Thursday, December 2, 2010

Canning Journal and a Class - Canning for the Holidays! - Weekly Email


Happy holidays to all ... I hope that Thanksgiving was enjoyed by everyone. I had a very nice holiday with my family and I am looking forward to more celebration as the holiday season continues.

Of course, I've remain busy at the Farmer's Kitchen. We're now selling baked goods for holiday - if you are having an office party or family feast, what is better than some baked goods featuring local farmers' market produce?

And speaking of holidays, Happy Hanukkah! This Sunday we will be serving latkes with sour cream and applesauce we canned a couple of months ago.

Someday I'm going to have to do a newsletter devoted to that pantry must-have, applesauce. Seriously, applesauce is something everyone should keep in their pantry - it is extremely versatile - but enough about applesauce (for now).

I'll finally be getting around to making my turkey stock tonight from the two turkey carcasses taking up room in my refrigerator. I think that I'll be freezing the stock, rather than pressure can it, because I'll probably be using it sooner rather than later, and I won't have too much.

Of course, I've been doing a lot of canning at the Farmer's Kitchen (over 60 pints of lemon squash concentrate the last two weeks)! This has really re-emphasized to me the need to keep a journal of my canning. When your shelves start to fill up with canned goods, it is not only important to label the jars, but to keep a good record of what you did so you can repeat successes and avoid less-than-perfect results.

What information should you keep? Name, date and ingredients are the most important. I like to write where I got the key ingredients as well (i.e., Scattaglia Farms' Arkansas Black Apples for my apple butter). The recipe is crucial. I'll either write out the entire recipe or a reference to the recipe in a book with any modifications I've made. Processing method and time come in handy. Finally, notes are very important.

For example, last spring I made a raspberry-based jam. One batch I strained the seeds out, the other I left the seeds in. Needless to say, the seedless jam required more berries than the one with seeds. Because I kept notes, next year I'll know how many berries I need to make either version. When you do a lot of preserving, this is the sort of detail that you forget the next year.

A journal can save you from making the same mistakes and remind you of your past triumphs. Canning journals - start one if you haven't already.

As for me, I'm ready to make the leap from a simple spreadsheet to a database for my canning journal. Is there anyone on this list interested in helping me develop a canning journal/database? It would be an open source project we could share on the internet for all the canners out there. If you have some database experience and are interested in helping, email me.

It has been awhile, but I would also like to announce that I'll be holding two "Canning for the Holidays" classes at the Farmer's Kitchen. Both classes are the same, so you only need to go to one. They are both on Saturday, Dec. 4th (in 2 days!) and Dec. 11th, from 9am - 1pm (4 hours). Snacks and beverages will be available, and you'll take home some of the items we can. From the class description:

"Learn the basics of jam and jelly making just in time for you to create homemade gifts for the holidays. This small, hands-on class covers food safety, elementary canning techniques, and simple, but delicious recipes for preserves using fresh produce from the farmers market. Other gift ideas using canning jars and preserved foods will also be covered. Space is limited."

The cost is a bargain at $75, paid when you come, so please don't sign up unless you are certain to attend.

You can sign up here:

That's it for this week - I look forward to seeing some of you at my class.

As usual, if you have any questions about canning, pressure canning, fermentation, dehydration, freezing, pickling, curing, smoking or brewing, feel free to email me at: ernest.miller @

Be sure to check out the blog, which hasn't been updated in awhile, but I plan to do some updating (probably):

And/or join the Facebook group:


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Proposed LAUSD Menu for 2011-2012

I've been talking about the new proposed 2011-2012 menu for the LAUSD and how it is a significant step forward from previous years, but unless you've been to the meetings, you haven't seen it. So, I'm posting my version of the document (since LAUSD hasn't provided an electronic copy yet). [The original wasn't much better formatted.]

Obviously, this is merely a rough first draft so we need to focus on fixing some of its deficiencies but keep the advances.

The proposed 2011-2012 menu: Here [PDF]

LAUSD Seeks Assistance with the 2011-12 Menu

This past Friday, October 15th, several members of the community met with representatives of the Los Angeles Unified School District to discuss the, dare I say, revolutionary changes to the 2011-12 school menu.

Present at the meeting was Jennie Cook of Food for Lunch, Nicole Feenstra of and Walter Smith and I represented SEE-LA and the Farmer's Kitchen. LAUSD was represented by David Binkle, Deputy Director for Menu Compliance and Florence Simpson, Senior Food Service Supervisor.

Read on for my notes on the meeting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Observations and Suggestions on LAUSD School Menu

Below is the memo I sent to the LAUSD based on my analysis of the existing school menu.

To: David Binkle
From: Ernest Miller
CC: Mark Baida
Date: Oct 13, 2010
Subject: Observations and Suggestions on LAUSD School Menu

First I would like to thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the nutrition and health of our schoolchildren. This issue is very important to me and I am excited to be part of the process.

Second, I am aware of the extreme constraints you struggle with to feed such a large population of students with such meager resources and limited physical plant. Thus, some of my suggestions may be more aspirational than anything.

In a related note, my experience and knowledge base concerning your operation is rather limited, so my suggestions and observations may be faulty on a number of levels. Hopefully, a discussion of these issues will assist in improving the quality of future suggestions and observations.

Herewith my suggestions and observations:

1. Seasonality
I believe that seasonality is a critical aspect in menu planning and healthy eating for a number of reasons. Among other things, it ties us to the land and the production of food that seasonless industrial food production does not. In teaching good eating habits, seasonal produce is better tasting and less expensive. Quality seasonal ingredients need less cooking to produce a quality output. It forces us to think more about our food, where it comes from and how we consume it. I could go on, but you get the idea.

In addition, seasonality can be used to tie school gardens into the cafeteria. Although school gardens will never produce enough food to be anything more than a small supplement to the school meal programs (if they get in at all), it is possible to add seasonal recipes that mimic what is being grown in the school gardens, thus reinforcing what the school gardens are doing. For example, if carrots are being harvested in the school garden, we should ensure that some variation on fresh carrots are being served in the school cafeteria. This will require coordination between school gardens and FSD, but it will be possible.

Seasonality can also be used to coordinate with other programs, such Farm-to-School and Harvest of the Month.

2. Localism
There is no acknowledgment of local sourcing for any of the menu items. Though it won't be possible for the entire menu, it would be good to highlight when local sourcing is used.

3. Cultural/Historical
There doesn't seem to be much social studies built into the menu, especially considering the rich cultural history of Southern California and our diverse cultures.

4. Salads
The only salads I see on the menu are daily spinach side salads. I believe there is opportunity for more variety and seasonality in side salads. Perhaps it might also be possible to occasionally have a salad as an entree option? I'm not talking salad bar, but potentially a composed salad. There are limitless possibilities for savory fruit salads, grain salads of all sorts, bean salads and pasta salads.

5. Soup
Soup is nutritious, inexpensive and often a healthier option but is not on the menu. The possibilities for stews, chilis, gumbos, paellas, jambalayas and curries is also rather large, but not utilized.

6. Fish
Fish seem underutilized on the menu. Additionally, are the fish nuggets sustainably farm-raised or …?

7. Pork.
Outside the sausage, perhaps, pork is not part of the menu.

8. Breakfast
Hot cereal is not an option – but there is a lot of potential for hot cereals and healthy toppings.
Yogurt is not noted as a breakfast option.
Though it is undoubtedly popular, Frosted Flakes doesn't seem like a good selection for cold cereal.

