HOW TO :: Preserving & Canning Pears

Seckel pears are diminutive, with muddy, olive green skin and a firm texture. Their tiny proportions make them impossible to resist, and the perfect size for a light dessert after a rich meal. They ripen toward the end of September, so be on the lookout as the season is short. Pears are poached in a light caramel syrup - you can determine how dark you'd like to burn the sugar. I prefer mine deeply amber, imparting an almost burnt quality to the fruit. Of course, you can also infuse the syrup with any number of aromatics. Here, we use vanilla, but lavender buds, fresh thyme or even a bag of your favorite tea. When you crack open the jars, the pears’ exterior will have a gorgeous caramel hue, whereas the centers stay creamy. I like to serve the pears whole, with a dollop of cream and a drizzle of the syrup. Make sure to use wide-mouth pint jars here, so the pears fit without bruising. Caramel Vanilla Seckel Pears makes 6-8 pints | start to finish: about 1 hour active time

2 1/4 cups sugar 5 1/2 cups warm water 1 vanilla bean, cut in half, beans scraped and reserved 5 pounds Seckel pears

In a large, completely dry, saucepan, add the sugar and shake the pan gently to level it out. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Without touching it, leave the sugar to melt and brown; do not stir it. The sugar will begin to brown at the edges. Once starting to brown, gently swirl the pan slightly, making sure to keep the sugar level, so it does not coat the sides of the pan. The sugar will caramelize, becoming dark brown at edges. Stir the melted sugar slowly, incorporating the dry sugar, until all of the sugar is melted and amber colored. Wearing an oven mitt and long sleeves (molten sugar will spit and pop) carefully pour in the warm water while simultaneously stirring. Any sugar crystals that form will melt in the water. Add the vanilla bean pods and the reserved seeds, and set the pot aside. (This is also when you when add other aromatics, as pictured below.**)

caramel infusions

Peel the pears, leaving a small piece of the stem intact. Immediately drop them into the syrup. When all of the pears have been added, return the pot to medium-high heat. Bring the syrup to a low boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook the pears for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are just beginning to soften, but are not cooked through all the way. The exterior flesh will be easily pierced, but the core of the pear will be firm.

Remove the pears from the heat and, using a soup spoon, immediately add them to the clean jars, lowering each pear in gently to prevent bruising. Pack the jars as densely as you’re able, leaving 1” of space. Once the jars are packed, pour the caramel-vanilla syrup over the pears so they are submerged, leaving 1/2” of headspace in the jars. Cut the vanilla pod into even pieces and add a small piece of it to each jar. Gently tap the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and seal the jars. Place the jarred pears in a prepared water bath and process for 20 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter overnight. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

washed jars • water bath

**You can infuse the caramel water with many an array of aromatics. Try fresh thyme, lavender, ginger, cardamom, cloves, etc. I always recommend doing a small batch on the side first, so you can judge the potency and see if you like the flavor. From there, add aromatics to the pot and steep as you like. As I tell all of my students, the potency of the flavor will grow in strength over time, so keep it a little softer then you'd ideally like. A little clove goes a long way - trust me.

HOW TO :: Apple Pie Filling Canning Recipe

This simple recipe guarantees you’ll always have the best apples on hand for pie baking. bowl of applesApples are available all year long, but they are certainly not in season all year long. New crop apples, those that are harvested and sold in the same season, are the best tasting—their juice just contained under firm, naturally shiny skins. Ditto for pears, which are best eaten soon after harvesting. To preserve the natural, raw integrity of fresh fruit, buy both in bulk when they come into the markets. Boxes of apples are infinitely less expensive than buying a pound at a time, so choose a favorite variety (most farmers offer samples) and load up. As for the little pears, keep your eyes open and buy the lot when you have a chance.

Apple Pie Filling makes about 4 pints | start to finish: about 1 hour active time

This simple recipe guarantees you’ll always have the best apples on hand for pie baking. Blanching the fruit before canning them will preserve their crispness, ensuring that they won’t break down to mush when they’re baked. Choose a firm, crisp apple, and mix something tart (Bramley) with a sweeter bite (Spitzenberg). When it comes to baking time, simply pour the apples into a prepared shell and bake, or slice them thin for layering in a tart. Either way, expect to use two pints of filling per 9” pie.

6 pounds apples, cored and sliced 1 cup water 1 cup apple cider 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup apple pectin (available online or in health food stores) 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Fill a large stockpot half full with water and bring to a boil. Drop in half of the sliced apples and cover, returning to a boil. Once the water returns to a boil (about 8 to 10 minutes), use a slotted spoon to strain out the apples. Add the slices directly to clean pint jars, leaving a small amount of room at the top. Repeat the process with the remaining apple slices. On a folded-over dish towel (for padding), strongly tap the bottom of each jar on the counter, to help pack down the apples. If necessary, redistribute apples so each jar is full, with 1” of headspace.

In a medium saucepan, add the water, apple cider, sugar, apple pectin, lemon juice, and spices; bring to a boil. Simmer the liquid for 15 minutes, reducing it slightly. Using a ladle or a liquid measuring cup for ease, pour hot juice over the jarred apples, leaving 1/2” of headspace. Gently tap the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and seal the jars. Place them in a prepared water bath and process for 20 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter overnight. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

washed jars • water bath

Homemade Plum Fruit Roll Ups

Plum Fruit Roll UpDehydrating fruit is an excellent preservation technique if you don't have time to make jam and jar up whole fruits. Simply toss sliced or pureed fruit into the dehydrator of low oven and leave it be for hours. Dehyrdrating fruit is an awesome overnight project! To make fruit puree, cut fruit of your choice into small pieces and add to a pot set over low heat. Depending on how juicy the fruit is, you may or may not need to add some water to the pot. Start small, adding only 1/2 cup of water at a time. As the fruit warms, it will release natural juices.

Cook the fruit down slowly until soft and pulpy. Add sugar to taste. I use about 1/2 cup for every 4 pounds of fruit and increase in small increments until the flavor tastes right to me. (I always opt for low-sugar snacks, so my fruit leathers are not super sweet.) Once completely soft, add to the bowl of a blender and puree, working in batches for a large pot of fruit. Pour fruit puree into a fine mesh strainer, and push through using a rubber spatula. This fine strainer will hold out seeds, skins and any tough fruit fibers.

Line a sheet pan or dehydrator tray with parchment. You may want to lightly oil the parchment first, which helps the leathers from getting stuck to the parchment once dry. Pour sieved fruit puree over the parchment, spreading to a thin, even layer - like icing a cake!

Put in your food dehydrator for 3 to 4 hours or turn your oven on the lowest heat setting and bake for 2 hours. If using a dehydrator, check every hour after the initial run to see if fruit leather is dry. If using an oven, turn the oven off after 2 hours, and without opening the door, turn the light on and leave the fruit in overnight. Check in the morning to see if the fruit leather is dry. Repeat process, as needed until fruit leathers are 100% dry or allow to finish drying at room temp should any moist spots on the leather remain.

Cut dried leather into strips, and roll. The parchment acts as an insulator and protects against further drying out. Store in your cupboard.

