How to Grow Your Own Sprouts

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones dropped in today to share her experiences sprouting seeds! This is such a fun project. -Marisa

With the late onset of spring here in Philly, I’ve been craving fresh flavors and textures. Trying my hand at fresh, homegrown sprouts seemed like the perfect food project for April.

In order to get sprouts, you need to start with seeds. You can pick up bags of seeds and beans grown specifically for sprouting, like alfalfa, quinoa, adzuki, and others, by the ounce or by the pound. I ended up going for The Sprout House’s sampler pack, which includes about two ounces of 12 different kinds of sprouts, all certified organic, and followed their guidelines for home sprouting. I’ll spend the next few months cycling through all the different kinds to see which are my favorites.

Large, wide-mouth quart jars are best to use for this project. And since the jars of sprouting seeds need to be covered but allow air flow, I also picked up a fresh batch of cheesecloth. The one I got was a little more tightly woven than what I usually use — after trying it for sprouting, I’d probably stick to using a few layers of a cheesecloth with a more open weave in the future, just to make sure there are openings enough for drainage and airflow.

If you don’t want to use cheesecloth — the only drawbacks I noticed were that it’s not reusable and it will temporarily smell a little funky if you accidentally let it sit in water — there are a ton of special wide-mouth jar lids, like this one Marisa wrote about last year, to try out, too. And if you’re using cheesecloth, grab some snug rubber bands or sturdy kitchen twine.

The last piece of equipment I’d recommend is some kind of shallow, walled container, one for each jar, in which you’ll tilt your jars so the seeds won’t sit in standing water.

I selected three kinds of seeds from my sampler pack to start with: quick-growing broccoli and alfalfa and slower-growing sunflower (truth be told, my dream microgreen).

When you’re ready to sprout, pour a tablespoon or two of seed into your quart jars  — what you see here started with 1 tablespoon of each kind of seed.

Before you soak, start by sanitizing your seeds in a 1:10 solution of bleach or hydrogen peroxide and water for five minutes. (This step is recommended by the FDA for home sprouters and required of commercial sprouters.) Then, drain the seeds and rinse them in fresh water three times.

Once your seeds are sanitized, add water to submerge your seeds, then let them soak overnight. In the morning, drain your seeds, rinse them, and drain again so that no water will be left standing in the jar. Top with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band, or use a sprouting lid.

Here’s where those shallow containers come in. Place your covered jars of rinsed sprouts into the containers so that they’re leaning open-end-down, which will allow any excess liquid to drain out.

Rinse your seeds once in the morning and in the evening, being sure to drain them well and replace them leaning down in the container. Check the container before each rinse to make sure there’s no standing water accumulating in there, either.

By day three of rinsing twice a day, I definitely had sprouting, as you can see in the photo of the alfalfa seeds with their tiny, just-emerging shoots.

By day five, both the broccoli and the alfalfa sprouts were ready to eat. I transferred them to a fresh container with half a paper towel in the bottom and put them in the fridge. They were delicious on my bagel with some herbed fromage blanc this morning — crunchy, fresh, green, and nutritious.

Unfortunately, despite the same treatment, the sunflower seeds didn’t do so well. The Sprout House’s were hulled for easier sprouting, but I wonder if some of the seeds had been damaged or were otherwise not viable. Only a few sprouted, and the sprouts were small, not like the tall, juicy sprouts I buy at the farmers’ market. I’ll do some research and give sunflower sprouts a try again.

But for now, I’m happy to snack on my broccoli and alfalfa sprouts, which I’ll be putting on salads, sandwiches, toast, and tacos all this week — maybe even in a green smoothie.

Have you tried sprouting seeds before? What are your favorite ways to eat sprouts?

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Cookbooks: Southern From Scratch

I have spent more than a few moments in my life wishing that I came from a place or background with a well-defined food culture. My culinary identity is a decided hodgepodge of mid-century Jewish cooking, hippie whole grain, and 1980s west coast home cooking. While the food that issues forth from these influences is reliably good and occasionally exceptional, it isn’t really grounded in place or culture.

Because I feel culinarily untethered, I often find myself gravitating to cookbooks that offer insight and exposure to more rooted ways of bellying up to the stove or kitchen table. One such book that appeals to me both on this level, and on the preserving front, is Ashley English‘s latest, called Southern From Scratch.

This is Ashley’s most personal book and it does a gorgeous job synthesizing her own food experiences with the Southern kitchen know-how taught to her by her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Truly, from the moment you open up the cover, you feel like Ashley is there, guiding you along through the recipes.

