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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Peach Safari

Again this year, I got to go peach picking with Valerie & Stan and Akasha & Alan at Masumoto Farm near Fresno. While the tree itself was a disappointment—there was more fruit on ground than in the branches—the trip was a blast. Our repeat crew (including Gus, now 5) was joined for the first time by baby Lee, who last year was still riding shotgun with Valerie, and my friend Stephen Ringer, a director who is very generously shooting a commercial for the Saving the Season cookbook. (Watch it here closer to book publication next spring.)

The highlight of the trip was Friday night. Stan had found a house for us to rent, basically Granny's homestead among the orchard, and we all pitched in to cook dinner. Stan grilled the head-on shrimp and everyone passed around magnums of iced rosé, BELOW. (Thank you, Stephen.)

We must have gotten a little giddy, because after dinner Stephen, who was the one light drinker in the group, tore off to the local country market and returned with Klondike ice cream bars and a straw hat for Valerie—ever the gallant, he. When Stephen mentioned how pretty the moonlight was in the groves, strong enough to cast hard shadows, I asked if he would take me for a drive. We explored the transept-straight roads that grid the the Central Valley's vast, eerie agriculture. I suddenly realized how close we were to the mountains and their rivers, and I said "I want to get in the water," which is not a common thought with me, but the temperature had hit 108 degrees earlier in the day, and I still felt the swelter under my skin.

Stephen pointed us due east to where the geometrical orchards gave way to the undulating Sierra foothills. Up and up the twisty road to Three Rivers, and we parked near farmer James Birch's Flora Bella Farm on the North Fork. Sitting waist-deep in the current, at last I felt cool as a watermelon. Windows open on the drive home, Mississippi John Hurt on the stereo, creeping into the house so as not to wake up the others. A short night of sleep, but a restful one, the heedless sleep of summer vacation.

At 6:30 the next morning, the sun woke me, and I wandered outside to collect wild elderberries growing alongside an irrigation ditch. A breakfast of toast and apricot jam, off to pick peaches, a pretty picnic under the trees and then the long drive home with a cargo of fragrance and fuzz.

This morning I'm off to the kitchen to can peaches, the pleasantest of all summer chores.



Tomato Class at the Institute

Registration is now open for the Saving the Season: Tomatoes class at the Institute of Domestic Technology.


10 am - 4 pm

learn to make: canned crushed tomatoes, tomato powder, green tomato chutney and DIY bloody marys with fermented chili sauce and pickled greenbean swizzlers.

This one will sell out fast, so if you're interested, sign up early.

More info and registration here.


Peach Butter

Isn't that picture a nice sight? It's from Front & Main, a great blog from West Elm, and that's Saving the Season peach butter. I'm sorry I haven't told you about this already, but I've been so behind on everything because of apricot season...

Let me go back a step: earlier this year I was tickled pink to get a call from West Elm, and we talked about giving catalogue readers and Front & Main readers a few recipes to go along with West Elm's collection of kitchen essentials, including wire-bail jars and lots of other stuff you need for saving the season. I liked the idea of quick jam and fresh pickles—that is, things that don't need to be canned in a boiling-water bath, but can instead be stored in the fridge. In the summertime when it's so hot outside, sometimes you just don't want to bother with the water bath.

This recipe, for fruit butter, can be adapted to whatever fruit you have: peaches, plums and apricots now, or, in the months ahead, pumpkins, persimmons and winter squash.


 4 to 5 pounds of pumpkin, peaches or persimmons


optional: spices, bourbon or brandy

1  Peel the fruit and cut it into ½” chunks. Place it in a pot with enough water to cover the bottom ½” deep. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the fruit is very soft.

2  Mash the fruit with a potato masher or pass it through a food mill. Measure the puree and note the quantity. For every cup of puree, measure ½ cup of sugar.

3  Add the puree and sugar to a large pot. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until reduced by half — 30 to 45 minutes. You’ll know the butter is ready when a spoonful chilled in the freezer for one minute doesn’t leak liquid at its edge.

4  If you like, stir in 2 teaspoons bourbon or brandy, or add ¼ teaspoon of ground spice. Taste and adjust to your liking.

5  Ladle the hot fruit butter into airtight glass or plastic containers, filling to within ¼” of the top. Put on the lids, allow the containers to cool and store in the refrigerator. Use within a month.

