This is a blog about home canning—or "putting up" as one might say where I'm from—and it will cover jams and other fruit preserves, pickles and briny things, canned vegetables (above all tomatoes) and the complement of condiments that includes relishes, sauces, salsas and those related preparations that result when you chunk bits of seasonal produce and preserve them in a syrup either piquant or sweet.

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Where do recipes come from?

A while back, Laura Avery of the Santa Monica Farmers Market asked if I'd like to moderate the last panel discussion of 2013 at the Santa Monica Public Library. I jumped at the chance, and we put our heads together to think of a timely subject.

Our starting point, holiday cooking, led us to think about family recipes, and that led us pretty quickly into a whole bunch of questions that first appear almost childishly simple but become more complex as you consider them. For instance:

What is a recipe?
Where do recipes come from?
How do you come up with a recipe?
What makes a recipe yours?
Can someone own a recipe? 

So that's where the conversation will begin at the SMPL on November 21, as a FREE panel discussion titled Where Do Recipes Come from?: Culinary tradition, creativity, family recipes, and holiday cooking.

My co-panelists are an amazing line-up of culinary and literary talent:

Lauryn Chun, founder of Mother In Law Kimchi and author of The Kimchi Cookbook
Valerie Gordon, founder of Valerie Confections and author of Sweet
Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times food editor and author of How to Pick a Peach
Anne Willan, founder of La Varenne cooking school and most recently author of One Souffle at a Time
and I'll be there of course with Saving the Season 

I'm currently reading Anne's captivating memoir and Russ's indispensible guide to selecting and preparing fresh produce. Valerie and Lauryn are both friends and I admire their cookbooks enormously.

The panel discussion begins at 7 pm, but plan to come early for a book signing (everyone's books will be on sale) and also plan to stay late for a tasting of Valerie's snacks and my preserves. 

This is going to be a top-flight event, and I hope you all can make it.

Thursday, November 21
7 to 8:30 pm
Santa Monica Public Library
601 Santa Monica Boulevard 




STS on Amazon's Best Of 2013 + a Class at Poketo

Breaking news hit my inbox this morning: Saving the Season has been selected as one of Amazon's Best Cookbooks of 2013. Hooray! It's a special treat to be on the list alongside my great friends David Tanis (One Good Dish) and Valerie Gordon (Sweet). Another close friend, Dana Goodyear, won the top prize for Best Food Writing of 2013 for her deeply reported and insightful survey of radical foodie culture, Anything That Moves. Congratulations to them all!


I am very, very late in posting this, but I'm delighted to be doing a special fall preserving workshop with Poketo in downtown Los Angeles this Saturday, November 9, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. From what I hear, we're close to sold out, but a couple of spots remain for STS blog readers. This is a hands-on workshop to make Salt-Cured Meyer Lemons, Sauerkraut, and Vin de Pamplemousse (TOP), which is a delicious, juicy, spritzy, citrusy aperitif that has the tart-sounding English name of "grapefruit wine." It tastes a bit like Lillet, but lighter, and makes the pefect tipple for holiday parties. 

Afterwards, Poketo will host a book signing and tasting party catered by Heirloom LA.

For more information and tickets, click here.


Fall Seeds, Spring Gardens

Last night I was on my laptop with the real estate listings open in one window and Google earth open in the other, so that I could zoom in on houses for sale to see if the yards had enough space and sunshine to plant a garden and a little orchard. That's just my nuttiness in action, but it also made me think of a larger idea about the fall season. This is the end of one agricultural cycle, but nature is already preparing for the next because fall is a time of maturing seeds, and seeds inevitably imply spring rebirth. I was reminded yet again that agriculture—as a subset of the larger natural world—is a cycle without end. Virgil wrote in his Second Georgic:

The farmer's labor circles back on him
As the seasons of the year roll back around
To where they were and walk in their own footsteps. 

