Tag Archives: preserving

Review: Beyond Canning by Autumn Giles

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The other day I received a copy of Beyond Canning by Autumn Giles, who writes about home cooking, gluten-free goodies and preserving (among other things) at the beautiful blog, Autumn Makes and Does. I am thrilled, as I’ve been following her for years, and it’s so nice to see all of her work in an amazing book. Said book has been joining me all over the place, as I like to have something to read wherever I go. Waiting to pick up my kid at school? You won’t find my nose in my phone, I like a book, thank you. And this companion was so chock full of information that I was entertained for hours, like a kid with a box of Legos. Fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs, sugar and vinegar, jars and bubbling ferments? I’m in!

The feel of a book is important to me, and I like the size and feel of this book–very much like a workbook, and I loved the very sturdy paperback construction of it. It travels well and can be trotted into the kitchen, perching neatly on your cookbook stand. (You don’t have one?) I’m a stickler for how cookbooks are organized, and if it isn’t intuitive, I get a little cranky. I love how balanced this book feels, with three main sections providing structure for the techniques explained within. These three sections are sweet preserves, pickling and fermentation, and each one has detailed instructions on how to navigate the various procedures necessary. The photography is beautiful, and the over all feeling of the design is bright and airy, like a sun-soaked kitchen.

You can tell that Giles has poured all the years she has spent fine tuning her obsession for local foods and preserving the bounty into this book. One of the maybe not so obvious bonuses about this book is that a few years back  Giles moved from New York to Arizona, so that both coasts are represented, with a special shout to the southwest. She uses her journalistic chops to really explain all the processes, and I don’t think she has left anything out. For the beginning preserver this kind of obsessive attention to detail is paramount. Yet, the book remains relaxed and friendly in tone, and is never boring or stuffy.

I had a glut of cherries from last year sitting in my freezer, so I decided to make the hot and sour preserved cherries which sounded delicious. My cherries were frozen, hence they deflated a bit, so I turned the preserve into a jam pureeing it a bit, so that the texture was less stewed cherries and more of a spread. I am in love with adding a kick of cayenne to cherries. It’s my new spicy sweet spread, and was just perfect on buckwheat toast with Greek yogurt. I also see it as a spicy sandwich spread, maybe with sliced chicken and melted cheddar cheese.

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There were many recipes that caught my eye, in particular, the radicchio and sunchoke kraut. As soon as I dig up my sunchokes, I will try this out. Who would have thought to marry radicchio and sun chokes? There’s so many surprising combinations, like celery and black pepper shrub, alongside more comfortable ones, like pear cardamom butter. Enough so that this book can keep you interested for a long time. There is also a lot to like about the small batches theory that Giles works with: to can or not to can is a decision totally left up to you.

I know I’ll be keeping this one in the kitchen for the whole summer, in preparation of all the fruits and vegetables that will soon be coming my way! This review is part of a virtual blog tour for Beyond Canning, so don’t just take my word for it. This list is the group of cooks and preservers who are also enjoying and discussing the book. There are also a few giveaways, so make sure you check them all out to see if you can snag a copy of the book, gratis! Otherwise, you can always buy a copy for your favorite preserver here.

3/7: Food in Jars
3/8: Punk Domestics
3/9: CakeWalk
3/10: Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking
3/11: Snowflake Kitchen
3/14: Good. Food. Stories.
3/15: Heartbeet Kitchen
3/16: Brooklyn Supper
3/17: The Briny
3/18: The Preserved Life
3/21: Hitchhiking to Heaven
3/22: Hola Jalapeno
3/23: Cook Like a Champion
3/24:  Local Kitchen

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review by the publisher, Voyageur Press.

Pear Cider Syrup

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The fall is well on its way–foliage is now at what I see as its second peak. The first peak is when the leaves are screaming their bright colors, but there is still enough green that all the colors sing. The second peak is a bit more subtle, rich, not as demanding of your attention. Everything has more or less turned, many leaves are down, and a subdued wash covers the whole countryside. Last week was the first, and quick, wave, glorious fall days full of sun and blue skies.