Yields about 2 pints



Orgeat Syrup

Orgeat is an old, old drink, with roots that go all the way back to the Roman Empire. Originally it was a weak barley decoction recommended for the ailing. At some point between then and now, healthy souls started to imbibe it as well, and they dosed the barley broth with sugar, orange flower water and rose water. Someone, perhaps the French, replaced the barley with ground almonds and, in the twentieth century, bartenders started using orgeat syrup to shake up a fruity rum cocktail called a Mai Tai.

Today at the Institute of Domestic Techology, as part of our Saving the Season full-day intensive workshop on stone fruit, we made orgeat syrup from ground almonds, ground apricot kernels, rose geranium and orange flower water. My recipe is adapted from one in Lettice Bryan's 1839 cookbook The Kentucky Housewife. It's a project to undertake, but the students were game, and you simply cannot believe how delicious this stuff is.

At the end of the day, after the students had left, Steve found Trader Vic's Mai Tai recipe online and shook up a pitcher for the Institute faculty to drink, ABOVE, while we plotted our next STS workshop. I've rarely felt so refreshed by a drink.

In case you were wondering, the subject of the next Saving the Season at the Institute of Domestic Technology class is....tomatoes, BELOW. It's happening in early September and will include segments on canning tomatoes, tomato powder, green tomato chutney and bloody marys made with home-made Tabasco-style pepper sauce and brine-fermented dilly beans.

The class is not yet officially posted, but if you'd like to know more, visit the Institute's website and email the director, Joseph Shuldiner, to hold a spot. Tell him I sent you.


Where to Buy STS preserves

People have been asking where they can buy Saving the Season preserves, so let me say how proud I am that you can find them in Los Angeles at: Standard Goods, Lindy & Grundy, DomaineLA and Atwater Village Farm. And in Brooklyn, at Bien Cuit bakery.

The varieties that I'm offering these days include: Classic Apricot Jam, Fancy Strawberry Jam, Boysenberry Blush Jam, Scotch Marmalade and Lime Marmalade. Soon I'll be making some Lord Grey's Peach Preserves and, after that, Onion Confiture. 

Also, I'll start selling online exclusively through a great new company that launches in October. Meanwhile, if you want anything, just drop me a line via the contact link at the top of this page.


Anise Hyssop

In case you missed this, a reader named JBE left an interesting comment on the recipe for apricot jam, below. He wrote:

I made this recipe last year, and I added fresh Anise Hyssop to the mix. About 4 nice sprigs, twined together and let it simmer with the apricots during the process. Took it out right before set point. I've had multiple people say this is the BEST jam they've ever had. Going to do another batch this year. Thanks for the recipe.

I had to look up anise hyssop in Jill Norman's Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference. The herb is a native North American species of the genus Agastache, perennials of the mint family. You use the leaves, which have an anise aroma and flavor, as the name suggests, and a sweet taste. Norman says that anise hyssop is typically used in teas, but that they also can be used in marinades for seafood or pork; with winter vegetables such as beets and sweet potatoes; with summertime zucchini and tomatoes; in omelettes and salads, and--wouldn't you know--with summer fruit such as peaches and apricots. Norman also suggests covering anise hyssop leaves with warm honey to infuse the flavor, which sounds like a good saving the season project.

Bravo, JBE, and thanks for teaching me something this morning. I'll look for anise hyssop at the Santa Monica Farmers Market today. 


Stone Fruit Class at the Institute

The Institute of Domestic Technology and Saving the Season have teamed up for a series of classes that focus on a single seasonal fruit. We're calling it STS at IDT, and so far this year, we've already have great classes in Citrus and Cherries. Later in the summer we'll have Figs, Tomatoes and, into the fall, Autumn Jelly.

But right now we're in the heart of Stone Fruit season,  and that's the topic of our next STS at IDT class later this month.

Due to popular demand, we've just added an additional Stone Fruit meeting time, see BELOW. The class is an all-day, hands-on workshop at Altadena's historic Zane Grey Estate that will cover plum jam, nectarine chutney, orgeat syrup (sweetened almond milk flavored with apricot kernel "bitter almonds") and homemade ice cream. You'll go home with jars of everything, plus we'll feed you a fantastic lunch.

Sunday July 22

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more info and to sign up, click here.

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