9. Whole fruit?
Is whole fruit available, particularly for secondary school?

10. Beans and grains
With the exception of the bean and cheese burrito, there doesn't seem much in the way of legumes and other grains on the menu. Such items as black beans, black-eyed peas, and red beans are all excellent sources of nutrition and are inexpensive.

11. Whole Grain Pastas
The menu doesn't indicate that the pastas are whole-grain. If not, I'm sure you've considered the switch.

These are some of my more general comments, I have a number of more specific questions and observations about particular menu items, but will reserve those for our discussion if appropriate.

I apologize for the poor formatting and organization, but I wanted to get these notes to you before our conversation this afternoon.


LAUSD - Cafeteria Improvement Committee Meeting Notes - 2010-10-11

The monthly Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Cafeteria Improvement Committee meeting took place this past Monday, October 11th. This committee has been meeting for several years, but recently there has been an increase in interest in the issue of school nutrition, and the committee has become more popular. It is open to the public, so parents and other concerned citizens can provide their input as well.

Now is actually quite an exciting time to participate on the committee because not only is there increased interest in the topic, but the LAUSD is preparing to make some of the biggest changes in its school menus in its history.

The committee is chaired by Dennis Barrett, director of LAUSD's Food Service Division. David Binkle (Food Service/Menu Compliance) also represented LAUSD FSD.

Unfortunately, other (should be) interested parties from LAUSD were not represented. Facilities Service Division, which is responsible for the construction of new schools and modernizing existing schools was not present. There was some discussion about getting them involved, but it seems that Facilities hasn't been much interested in hearing the committee's suggestions on providing adequate kitchens, food distribution designs and eating accommodations.

Did you know that in many of LAUSD's secondary schools there is no indoor seating for students to eat? There might be a few covered, but unwalled areas, but no seating area free from weather (yeah, it doesn't rain much in Southern California but, sheesh) and competition from pigeons. Yes, school plans take years to come to fruition, but the childhood obesity epidemic isn't going to be solved in a couple of years. We need long term planning. We need Facilities Service Division to make adequate access to good food for students one of their priorities.

Also conspicuous by their absence was anyone representing principals and other school administrators. One of the biggest problems for students having adequate access to good food is that they don't have time to eat it. Principals are notorious for limiting meal hours in order to maximize classroom hours. Instead of several lunch periods, administrations will schedule a single lunch period, forcing thousands of students to overrun the cafeteria at once and leaving many hungry at the end of the thirty-minute period. On the other extreme, some schools are scheduling lunch as early as 10am, well before students are hungry for lunch. Frankly, the way some of these schools schedule lunch, if the students were employees the schools would be in violation of state labor standards for adequate breaks.

There were many representatives of community organizations. Matt Sharp of California Food Policy Advocates was there, of course, along with several of his co-workers. Elizabeth Medrano of Occidental College's Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) and head of the Healthy School Coalition was also there along with other members of her coalition. I could go on, but lack of time prevents me from continuing.

There were a number of students of Professor William McCarthy, Adjunct Professor of Public Health at UCLA, present as observers (for class credit). Hopefully, many of them will choose to move from observation into action.

The beginning of the meeting was an overview of the lunch program and the financial status of the Food Services Division (dire) for those who were new to the committee. Just a couple of years ago, the School Board determined that part-time employees of the FSD, who usually worked 15 hours a week would work a minimum of 20 hours a week and be entitled to full medical/dental/vision benefits for them and their families at no cost. While this might have benefited the employees, it meant that the money available for student meals dropped from 86 cents a meal to 57 cents. It has since climbed back to 77 cents due to contracting reforms and other efficiencies implemented by FSD, but that is still less than adequate for healthy meals for children.

The most important item on the agenda was the unveiling of a proposed 2011-2012 menu for the schools. It is amazing. Not perfect, by any means, but a revolutionary move forward. Seriously, revolutionary. No longer will pizza, chicken wings and bean/cheese burritos be the mainstay of the diet, but increased fruits and vegetables in a wide variety of culturally relevant preparations. Jambalaya, quinoa salad, black bean soup, black-eyed pea salad, and vegetable manicotti are just a few of the healthy dishes proposed for this new menu. Of course, this is just a proposal, and it will be the mission of the menu planning committee to see to it that the menu is implemented as much as feasibly possible.

The menu planning committee is meeting this coming Friday, Oct. 13th. I'll report more on the new menu then.

See my next post for the recommendations that I made based on the old menu.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Grape Jelly - You Really Ought to Try Making Some - Weekly Email


It has been a busy week at the Farmer's Kitchen as I settle into my new job. I'm really having a good time.

This past Wednesday the Farmer's Kitchen and SEE-LA were participants in “Good Food for All,” a fundraiser for a dollar matching program for farmer's markets. EBT (aka “food stamp”) holders will soon be able to come to a farmer's market and get a matching dollar for every dollar they spend in the market. Not only do those in need get access to more fresh produce, but the farmers also benefit from the increase in spending. It is a win-win-win program (those who donate win because their donations do double duty).

The benefit was also the public unveiling of the report from the LA Food Policy Task Force: “Good Food for All” and the launch of the Food Policy Council, which is tasked with implementing the recommendations of the task force. The report is a must for anyone interested in creating a viable, local and sustainable foodshed here in Los Angeles. Read the whole report here:

I was excited just to be at the event, meeting and interacting with some of the top chefs and farmers in the greater Los Angeles metropolis. And, heck, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ate some of the food I prepared.

Just to let you know, we prepared Baba Ganoush (using some of the last of the summer eggplant) and Muhammara (peak of the season red bell peppers and walnuts just coming into season) with farmer's market crudités (in order to really highlight the wonderful produce we get from local farmers). We also made goat cheese crostinis topped with roasted cherry tomatoes. The goat cheese (from Soledad Goats) had not been refrigerated, since it had been made just that morning. How cool is it to work with ingredients like that?

We brought some of our preserves to display, of course, but I was excited to see some other preservers at the event as well. Chef Akasha Richmond of Akasha Restaurant fame was sampling some of her preserves there. They were all excellent, but her McGrath Strawberry Jam was amazing!

Last word on the event … I just want to give a shout out to all the members of this email list I saw there! How wonderful that so many of you care so much about food policy here in Los Angeles. Thanks for coming!

Ok, so perhaps these emails will digress a bit from food preservation, I can't help but be excited about my new position. On to the food preservation.

Go into any supermarket and look at their preserves. Inevitably, even in the smallest store, you will see two items: strawberry jam and grape jelly (usually made from Concord grapes). Most preservers try their hand at a homemade strawberry jam and discover how much better homemade is compared to the commercial product. But how many of you have made grape jelly at home?

If you haven't, you really ought to give it a try. The stuff in the store is flavorless compared to the incredibly rich, deep flavors you can achieve at home.

First, if you want some amazing grape jelly, you need to start with good grapes. Supermarket Thompson Seedless isn't going to cut it. Go into your local farmers market to find grapes with real flavor (and don't worry about grapes with seeds, you're going to be juicing them anyway). Concord is the classic, of course, but there are many other grapes varietals that can blow your socks off when turned into jelly.

And don't forget to check with your gardening neighbors. I know someone who is growing Gewurztraminer grapes on a North-facing slope in the City Terrace neighborhood. Maybe next year I'll get a chance to harvest some for jelly making. Or, check Craigslist. I saw an ad a few weeks ago from someone with homegrown grapes they needed taken off their hands here in the LA area.