The beginning of this week we had a serious cold snap. When I woke up at 6 a.m. the thermometer outside read 25 degrees. That is cold! A hard frost killed some soft basil left in the garden, turning it black. As my son and I walked to the bus stop, leaves were dropping at such a pace that it looked like snow falling. Large flakes of golden and orange snow. It was beautiful. I couldn’t stop watching it. I took several videos, but as always it fails to grasp the real magic of it. This is where the second wave starts–the more mellow peak.

What is it about autumn that so captures our sense of wonder and appreciation of beauty? Is it that it goes by so fast? “Wow, that fall just dragged on by, didn’t it?” Said no one ever. Every day there is a newness that most people’s eyes can’t resist. We are all feeling so great, even though it’s almost winter! How can that be? Is it some kind of drug the leaves are putting out in their last moments on earth that lulls us into this good feeling?

I have read that feeling gratitude is a good way to keep your mood on the upside. It has been easy with all the bounty that is falling our way, along with the leaves. My porch is filled with baskets of various apples, pears, tomatoes, chestnuts, drying herbs, and mushrooms. I feel a little bump of joy every time I pass them by. Such abundance! Lucky us! The fridge is also full: with soups, and stocks, and ciders. As soon as I clear something out, there’s something new to fill the void. Sometimes it’s a bit too full. There’s a lot of planning and thinking regarding all this food, and thankfully for me, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

The other day I bought a half-gallon of pear cider, which is always a treat for our family. You don’t see it as often as apple cider, which we also love. But this pear cider was a bit flabby, as they say in wine tasting circles. It was overly sweet, with no acidity to make it lively. Even my son, who, like most kids, loves cloying sweets, didn’t want to drink it. What to do? Why, make cider syrup of course.

This is super easy, a non recipe, a method. All you do is boil the cider down until you have syrup. You will boil it so much that you think it’s not going to work. A half-gallon will turn into a half-pint. But you are just boiling out water, and leaving all the good stuff, so it takes a while. All that sweetness that we couldn’t drink, turned into a slightly caramelized, glossy and thick syrup that I can’t wait to drizzle on vanilla ice cream (maybe that ice cream is on top of a slice of pear pie?), or use in an autumnal cocktail with rye whiskey, or maybe even tossed with some sautéed carrots in place of maple syrup? There are a lot of possibilities in that little jar of concentrated fall.

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Basil Salt

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The serious preserving season is upon us now, and the sweet feelings we felt towards the first tender vegetables of the season have long since gone. I’m not sure I need to see another green bean for a long while, to be honest. This summer was incredibly dry, which had its upsides. The bugs weren’t that bad, for one. However, the acorns seem to be dropping very early this year, and as I write this on the porch I can see a yellow leaf from the linden tree gently falling to the ground. It doesn’t bode well for colorful fall foliage–a dry summer means early leaf drop.

I’ve already pulled most of the cucumbers, mostly because they seemed finished. This dry summer did them in– they became bitter because of my uneven watering, I must admit. I have never tasted anything so bitter! This year’s cucumbers were also sneaky. I lost many a cucumber to gigantism. I know–there are ways to pickle even those large yellow sneaks, but I’ve done it before and I don’t feel it’s worth the investment of time. Into the compost they go. The potatoes are all up, and buckwheat has been sowed in their place to help out a new patch of garden soil I opened up this year. The potatoes break up the soil, and the buckwheat will bring nutrients. And so it goes.

This year’s garden was the most unambitious yet, mostly because I felt like the garden needed a rest. I barely had any tomato plants (well, there are nine–six were given and three were volunteers–but who’s counting?), and I devoted large patches just to herbs. For almost ten years I have been gardening this patch, and I thought that now would be a good time to give it, and, truth be told, me, a rest. I already feel success in that I am looking forward to next year’s garden. I hope the soil feels the same.

I am quite busy with work these days so the preserving I do for the home must be tamed. When I am outrageously busy it’s often something I bring upon myself. How many times have I not been able to resist a half-bushel of fruit one minute, only to be petrified later by the hours ahead that I must devote to putting it up. Restrain yourself, I say to myself. It gets easier as one gets older and tireder.