Lemon & Olive Oil Preserved Asparagus Recipe

It's full on asparagus season. Those verdant stalks are a dime a dozen these days, so while I full encourage GORGING on them any chance you get (morning omelet, shaved raw in salad, in my awesome lettuce + pasta dinner & of course grilled) I also highly encourage you to do some preserving this spring! True confession: before I moved to Washington as a 20-something, I had never eaten asparagus. I grew up in New York and while we ate vegetables at every meal, asparagus was never one of them. It wasn’t until I started working in the Seattle restaurant industry in the late ‘90s that I got into the swing of things and started looking forward to our local asparagus season. With such a versatile vegetable, the chefs would grill, sauté, steam and bake asparagus, creating a two-month parade of verdant and fresh-tasting dishes.

Luckily for us, Washington is a major producer of the country’s asparagus supply, producing over 22 million pounds annually, making it that much easier for locals to gorge. Sadly, these snappy green stalks are gone too soon—the season never lasts as long as I like.

The solution to this, of course, lies in preservation. While it’s difficult to keep the crisp in an asparagus spear, the flavors are easy to preserve. Here, a delicious way to put up a spring glut - a preserved asparagus recipe wherein the spears are submerged in flavorful oil. Of course, it’s never a bad idea to quick-blanch and freeze a bag or two. Between jars in the cupboard, containers in the fridge and a handful of freezer bags, you can stock up enough to last nearly until next spring.

Lemon & Olive Oil Preserved Asparagus makes 4 pints | start to finish: about 30 to 45 minutes active time

Asparagus is a low-acid food and therefore needs special care when preserving. Here, olive oil preserves by inhibiting oxygen from touching and spoiling the asparagus. It will not, however, ward off bacteria. To insure you do not introduce bacteria, you briefly pickle the asparagus before the oil bath. The final product is stored in the fridge, as a cool refrigerator will also retard bacterial growth.

To eat this, simply strain from the oil (reserve the infused oil for sautés or salads) and use the spears in salads, soups or as a light snack. I love it for breakfast, underneath an over-easy egg and alongside buttery toast.

5 pounds asparagus, woody bits trimmed 1 ½ cups white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon peppercorns 2 cloves garlic, cut in half 1 cup fresh lemon juice 4 wide strips lemon zest 2 sprigs rosemary, cut in half 2 cups olive oil

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add pint jars (you may need to work in batches) and let sit for 10 minutes to sterilize. Using tongs, remove jars from water and set aside until ready to use.

Measure the asparagus to match the depth of the canning jar, leaving a 1” gap at the top for headspace. For pint jars, the spears should be about 4” long.  Rinse the trimmed spears and set aside in a shallow baking dish.

Add the vinegar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour over asparagus spears, letting them marinate for 10 minutes.
While the asparagus is brining, add the aromatics to the jars. To each pint jar, add equal parts salt and peppercorn, one half a garlic clove, 2 ounces of lemon juice and 1 strip of lemon zest. Set aside.

After 10 minutes, drain the vinegar and pack the pickled spears tightly into the jars. It helps to turn the jar on its side while adding the asparagus. When the jar is nearly full, add one rosemary sprig. Press asparagus together as firmly as possible and pack the jar completely.

Pour the olive oil over the asparagus, tapping the jar lightly on the countertop to release any bubbles. Cover the asparagus by 1/2”, creating an olive oil seal, and leaving about 1/2” of headspace. Place in the fridge to macerate for at least two weeks before eating. Asparagus will last about 3 months.

sterilized jars • store in fridge

Homemade Yogurt

yogurt + bowlHomemade yogurt is ultimately an easy kitchen project anyone can put together with success, as long as you’re willing to accept a little inconsistency……... When I was in elementary school, my mom packed my lunch every day. I wasn’t one of those kids who glamorously got to wait in line for a hot lunch; I was the one with a grease-stained paper bag. On the very rare occasion, my mom would pack up a yogurt cup. I favored the kind with sweetened yogurt on top and jam-like fruit on the bottom.

Thankfully, my taste buds have matured and the thought of pre-sweetened yogurt is cringe-inducing. And while I eat yogurt daily, I never considered making it at home until my friend Lynda eco-guilted me by pointing out my habit creates considerable waste from all the plastic yogurt containers I blow through. This simple statement of fact forced me into the kitchen.

Homemade yogurt is ultimately an easy kitchen project anyone can put together with success, as long as you’re willing to accept a little inconsistency. Made from the binding of milk proteins, homemade yogurt will vary in texture and richness each time you make it. Temperatures, good bacteria and milk fats will vary slightly with every batch you make, so no two will be identical.

To make yogurt, milk is heated to just below boiling and then cooled—a warm jump start wherein good bacteria can proliferate—and then held at a consistently warm temperature for hours. You need to introduce good bacteria (just like bread yeast) to the milk to activate the fermentation process. You can use either non-fat, low-fat or whole milk as all produce excellent results. The biggest challenge with homemade yogurt is maintaining a warm space needed for the milk proteins to bind together. You can incubate warmed milk in a number of ways: storing in a cooler with a hot water bottle, placing in a warm cupboard next to a hot water heater, even using one of those 70s-era plug-in yogurt makers. Over the years, I’ve settled on a simpler technique that doesn’t require special equipment—justyour oven.

After the yogurt sets up in the oven overnight, it is chilled where it will thicken further. Homemade yogurt varies in texture. I prefer a smooth, pourable consistency, but you can easily manipulate yogurt into a thicker, lusher product.  If the final batch is too loose or you are after a Greek-style yogurt, strain the chilled yogurt through a fine mesh sieve at room temperature for several hours. This produces less yogurt (about a pint, depending on just how thick you want it) and a cup or two of whey that you can use in another recipe (try using it to cook polenta).

For a hands on class about homemade fermentation, including how to make yogurt, kefir kombucha and more, check out my upcoming class schedule. Hope to see you there!

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HOMEMADE YOGURT

makes 4 cups | start to finish: 30 minutes active time + overnight rest

6 cups of dairy milk 4 tablespoons plain yogurt with live yogurt cultures

Heat the milk over medium heat until quite hot, but not boiling—about 180 degrees if you’re using a thermometer. Remove pot from the heat and let cool until it’s 115 degrees, still nicely warm, but not immediately hot to the touch.

While the milk is cooling, preheat the oven to 120 degrees or your lowest setting. Turn oven off once it’s been warmed, but do not open the door.

When milk has reached 115 degrees, place the 4 tablespoons of plain yogurt into a large, non-metal bowl and slowly whisk in one cup of the warmed milk. Add the rest of the milk to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover with a large plate or plastic wrap. If using plastic wrap, poke a few holes on top to allow air flow;  if you’re using a plate, air will escape around the edges.

Working quickly, place the bowl in the oven and close the door. Turn on the oven light, if you have one, and let the bowl sit overnight.

In the morning, remove the bowl from oven and test the set of your yogurt. If the yogurt is very thin, like heavy cream, and you’d like it thicker, you may reheat your oven to 120 degrees and place the bowl in the oven for another 4-6 hours. Afterwards, move to the refrigerator to chill completely, where yogurt will continue to thicken slightly.

If you would like a Greek-style final yogurt, set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and drain off the whey. The longer you strain the yogurt the thicker it will become, so be mindful and check the set every hour or so.