Of course, I have access to some amazing grapes thanks to the Hollywood Farmer's Market. This week I got to turn two cases of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (yep, the ones they make wine from) into jelly. Thank you, Mill Road Orchard.

Probably the most intimidating thing about jellies is that you have to juice the fruit and then filter it. I'll admit, it does take more time and effort than mashing some berries for jam, but your efforts will be rewarded.

In the case of my wine grapes, I first ran them through a food mill to get the juice out. I diligently saved all the skins and seeds however. That is where most of the color and flavor are. Many people are surprised that the juice from red grapes is actually pretty pale, almost clear. The color in red wines comes from the grape skins. The same with jellies.

Next, I took all those grape skins and seeds added enough water to almost cover and then boiled them for about ten minutes so that they would release their color and flavor. And then I pressed and strained. And strained again. And again. And one more time.

You see, for a crystal clear jelly, you need to really strain the heck out of the juice. I use progressively finer strainers every time. I start with a large perforated strainer, then a smaller one, then a smaller one and so on, until I finally strain with a fine-mesh strainer or jelly bag (yep, that's what jelly bags are for).

The final step is to let the juice rest overnight in the refrigerator. Smaller particles left in the juice will settle out overnight. The next morning, carefully pour the beautifully clear juice into another container without disturbing the sediment. Now your juice is ready to make jelly.

Of course, you can skip however many steps you want in clarifying the juice if you don't mind a less-than-perfectly transparent jelly. Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good.

As for the rest … follow your recipe. Many juices require additional pectin to set as jellies, but a few do not. Grape juice can go either way, especially with the thicker skinned varieties.

That's it for this week – this email is probably already too long. Thanks for reading to the end!

If you have any questions about canning, pressure canning, fermentation, dehydration, freezing, pickling, curing, smoking or brewing, feel free to email me at

Be sure to check out the blog, which is updated several times a week

And/or join the Facebook group:


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Meet the New Chef at the Hollywood Farmer's Kitchen - Weekly Email


I know it has been quite some time since this newsletter has gone out - the last one was about pickling Easter eggs, actually. I had to put this newsletter on hiatus when I changed jobs and my new work schedule prevented me from continuing this newsletter.

Today, however, I announce that I've taken a new job as the chef at the Hollywood Farmer's Kitchen:

The Hollywood Farmer's Kitchen is a project of Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA -, a
nonprofit community development corporation dedicated to providing local food sources and food security, nutrition education, microenterprise incubation and related services to our surrounding community. The Farmer's Kitchen is a community kitchen that will further those goals as a permanent addition to the Hollywood Farmers' Market.

This position is a much better match for my interests and talents. Indeed, it is my dream job. Not only will I be able to cook with fresh, seasonal produce direct from the market, but food preservation is a significant part of the plan. Finally, I will also be able to support the other missions of SEE-LA through teaching, among other things. For example, I am participating in the Cafeteria Improvement Committee for the LA Unified School District, trying to improve school lunches.

On the food preservation front, I just started this past Monday but we've already canned some Rancho Santa Cecilia Applesauce and some Peach-Amaretto Jam, made with heirloom Indian Red Peaches from Yingst Ranch in Littlerock (where you can pick your own). We're also cooking with our preserves. On Thursday we made a cake for a VIP birthday. We did a two-layer Italian Almond Cake and, rather than frosting, the filling and topping was the Peach-Amaretto jam, topped with toasted sliced almonds for crunch and appearance. Tomorrow, at the Hollywood Farmer's Market, we will be serving a zucchini-apple soup (summer squash meets fall fruit in this light, yet flavorful soup) garnished with diced dried apples.

I expect that future newsletters will often reflect what I'm working on in the Farmer's Kitchen.

In other news, I'd like to invite everyone on this list to attend "Good Food for All" this coming Wednesday evening, Oct. 6th. The Hollywood Farmer's Kitchen and SEE-LA are working in partnership with Hunger Action LA and Roots of Change on the "Veggie Voucher" program to increase the purchasing power of low-income consumers by matching their dollars in farmers' markets. This innovative new program directly benefits small family farmers, and consumers who lack the resources to buy the fresh fruits and vegetables that they and their families need. All funds raised at this event will support the "Veggie Voucher" program! The event will feature tastings from forty of LA's finest chefs, including SEE-LA's Farmer's Kitchen.

For more information and to purchase tickets, see here:

I'll be in the Farmer's Kitchen this Sunday, but Master Food Preserver Delilah Snell will be at the market to answer your questions from 9:30-12:30, and be sure to drop by HFK to say "hi"!

That's it for this week. If you have any questions about canning, pressure canning, fermentation, dehydration, freezing, pickling, curing, smoking or brewing, feel free to email me at

Be sure to check out the blog, which is updated several times a week

And/or join the Facebook group:

Ernie Miller

Thursday, September 30, 2010

canning and preserving classes-October 2010

both Ernie and i have been really busy with my own shop, preserve sales and such while Ernie has been offered a new stellar job (which i am sure he will be posting about soon!!)

anyways, here are a few classes offered in a number of places, taught by either myself or Ernie...more to come!

lots and lots of classes all over the place for the holidays...this is the perfect time to learn how to preserve food while making some awesome gifts for the holidays!  i have organized the classes by location, but check them all out because some of them are really unique and worth the drive.

*ANGELI CAFFE w/ Evan Kleiman*
-The Art of Fermentation 10/24, 11-2PM: Join Evan Kleiman & Master Preserver Delilah Snell on a trip through traditional fermented foods from all over the world.
Learn about the history, science and techniques that make traditional sauerkraut, Korean kimichi, New York-style Clausen pickles, fermented tea tonics and more.
In addition to recipes, hands-on preparation, take-home starters and snacks, Evan will demonstrate how fermented foods can be incorporated into savory meals like Choucroute Garni. Email delilah for info on this class.  delilahsnell(at)yahoo(dot)com

*SANTA ANA @ The Road Less Traveled Store*
-Pickle party 10/3, 10-3PM: relish, chutney, fermented, quick, spicy...a little of each, plus small meal while we explore the tangy-side of preserves.
-A Season in Jars 10/9, 10-1PM: home food preservation basics.
-Fermentation 1, 10/23, 10-noon: kraut & kimchi making.
-Fermentation 2, 10/9, 10-noon: yogurt, vinegars and kombucha *taught by Chef Ernie Miller
-Foraged Foods: 10/30, 10-2: learn to make acorn bread and preserves from the wild!

*SANTA MONICA @ The Urban Craft Center*
-Autumn in a Jar 10/17, 10-1 *THIS CLASS IS SOLD OUT*

*HOLLYWOOD @ The Farmers' Market*
Note: I am in the center of the market available to answer questions, this will not be a class but rather discussion time/problem solving.  You can come by and visit Ernie @ the Market Kitchen every Sunday (am i giving too much away??)
-all dates are 9AM-12:30PM :  10/3, 10/31 (maybe in costume!), 12/19

Friday, August 20, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 8/20/10

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

The Can Jam deadline is upon us and there is post after post of canned tomato recipes.

Ketchup seem particularly popular and people are using a variety of recipes and techniques to make it:There are other interesting posts as well.

Such as a tomato jam, which makes a refreshing change of pace in both savory and dessert applications Backyard Farms modifies one recipe with the addition of bay leaf and celery seed (CanJam # 8 Tomato Jam). I like the use of savory spices in jams. Bay leaf is almost always a good call and celery seed pairs very well with tomatoes, so why not?

