Submit your October Mastery Challenge Here!

Hello Mastery Challenge participants! I know it seems a little strange that I’m posting this submission form right on the heels of the monthly intro. The truth of the matter is that because of my busy-ness, we’re well into October and I wanted to make sure the form was here for those folks who are more on top of things that I am!

This month, we’re focusing on both drying/dehydrating and pressure canning. You can choose one topic or tackle them both, depending on your time, equipment and motivation!

The reporting form is below! Deadline submission deadline is Monday, October 30 to be counted in the tally and included in the round-up.

Comments { 0 }

Dehydrating and Pressure Canning for the October Mastery Challenge

Happy October, folks! So sorry that it’s taken me a little bit to get this post up. I spent most of last week in Austin co-babysitting my nephews with my mom and I’m working on a new book, so my attention has been a bit splintered.

Like our challenge back in August, this month is two-pronged. We’re focusing on both drying/dehydrating and pressure canning. The reason for two topics this time around is that I didn’t want to have a whole month dedicated to something that required the purchase of a specialized piece of equipment.

Entry level pressure canners aren’t that expensive (the 16 quart Presto that I use is currently $72 on Amazon), but it’s still a cost. The barrier to entry just needed to be lower. And while lots of people have dedicated dehydrators, drying food is something that be done just about anywhere, with nothing more than a length of string or a rubber band with which to tie and hang a bundle of herbs. So here we are, with two topics.

To participate this month, you can pick just one of the skills, or if you have access to a pressure canner, can be bold and do both. Finally, remember that the goal of this challenge is to help you expand your skills while creating something that you’ll actually use. So choose accordingly.

Drying/Dehydrating

This is one of the oldest food preservation approaches known to humans. Since the dawn of time, we’ve been drying fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats in order to make them last from one season to the next. In the past, we had nothing more than sun, wind, and smoke to effect drying. These days, we’ve added countertop dehydrators, microwave ovens, freeze dryers, and ovens with dedicated dehydrating settings to our toolbox.

For the purposes of this month’s challenge, any homemade dried food will count. I do ask that if you opt for making jerky that you take care and use proper food handling techniques to prevent spoilage (Hank Shaw is always my first stop for jerky info).

  • I am partial to these marinated and dried tomatoes, these dehydrated tiny tomatoes, and these sprouted and dried almonds.
  • For ease of prep and use, nothing beats these air dried lemon peel slices.
  • Making fruit leather with a jar of applesauce spiked with some elderly jam is always a nice way to go, particularly if you have kids with a fruit leather habit (though having just spent a week with a very picky three-year-old, I could see him turning up his nose at fruit leather without a wrapper. Your mileage will vary on that front).
  • This weekend, hit the farmers market and buy a few bundles of herbs. Tie them with string and hang them upside down someplace where they can just be for a week or two. When they’re dry, rub them, tuck them into a jar, and label them for winter cooking.
  • There’s also a bunch of good information on drying food on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website, should you need more detail.

Pressure Canning

Whereas drying has an element of the loosy-goosy about it, there’s no messing around with pressure canning (though truly, there’s nothing to be afraid of). The reason some foods needs to be canned with the help of a pressure canner is that they are low in acid. Without an ample volume of acid, there’s nothing to check the germination ability of any botulism spores that might be present and you could potentially end up with a jar full of danger. For more the role of acid in canning, read this post.

And so, whenever we want to preserve things like unpickled vegetables, meats, stocks and broths, and beans, we call on a pressure canner. A well-vented pressure canner typically reaches 250F, which is enough to kill botulism spores. The amount of time different foods are processed in a pressure canner is typically calculated based on the volume of the jar and the density of the food.

One thing to note is that when you start considering pressure canning, you will need to get your hands on a dedicated pressure canner. Consumer pressure cookers are not designed for pressure canning and cannot be used to preserve low acid foods. Additionally, no electric countertop pressure cooker has been approved for canning (no matter what the infomercials tell you).

For more detail on pressure canning, read the following posts:

Comments { 7 }

October Sponsors: Cuppow, Fillmore Container, EcoJarz, Mason Jar Lifestyle, CanningCrafts, and Mrs. Wages

We are well into October and so it is high past the time when I like to thank the businesses that help make this site possible. Oops! Please do show them that you appreciation their support with your time and attention!  

First up are our friends at Cuppow. They are the creators of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box. Right now, you can get five of the wide mouth lids for just $40. Pair one with a jar and a bag of locally roasted coffee for a really terrific teacher gift.

Lancaster, PA-based and family-owned Fillmore Container are next! They sell all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. As always, their blog is an amazing resource for all things jar-related. Don’t miss this recipe for Gingery Honey Pear Butter (I bet it’s fabulous in oatmeal!).

Our friends over at EcoJarz are on board again this month. They make an array of products designed to fit on top of mason jars, including cheese graterscoffee brewers, and stainless steel storage lids. And though it’s not directly jar related, I love this Stainless Steel Straw Set that they’re selling. It comes with a linen bag and a straw cleaner and is an awesome thing to tuck into your bag if you’re trying to avoid single-use plastic straws.