Store the final yogurt in a covered glass jar or plastic container in the refrigerator. Yogurt will keep for several weeks. Save four tablespoons as a starter for your next batch.

washed jars • store in fridge

WEEKEND DIY :: Orange Marmalade

marmalade This time of year, the best way to boost your pantry is to step outside our local sources and reach for some citrus. As winter draws to a close, we could all use a little zing, and this recipe for orange marmalade is zingy and versatile.

The secret to a good marmalade is in your preparation. Make sure to leave time to peel and slice your fruit properly, and reserve the seeds for an added boost of pectin. You can leave the citrus rinds as thick or thin as you prefer, but I like long thin slivers in my marmalade. This recipe is a great marmalade basic that will leave chewy rinds suspended in clear orange jelly. You may use any oranges you like. I love Valencias for their heavy juice, or Cara Cara, whose rind smells and tastes like a traditional orange but whose fruit gives a lovely red tone.

This basic marmalade recipe can be modified to suit you with the addition of spices or booze. A splash of bourbon stirred in at the end will smooth out the bitterness of the citrus and give the marmalade some depth. You may also add a vanilla bean to the pot, infusing the fruit with a round sweetness from the beans. A whole clove or two also complements the citrus, offering a bit of warm spice to the jar.

Marmalade is a great pantry staple because of its ability to be served with sweet or savory foods. Use this on your toast, or smear a layer on the bottom of a sweet tart. You can also add fresh garlic and water to the marmalade for a fresh-tasting glaze for fish, chicken, or duck. I also serve marmalade on cheese plates alongside a soft creamy cheese.

Orange Marmalade

Makes about 4 half pints start to finish: 1 hour + overnight

2 pounds oranges, scrubbed 1 lemon, scrubbed 3 cups water 2 to 3 cups sugar

With a vegetable peeler, remove the outer peel from both the oranges and the lemon, avoiding the white pith. When done, stack peels, cut into very thin strips and toss into a large pot. Cut the peeled fruits into halves. Extract the seeds and juice from each half, placing the seeds into a muslin bag and reserving the juiced halves. Pour the juice from the fruit into your pot, along with the muslin bag of reserved seeds. Add all of the juiced lemon halves, and 4 of the juiced orange halves. (Adding the juiced citrus halves aids in adding pectin to the marmalade.) Add the water and set over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking until the rinds are soft, about 30 minutes. Cover the pot and put in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

The next morning, measure the marmalade. For every cup of citrus and liquid, add 3/4 cup of sugar to the pot. Return the pot to medium-low heat and cook down the mixture. Skim off any foam that forms and stir the marmalade often. Put a plate into the freezer for testing the set. Cook until the marmalade gels, 30 to 60 minutes.

While marmalade is cooking, prepare jars and lids for canning by washing in hot soapy water. To test the marmalade, remove the plate from the freezer, spoon a small amount onto the cold plate, and let it sit a moment. Push the marmalade with your fingertip. If a wrinkle forms in the jelly, the marmalade is done. If it is loose and runny, keep cooking and stirring until thickened. When your desired consistency is reached, remove the muslin bag of seeds and the citrus halves, squeezing any excess juice into the pot. You can compost your solids.

Add the hot marmalade to the jars. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and place lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When cooled, remove the metal rings,check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Store in the fridge after opening.

How To :: Homemade Herb Vinegar

Oregano vinegarFresh herbs can get expensive if you’re buying them at the store, so I like to grow my own. I always make sure to use every last sprig. If you have leftover herbs, or a prolific plant that needs cutting back, you can dry herbs for your spice cupboard (see the sidebar “Spice Cupboard” in chapter 6, “Nuts”) or use them to flavor vinegar. Herb vinegars are made of two simple ingredients—vinegar and fresh herbs—and can be made in minutes. Subtle in flavor, herb vinegars impart an undertone of herb along with the tang of vinegar. They can be used in salads and vinaigrettes.

Use fresh healthy sprigs and distilled white vinegar for the best results. Any herb can work—try  mint, lemon balm, basil, or tarragon. Use two sprigs of herb for every cup of vinegar. Add the sprigs directly to prepared jars. (Wash and sterilize jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath before using.) Heat the vinegar until just beginning to boil and pour over the herbs, leaving a bit of head space. Store the vinegar in a cool, dark place for three to four weeks, checking the flavor after two weeks. When the flavor is to your liking, strain and discard the herbs and store the infused vinegar in a cool, dark cupboard. Use glass containers that can be sealed with a lid or cork.

Herb vinegars will keep for three months, longer if refrigerated. Be mindful of any mold or fermentation bubbles—this means the batch is spoiled and should be thrown out. As vinegar has a high acid content, there is no risk of botulism; mold and yeast are the two culprits of spoilage.

HOW TO :: Harvest Rose Hips & Dry for Recipes

rose hips for harvestingWith the recent autumnal frosts, now is the perfect time to collect rose hips. A bit of frost sweetens them up. Rose hips offer a subtle floral flavor to dishes, but their real power is in the health benefits they possess. Rose hips contain more vitamin C then most other herbs - even many times those found in citrus pound per pound. These antioxidant, red globes, are best harvested in late fall and used in syrups or jams. Rose hips look like little tomatoes, often orange-red and shiny. They are more round than long, about the size of a red globe grape. Harvest rose hips by snapping the stem from the plant. They are tough enough that you can toss them into a plastic bag and then a backpack without doing too much damage. Rinse them well when you get home to drown out any bugs and use them within a day of bringing them home.

Following is a quick guide on how to harvest and dry rose hips. Their chewy skins can be used in tonics, jams or recipes. To dry rose hips is quite an effort, but if you're looking for  a slow winter project, this is it. Of course, you can always skip this step and purchase dried rose hips at your local apothecary or herbalist, or order online.

Dried Rosehips makes about 2 cups | start to finish: about 2 hours active time

Harvest 6 cups of rosehips from untreated, wild bushes between late October and mid-November. To begin the drying process, wash and dry them completely. Trim off both the stem and blossom ends. Lay them out on newspaper in a single layer to dry for several days.

After three to five days, cut the rosehips in half, and using a small spoon, scoop out the interior hair and seeds. (Allowing them to dry slightly first makes the removal of the hair and seeds far easier. This process can be long and arduous, but the hairs can be very irritating if ingested.)

harvest & dry rose hipsOnce all of the rosehips have been cleaned, preheat the oven to its lowest setting. Place the semi-dried rosehips in a single layer on a sheet pan and put it in the oven to dry overnight. The drying time will depend on the size of the rosehips, but figure it will take 5 to 7 hours. Rosehips are done when they are entirely dry and hard to the touch.