Barbecue sauce is a great cannable item and Putting By has some good suggestions (Barbecue Sauce).

Local Kitchen makes a classic salsa but uses some time-saving techniques (Can Jam: Roasted Tomato & Chipotle Salsa). In addition to Ketchup, Yes, Another Cooking Blog also made salsa (Salsa-August Can Jam Tigress).

Tomatillos aren't green tomatoes, but they still make amazing salsa, as Put a Lid on It uses them instead of too expensive tomatoes (Roasted Salsa Verde).

I'll end the tomato posts with Well Preserved (Stewed (Canned) Tomatoes). A simple and classic recipe, to be sure, but check out the list of tips for canning. Some are tomato specific, but many are just general good ideas. Especially "Never do it if you don`t want to. It is supposed to be fun and it`s well worth it when you are in the moment." But read them all.

Ok, so maybe you are tomatoe'd out. August is also the best time of year for peaches. Stick a Fork in It, the OC Weekly's food blog, looks at peaches (At the Farmers' Market: Peaches), as does The Atlantic (The Annual Hunt for Perfectly Ripe Peaches):
These are my words of wisdom when it comes to peaches. Never squeeze a peach, as you basically ruin it. Select unbruised peaches with nice color, full shape, and nice weight for their size. Place the peach stem side down on a linen napkin or cotton tea towel—no substitutions. Make sure the fruits don't touch, and keep them in a cool place, not in the sun, then cover them with another linen napkin or cotton tea towel. It may take a few days. They are ripe when they smell like peach and the stem side is pressed down a bit from the weight and softening of the peach. The perfect peach should be quite perfumed, juicy, and soft.
Canning recipes almost always say to remove the peach skin before various types of processing take place. I say, not always. Check the peach first. Biting is the best method. Is the skin too thick, too chewy, too annoying? Then go ahead and skin those peaches. But if the skin is thin and not too chewy, why not leave it on? If you're going to chop finely or purée (as for a peach butter), then the skin is even less of a problem.

With all the August preserving emphasis on tomatoes and stone fruit, it might be easy to forget that pepper season is coming soon, if not already here. Squid Ink looks at a pepper variety now showing up in the farmers' markets (What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Sometimes Spicy Padrons) and The Kitchn provides a recipe for pickling and canning them (Savory Canning: Pickled Peppers).

The Paupered Chef makes homemade pineapple vinegar (How to Make Homemade Vinegar (It Couldn’t Be Easier)). I'm a huge fan of homemade vinegar in all its varieties. What is happening here, of course, is an alcoholic fermentation of the pineapple and brown sugar (the more traditional piloncillo is readily available - and cheap - in Mexican supermarkets), and then a secondary fermentation from an alcoholic beverage into vinegar. I'd probably distinguish the two fermentations myself, and innoculate the alcohol with my own mother, but his method couldn't be simpler.

Emergency Food Storage Pros sing the praises of "Lock & Lock" food storage containers (Food Storage Containers: Lock & Lock). They love them, but there might be a little bias:
One thing that I have not spoken enough about on this food storage website is food storage containers. I have no excuse, now that I have been in South Korea for the past six weeks, and my brother in law is Chief Production Officer of Lock & Lock here.
I've never actually used them myself; I'm more of a Cambro guy (Surf City rulz!), but I've been seeing more and more of them, so they're probably pretty good. They're available on Amazon and at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but if you are here in Southern California, you'll find the best selection and prices at Korean supermarkets or department stores, where they are readily available. When next I need some storage containers, I'll probably give these a try.

Last but not least, Little Homestead in the City does their weekly roundup of what is happening at their urban farm (Homestead Happenings). Their canning shelf is absolutely fantastic!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is Jarden Home Brands Working On?

Once again I hope that, because I was out of touch for a few months, that this isn't too much old news.

Today I participated in a survey for Jarden Home Brands, the folks who bring us Ball, Kerr and other canning-related brands. Along with general questions about how frequently and what type of preserving I do, they wanted my opinion on specific new products that, I assume, they may be introducing soon.


Here they are, in the order that I considered most important:
  1. BPA Free Lids

    About time, I say. Unfortunately, they might cost as much as $0.20 more a lid. Although I'm not terribly worried about the BPA in lids, I would really prefer not to have to worry at all.

  2. UV Protected Jar

    These jars provide 99% UV protection, reducing color change and extending the shelf life of canned goods. The coating wouldn't wash off and the jars are reusable. I really like the extended shelf life and that I could display my jars without reducing shelf life.

  3. Thermal-Guard Jar

    Thermal shock resistant jars that do not have to be preheated before being filled. Saves time in canning.

  4. Non-slip Jar.

    Jars with a coating that will make them easier to grip when wet. The coating will also cool down quicker so that you can handle the jars quicker after processing. Non-stick is nice, but not all that necessary in my experience. The coating will also likely mar the appearance of the jars and I don't really like moving my jars very much after processing anyway; I prefer to allow the jars to cool for several hours (at least) before moving them.
There was also some questions about combinations of the jar improvements, such as Thermal-Guard Jars with non-stick coating.

In any case, I'm glad that Jarden is working on improving the quality of the their products, especially the BPA-free lids.

Preservation Link Roundup 8/19/10

The Kitchn features a beverage I thought was only homemade: sauerkraut juice (Kraut Juice: A Tasty Can Full Of Stink!). I've always been a fan of pickle juices and sauerkraut juice, I just didn't know it was sold on its own. Apparently it is fairly common in Europe and those places in the US where German immigrants settled. It is full of vitamins and, bonus if you make your own, you get the probiotic benefits as well. The Kitchn also has a recipe (Try This! A Tomato Tang With Kraut Juice). Try some in soups or salads as well, as a substitute for vinegar.

Patrick Costello is matching peaches with lavender both for preserves and syrup (More Canning and Whoa Lavender Peach Syrup!).

Sometimes when preparing stone fruit, you might have bits and pieces of fruit that you can't really use, such as the parts that cling to the stones in clingstone fruit (especially likely

Sake + Cheese fell in love with giardiniera and when the supply she bought ran out, decided to make her own (The Canning Continues: Hot Giardiniera). Good call. This is one of the most satisfying pickles to make. The flavor is rich, has plenty of depth and is texturally eclectic. Not too mention it looks spectacular.

Moo Said the Mama has an excellent photo essay on making and canning ketchup, well worth checking out if you're thinking of making some (Ketchup Canning Tutorial). MStM does note that the recipe they used ended up tasting more like cocktail sauce than ketchup. That is a problem with ketchup recipes, they do vary a lot in terms of flavor. As I've noted before, we're used to that commercial flavor. Don't be surprised if your ketchup tastes different. (Although I look for clove and celery seed in recipes ... they are definitely two flavor keys to ketchup, as far as I am concerned) Keep trying recipes until you find one you like. And know also that the sweetness of homemade ketchup can vary a great deal depending on the sweetness of your tomatoes. The golden cherry tomatoes from my garden are crazy sweet, while my Romas are sweet, but not like the cherry tomatoes.

The National Post also provides a recipe and description of making homemade ketchup (Field Trip: Canning Tomatoes).