Mason Jar Lifestyle is a one-stop shopping site for all the jar lovers out there. They sell all manner of mason jar accessories and adaptors. If you’re in the market for lids, straws, sprouting lids, and cozies to transform your mason jars into travel mugs, make sure to check them out. Their cork jar stoppers continue to be one of my all-time favorite jar accessories.

Next up is CanningCrafts. Shop owner Alison sells an array of ready made and custom mason jar labels for all your various preserves, syrups, and backyard honey. I particularly love her line of labels encouraging people to return the jar! When next you need labels for a special project, check out CanningCrafts.

Our friends at Mrs. Wages are on the roster again this month. They make pectin, vinegar, and more canning mixes than I can count. Their website is an incredible preserving resource and I can’t say enough good things about their salsa mix. Look for a post next week in which I make their Pepper Jelly! Such a good one for those holiday gift baskets!

And if your company, shop, or family business is interested in reaching the food-loving and engaged Food in Jars audience, you can find more details here. Leave a comment on this post or drop me a note to learn more!

 

Comments { 1 }

Hot Pepper Hoagie Relish

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops in this week with a recipe for sweet and spicy pepper hoagie relish (for those of you not in the Philadelphia region, hoagies are our version of a sub sandwich). I can imagine lots of delicious ways to serve up this spread! -Marisa

Egg sandwich with hoagie relish

As a kid, I was weird about sandwiches. I didn’t like mayo, and I didn’t like tomatoes. My sandwich of choice in middle school was wheat bread, yellow mustard, and Tofurky slices, with nothing else.

Fast forward 20 years and my tastes have changed — partially, I suspect, because I now live in a city with a strong sandwich culture. Hoagies, whether you get them from Wawa or the corner store, are standard fare here in Philly.

And while I’ll still pick off (or ask my sandwich artist to omit) slices of sad, pink, industrial tomato from my sandwiches, I’ve come to appreciate the components of a good hoagie: slices of tender turkey and cheddar cheese, sweet onion, a ruffle of lettuce, just the right amount of tangy mayo. And those juicy sweet and hot peppers, which add a ton of flavor and set off the other ingredients perfectly.

When a whirlwind of late summer travel meant that I had three weeks’ worth of sweet and hot peppers from my Taproot Farm vegetable CSA stashed in the fridge, I knew I wanted to make something that would help recreate my typical sandwich order without walking the 200 feet to my corner deli.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 8 }

September Mastery Challenge Round-up: Fruit Butters

A post shared by Genevieve Boehme (@genaboehme) on

September is over and so it’s time for our monthly Mastery Challenge accounting. This was a good month for the challenge, with 73 people reporting in that they cooked up a batch or two of fruit butter in order to meet the goals of the challenge.

The array of fruits used was nice and broad. Folks made butters out of apples, apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, figs, muscadine grapes, nectarines, pawpaws, peaches, pears, plums, pumpkins, rhubarb, tomatoes, and zucchini. Those butters were flavored with aleppo pepper, bourbon, cardamom, chai, chipotle, cinnamon, ginger, lavender, lemon, rosewater, rum, and vanilla. And they were sweetened with brown sugar, cane sugar, honey, maple, and sorghum.

Going into the challenge, the feelings about fruit butters were scattered across the spectrum, with a number of folks feeling ok and then really positive about the style of preserve.

Happily, after completing the challenge, nearly everyone who participated feels pretty darn good about fruit butters. That always warms my heart. Sadly, I forgot to include a field for people to leave comments about this month’s challenge on the submission form (oops), so I don’t have any words of wisdom or excitement from participants to share. 🙁

Apple and Pears

A post shared by Karen Burchard (@karenburchard) on

Cherries, Nectarines, Plums, and Peaches

Everything Else

Comments { 1 }

Roasted Seedless Grape Jam

Our intrepid contributor Alex Jones is back with a recipe for roasted grape jam. Just reading this post makes my mouth water!I can’t even imagine how good her kitchen must have smelled during the roasting process! -Marisa

I didn’t taste a Concord grape until I was in my late 20s and buying them from local Pennsylvania farmers to share with members of the Greensgrow CSA. And once I had — while I finally understood what “grape” flavor is meant to emulate — I just couldn’t get down with the seeds. They were too much work to snack on compared to the fat, juicy table grapes I’d grown up with as a kid in California.

So imagine my delight when I found out that when Lem Christophel, a Mennonite who runs Eden Garden Farm in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, brings grapes to my local farmers’ market, they are completely seed-free.

I love them for snacking (these days, I try to leave the California produce as a special treat to help me get through the depths of winter), and last year, I made possibly the most delicious raisins I’ve ever had by steming a few bunches and throwing them in the dehydrator. But I’d never canned them before.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 2 }