When rosehips have been completely dehydrated and cooled, add them all to the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until they are coarsely chopped. Do not over process, or the rosehips will turn into a powder. Store crushed rosehips in a glass jar in the cupboard, where they will keep for several months.

washed jars • pantry storage

HOW TO :: Preserving & Canning Apple Pie Filling

applesApples are available all year long, but they are certainly not in season all year long. New crop apples, those that are harvested and sold in the same season, are the best tasting—their juice just contained under firm, naturally shiny skins. To preserve the natural, raw integrity of fresh fruit, buy in bulk when they come into the markets. Boxes of apples are infinitely less expensive than buying a pound at a time, so choose a favorite variety (most farmers offer samples) and load up. For more awesome apple recipes, check out my APPLE COOKBOOK. Apple Pie Filling

makes about 4 pints | start to finish: about 1 hour active time

This simple recipe guarantees you’ll always have the best apples on hand for pie baking. Blanching the fruit before canning them will preserve their crispness, ensuring that they won’t break down to mush when they’re baked. Choose a firm, crisp apple, and mix something tart (Bramley) with a sweeter bite (Spitzenberg). When it comes to baking time, simply pour the apples into a prepared shell and bake, or slice them thin for layering in a tart. Either way, expect to use two pints of filling per 9” pie.

6 pounds apples, cored and sliced 1 cup water 1 cup apple cider 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup apple pectin (available online or in health food stores) 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

apple pie filling

Fill a large stockpot half full with water and bring to a boil. Drop in half of the sliced apples and cover, returning to a boil. Once the water returns to a boil (about 8 to 10 minutes), use a slotted spoon to strain out the apples. Add the slices directly to clean pint jars, leaving a small amount of room at the top. Repeat the process with the remaining apple slices. On a folded-over dish towel (for padding), strongly tap the bottom of each jar on the counter, to help pack down the apples. If necessary, redistribute apples so each jar is full, with 1” of headspace.

In a medium saucepan, add the water, apple cider, sugar, apple pectin, lemon juice, and spices; bring to a boil. Simmer the liquid for 15 minutes, reducing it slightly. Using a ladle or a liquid measuring cup for ease, pour hot juice over the jarred apples, leaving 1/2” of headspace. Gently tap the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and seal the jars. Place them in a prepared water bath and process for 20 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter overnight. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

washed jars • water bath

Pineapple & Mint Drinking Vinegar Recipe

Making Pineapple Drinking VinegarDrinking vinegars, or shrubs, are refreshing beverages made from fermenting a combination of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Last week, in honor of my new SodaStream, I created a pineapple drinking vinegar recipe that is light, energizing and fresh. Shrubs are not a new idea - they were used in colonial America as a way to preserve quick-spoiling fruit. Lacking proper refrigeration, fruit turned quickly. Adding vinegar to the fruit solved the issue of decay and was a means of preservation, as vinegar is high in acid and prevents mold and spoilers from forming. There are no limitations to ingredients that can be combined and preserved safely, so drinking vinegars are a great way to experiment with preservation. I prefer softer and sweeter vinegars - apple cider or champagne work well with many fruits and vegetables.

Products like Bragg's apple cider are a great choice as they have healthy bacteria that is alive and active. (Read: Great for your gut!) Of course, you can also make your own vinegar at home, using a fermentation process. This is a great idea for apple season, and I have a recipe in my Apple Cookbook that is easy to follow and make.

Straining Pineapple Drinking Vinegar

Drinking vinegars and shrubs are alcohol-free, thus a festive option for anyone who does not drink alcohol. Add a spoonful of drinking vinegar to make juices more complex, or go straight for the sparkling water and make a brightly colored fizzy drink. (Here, I have a lot of other lovely ideas for homemade sodas! And here I have additional recipes for drinking vinegar, including one using beets.)

To age, I leave the drinking vinegar out on the counter for several days, covered with a thin linen kitchen cloth. This allows the mixture to breath and ferment, while keeping out insects. The pineapple-mint mixture fermented for five days, but a few days longer or shorter is also fine. Use your nose - when it's strong and yeast-y smelling, call it done.

Pineapple Mint Drinking Vinegar

I use my SodaStream to create fizzy water at home. I went for a big bubble in the water and compressed the machine seven times. The fruit juice is dense and thick and I wanted the water to sparkle in the mouth. To serve, spoon some juice into a glass and top off with soda water. Using more drinking vinegar results in a stronger, sweeter drink. Less is obviously more subtle. I'm in love with my new SodaStream!

PINEAPPLE MINT DRINKING VINEGAR 

2 cups chopped pineapple 1/2 cup sugar or honey 1/2 cup mint leaves 1/2 cup LIVE apple cider vinegar

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a blender and puree until fruit is mashed and mint is chopped fine. Pour into a 1 quart jar and cover with a thin linen cloth and secure the cloth with a rubber band. (This prevents gnats and other insects from getting in.) Leave on the counter for 3 to 5 days to ferment. To serve, set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour in the fruit, pressing on it to release all of the juice. Store any leftover shrub in a covered jar in the fridge where it will keep for many weeks.

HOW TO :: Quince Recipes

quinceSeveral years ago, I received an email from a friend, who had a friend who was giving away 40 pounds of quince. I didn’t even know what quince was back then, but I figured I could preserve it easily enough. I sent an email to this woman I’d never met. Within hours, I found myself driving to Ballard. I rang her bell, she invited me in, we had some tea and I walked away with over ten pounds of quince. Better still, I made a new friend. Every year since, Elaine has emailed me to let me know when her father’s quince tree ripens. I drive to her place, chat about food (last year’s topic du jour—kimchi), and walk away heady with a huge bag of fragrant yellow fruit. Quince is beautiful when poached, roasted or baked but it absolutely shines as a thin syrup or thick paste, and the pulp that cooks into membrillo is a natural byproduct of making the syrup. While the recipes take some time, starting with a large quantity (in this case five pounds) will keep your pantry stocked in quince.

Quince Syrup Makes about 2 pints | start to finish: 3 hours

The flavor of this syrup offers a hint of the floral fragrance that makes quince so appealing. This syrup can be made as thin or as thick as you like. Thinner syrup will take less time, and is best for adding to cocktails or soaking a sponge cake or other dessert. You can also choose not to reduce the liquid at all, and drink it as a refreshing beverage on its own.

10 cups water Juice from one lemon 5 pounds quince, thoroughly scrubbed clean of hair, stems and blossom ends removed

Fill a large pot with both water and lemon juice. Quarter quinces and immediately place into water. When all the quince is cut and added, the water should just cover the fruit. If needed, add more water to cover. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the fruit is cooked all the way through and can be easily pierced with a knife, but is not yet falling apart, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Strain fruit from cooking liquid, and set the fruit pulp aside. Using a fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth-lined colander) filter the cooking liquid to strain out any remaining fruit fibers. Place the strained cooking liquid in a clean pot and set over medium-high heat. Reduce the syrup by about half or until desired consistency is reached. For a medium-body syrup, this will take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Prepare pint jars for canning. Add quince syrup to the jars. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and place the lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When the syrup is cool, check for proper seals and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

washed jars • water bath

Quince Paste Makes 4 thin loaves | start to finish: 12 hours

Quince paste is also known as membrillo, and it’s commonly cut into squares and served alongside cheese. The paste is made from the fruit pulp reserved from making the syrup, requiring only some additional sugar. Note that you will need to commit some time to this project. Cooking the fruit down to a paste can take well over an hour and then it must be dried in an oven. Be patient and know that the effort will be handsomely rewarded.