If you're a canning beginner, this first time canning experiment by Frugal and Focused would be a useful experience to read about (Learning the Art of Home Canning: Experiment #1 - Blueberry Syrup). Yep, fruit syrups can boil over very easily. Use a big pot. Syrups might seem a bit thinner than you're used to. Don't thicken them before canning, but thicken just before use, if you choose to thicken them at all.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel interviews a local canner, Anna Cameron of Ladysmith Jams, who uses many foraged fruits in her preserves (The new can-do spirit: Santa Cruz jam maker savors the fruits of her foraging).
"It's something to see that little piece of heritage," she said. "But foraging goes back to an even deeper genetic history. Even before we were hunters, we were gatherers. Picking fruit calms me, it makes me feel human in this world of business and to-do lists and screen time. Go pick blueberries down an alley and you'll feel better!"
The article also has a brief history of canning.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Occasional Gardening Roundup 8/19/10

While this blog will continue to focus primarily on food preservation, as a Master Gardener Intern, I will blog about gardening from time to time. And be more than happy to answer any questions you have (or pass them on to someone who can answer them).

Vertical gardens have become quite popular in Southern California recently, with a number of high profile installations. Although visually attractive, there has been a backlash focusing on their sustainability, especially in our dry climate Homegrown Evolution has been skeptical (Vertical Vegetables). And this past week the LA Times turned a jaundiced eye on the trend (The Dry Garden: A skeptic's view of vertical gardens):
Succulents such as sedum and senecio that are so hardy in the ground need constant irrigation to cope with heat and wind after being suspended in felt pockets against SmogShoppe’s hot walls. The concrete wall behind the bagged-and-hung garden is wet with runoff from an automated drip system. The sacks are calcified with irrigation scale. Even in an open-air setting, get close and there is a whiff of mold. It’s hard to imagine a less savory or more whimsically destructive system for a region in a water crisis.
The critics make some good points. Vertical gardens aren't always a good idea.

I do like that Homegrown Evolution makes some suggestions for old-school vertical gardening with trellises and training plants.
But growing vertically does not have to mean attaching roots to a wall. I can think of two simple vertical vegetable garden strategies where that $1,000 would go a lot further. How about simply favoring fruits and vegetables that either grow vertically naturally, say pole beans, grapes, peas or kiwi or that can be convinced with a bit of pruning to go vertical, such as tomatoes, melons and winter squash? Mel Bartholomew has some nice vertical gardening tips in his classic book Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!. Build some raised beds next to a wall or saw cut out the concrete, plant in the ground and you're in business.With some slings for the fruit, you can even grow watermelons vertically.
Fruit tree hedges might be a better idea for vertical gardening than some of the systems out there.

Nevertheless, though vertical gardening is probably being overdone at present, we shouldn't dismiss it entirely, even in dry Southern California. Moreover, it is still a young technique and better technical solutions for some of its drawbacks will probably be developed in time.

LA Eastside takes a tour of artist's gardens in East LA. First, local muralist Raul Baltazar's garden (How Does Your Garden Grow? Eastside Style!), open to the community. Then a garden from ceramicist Jose Ramirez which features homemade ceramic pots and art that harmonizes quite well with the environment. Next up Leslie Gutierrez Saiz's home in Eagle Rock is quite impressive. And Rigo Maldonado's garden in Santa Ana sports one of my favorite things, a pergola.

Very impressive stuff. Definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in Southwestern gardens.

The Daily Green lists the top ten US cities with the most urban gardens and Long Beach represents SoCal at #3! (Which 10 Cities Have the Most Urban Gardens?)

Props to my friends in Long Beach!

War Era Food Posters Exhibit

Okay, so having been out of touch with blogosphere for a few months, I'm probably the last one to know about this, but I still think it is pretty darn cool. Apparently, the US Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Library has an exhibit, When Beans Were Bullets, of war era food and agriculture posters. Many of the posters feature ideas that are very topical today, stuff I didn't realize was part of the culture back then.

Early Michael Pollan perhaps?

We all have heard of victory gardens, but what about the "School Garden Army"? Maybe we should bring that back.

And, of course, a nice selection of canning posters:

Be sure to check out the whole online exhibit, When Beans Were Bullets, or the Smithsonian Magazine's online gallery of highlights: American Food Posters from World War I and II.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 8/18/10

I really appreciate that Well Preserved discusses in some depth the acidity problem in canning tomatoes (Well Preserved Tomato Sauce Recipe). Yes, the USDA is pretty conservative and you can get away with fudging their safety guidelines quite often. After all, your grandmother probably violated a number of their current rules and you're reading this, right? But,
The spoilage risk is very real. The family who taught ours lost an entire batch (around 200 jars) due to low acid and things began to ferment in bottle. They lost an entire weekend of work, a virtual crop of tomatoes and sauce for the year.
The Atlantic Food Channel has an excellent article on various ways to preserve venison, from curing to corning and, of course, making sausage (both fresh and fermented) (Venison Sausage: A Whole Different Animal). Bonus for Southern California readers, the deer was shot on Catalina Island.

Another cured meat (and a favorite of mine) is pâté. The Kitchn provides a few links on the subject (Do You Have a Good Recipe for Homemade Pâté?). Be sure to check out the comment section for additional links. If you've never made pâté or a rillette or similar, I highly suggest giving it a try. They can be surprisingly easy to make and are a wonderful side dish or appetizer. And you can play with flavors quite a bit. I make my own teriyaki-flavored "spam" for use in homemade musubi.

Food in Jars has a good post on substituting other salts for pickling salt (if you can't easily find it) (Canning 101: On Substituting Salt in Pickling). At the end of the day, there are only a few things you need to know:
  1. Substitute by weight. 3/4 of an ounce per tablespoon for pickling salt. Simply weigh out the other salt.
  2. Make sure the salt is pure. No iodine or free flow agents. The only ingredient listed should be salt.
  3. Take into account that other salts won't dissolve as quickly as pickling salt.
If you can't find pickling salt, popcorn salt makes an excellent substitution. You can also process kosher salt into something resembling pickling salt by pulsing it in a food processor a few times.

The Blueberry Files goes through the steps of pressure canning beets (Pressure Canning Beats). Beets are an excellent candidate for pressure canning, since they generally survive the process quite well. Of course, if you don't have a pressure canner you can pickle beets and can them with a boiling water bath. There are plenty of recipes out there.

A Nutritionist Eats is getting into canning and has a Ball Canning Discovery Kit to giveaway (Canning with Lucia). Visit her blog for information on winning the kit.

I can't emphasize enough how canning works best as a social event. Feast After Famine learns canning from some neighbors at a canning party, "replete with wine and cheese and good cheer... "(Canning Party). Why not invite some neighbors over to learn canning from you?

Tigress in a Jam takes advantage of the fantastic stone fruit out there to make a lovely preserve using summer savory (an inspired choice) and white pepper (Nectarine Preserves with Summer Savory & White Pepper).

I've got mixed feelings about white pepper. It is generally used in dishes as a substitute for black pepper when you don't want little black flecks in your dish, such as in white sauces, lightly colored soups or mashed potatoes. However, there are distinct flavor differences. To me, black pepper is fruitier and more well-rounded, while white pepper is a little more directly spicy with less depth of flavor. More importantly, however, I think that white pepper suffers more from being pre-ground than black pepper. Frankly, I hate pre-ground white pepper. I dislike pre-ground black pepper, but can't stand the white pepper version. So, please, use freshly ground white pepper when you do use it.