This book is organized by pantry category (Pickles & Relishes, Sauces & Vinegars, Fats & Meats, etc.). Within in chapter, you’ll find a collection of master recipes (depending on the chapter topic, you’ll find as few as four and as many as twelve). Each master recipe then has a couple-three sub-recipes, designed to help you make the most of it.

There’s quite a lot in this book that speaks directly to my preserve-loving heart. There’s the Sweet Onion Relish (page 35 – I’m forever on the hunt for the best onion preserve), Muscadine Jelly (page 71 – we get these for a brief window each summer), Chile Sauce (page 107 – this recipe has a particularly lovely headnote), and the Southern Shakshuka with Hoecakes (page 123 – this just sounds delicious).

I think you all are really going to like this book!

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New Amber Jars from Ball Canning + Discount Code from Fillmore Container

Curious about the new amber Ball jars? Use the code “BALL5%OFF” on Fillmore Container to get 5% off all Ball jars.

Spring is here! The birds are chirping. Daffodils are blooming. New-born lambs are gamboling. And this year’s line-up of specialty mason jars from Ball Canning are now available.

This year, these specialty jars come in three sizes (pint, quart, and half gallon) and are made of sturdy amber glass. Unlike previous colored jars, these amber ones are designed to block 99% of harmful UV rays, which can help maintain quality, color, and fragrance in preserves, dried herbs, and tinctures.

One thing I like about these jars is that they glass is so opaque that it doesn’t appear to discolor the contents of the jar, it simply conceals (unlike previous generations of colored jars, which left your preserves looking a little sickly).

I also appreciate how thick and sturdy the glass feels (while I haven’t pulled out a measuring device, I believe that the walls might be a bit thicker than in other Ball jars). The only downside to their opacity is that if you use them for canning, you really need to label the jars well, because you’re not going to be able to intuit the contents without opening the jar.

This week, I’ve teamed up with Fillmore Container, to show you how these jars perform in a canning situation and offer a discount code (read on!), in case you want to get some of your own. I cooked up a batch of this strawberry ginger jam and processed two of the three pints the recipe made in these new amber jars.

The reason I chose to use these jars for strawberry jam is that it’s a preserve that is notorious for its tendency to discolor, particularly if made with lower amounts of sugar. My hope is that six months from now, these jars will still be vividly bright.

Now, you might be wondering why I’ve teamed up with Fillmore Container to tell you about these new jars, rather than with Ball Canning. The reason is this. Ball isn’t selling jars or appliances directly to consumers anymore. If you’ve been over to Fresh Preserving lately, you might have noticed this.

However, Fillmore Container has one of the largest selections of Ball jars available online (and they are a family-owned company based right here in Pennsylvania), making it easy for you guys to get your hands on these jars.

This week, you can use the code “BALL5%OFF” to get 5% off all the Ball Jars that Fillmore Container sells. This coupon is valid April 23, 2018 through April 30, 2018. You do need to be logged into a user account on the Fillmore Container site for the coupon code to work (an account is free to set up) and the discount does not apply to shipping.

I definitely feel like these amber jars have a place in my kitchen and pantry and I’m happy to have them as an option. What are your thoughts?

Disclosure: Fillmore Container is a Food in Jars sponsor and provided the jars pictured in this post at no cost to me. 

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Cookbooks: Bring It!

I have long believed that when it comes to entertaining, most people can roughly be broken down into two groups. There are potluck people and dinner party people. My friend Cindy is most decidedly a dinner party person. She likes to control the menu and create an experience for her friends. I am more of a potluck person. I love the uncertainty of inviting people to bring with them whatever they’re moved to make.

I have definite opinions of what makes a good potluck dish (ideally something that can be served at room temperature and can be eaten from a plate with a fork). I’m forever curious about the recipes that other people prefer for potlucks and so make a point of checking out new potluck cookbooks whenever one is published.

The latest book on the topic to come to market is Ali Rosen’s Bring It! Ali is the force behind Potluck Video, a video series that you can find online and on NYC Life on Thursday nights.

This book is broken up into seven chapters. It opens with an introductory section that offers tips on How to Bring It. From there, it moves into Hors d’Oeuvres and Dips, Salads, Casseroles/Pastas/Tarts, Meats and Fish, Veggies and Grains, and Desserts.

There’s plenty of appealing food in this book (though I find the photography style a little unsettling. The lighting feels excessively artificial). In addition to the dishes pictured throughout this post, I’ve marked the Grits Casserole (page 106), the Cherry Tomato Tart (page 117), and the Farro with Charred Vegetables (page 188) as things I hope to make.

If you’re someone who attends regular potlucks and needs new inspiration, this book will certainly be of use!

