic container. I use my 4 quart square poly tub for leftover soups and stews all the time. It may well be the hardest working vessel in my kitchen.
  6. Waterproof digital thermometers – I reach for my thermometer on a near-daily basis and use it to test for doneness in jams, loaves of bread, roast chicken, and even the honey syrup I use to hold my homemade granola bars together. So useful, and when bought from a restaurant supply store, so cheap!
  7. Jars – McDonald Paper carries some cute jars that I’ve not seen at other outlets. I think there’s a road trip to Brooklyn in my future!

That’s just a short list of some of my hardest working gear from restaurant supplies stores. Do you guys have any favorites?

Disclosure: McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies is a Food in Jars sponsor and contributes to the upkeep of this site. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. 

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