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One of the things I need to attend to is the basil. There is quite a bit of basil. I know some folks could eat pesto all the time, but I’m not one of them. I do love it, but the jars of it loaded in the freezer seem to lose their luster after a few months. This year, to take care of the glut of basil I have, I did my typical armchair preserving and made basil salt. Simply take a few large handfuls of clean, dry basil and maybe a half cup of kosher salt and blend them together in the food processor. I was scared this was going to turn black, as basil often does, but it stayed bright green. Keep it in a jar in the fridge. It has been delicious sprinkled on tomatoes, eggs cooked any way, and I’m sure it will be helpful over the winter, seasoning already canned tomato puree and a top of many a pizza. A little goes a long way, maybe all the way into next summer.

Review: Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book by Sherri Brooks Vinton

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Future pub pickles.

I’ve had this book,  Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book by Sherri Brooks Vinton, sitting next to my left elbow on my desk for quite a while now. It’s an in-depth Q&A book on preserving in all it’s forms: canning, freezing, drying, fermenting and infusing. It seems fitting to review this book now, at the beginning of my canning season. Brooks Vinton, author of two previous Put ’em Up books (Put ’em Up! and Put ’em Up! Fruit) is a tireless advocate for preserving local foods. She’s a long time believer, and it seems evident to me that she is on a mission to educate people about preserving.

This might sound obvious, but spend some time with the table of contents when you start this book. I’m a jump to the middle kind of reader and with this book you might get confused by an overload of (good) information. The contents really nicely organizes all the parts and chapters, so that it’s all very clear and easy to follow. Then you can jump to the fun stuff like recipes for Pub Pickles made with malt vinegar, and Avalanche Sauce, for when you have a ton of tomatoes to process, both earmarked in my copy for August.

I really like that this book tackles questions–there are so many questions with preserving, and canning in general. It’s great to have all those answers in one place, pleasantly addressed in a conversational tone.  It’s a book that provides a real service, and if you don’t have access to classes in your area, this is a great place to begin a preserving journey that usually starts with lots of questions.

I also feel it has a lot to offer the seasoned preserver. Sometimes you know things, but can’t quite articulate them. Although I have been doing jam-making demonstrations for years now (I will be jamming at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market this July 13), I am beginning to teach canning classes this year at Ulster BOCES, and it will be nice to review all of the questions I might have to field before I teach my classes!

Do you have any preserving questions?

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Back in March!

 

Spring Tonic Vinegar

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All the little green things are coming out now, and it’s so exciting to greet them all, even the weeds. Of course, weeds are nothing but plants that you don’t want, and a lot of them have worth even though they take over your strawberry patch. I missed my chance to eat all the bittercress when they were green and tender; they are already stalky and flowering, and I can’t keep up with pulling them out. Eating your invasive plants is a good way to take care of them! Do you have a lot of bittercress? You might want to check out this recipe for bittercress salad from The Three Foragers, based in Connecticut. But you can also google bittercress recipes and you’ll find quite a lot!

I love learning about new weeds that are edible. Just the other day I was clearing out the stone wall that runs along the edge of our driveway and pulled a weed that is so pretty and deep green it seemed a shame to waste it. Well, that intuition was correct, because later on that day I was on Instagram and saw that @raganella had posted a picture of that exact weed, and I found out its name was cleavers. Upon looking it up I learned it had tonifying properties and is used to cleanse the lymphatic system. Now I’m not pulling it anymore!

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Cleavers

These bitter and spicy spring greens have long been used by people to cleanse the digestive system after the winter. This morning I went out to pick garlic mustard (an invasive that’s best when young), dandelion greens, onion grass, and cleavers. I decided to to make a spring tonic vinegar. Lately I’ve been inspired by Pascal Bauder’s Facebook page, an endlessly enthusiastic forager who, among other things, makes some gorgeous vinegary elixirs. I just cleaned my greens and covered them in white vinegar and we’ll see what it tastes like in a few weeks.

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Spring tonic

Some older posts of mine from What Julia Ate on foraging:

Garlic Mustard Soup

Sheep Sorrel and Seedling Pesto

Update: as per @raganella, dry the cleavers for tea. Or as a cold infusion when fresh: “Just take a few sprigs and put in a mason jar with cold water. Let steep an hour or so.”

Something from Nothing

Something from nothing.