Reserved pulp from 5 pounds cooked quince, about 8 cups 4 to 5 cups sugar

Place the cooked quince pulp in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Push the puree through a fine mesh strainer. Measure the puree and pour it into a large, heavy pot. For every cup of puree, stir in 1/2 cup of sugar. Set over medium low heat and cook, stirring regularly, until quite thick and paste-like, between 1 and 2 hours. It may stick to the pot as it thickens, so adjust the heat lower as needed. The paste is done when a small spoonful is placed on a plate and no liquid separates out.

While the pulp is cooking, prepare a pan for drying out the paste. You may use a shallow high-walled cookie sheet (such as a half sheet pan or jelly roll pan) or a smaller, deeper glass baking dish (about 11″ x 7″) depending on how thick you would like your sliced paste to be. Just make sure you dish is no deeper than two inches; otherwise the paste will not dry sufficiently in the center. Rub the entire surface with a thin layer of vegetable oil and line with a layer of lightly-oiled parchment paper. Set aside.

Turn oven to 140 degrees or the lowest setting it will allow. Pour the quince paste into your prepared baking pan and bake for 3 hours. Turn off the oven, and leave the paste inside overnight. In the morning, cut a small piece of quince paste to see if it is dried throughout. If still loose and jam-like in the middle, you may need to continue drying in the oven for a few hours more. When the paste is dried through, turn it out from the pan, remove the parchment paper and cut into four to six small loaves for easy storage. Wrap each paste loaf in fresh parchment paper before storing in the fridge, where it will keep for several months.

store in fridge

Originally published in Edible Seattle

Homemade Fruit Leathers :: How To Dehydrate Fruit

_MG_3639Dehydrating fruit is a simple and easy task of little effort, though it does take some inactive time. One of my garden clients has an old and poorly pruned apple tree, resulting in knobby fruit that is not pleasant for eating fresh. Cooked down, however, it made a lovely base for cinnamon & nutmeg scented fruit leathers. I am using a food dehydrator, but you can easily do this project in the oven, finishing to dry at room temp should any moist spots on the leather remain. Here is a photo essay of the process, taken quickly as I was cooking the other day. Six pounds of fruit made about 70 four inch square fruit leathers - perfect for a kids snack or pre-dinner sweet. I split the batch with my friends Ronny & Catherine and their 4-year old daughter, Emerson, LOVED them.

For more apple-y projects, please check out my APPLE Cookbook, which was released this past September. It has great DIY projects like a Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar or Homemade Apple Juice. _MG_3660

As a side note, I recently returned from a trip to see my cousins in Croatia and my 2-year old cousin, Otilia, would often ask for "compote", which is essentially homemade apple juice in a bottle. My cousin leaves out the sugar, just like the recipe in the book, making it a healthy option for kids.

_MG_3720

 

Before dehydrating, you can add edible petals, crushed nuts or citrus zest to your fruit leather for flavor, texture and visual appeal. Here, I am using crushed rose petals from a Rosa Rugosa plant which can be found all over the Pacific Northwest and along many coastlines nationally. Here is a HOW TO on making Rose Hip Sherry._MG_3911

Apple leathers

 

 

 

 

Preserving Plums - Ginger Plum Sauce Recipe

plumsTogether, plums and cherries make a happy marriage of texture and flavor: plums break down easily in cooking, and cherries hold their shape. They are both stone fruits, and maintain a slight almond essence that can be highlighted with a splash of brandy or kirsch. Plums are excellent fruits for both sweet and savory preparations. Broken down into a luscious sauce spiked with Asian flavors, they are easily manipulated into a silky condiment. The sauce also comes together quickly and will take little more than an hour to make and jar, resulting in the perfect jar of preserves for gift-giving. Ginger Plum Sauce Makes 4 to 6 half pints | start to finish: 1 hour

Sauces and savory relishes are an excellent way to add some flexibility to your pantry; this spicy ginger plum sauce has a kick of heat from jalapeno peppers. Use the sauce as a condiment to barbeque with, or as a dipping sauce for grilled meats. Drawing from Asian flavors, this is also exceptional as an accompaniment to summer spring rolls and steamed dumplings. You can easily turn up the heat by adding more jalapeño, or go sweeter with a bit more sugar. Neither will affect the safety of the sauce and can be adjusted to your personal taste.

3 pounds purple plums, pitted 1 cup brown sugar 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced 1/4 cup soy sauce 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and chopped 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Prepare jars for canning. You’ll need to sterilize the empty jars for this recipe. Place all the ingredients into a large pot and set over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until the plums release their juice. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until the fruit breaks down and the sauce thickens. If the fruit is too hot and sticking to the bottom of your pot, lower the temperature. The sauce is done when a small spoonful is placed on a plate and no liquid separates out, creating a ring around the pulp. Total cooking time can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

When the sauce is cooked, add half of the mixture to a blender (or add it all, if you prefer) and process to a smooth puree. Combine the puree and sauce and add to the prepared jars. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and place the lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When the sauce is cool, remove the metal rings, check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

washed jars • water bath

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Plum & Cherry Jam makes about 7 half pints | start to finish: 1 1/2 hours plus overnight rest

Pectin is the plant cellulose needed to set a jam properly. Cherries are a low pectin fruit, so do not easily turn to thick and luscious jam. Plums, however, contain decent amounts of pectin and so work in harmony with the cherries to make a perfect jam. Both fruits tend to pronounce their acidity when cooked, so the sugar amount is important here. Taste as you go, and feel free to add a half cup more mid-way through cooking if the jam seems sour. With a deep red-purple hue, this spread is gorgeous served on toast or over a bowl of morning yogurt.

3 pounds sweet red cherries, pitted 1 1/2 pounds plums, pitted and split in half lengthwise 2 cups sugar 1 lemon, juiced and halved, rind reserved Splash of kirsch or brandy, optional

Place cherries, plums, sugar, lemon juice and one half of the lemon rind into a large pot and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Stir the fruit regularly, and reduce heat to medium-low, holding fruit at a gentle simmer. Cook until cherries soften completely and plums begin to break apart, 20 to 25 minutes. Skim any foam. Remove from heat, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, prepare jars for canning. You’ll need to sterilize the empty jars for this recipe. Remove the lemon rind from the pot and return the jam to medium heat. Put a small plate in your freezer. You will use this later to check the set of the jam. Cook, stirring frequently, until jam is set, 30 to 45 minutes. To check jam set, place a small spoonful on your cold plate and let sit for 30 seconds. If the preserves wrinkle slightly when pushed with your fingertip, jam is set. If preserves do not wrinkle, continue cooking and checking the set every 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.