In my present gardening mood, I want to mention Crimson Carrot, a sweet new website based in the northern Virginia suburbs that focuses on growing, using, and preserving the output of a backyard mini-farm. Whether you just want to plant a few seeds next spring, or if you're ready for chickens, bees, and cheesemaking, Crimson Carrot intends to position itself as your online resource. They have a good book selection, too.

Winter may be nigh, but spring lies beyond its far edge. Start planning your garden soon!



Fall Means Green Tomatoes

The perfectly red-ripe tomato is a touchstone on many levels: a harbinger of the summer season, an exemplar of heirloom quality, a triumph for the backyard gardener. Papa said there’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true, true love and homegrown tomatoes.

So why bother with green tomatoes? One answer is that they, too, are harbingers of a new season—fall. Tomato vines will put on more fruit than the waning sun will ripen. The first freeze abruptly ends the crop in many parts of the country, but even in frost-free Southern California, cooler nights and overcast days mark the end of red tomatoes. In their immaturity, green tomatoes are zingy and firm. They’re good for chutney, pickles and relishes.

And if you're from the South, green tomatoes may also mean chow-chow.

See here for more information about this wonderful catchall relish, including a recipe—with warm thanks to WNYC for the enjoyable interview.


L.A. Urban State Fair this Saturday

Most years around this time, I like to get in the car and drive somewhere to see a county fair, whether in L.A. County or beyond. Part of why I go is to see the rides at night—pretty, sparkly lights and all that—but what I really go for is the blue-ribbon judging. I want to know who grew the biggest tomatoes, and if the local canners are up to snuff.

This year I don't have to get in the car because the county fair is coming to the city.

Farmscape Gardens has teamed up with Sufas to hold LA.'s First Urban State Fair. I'll be there as well, both to judge the produce competition and to give a demo on how to can heirloom tomato sauce. Backyard farmers can enter produce from your own personal farmscape in categories including: Tastiest Tomato, Edible Oddity, and Best in Show.

L.A.'s First Urban State Fair
Surfas in Culver City
8777 W Washington Blvd

Saturday, September 21
9AM     Judging
11AM   Tomato sauce demo

More info here.


Reading at the Public Library, 09.19.2013

I know it may seem like a peculiar idea to go to the library to hear someone read from a cookbook, but then Saving the Season is a peculiar sort of cookbook. Of course it's first and foremost a recipe book—220 recipes between the covers—but Saving the Season also has a lot of narrative content for a cookbook: short essays on the history, chemistry, botany, art, and literature of the seasons, as well as profiles of my favorite preservers, excerpts from poetry and song, and tales from the road when I went chasing the harvest. As blog readers will know, I'm interested in the cuisine and the culture of food preserving across the age. And as I say in the book's Introduction, the recipes are vehicles for the stories. At the public library I'll be sharing the stories.

I'm excited to join the Friends of the Palisades Library and the Palisades Garden Club for a reading at the Palisades Public Library on Thursday, September 19, at 6:30 p.m. We'll have a conversation aftewards and I'll sign books. It it's allowed, I'll also bring some jam for folks to sample.

Drop by if you can. More info here.


Quince Means Fall

The quince is an ugly thing; a knobbly old apple-pear, too hard and bitter to eat; a country bumpkin; a coarse relic; perhaps a puzzle to some. 

But here's what you do: rub off the fuzz until the waxy skin shines and exhales an orchard air. Chop the fruit into a large pot and add the cores in a muslin sack. Cover it with water to a shallow depth, and cook for 90 minutes or more until the fruit slumps. Strain off the pectin stock, and reduce it rather slowly with equal parts sugar and generous lemon juice. You will get a beautiful, rose-nostalgia jelly, ABOVE.

Now take the spent fruit, and press it through a seive, then reduce it with equal parts sugar, generous lemon juice, and white spices—dried ginger, coriander, and white peppercorns ground together. Cook it as slowly as you can for hours or even days until it's dense enough to ball. Pour it out hot to form a thick slab, and air-dry for days or even weeks. What you will have is quince cheese—membrillo where Spanish is spoken—and it is the heftiest treasure of fall.