Canning seems to get all the press, but sometimes it is important to remember that freezing is an important aspect of food preservation. Putting By freezes their bell peppers (they don't can well by themselves) (Bell Peppers). I like everything they did, except place the pepper strips into gallon ziploc bags. You should usually freeze in quantities that you would use. That way you don't have defrost/refreeze what you haven't used. So, instead of gallon ziplocs, why not quart or pint bags? And I can't emphasize this enough when freezing: label, label, label! When you freeze a lot of stuff, it will save many headaches months later.

Freezing is great, but they seem to fill up quite quickly, so back to canning it is. Putting By also has a post on canning pasta sauce (Pasta Sauce). They use those commercial square-ish pasta jars that I know many people have around the house. I know many people who use them for canning successfully, but I do have to point to the FAQ from the companies page:
Can I reuse the Classico® jar for home canning?
No. A coating is applied at the glass plant to reduce scratching and scuffing. If scratched, the jar becomes weaker at this point and can more easily break. This would increase the risk of the jar breaking when used for canning. Also, the lighter weight of our current jar could make it unsafe for home canning.
Do as you will, just passing on the information.

The LA Weekly's Squid Ink blog reviews yet another new canning book, Canning for a New Generation (Cookbook Review: Canning For A New Generation).
The book might as well be called Canning and Preserving For An Eager But Sometimes Lazy (Or Just Plain Busy) Generation. And that's exactly why we think it's pretty great.

Gotta Beef with Lunch?

Food for Lunch is a new group looking to reform the school lunch program in the Los Angeles Unified School District:
FOOD FOR LUNCH is a group of concerned LAUSD parents, residents, grassroots and community organizations from across Los Angeles who have joined together to affect positive change in the LAUSD lunchroom.

In response to what even the USDA is calling “the single greatest threat to public health in this century,” the obesity epidemic, and to combat health trends in this epidemic which will put 1 in 2 of America’s children at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime, we propose the following changes be made immediately for food served to children at breakfast and lunch:
  • More whole foods, fruits and vegetables served. We advocate for California-sourced, unprocessed foods served daily for breakfast and lunch.
  • Less processed foods: no chicken nuggets or other such highly processed animal protein foods.
  • Less sugar: Reduce sugar to no more than 20 grams per meal and remove foods made with high fructose corn syrup.
  • Water: We want filtered, non-bottled water as a beverage option school-wide.
  • Sustainability: We want food that is sustainably sourced and minimally packaged as well as a reduction of individually wrapped and packaged foods.
In addition, we want transparency from LAUSD Food Services in menu choices and food selection and a willingness from the School Board and Food Services to go through the challenge of transition as healthier changes are implemented in LAUSD breakfasts and lunches.
They're meeting on Wednesday, August 18th and Tuesday August 31st. I plan on being at both meetings and helping as much as I can.
On Wednesday, August 18 at 6:30 PM at Manual Arts High School located at 4131 Vermont Avenue next to USC, all interested parties are invited to make their opinions known about LAUSD school food. Mud Baron, school garden guru and LAUSD’s Green Policy Director, will be co-facilitating with Laura Benevidez of LAUSD Food Services. This is the official listening session of the School Food Parent/Student/Teacher/Community Taskforce before the first LAUSD Board meeting of 2010-11 school year. Speakers will have the opportunity to hear & discuss options.

Then, on Tuesday, August 31 at 1:30 PM is the LAUSD school board meeting where school lunch and this halted Tyson contract will be discussed again. WE NEED A BIG SHOW of people to come and let the School Board meeting to let board members know we want them to start making healthier food a reality NOW! The meeting is held at the LAUSD School Board offices, located at 333 South Beaudry Ave in downtown Los Angeles, just north of the 110 freeway. Park in the Visconti parking lot on Miramar St. and get free parking for 2 hours!
If you're in LA and care about school food policy, you're invited. If you can't make it, I encourage you to sign the petition and join their mailing list: contact Jennie Cook at or Rebecca Crane at r.h.crane@gmail. And check them out on Facebook.

Preservation Link Roundup 8/17/10

Yes, Another Cooking Blog cans tomato halves for the Can Jam (Tomato halves for Can Jam-August). Why halves? Much less floating. Floating doesn't affect flavor, but isn't an aesthetically pleasing.

But that's not all - how about a basic tomato sauce? Basic Tomato Sauce for August Can Jam

Bread Experience makes a non-basic tomato sauce (Roasted Vegetable Pasta Sauce: Tigress Can Jam).

Plate to Plate goes through some tomato canning basics (Canning Tomatoes). For more advanced tomato canning you can check out this post from Well Preserved (A Guide to our best Tomato Preserving (Canning) Posts).

If you need more hands on information, how about a class from my fellow Master Food Preserver Delilah Snell and the famous Evan Kleinman? The class is $100 and takes place September 11th (Tomato Canning Class: Mucho Mas with Evan Kleinman). I'll be doing a demo on the 29th.

I talked about pesto and basil yesterday, and today Road to the Farm has a lovely photo of some pesto she has put in canning jars for freezing (Oh, Pesto!).

Simply Daily Recipes reviews one of the newer canning books, Put 'Em Up (Put 'Em Up Book Review). As a beginning canner, she liked it. I've got a copy myself and will provide my opinion when I have time to play with it a bit.

Speaking of new preserving books, Doris and Jilly Cook are doing a giveaway of another new one (Giveaway: The Fresh Girl's Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving).

And, speaking of giveaways, Food in Jars is giving away vanilla beans to three lucky winners, but everyone gets her recipe for peach sauce with vanilla - or follow the alternative directions to make peach butter (better than apple butter in my book) (White Peach Sauce with Vanilla (+ giveaway!)). There are some really great notes on acidification of white peaches, since they have borderline acidity.

Of course, vanilla is good, but why not some rum in that peach sauce? Local Kitchen makes a peach sauce with Kraken Rum (Pirate Peaches). Love the labels too. Wish she'd post the file.

Simply Recipes is on a frozen yogurt kick (Blackberry Frozen Yogurt). And why not? If you make yogurt on a regular basis (which you should) why not toss some of that yogurt (along with some flavorings and some sweetener) into an ice cream churn? It's a lot easier than making a French-style ice cream and the sweet/tart flavor is fantastic. Doesn't have to be dessert either, why not frozen yogurt as an intermezzo?

For more information on frozen yogurt, The Kitchn collects a number of recipes in an attempt at answering a question about making creamy frozen yogurt (How Do I Make Creamy, Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt at Home?).

Since I make my own kombucha at home I didn't realize that they've stopped carrying it many stores. The Kitchn asks whether you're getting your fix of kombucha now (The Great Kombucha Freakout: Are You Getting Your Fix?). My answer is yes, of course. Couldn't afford that store bought stuff in the first place. Even if I could, I'm not sure I'd want to pay so much for something that is simply tea and sugar and culture and some time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 8/16/10

Sometimes I'm so jealous of Georgia. Seems like nearly every high school there boasts a community canning center. How come we don't have any in Los Angeles? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that there will be tours of these canning centers (Georgia Organics Plans Special Tour on Canning).
The canneries, Croom said, are a unique public resource.

"We really want people to use them," said Croom, Georgia Organics' Farm to School program coordinator. "What can take eight hours in your kitchen can take two-and-a-half hours there; you can do huge amounts at once."
We need one of these centers in LA.

Doris and Jilly Cook answer a question about non-sealing jars of stock when pressure canning (Ask the Goats: Bad Seals in the Pressure Canner). There is some good advice on getting a firm seal, such as removing as much of the fat from the stock as possible. I like to chill my stock overnight in the refrigerator and remove the fat that has solidified on the top. It is easy to remove the fat in this way and I also get a better idea how fortified my stock is - does it seem just like a thick liquid or have I gotten a jelly-like flavor bomb?