After the set is reached, add a splash of kirsch or brandy, if desired, and stir to incorporate. Pour the jam into the jars. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and place the lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When the jam is cool, remove the metal rings, check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

washed jars • water bath

Elderflower Syrup Recipe

elderflowerA few summers ago on the highway home from a long weekend at Lake Chelan, I pulled my car across three lanes of traffic when I spotted a tall slender tree hunched over by the weight of its small blue berries. I had noticed the same trees on the way out to the lake, but wasn’t sure they were what I thought they were – elderberries. Some sleuthing in books (yes, I packed my copy of Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples) and a quick bit of online research over the weekend confirmed my suspicion and I made a vow to find some trees on the way home. Yanking my car across the road may have startled my co-pilot (sorry, Katie!) but she forgave me as I scaled up a loose clay hill and threw fat clusters of berries her way. Elderberries! It was like we struck gold and were giddy with excitement. I knew I was going to make syrup and Katie knew she was destined for elderberry tincture (elderberries are thought to be high in antioxidants). With four shopping bags full, we headed home with stained fingers and dusty clothes. These same gorgeous trees produce dense clusters of blossoms in the spring, more commonly known as elderflowers. According to an online index of plants from the University of Washington, the trees can be found from British Columbia to California and typically grow along river banks, and open places in low level areas near a water source The flowers blossom around May, growing in dense clusters. These white flowers are heavily scented and smell of thick honey and sweet pollen. When steeped in water and sweetened, they impart a delicate floral note and make an excellent syrup for sipping (they’re the basis for trendy St. Germain liqueur). I first had elderflower syrup in Croatia, at my cousin’s landlord’s house, with a splash of seltzer. She called it Sirup od Bazga, and taught me how to make it. Now that I know where to find these trees in spades, I’ll definitely be stocking my pantry this year. Drivers east of the mountains, you’ve been warned.

Elderflower Syrup

Makes about 4 cups start to finish: 2 days plus 30 minutes

30 flower clusters 4 cups water 4 cups sugar 1 lemon, zest reserved & juiced 2 teaspoons citric acid (available in the vitamin section of most stores)

Place flower clusters in a large bowl and cover with the water. Make sure blossoms stay submerged and let it sit out on the counter for two days. Strain out blossoms and discard. Over medium heat, heat the blossom-infused water and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Remove promptly from heat and add lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with damp cheesecloth, straining out any residual petals and the lemon zest. Add citric acid, stirring to dissolve. Bottle syrup in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 8 weeks. washed jars | store in fridge

Lucky for us, in the Pacific Northwest we have gobs of edible wilds ripe for picking. Unlucky for us, sometimes you really need to do your homework to know where to look. Good thing, then, that our urban jungle is home to easily identifiable treats from nature. Apples, blackberries—these plants are easy to identify and everyone knows they’re edible. But a Big Leaf maple? I’m betting that never crossed your mind. Seattle plant expert, Arthur Lee Jacobsen wrote about these large maple trees several years ago, and what I recall most about the article is that the tree’s flowers are edible. Like the elderflower, maple trees form heavy clusters of florets each spring, starting in April. Most maple trees are quite tall, so foraging after a storm is a great idea as branches tend to break off. Failing that, put on your climbing shoes. The flowers are lime green and look like tiny pine cones, and carry a soft, round sweetness. Similar to maple syrup, but not nearly as sweet, these blossoms can be made into an infusion (as above), sautéed or eaten raw, but they also make a subtle and delicious quick pickle. These little pickled buds can be added to salads of bitter greens or used as a garnish along with minced shallots and chopped herbs on a grilled steak. They don’t keep long before getting mushy, so are best eaten within several weeks.

++photo credit to Edible Seattle

TGIF Cocktail Hour :: Spring Amaro

SpringAmaro_BlogI've been on a Manhattan kick lately. Any after-hours drink made with whiskey and something bitter has been my go-to for weeks. (I miss you Dry Sapphire Martini!) I'm a huge fan of a dry punch in these cocktails - an extra shake of bitters, a splash of Fernet, Campari or a herbaceous amaro. The bitter quality acts as a digestive, and I like the bracing quality they add as a counterpoint to the sweeter bourbon. Hell, let's be honest….. I'm happy to sip any bitter liqueur simply, over ice. It was such a pleasure then, to recently stumble upon a recipe for homemade Amaro from Beth Evans-Ramos on her blog Mama Knows Her Cocktails. Beth is a prolific speaker and travels the country hosting seminars and classes on gardening - her current focus is creating garden cocktails! Not a bad gig.

Amaro is a technically an Italian liqueur, and is essentially a bitter-sweet infusion of herbs, roots and other earthy ingredients. Sugar is added for a more syrupy quality. And while there are many awesome amaro products for purchase, you can certainly make your own version at home.

Mama Knows Her Cocktails makes a different amaro with every season, taking advantage whatever is in bloom at the time.  Even better, she graciously allowed me to re-post her image and recipe. Here, her version of a Spring Amaro uses lovage (celery-like leaves and a strong flavor that grows well in containers), lemon verbena (a delicate and beautiful floral-lemon herb) and even chive blossoms, which I bet add a bit of kick. Her recipe for the drink is here, though you essentially pour vodka over a boat load of herbs & plants! No big secret, though I'll warn you all plant material MUST be submerged. Oxygen interacting with plants may introduce some funky bacteria to the mix and you don't want to worry about mold or microbes, so just keep it covered. (If your plant ingredients float, you can weigh them down with a rock or plate.)

This takes a few weeks to infuse, so unfortunately you may just need to splash a little vodka in a glass and add soda water & ice for tonight. Or meet me out for a Manhattan. Bottoms up!

 

 

 

Weekend DIY :: Boozy Blood Orange Marmalade Recipe

jams_UrbanPanty. copySundays are a perfect day for a longer kitchen project. We have settled into the ease of a weekend pace, have a bit more time for errands and tend to wind down early in the afternoon in preparation for the week ahead. For that, I introduce Weekend DIY a new article highlighting a small and awesome food project that is easy to tackle on the weekend. This week, take advantage of winter citrus before they disappear. This recipe will keep your pantry stocked for the year.

(Unless you're a marmalade-consuming-monster, that is.) Thankfully, winter is the time of year where citrus shines, and many tree fruits are coming into season. Citrus of all varieties flood the markets in waves – first the Meyer Lemons in December arrive, with Blood Oranges, Cara Cara’s and more following in the new year. For now, grab the last of the blood oranges which are toward the end of their availability and try this boozy marmalade, which I know you'll love. The flavor is a more complex take on traditional marmalade - the bourbon adds an earthy quality that I love. Try this as a side on your next cheese plate (and aged Gouda or Old Amsterdam work perfectly) and the Almond Cracker recipe found in Urban Pantry. You won't regret it!

Boozy Blood Orange Marmalade (photo cred = the impeccable Della Chen Photography) [ Makes about 5 half pints ]

I’m not sure how I got the idea to add booze to marmalade, but the experiment ended up being a success. A splash of bourbon intensifies the flavor and also helps mellow out the sour edge a marmalade can have. The secret to a good marmalade is in your preparation. This is a lengthy process, so I typically make one big batch a year and then call it done. All that outer peel slicing is time consuming, so plan for a couple of hours, at least. Making this marmalade in stages helps to break it down. If you can’t source blood oranges, use lemons instead, which are in season at the same time.

2 pounds blood oranges, scrubbed, peeled, halved, and juiced (seeds reserved in a muslin bag) 1 lemon, scrubbed, peeled, halved, and juiced (seeds reserved in a muslin bag) 3 cups water 2 to 3 cups sugar 3 to 4 tablespoons bourbon

With a vegetable peeler, remove the outer peel from both the oranges and the lemon, avoiding the white pith. Cut the peel into very thin strips and toss into a large pot. (Wider pots are better for jammaking than deep pots.) Pour the orange juice and lemon juice into the large saucepot, along with the muslin bag of reserved seeds. Add the peels, the lemon halves, and 4 of the orange halves. Add the water and set over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking until the rinds are soft, about 30 minutes. Cover the saucepot and put in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Measure the marmalade. For every cup of citrus and liquid, add 3/4 cup of sugar to the saucepot. (So, 4 cups of citrus equals 3 cups of sugar.) For every cup of citrus, measure out 1 tablespoon of bourbon and set aside. Return the saucepot to medium-low heat and cook down the mixture. Skim off any foam that forms and stir the marmalade often. Put a plate into the freezer for testing the set. Cook until the marmalade gels, about 30 minutes to an hour (depending on how wide your saucepot is).