Yesterday, I sat by one of the West-facing windows in the house to watch the sun set over the ridge. One of the things we note in our house as the seasons change is the position of the sun as it moves back and forth behind the ridge. We know that when it’s really deep winter the sun will be nestled in the v where the two ridges form a valley, and that, as the days get longer, the sun slowly moves over the mountain back towards the West. It’s been almost ten years that I’ve watched this back and forth, and it never seems to get old. As I sat in the window seat, the sun was brilliantly yellow, and as it dipped lower and lower you could see it shining through the leafless trees on the top of the ridge. I was surprised at how tall the trees seemed, as the sun shined through them for such a long time. But then it dipped below the mountain, always such a stark difference of a minute ago when the sun was still bright. Lately, the sunsets have been lovely, perhaps because they seem to linger a little more than what we’ve become accustomed to. The pale blue offsets the pearlescent orange-pink of the cloud’s underbellies as they rest above the horizon.

This is an interesting time of year, as we wait for spring. And much more so after such a brutal and long winter, which started in earnest before Thanksgiving. A little while ago, I talked about emptying the freezer and the pantry, and it’s still going on. It’s been fun, and forces some creativity, which I enjoy. And I see friends of mine enjoying it too—Local Kitchen, Cookblog and Mrs. Wheelbarrow are on the clean out or making do with what they have and are full of great ideas. Being creative during these times, when we are really low on local goods, is helpful for making it through the doldrums of late winter.

Sometimes I force myself to really clean out the fridge. It’s a game: I do not allow myself to go food shopping until I really have to. The other day I really got down to the nub, but still managed to prepare a really satisfying meal. This is where a well-stocked pantry comes to play. I am never without anchovies, always a one-two punch in your corner. You might sauté cardboard in garlic and anchovies, and I would be happy to eat it. I happened to have a head of romaine and some parmesan, so I made a Caesar salad, which is never turned down in our household.

Out came the canned jars of tomatoes, for the pizza. Out came the frozen roasted plum tomatoes. I made dough, of course, and made two pizzas: one plain for my son, and one with roasted tomatoes. We had a little mozzarella left, and that was supplemented with some parmesean. But what of me and my new found gluten-free diet? I have not yet graduated to a gluten-free pizza, or to a gluten-free flour blend for that matter. I’m not sure if I will even go there. For me, I made a quick batch of ricotta, served with more roasted plums, Arbequino smoked olive oil, and Maldon salt. It was outrageously good—soft and creamy, smoky and rich with umami from the tomatoes and olive oil. I also made myself a small bowl of tomato soup, from the more liquid-y part of the canned crushed tomatoes that I used for the pizza sauce. And a total bonus: I used the whey from the ricotta for the pizza dough.

It’s funny how meals like this give a home cook like me so much joy! Here’s a couple of other things coming out of the pantry, both freezer and larder alike, in my gallery below.

Freezer Burn

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Black and blue.

Freezing is one of my favorite ways to preserve food. I’m sure I like it best because it’s quick and easy. I just throw things in, especially when summer is at it’s peak of abundance. However, this leaves me with a chest freezer full of strange stuff. Like last week’s post talked about using up the jars in the pantry, it’s also my goal to use up everything in the freezer but soon. I swear I’m going to do it by end of April. Because last year I forgot to defrost the freezer. Bad preserver!

I started in earnest yesterday, and you can see what I’m doing via Instagram. There’s some mass preserving going on. Lots of fruit is finding it’s way into jam jars (making my earlier pantry conundrum a little more complicated!). I have a few jams prepped; one of them is the above blueberry-blackberry. I am really excited for this one. It’s surprising to me to think of a jam I haven’t made, but it actually happens a lot!

I had quite a few bags of citrus peel that I had intended to make into candied peel, but I just didn’t have it in me. I pulled them all out of the freezer. Some of them are now in the basement steeped in white vinegar to make citrus cleaner. And some, these lovely rangpur lime skins below, I decided to dehydrate. They came out so gorgeously orange, and retained their smoky citrus-y smell. Sometimes, when you are faced with the urgency of figuring out what to do with your food, you come up with some great ideas. I am thinking an herbal tea blend with these beauties.

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Helen platter by Mondays.