And don't forget to save the fat. The fat from beef stock makes a nice frying medium, especially for potatoes. Or use it (instead of butter) to caramelize onions. Chicken fat is even better, I think, because what you now have is a flavorful schmaltz. I wouldn't make Matzah balls without it.

In any case, the main recommendation was to let the pressure canner cool down for at least an hour after turning off the heat. This is good advice for any pressure canning. Just be careful that with some models of canners, excessive cooling may create a vacuum seal making opening more difficult.

Speaking of pressure canning, Frugal Canning did what everyone with a pressure gauge canner should do every year: get that gauge checked (Pressure Canning Gauge Check). Unfortunately, we don't have a testing setup in LA County, but will see if we can't get that changed in the next couple of months. Of course, even if you don't need to get the gauge checked, don't forget to replace any rubber gaskets on an annual basis as well.

The Jam and Jelly Lady provides a little background on how she left office worker and became tJ&JL (My Journey to Becoming a Canning Mom).

Well Preserved is getting ready for some major tomato canning (The Tomatoes are Here – One of My Favourite Weeks of the Year). Sounds like a good time with family!
We`ve got our system down pretty good and the four of us can run through 6-8 bushels with a solid day of work. Even after 5+ years of doing this as a team we find there`s a few kinks that we can work out (last year we had 200 liters of sauce but no large pots left for the hot water bath) and will continue to learn from the process. One of the great joys has been learning to work as a team and having fun together with it. We now complete the entire task in less than half the time than what we took 5 years ago (with most of the same equipment).
The Kitchn laments that they haven't done enough preserving this summer (something I can relate to), but there is still plenty of time for tomatoes (Weekend Meditation: That Time of the Year ... or counting the jars in my pantry). Of course, while you are canning those tomatoes with friends or family, you might want to take a break for a refreshing beverage. Luckily, the Kitchn also provides a simple recipe for Ginger Ale, with bread yeast providing the fermentation for the bubbly (Try This! Easy Homemade Ginger Ale).

There is more to canning tomatoes than sauce and whole tomatoes, however. Mother's Kitchen makes a tomato salsa for the August Can Jam (Can Jam August: Salsa #5). This recipe features tomato paste and tomato sauce for a thicker consistency (Mother makes her own from scratch). Looks really good to me.

The Washington Post looks at whether you can make a good homemade ketchup with those excess tomatoes (Could Homemade Ketchup Beat Heinz?). It might seem that is an obvious win for homemade, but we expect certain things from out ketchups, and some homemade versions (including some I've made) just don't seem what we're used to. Good, yes, but not quite the ketchup you've grown up with. On the other hand, maybe we shouldn't expect so much consistency in our flavors. We're not five year olds afraid of everything different. So, let one thousand ketchups bloom. More later, but I will demoing homemade ketchup Aug. 29 at the Hollywood Farmers' Market.

Know Whey makes "spiced peaches," which I call "pickled peaches" (Spiced Peaches). This year I've made both pickled peaches and plums. Love 'em. So sweet and tart. Although it is wonderful to have these pickles in the winter or for Thanksgiving as Know Whey does, I really enjoy them in the summer as well. They go great with barbecue and taste like summer to me; they are very refreshing on a hot day.

Tartelette does something a little more traditional with her peaches, she makes several jams (French Word a Week - Confiture de Peche). What I particularly liked is that she varies the flavor with different spices and a bit of alcohol. Why not try the same with pickled peaches as well?

Putting By makes a favorite preserve of mine: Razzleberry Jam). Sometimes you don't have enough berries for a single berry jam, or you just like to add layers of flavor. Razzleberry jam it is then.

In My Kitchen provides some excellent lessons learned on storing fresh basil (Garden Journal 8/15/10: How to and, More Importantly, How Not to Store Fresh Basil). Of course, sometimes you have more fresh basil than you can use over a few days. Freezing is the best method of preserving basil, though you can dry it as well. You can chiffonade the basil and freeze it in ice cubes, freeze it on sheet trays and then bag it, chop it and mix with oil to freeze as a preliminary pesto, or freeze as an actual pesto (my favorite).

And feel free to play around with the pesto. Cold Cereal and Toast not only makes a nice mention of a recent report on food policy (Planting the Seeds for Public Health: How the Farm Bill Can Help Farmers to Produce and Distribute Healthy Foods) but describes making pesto from a CSA excess of basil - but without the traditional pinenuts, substituted peanuts (The Thing About Surplus: Easy Peanut Pesto).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm Back

I'm back.

It is a beautiful Sunday at the Hollywood Farmers' Market. There is so much to be excited about in the markets right now. I'll be here most Sundays for the near future to answer questions about food preservation.

And gardening - I am now a Master Gardener intern as well as a Master Food Preserver. So, as I resume this blog and my newsletter, you can expect to see a little bit more information about growing your own, or about the plants themselves.

For example, I just finished eating a beautiful fig, which are returning to the market after a brief absence from the Spring season. Figs have two seasons each year, the first season on last year's growth and the second season on the new growth branches. Something you find out when learning to prune fig trees.

As for preserving figs ... I haven't done any yet this year, but a nice thick fig spread and some fig cheese are something I'm planning on.

Looking forward to blogging again! Thanks!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup - Catching Up - 4/9/10

Since last week I discussed pickling leftover Easter Eggs, I decided to share a "before" shot of some of the four dozen eggs I pickled this week. In a couple of weeks, I'll share a photo of the finished eggs and even a dissection (to see the color gradation inside). I tried the pineapple pickled eggs and a soy sauce/pineapple brine.

Master Food Preserver (and co-author of this blog), Delilah Snell, has finalized her food preservation classes for the near future - check them out! I'll be doing one, wish I could do more, but my new job means my schedule is uncertain right now: Food Preservation Classes, Workshops and More - FINAL

She also is on the lookout for free fruit to preserve, especially loquats (Adventure in Loquats and Other Backyard Fruit - and a Special Request for Readers of this Blog!):
if you have any fruit trees that you want me to pick or you can pick and hand over-i will give you a few jars of whatever i Spring!
I was a participant in "loquat-a-palooza" last year, they are a great preserving fruit (though a little labor intensive).

Food in Jars takes a look at Ashley English's new book: Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More (A Good Book for the Can Jam or Anytime). She discovers that it is perfect for providing some ideas for April's Can Jam.

Not everybody has the room for a backyard smoker, or even a backyard. The Chicago Tribune runs a nice story on stovetop smoking (Smoke Signals). If you haven't tried smoking food at home yet, the stovetop method is a great place to start. You'll be surprised by the flavors you can achieve. I love smoked foods, and what you can do easily at home beats the heck out of what is available commercially. Smoke is another one of those techniques that can be used to transform routine dishes and take them to a new level. Mmmmm ... smoked roasted chicken salad.

Leda Meredith of her eponymous Urban Homestead did a radio interview on the Heritage Radio Network's Hot Grease in which she discusses lacto-fermentation as a preservation method among other topics (Hot Grease Interview).

