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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Entries from August 1, 2009 - August 31, 2009


Museum Quality Pickles

On 13 October, The American Museum of Natural History in New York is offering a workshop on pickles.

Here's the announcement:
Pickling is the ancient culinary craft of preserving foods in salt brine or vinegar. Over millennia, cultures across the globe have tinkered with pickling recipes to make dishes spanning the gamut of tastes. Lucy Norris, an oral historian, ethnographer, and author ofPickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions joins local pickle maker Bob McClure of McClure’s Pickles to explain what makes a pickle a pickle, why pickles are found in so many cultures, and what other foods take well to pickling. Tastings are included.

Details and tix here.

Thanks to Bettina Korek for pointing this out.


Wedding Jam

Claire and Ben got married last night behind their house. She was gorgeous and he was alight from the moment he saw her walk down the straw-covered aisle.

Then there was a big party, and, in Ben's words, "everybody crushed it." This morning he said it was the happiest night of his life, and it was one of mine, too.

Akasha did the food. Valerie did the cake. Ariana did the flowers. Breezy did the decor and lighting—strands of bare bulbs strung overhead like a Roman street festival. And I built the chuppah using agave stalks and California natives cut from the property—sage, toyon, sugarbush, coyote brush, gnaphalium, manzanita.

Plus, there was jam.

Akasha has become an avid jammer since I showed her how to make RUSTIC PEACH JAM, and for yesterday she made plum jam to serve on a canape of Manchego cheese on grilled bread. It made perfect sense with a glass of cool wine. The jam couldn't have been simpler, just a basic tangy-sweet preserve made with whatever plums she got at the market, but it demonstrated a fact that I cannot emphasize enough: sweet preserves are not just for breakfast and peanut butter sandwiches. Their savory uses are manifold, and if we consign them to the morning hour or the kiddy snack, we miss out on many of the best reasons for saving the season.


Foraging Fennel Pollen

I've been watching the fennel in Fryman and Franklin Canyons, waiting for it to go to seed. Every summer during fire season when the world is parched, I take a paper sack with me on a hike and in five minutes gather enough dried fennel seedheads to garnish a year's worth of pork roasts.

Here's a useful fennel idea posted by Willy Blackmore to the LA Weekly's Squid Ink blog. His advice is to harvest the fresh fennel blossoms and process them for their pollen. While that may sound la-di-da, fennel pollen isn't twee at all if you sweat for it. Foraged yourself, it becomes a wild aromatic, which is exactly what we love around Greenvalley.

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Cindy's Surplus Plums

Saving the season is not just about the pleasures of eating. Sometimes it's also about the pressures of abundance.

Here's a question posted by Cindy a few days ago on the blog:

...Last but not least, do you have any good plum recipes? I was driving thru Littlerock this weekend and got 2 boxes of peaches and 2 boxes worth of Friar plums to play around with, but I want to make something a little fancier then just plums and sugar. Not that it's bad, but I have 50 pounds of plums to experiment with.

Did Cindy really get 50 as in FIFTY pounds of plums? I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who gets carried away. If I had that many plums, I'd set aside a day for a Jamboree. Time for flavor experiments.

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Fruit Genius—Or Fruit Villain?

Who is the man most responsible for today's super-sweet, low-acid stone fruits—the same varieties of tree-grown candy I was lambasting in my recent post about endangered heirloom fruits?

It's Floyd Zaiger, according to Chip Brantley's The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluout. Brantley's new book is the subject of an interesting feature by David Karp in today's Los Angeles Times. Karp writes that The Perfect Fruit is a "wide-ranging look inside the California stone fruit industry, its breeders, farmers, history and commerce, its controversies and intrigue." The Zaiger family is at the center of this story, with 83-year old clan patriarch Floyd looming over it all. Is he a fruit genius—or a villain? You decide.

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Blueberries with Coriander & Lime

I have had a total about-face on blueberries. Since they revealed their secrets to me, I can't get enough.

So when Akasha called the other day to ask if I wanted to go pick blueberries with her in Gaviota, half an hour north of Santa Barbara, I leapt at the chance. One time many years ago, my mom and I picked wild blueberries on the “balds” or treeless mountaintops of Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina where head-high bushes fruited in a staggering abundance that couldn’t be exhausted by the best efforts of birds, rodents and larger mammals including us. I wanted some of that feeling again.

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Cold Fire

I know we haven't talked about freezing yet, but we need to: it's chile season.

The contemporary food community's high-minded commitment to a seasonal-local-organic ethos has unfairly led to prejudice against frozen food, which is harshly judged as the opposite of "fresh" in the specifically foodie sense of "fresh" as meaning seasonal, local and, by extension, virtuous. This prejudice is wrong-headed and snobbish.

Freezing is one aspect of saving the season, and we should be thankful to possess the godlike power to create frigidity, ABOVE, in our own kitchens and pantries. Imagine what Cyrus the Great, BELOW, would have made of such magic in ancient Persia? For us, the commonplace electric freezer is beneath notice, but that should not place it beneath contempt.

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