Prepare jars for canning. To test the marmalade, remove the plate from the freezer, spoon a small amount onto the cold plate, and let it sit a moment. Push the marmalade with your fingertip. If a wrinkle forms in the jelly, the marmalade is done. If it is loose and runny, keep cooking and stirring until thickened. When your desired consistency is reached, remove the muslin bag of seeds and the citrus halves, squeezing any excess juice into the saucepot. You can compost your solids.

Add the marmalade to the jars. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and place lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When cooled, remove the metal rings, check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year.

Pantry Note: This marmalade is a consummate pantry staple because of its ability to be served with sweet or savory foods. Use this on your toast, or smear a layer on the bottom of an Almond—Butter Tart. You can also add some fresh garlic and water to the marmalade for a wonderful marinade and glaze for fish, chicken, or duck. Spread some on the meat and cook according to directions. I also serve marmalade on cheese plates alongside a soft creamy cheese. Store in the fridge after opening.

Washed jars; water bath (directions online here.)

Spiced Apple Chutney Recipe

spiced apple chutneyI've been knee-deep in apple season already this year, eating them fresh and dehydrating some for snacking. Varieties come and go as the weather changes, and some are only available early on so you have to grab them while you can. (Like this petite Akane apples from eastern Washington.) Preserving is a great way to extend the season and I've been teaching around Seattle this fall. This recipe is included in my recent book, APPLES - From Harvest to Table from St. Martin's Press. It makes good use of hard and bitter cider apples, but any firm apple will do. My brother & his family just harvested Jonamac's from an orchard in upstate NY and I think they'd be perfect, too.

spiced apple chutney, from APPLES - From Harvest to Table

Chutneys are savory fruit-based spreads often used in Indian cuisine. Here, apples are perfumed with commanding winter spices. This fragrant chutney has a bit of a heat from red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. Cider apples make the best chutney, as they are tart and firm and hold their shape after cooking.

Suggested varieties: If you can’t find cider apples, substitute another firm apple like Granny Smith or the English variety Bramley's Seedling.

Makes about 6 half-pint jars

2 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped 1 teaspoon salt 2 pounds cider apples, cored and cut into small dice 12 whole cloves 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1⁄2 teaspoon curry powder 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom 1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 2 teaspoon mustard seeds, coarsely ground 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger 1⁄2 cup raisins
1 cup apple cider vinegar 1⁄2 cup brown sugar

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and salt and sauté until the onion starts to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the apples and sauté until they start to brown, another 10 to 12 minutes. Add all of the spices, ginger, and raisins, stirring for 2 minutes to incorporate. Add the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the mixture is thick and the apples are very soft but still hold their shape, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Fill clean, sterilized jars with chutney, leaving ½ inch head space. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and top them with lids and rings, being sure not to tighten the rings all the way. Leave a bit of torque so air bubbles can escape. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them all cool on the counter. Once the jars are cool, make sure the seals are secure. Sealed jars may be stored in a cool dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

APPLES - From Harvest to Table - my new hardcover cookbook is here!

I'm writing so many books this year, that I'm sure your head is spinning by now. I know mine is! Last winter, I was asked to write an APPLE cookbook and I jumped at the chance. Apples are one of my most favorite things to cook with, everyone seems to love them AND I needed a winter project. Perfect math! 12593_Apples_MECHS[cover].inddThis cookbook is a hard cover (!) with a nice, bendable binding, which means you can open up to your favorite recipe and the book will stay open. It has apples recipes for breakfast, appetizers, salads, dinners, preserves and of course, desserts. I worked thoughtfully to ensure that these recipes would be new to most - a collection of recipes to inspire getting in the kitchen all year long. (Although, there IS an apple pie recipe, but it's my brothers favorite and a real winning dish!)

 

APPLES is also filled with gorgeous pictures of many of the recipes. It's practically a coffee table book it's so gorgeous! For that alone, you should order a copy today. They make great gifts, too!

This from the publisher... There is something to please every taste with a range of recipes including:

    • Apple-caraway soda bread
    • Apple & red lentil steamed dumplings
    • Hard-cider-braised short ribs with apple slaw
    • Whole wheat apple & yogurt cake
    • Traditional apple butter, homemade apple cider vinegar and more

APPLES is filled with helpful practical information regarding which types of apples are better for snacking or baking, heirloom varieties such as Cortland and Macoun, and regional apple guides and resources.  Pennington also includes fun and easy apple based crafts like homemade applesauce and dried apple stars that kids and parents will love.  This charming collection will give you plenty of new ways to enjoy an old favorite.

And some outtakes from the fab photo shoot with food photographer, Olivia Brent, who deserves a standing ovation for these gorgeous shots.

 

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DIY Drying Racks - How to Build a Drying Rack for Food Preservation

Drying ChamomileMy friend Patric is a regular Mr. Fix-It. He taught me how to use an electric drill and build raised beds when I first starting my gardening business. He also happens to be a restaurateur, and his first restau- rant was this beautiful Italian place that he practically built by hand. One afternoon, I was in the basement where all the prep tables are for the kitchen. Behind the table where cooks were filling ravioli was an entire rack of screens used for drying the pasta. I took one look at them and immediately thought they would make awesome drying racks for leaves and seeds. 

Drying out herbs and seeds is a fairly easy process, but it takes time and is more successful when you use drying racks. Air circu- lates around all sides of the plant, so they dry out faster and more evenly. Handmade drying racks can also be used for drying out tomatoes or fruits. And in the winter, you can use racks for laying out handmade pasta.

Although Patric made me my first set of racks, they are quite simple to make, and you can gather most materials from a quick trip to the hardware store. You can also keep your eyes open for salvaged wood. You will need to purchase a small length of screen, however. A densely woven chicken wire (1⁄4-inch) or length of fine mesh screen will work well. Chicken wire works great for herbs (and pasta.), whereas a screen (because it’s woven so tightly) is best for drying out seeds. Both materials can be purchased at your local hardware store. Ask for chicken wire or window screen.

 

I like a large rack so I can spread out multiple stems simulta- neously and not have them overlap. You can, of course, adjust the dimensions to fit your space.

For this project you are basically building two picture frames and sandwiching chicken wire between them. The two frames will have opposing joints, which will offer more support to the overall construction.

drying nettlesMaterials

- Electric drill - Staple gun - Two 8-foot lengths of 1-by-2-inch furring strip—this is an untreat- ed piece of timber available at any hardware store - Eight 1.75-inch coarse-thread drywall screws - Eight 2.5-inch coarse-thread drywall screws - Chicken wire cut to 23.5 by 17.5 inches. Use a good pair of scissors and be sure that you cut rough edges from the chicken wire. You do not want any jagged edges, so cut as close as you can to the outside wire, leaving a smooth edge.