If you are lucky enough to have access to ramps (foraged or in farmers' markets), then you might want to read a bit about using and preserving them. Local Kitchen provides some excellent ideas and information (Ramps):
The Spring ramp season is short; to preserve your bounty for the coming months, blanche & freeze the leaves as you would chard or kale, or make pesto or infused oil or vinegar as you would with fresh herbs. Dry chopped bulbs and leaves in a dehydrator or low oven, or use in pickles, chutneys, or confit. For a host of allium preserving recipe ideas, check out the March Can Jam round-up. I have a big pile o’ ramps to cook with, and I hope to score some more to preserve, so I’ll update this post as I experiment. Stay tuned!
The Canning Doctor roasts a chicken and then makes and cans stock from the carcass (Pressure Canning Again). This is an excellent practice whenever you roast a chicken (one of the greatest, most versatile meals there is). If you don't have time to make the stock that day or the next, freeze the carcass and make the stock when you do have the time.

The Practical Preserver provides instructions for properly freezing strawberries (Strawberry Season). Though I'm a huge fan of canning, in my book, it is always a good idea to have some frozen berries available in the pantry - then you are ready for all sorts of quick desserts and sweet/savory dishes.

One Perfect Bite makes a versatile pesto (aren't most pestos versatile?) from homemade sundried cherry tomatoes (Red Pesto Sauce + Home-Style Sun-Dried Tomatoes). It'll be awhile before tomato season is back, but I'm lucky enough to have a stock of homemade sundried (actually, dehydrator'd) cherry tomatoes from last August to give this pesto a try.

What Julia Ate is clearing out her freezer by canning the contents, in this case combining summer stone fruit with her homemade pectin (Apricot Plum Jam with Orange Pectin). Once again, she shares her valuable experience in working with homemade pectin.

After learning how easy it is to make buttermilk, What Julia Ate also learns how easy it is to make crème fraîche (Crème Fraîche). Crème fraîche is basically buttermilk made from cream, so it is richer and thicker. It is an excellent substitute for sour cream in most recipes, and is incredibly useful in its own right. It doesn't curdle and it is a great addition to hot dishes, such as soups and sauces. Or use it to make your own "ranch" dressing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup - Catching Up - 4/8/10

So, last week was spring break for many as well as Easter and I had to work six days. I work the afternoons/evenings and in the mornings I was driving an hour each way to interview for my new job. So far this week I've had to drive to my new job twice in order to sign all the paperwork that goes with starting in a new place. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that when you get a new job you need to show proof that you can be employed (passport or SSN card and Drivers License, etc.) so, I had to make that second trip to take care of that little detail. In any case, that is what has kept me from my updates. It'll take me a some time to get caught up, so please be patient. I've also got a few special posts planned (such as a book review), but those will have to wait as well. Oh, yeah, and I've got to get some studying in for my Master Gardener class (I dropped my studies for Advanced Sommelier for now, but will have to pick that back up in the summer).

The New York Times Magazine has a review of the Little House Cookbook, based on the cooking found in Laura Ingall Wilder's Little House books (Little House in the Hood). Preservation, of course, was an important part of life in the big woods and on the prairie, and it isn't clear how much preservation makes it into the book, though the review touches on it, but it would be interesting to learn more about preservation in frontier America.

The Jam and Jelly Lady provides a "semi-homemade" recipe for a trifle, layers of pound cake, cream (in this case, a tarter cream cheese mixture), fruit and jam (Strawberry Amaretto Trifle). The actual recipe is here: Jammin' Good Food. Trifles are simple, fresh and delicious. Garnish with some fresh mint and served chilled as they are wonderful warm spring evening or summer desserts. They can be prepared well ahead of time and don't require any cooking, unless you insist on making your own pound cake (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). They are wonderful for playing with flavors as well. Add your favorite liqueur, herb or even spice.

Well Preserved has just been going crazy with some wonderful spring preserving posts:
  • Dandelion Wine, Jelly and Coffee - A fine introduction to the possibilities of preserving dandelions.
  • Lamb Jerky - Something delicious that you are unlikely to find in your local megalomart or even gourmet food store.
  • Rhubarb Two Ways - Simple jams and a chutney. I can't recommend playing with rhubarb enough - it is another of those secret ingredients that can punch up so many different dishes without anyone knowing for sure what you've done.
  • Beech Tree Noyau (Infused Gin) - I'm not really sure if there are beech trees in Southern California, but if I find any, I'm going to give this a try.
  • Asparagus - Pickled and Pressure Canned - I'm a fan of pickling asparagus, of course, but haven't tried pressure canning them yet. I'll have to give it a try.
  • Pickled Fiddleheads - I used to forage these in New England, but haven't found many in Southern California (though last week on one of my walks I did find some Alpine Strawberries). They're delicious freshly steamed or sautéed, but pickling sounds delicious as well.
  • Wild Leeks (or Ramps) - There is very useful advice on foraging - making sure to leave enough after harvesting for the wild crop to flourish.
Serious Eats alerted me to the fact that I missed Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, which is held each April 2nd (Happy Peanut Butter and Jelly Day). What an opportunity to make something special to celebrate the holiday. It is going on my calendar for next year.

Tired of traditional scones? Looking for something a tad bit healthier? Why not try some oatcake bannocks? Serious Eats has a recipe for what may be the scone's wholegrain ancestor (Sunday Brunch: Bannocks). Delicious with clotted cream and your favorite jam or marmalade.

Food in Jars turns some whole preserved fruit into a delicious cake (Pear Cake). Sounds great, would probably work with a number of different fruits and FiJ recommends it with yogurt for breakfast ... sounds like my way to start the day.

Hot Water Bath comes home to a nearly empty pantry and improvises some Triscuit/chevre/pickled pepper snacks (Thank Goodness I Canned: Pickled Hot Peppers). They may not sound particularly fancy, but I bet they tasted pretty darn good. Hot pickled peppers are great to have around - and don't forget the brine:
The canning brine (I use a very standard 2 parts vinegar, 2 parts water, 1/2 part kosher salt) can likewise be used in marinades, drinks (yes! Really!), as a stir-in for plain rice or potatoes, or to punch up the flavor in all kinds of otherwise insipid dishes.
Leda Meredith's Urban Homestead makes a pizza chock full 'o local preserving goodness: tomato puree leftover from some home canned tomatoes, lacto-fermented garlic, in state cheese and foraged wild greens (Wild Pizza Improv).

Miia Monthly's sauerkraut is ready for eating (Sauerkraut is Done). She uses an interesting technique before putting the sauerkraut in the refrigerator, however - she removes the brine, boils it, chills it and puts the kraut back into the brine and refrigerates it.

Tigress in a Jam provides a little more guidance on April's Can Jam: Herbs (Preserving Herbs in Jars). Tigress points to some of her favorite herb books, some links, and provides these comments:
the rules state that the food in focus must be integral to the canned product. in the first few months when canning citrus, carrots and alliums it was easy to consider the chosen produce to be the main ingredient. this month's herbs are a little different and i would interpret integral as being essential to the flavor of the preserve but not necessarily the main ingredient.

this will open up a world of possibilities and i hope will allow those in zones where things are beginning to burst from the ground and jump off the trees to take advantage of what's springing in tandem with the essential herb. and for those of us who are still anticipating spring's abundance it may offer an opportunity to use up the last of the root-cellared produce.

finally, herbs are generally considered the leafy green parts of a plant (i would include flowers in here too) while spices are derived from other parts of the plant, particularly the seeds, berries, bark and roots. so while spices are certainly welcome in this month's entry they are not considered the food in focus and must be in addition to the integral herb.
Finally, for today, Two Frog Home shares a homemade pattern for knitting a cover for mason jars - perfects for gifts (Knitted Jar Pouch). Darn cool.