I grew up in the Mohawk Valley of Upstate New York, where apples abounded. In the autumn, we’d go to one of the local orchards to pick our own. I especially loved the crisp, sweet-tart Macintosh apples, which have the perfect combination of satisfying crunch and flavorful juice.
For the last 22 years, I’ve lived in Northern California, and while the produce here is generally unparalleled, our apples are, at least for eating out of hand, pretty lackluster. Some may have the right crispness, but are either puckering-ly sour or insipidly sweet. Others may have the right balance of flavor, but suffer from mealy texture.
However, the one surefire way to conjure up the flavor of the apples of my youth is by cooking them down into a rich, smooth apple butter. Slathered on an English muffin or swirled into a warming bowl of morning oatmeal, it transports me back in a single bite.
Continue Reading Everything’s Better with (Apple) Butter
In preserving, as with most things, it’s all about the right tool for the job. To the untrained eye, one mason jar may look more or less like another, and while it’s true they all get the job done, each has its strengths. For example, wide-mouth jars with shoulders are particularly good for when you need to pack things in and not have them float, like pickles or whole fruit. I have a cache of more than 50 quart jars that we use almost exclusively for our annual tomato-canning extravaganza. And while you can never have enough half-pint jars for jams, I also really love the tiny 4-oz. jars expressly because they make quick, cute and inexpensive gifts.
But there are two jars that have particular use: The Ball 12-oz. quilted jars and 24-oz. pint-and-a-half jars. Each of these is 50% larger than their standard counterparts (half pint and pint, respectively), and each has a straight, cylindrical profile. This, then, makes them perfect for canning long, narrow things, like asparagus — and green beans.
When I’m feeling a bit peckish, I don’t grab candy. Salty snacks and crackers have a siren song, but even then I can navigate those waters. No, my ultimate go-to bite is a pickle. It ticks all the boxes: Cool, juicy, salty, tangy. And if it can be a bit spicy, so much the better. Dilly beans tick all the boxes. You can settle in front of the tube with a big bowl of popcorn; I’ll curl up with a jarful of these slender, spicy spears.
Continue Reading Bean There, Jarred That
Use summer's best blueberries to make Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter from the cookbook Food in Jars.
With summer in full swing and farmers’ markets overflowing with ripe produce, this is the time of year when people in the know go canning-crazy. And with this must-have summer cookbook, Food in Jars, by canning-blogger and FN Dish contributor Marisa McClellan, you could be one of those people this year. Marisa likens preserving to investing in the stock market, where you buy low and sell high: You buy in-season fruits and veggies when they’re at their peak and relatively cheap and then reap the rewards year round with jars of can’t-be-beat preserves. All it takes to get started is Marisa’s precise, easy-to-follow instructions and no-fail recipes.
In Food in Jars Marisa includes all the basics, like jams, fruit butters, jellies and marmalades, and also savory preserves like pickles, salsas and relishes. Also not to be missed is the chapter on preserving tomatoes — who doesn’t long for the taste of summer tomatoes all winter long? And then there are recipes for whole fruits, like peaches, apricots and plums. Plus, with Marisa’s friendly voice, stories and helpful tips, you’ll feel like you’re canning along with a friend.
Continue Reading Cookbook Giveaway: Food in Jars
You know you want to make this delicious, booze-spiked peach butter.
Eating a ripe, juicy peach is one of summer’s best gifts. (Thanks, summer!) But — and I hate to be the one to bring this up — these little balls of edible sunshine aren’t going to be around forever. Savor delicious summer peaches on a dreary winter day (or next week, at least) by making this booze-and-spice-spiked peach butter. Here’s how you do it.
Continue Reading Make Your Own Bourbon Peach Butter
I’m absolutely crazy for stone fruit. From the moment the first cherries come in, I quiver in anticipation of what’s to follow: sweet-tart plums and pluots, gushingly juicy peaches. I most look forward to the apricots, seductive and demure.
I could eat a bushel of them right out of hand, but apricot jam is my favorite, bar none, so every year I hunker down and make a bunch. Apricots don’t need much; their flavor blooms as you cook them down, but they also take nicely to a little spice. A few peppercorns, some cardamom, perhaps half a stick of cinnamon all bundled into a cheesecloth sachet will leave a subtle undertone to your jam. But if you want to create something special, crack open a few of the apricot pits and toss the kernels into the sachet.
Continue Reading Going Ape for Apricot Preserves
I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for those Day-Glow red maraschino cherries that lurk in the murky depths of the classic Manhattan. They’re nostalgic, and always good for a bar bet if you can tie the stems with your tongue. But let’s face it: They don’t really taste much like cherries. Or, for that matter, anything but sugar. And red.
In the interest of having a cherry that tastes like a cherry, consider making your own maraschinos. It really couldn’t be easier, other than the grueling effort of pitting the stubborn little buggers. (This can be greatly expedited by employing eager, young hands and one of these swank tabletop cherry pitters.) Or not: You can leave the pits in some or all; they lend a pleasing, almond-like flavor to the final product. That flavor happens to come from – ahem – cyanide, but it’s in quantities small enough to be merely delicious, not deadly.
Continue Reading Cherry Condition