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How to Make Paneer Cheese

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here today to show us how to make homemade paneer cheese with just two simple ingredients – milk and lemon juice! Reading this post immediately makes me crave dairy products! -Marisa

Slices of homemade paneer cheese

We often preserve to capture height-of-season flavors or produce we can’t get for most of the year. But oftentimes in my kitchen, preserving happens in an effort to curb food waste.

That’s how I first learned to make paneer, the springy, fresh cheese that shows up as the protein in some of my favorite Indian dishes. It’s one of the quickest dairy products to make, and also one of the easiest. All you need is milk, lemon juice or vinegar, and a little salt.

Milk and lemon juice for homemade paneer cheese

One of the reasons to make cheese like this is to use up milk that’s right at or even a tiny bit past its sell-by date. Just make sure to give it a good sniff and then use your good sense and best judgment.

That said, when the list is so short, using the best ingredients you can afford is always a good idea.  I source whole raw Ayreshire milk from a small grass-fed dairy here in southeast Pennsylvania, Wholesome Dairy Farms, for both drinking and making value-added dairy products.

Milk separating into curds for homemade paneer cheese.

I find that even when I’m pasteurizing the milk for a recipe, the yields on items like yogurt, whole-milk ricotta, and paneer are higher, and the product just tastes better when I’ve started with raw milk. We’re lucky that raw milk is so available in Pennsylvania. If you can get your hands on it from a reputable source in your state, I recommend doing so, even if you plan to pasteurize it in your recipe.

While we’re heating the milk for this recipe far past the pasteurization point, it’s still a good idea to remember that the very young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems carry a greater risk when consuming unpasteurized milk products.

Pressing the homemade paneer cheese.

To start your cheese, pour one half gallon of milk into a four-quart, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my enameled Dutch oven). Heat the milk over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and feeling along the bottom of the pot with your spoon to make sure that it isn’t scorching. Keep a close eye on the pot so that it doesn’t boil over.

You want to get to a little below the boiling point, about 200oF. You can use an instant-read or milk thermometer for this, or you can watch for when tiny bubbles start to form on the surface of the milk. When you see the bubbles, immediately remove the pot from the heat.

Pressed homemade paneer cheese in the strainer.

Once you’ve reached the proper temperature, stir in lemon juice. This will cause the milk solids to immediately begin separating out. As the milk sits, the solids will continue to coagulate.

Strain the curds, then press out the remaining liquid in cheesecloth or butter muslin (I prefer butter muslin for home cheesemaking since it’s washable and reusable; cheesecloth is one-time use only). Press and refrigerate the cheese for at least a half an hour or overnight.

Homemade paneer cheese, unwrapped from the butter muslin.

Once the cheese is full drained, unwrap the bundle. Now you’re ready to add chunks of paneer to a curry or other dish, or — my favorite — fry slices up in some ghee and enjoy them with flaky sea salt and maybe a dollop of tomato jam or a slab of quince paste.

Bits of fried homemade paneer cheese.

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Cookbooks: Eating From the Ground Up

I the kind of cook who tucks vegetables into nearly everything I cook. My turkey chili always includes wilted Swiss chard. I prefer my eggs perched on a bed of sauteed spinach or zucchini. And if I’m making a sandwich, I pile it high with sliced cucumber, lettuce, and ribbons of carrot. This habit of mine doesn’t always thrill my husband (he grew up with a mother who was less of a produce pusher than mine), but after 10+ years together, he’s gotten used to it.

All that said, I confess to having a somewhat limited repertoire of vegetable dishes. I rotate through steaming, roasting, and sauting most things. This gets the job done, but can lead to a certain weariness. However, recently my vegetable cookery has received a much-needed shot in the arm.

This is all thanks to Alana Chernila’s gorgeous new book, Eating From the Ground Up. Many of you might be familiar with Alana’s previous books, The Homemade Pantry and The Homemade Kitchen, as well as her blog (it shares a name with this new book).

What I love about this book is that it tackles vegetables from a number of different directions, all with delicious results. The book opens with a section entitled Barely Recipes. These are ideal for busy weeknights, when you need to get dinner on the table and value speed and flavor.

After that, you’ll find A Pot of Soup (filling and deeply savory), Too Hot to Cook (perfect for deep summer, when it doesn’t take much to make a flavorful meal), Warmth and Comfort (many of these make a main dish out of veg), and the final chapter, Celebrations and Other Excuses to Eat With Your Hands (with a title like that, it needs no additional description).

This book should be on your shelf if you keep a backyard garden, shop farmers markets, subscribe to a CSA share, or simply love vegetables. It’s one that I know I’ll turn to again and again.

Thanks to Clarkson Potter, I have a copy of this lovely book to giveaway this week. Please use the widget below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book and the giveaway copy at no cost to me. No additional compensation was provided and all opinions are entirely my own.

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