 

Directions

- Cut the following lengths from the furring strip using a handsaw or electric saw (you can also ask a salesperson at the hardware store to cut this for you):a. For the first frame, two 24-inch lengths of furring and two 16.5-inch lengths.b. For the second frame, two 22.5-inch lengths and two 18- inch lengths.

- Assemble the frames: take both 24-inch furring strips and stand them up so they are on their narrow edge and sitting tall. Fit both the 16.5-inch pieces in between the 24-inch pieces, completing a frame-like shape. The overall dimension of your frame will be 24 by 18 inches.

- Screw the frame together on all four corners, using the 13⁄4- inch screws. I recommend that you first drill a pilot hole, using a 3⁄32-inch drill bit. You should now have one completed rectangular frame.

- Repeat the same process using the 22.5-inch and 18-inch lengths. Make sure the
8-inch pieces are the outside pieces of your frame. (Slip the 22.5-inch pieces between the 18-inch pieces.) You will now have two frames of equal size.

- Lay the chicken wire on screen across the back of one of the frames and anchor to the back of the frame with a staple gun in several places.

- Sandwich the second frame on top of the chicken wire so the sides are stacked and perfectly even.

- Using the 2.5-inch screws, screw the two frames together; be sure to make pilot holes first. Evenly space the screws, using two on each side of the frame.

 

If you're not up for building anything, there are two other excellent options for a drying rack frame. One is shabby chic and will look rad. The other is the laziest version imaginable, but it will work. The shabby chic option makes use of old salvaged windows. Salvage yards have stacks of these, and they are typically pretty cheap. Choose a frame that is light and easy to lift and move around. I always opt for a brightly colored wooden frame with chipped paint. I love the look. Yes, old paint does tend to have lead in it, but you’re not collecting or using the frame in any way conducive to ingesting paint chips. If you’re genuinely concerned, it’s best to build your own. Be sure to choose a frame made of a material that can be pierced with a staple gun—no ugly metal window frames!

Über-Chic Drying Screen

You can use a salvaged window frame or a picture frame for this project. With either, remove the glass pane. (You can use as a cold frame for another garden project.) If using a picture frame, remove the cardboard backing, as well. Stretch a length of screen taut across the back of the frame, leaving an inch of overhang. Starting in one corner, staple gun the screen to the back of the frame. Be sure to continue pulling the screen taut as you work. Trim any excess screen with a pair of sturdy scissors. To use as a drying rack, set the screen on top of four blocks, bricks, books, and so on. Raising it slightly allows for proper ventilation.

Über-Lazy Drying Screen

Drying rackYou can also use an old salvaged window screen. Salvaged goods depots often have these by the truckload. They are not the prettiest things, and you will need to set them up on blocks or bricks so air circulates underneath them, but they will work. If you go this route, be sure to wash your screen very, very well in hot soapy water fol- lowed by a dip in a bleach bath. Use one capful of bleach for every gallon of water. Screens used in construction are often quite dirty and may contain trace amounts of lead or other not-good-for-you ele- ments. Know, also, that these thin screens can tear easily. Patric didn’t think I should use them at all, due to their flimsiness, but they are completely functional. Just make sure not to bang them around too much. Use blocks or bricks to prop up the four corners. This allows for proper air circulation, which aids in more even drying and helps to prevent mold growing from moisture.

Canning How To - Prepping & Sealing Jars

urban pantryCanning 101EXCERPTED FROM URBAN PANTRY
 BY AMY PENNINGTON (SKIPSTONE 2010)

This is a step-by-step guide to water-bath canning at home. There are a few options to choose from, but all work well. Be sure to set up your jars and workspace beforehand so you can establish a rhythm. Also, be mindful of the processing times given in each recipe.

For recipe inspiration, check out my tested recipes for Boozy Blood Orange Marmalade, Spiced Apple Chutney or Foraging & Preserving Nettles. Or here for tips on preserving fruit in alcohol.

CLEANING JARS
  Wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water and set them to dry completely on a rack or on a clean dish towel.

PREPARING JARS
  Glass jars and lids do not need to be sterilized before use if your foodstuffs will be processed more than 10 minutes in a boiling water bath or pressure canner. If jar-processing time is 10 minutes or less, jars must be sterilized before filling.

Do this by placing jars in a canning pot, filling with water, and bringing water to simmer. Hold jars in water until ready to use. Conversely, I always hold just-washed jars in a 225-degree oven until ready to use. This is not recommended by the USDA, but I’m still alive to give you the option.

FILLING THE JARS
  All canned goods will need headspace to allow for expansion of the food and to create a vacuum in cooling jars. As a general rule, leave 1/4-inch of headspace on all jams and jellies and 1/2-inch of headspace on all whole fruits. When using whole fruits, release air bubbles in just-filled jars by tapping the jar on the counter or by inserting a wooden chopstick or skewer into the jar and gently stirring the fruit.

Canning Peppers

When placing lids and rings on canning jars, do not overtighten the rings. Secure just until rings have tension and feel snug. Overtightening will not allow air to vent from the jars—a crucial step in canning.

HEATING THE CANNING POT
  Fill your canning pot or a deep stockpot half full of water and heat to a low boil. Hold the liquid on a very low boil until ready to use.

FILLING THE CANNING POT  
If using a canning pot, place prepared jars of food on the rack in the canner. Do not stack, as you need to allow for circulation of water for proper sealing. Lower jars into the canning pot, and add enough water to cover the jar tops by an inch or more. Cover the pot and return to a boil. Processing times begin once the canning-pot water is brought back up to a boil. This can take as long as 15 minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on your pot and a timer nearby. 

You may also use a deep stockpot (best only in small-batch preserving) by lining the bottom of the pot with a dish towel and placing jars on top. This helps keep jars from clanging around on the bottom of the pot or tumbling over onto their sides. This form of canning is not universally recommended or endorsed by the USDA. I have seen plenty of farmers and European country folk use this old-school technique, and I’ve adapted their laissez-faire ways.

REMOVING SEALED JARS  
Using a jar lifter, or a set of kitchen tongs, remove jars from the canner when the processing time has elapsed. (Remember, processing times begin once the canning-pot water is brought back up to a boil.) Set jars aside on a folded towel to cool. Make sure you do not press on the tops and create an artificial seal.

Knowing when jars are sealed. You’ll hear the sound of can tops popping shortly—a sign that a secure seal has been made. Once the jars are cool, check the seal by removing the outer ring and lifting the jar by holding only the lid. If it stays intact, you have successfully canned your food. If the seal is loose or broken, you may reprocess in the water bath within twenty-four hours. (Be sure to replace the lid and check the jar rim for cracks or nicks and replace if necessary.) Conversely, you can refrigerate the jar immediately and use within three weeks.

LABELING AND STORAGE
  Once cool, label all jars with date and contents. [After years of frustration with lame labels, I designed canning labels that are cute, functional & don't leave sticky glue behind.] Successfully sealed jars should be stored in a cool dark place, such as a cupboard. Officially, canned goods keep for up to a year, but I have let them go a bit longer with little effect.

preserved lemon + label