Blogs

Conquering the Quixotic Quince

Knobby, hard and fuzzy, quince won't win any beauty contests, but their intoxicating perfume lures you in. Once you know how to conquer these rugged beasts, their heady flavor -- and substantial pectin structure -- make them a preserver's dream.

Canned Quinces, found on PunkDomestics.com
Cutting a Quince
Quince are tough customers. Before you lop off a finger trying to chop into one, be sure to check out this video from What Julia Ate. Your digits will thank you.
Canned Quince in  Syrup, found on PunkDomestics.com
Canned Quince in Syrup
Canned slices of aromatic quince made all the more exotic with white wine or rose syrup will find their way into your holiday baking regimen.

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Eleven Ways to Put Up Pears

Cooler, crisp days and oblique light. Autumn is upon us, and with it the first fall fruit that comes to mind. Juicy, sweet pears are delicious and versatile. Here's almost a dozen ways to preserve the bounty of the season.

Canned Pears
Canned pears
Can those pears in syrup, infused with booze, spiked with ginger or redolent of aromatic tea. (Image via Snowflake Kitchen)
Pear Jam
Pear Jam
Naturally soft and succulent pears cook down to a beautifully delicate jam, especially nice with autumnal spices.

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Plenty of Ways to Put Up Pumpkins

Are you pumped for pumpkin season? Think beyond the Jack-o-Lantern and put up pumpkins and winter squash. You'll be living the gourd life.

Canned Pumpkin, found on PunkDomestics.com
Canned Pumpkin
You can't can pumpkin purée or butter, but cubes in water can be safely pressure canned for future use. Here's how. (Image via Mason Jars and Mixing Bowls.)
Pumpkin Butter, found on PunkDomestics.com
Pumpkin Butter
Smooth, creamy and seasoned with warming spices, pumpkin butter is a delicious autumnal condiment. You can't can it, but you'll go through it so quickly, it won't matter. (Image via Dash of East)
Why Can't I Can Pumpkin Butter, found on PunkDomestics.com
Why Can't I Can Pumpkin Butter?
So how come you see pumpkin butter in mason jars from local farms and preserves makers, but you're not supposed to can it at home? We did a little digging.

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Review and Giveaway: The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook

Review and Giveaway: The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook, found on PunkDomestics.com

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided gratis for review, and another copy is being provided by the publisher for giveaway. I have received no monetary compensation for this review.

Dehydration can be an underappreciated form of food preservation. Most people think just of apple and banana chips, or perhaps an easy way to dry fresh herbs. Only slightly more adventurous sorts might branch out to beef jerky. However, dehydration has a far more versatile set of applications than that. In The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Drying Food, Plus 398 Recipes, Including Making Jerky, Fruit Leather & Just-Add-Water Meals, authors Tammy Gangloff, Steven Gangloff and September Ferguson dig deep into this oft-overlooked technique.

Far more than a simple cookbook, the authors preface the recipes with dozens of pages outlining the principles and benefits of dehydration. Since most foods are anywhere from 80-95% water before the dehydration process, removal of that water impacts the food in a number of ways. The first, of course, is that it makes it lighter, so dehydrated foods make for a useful staple pantry without taking up much room or weighing down shelves. As someone who lives in a seismically active area, the idea of adding lightweight homemade dehydrated foods to my disaster kit is very appealing indeed. Even if you're not concerned with preparedness, they also can come in useful as easy packables for camping and travel food. 

The lack of moisture also abates spoilage, with many pathogens unable to grow in such dry environments. Dehydrated foods are not impervious to spoilage, though, and the authors provide erudite information on how best to store your foods so that they will last anywhere from five to 20 years.

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Three Things Thursday: Hot Fruit Edition

Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me. This week, it's all about hot fruit.

Mostarda di Cremona, found on PunkDomestics.com
Mostarda di Cremona
Mostarda di Cremona isn't actually a mustard, rather it's summer fruits preserved in mustard-infused syrup. Use a mix of peaches, pears, plums, apricots, nectarines, quince, cherries, citrus rind. Makes for a beautiful holiday gift. Via Spectacularly Delicious.

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Eighteen Ways to Preserve Apples

Biting into a fresh, crisp apple is the quintessential taste of autumn itself. But when you are faced with more apples than you can eat out of hand, try some of these tempting ways to put them by for later use.

Applesauce, found on PunkDomestics.com
Applesauce
Easy as can be, you can make applesauce on the stovetop or in the slow cooker, and you don't even have to peel or core them. (Image via Southern Fried Curry)
Apple Jam, found on PunkDomestics.com
Apple Butter
Keep cooking that applesauce down until it takes on a dense, rich texture and deeper color, and you've got apple butter. Again, the slow cooker is great for this. (Image via Eating Rules)

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Respect Your Elder(berries)

Gleaming purple-black elderberries are more than just delicious. They have a potent immune-improving power, so pick a peck now and prepare for cold and flu season. Here's seven ways to use them.

Elderberry Tincture
Elderberry Tincture
Elderberries come in just before the advent of winter cold season. Coincidence? Perhaps, but a tincture made from the berries may keep the crud at bay. (Image via LuSaMama.)
Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry Syrup
Same sweet flavor and cold-busting powers, but without the booze. (Image via dianabauman.)

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Review: The New Charcuterie Cookbook

For a period of more than a decade, I was nearly completely vegetarian; when I did partake of flesh, it was seafood exclusively. I ate no chicken, pork, or beef during that entire time. The chink in the armor came during my first trip to Italy.

Unlike most lapsed vegetarians, the temptation that pulled me to the dark side was not bacon. It was salame. 

We were standing there, on the cotta floor of a wine cantina in Montepulciano. On the counter was a wooden board with a chub of salame, a few thin slices lay flat next to a rustic blade. "You should try it," said my Roman cousin, "they make it on premises." I eyed the glossy cubes of fat embedded in brick red meat and thought to myself that I had not flown 6,000 miles not to eat it. I gingerly picked up a slice and slid it into my mouth, resting it on my tongue like a eucharist wafer. 

My mouth filled with a complex blend of salt, black pepper, and a deeply savory meat. Fat slicked my palate and lips. There was no turning back. 

Salumi and charcuterie have seen a renaissance in the US in the past few years. It's not uncommon for even small restaurants to have house charcuterie programs; some have even sprung up as their own product lines, like Chris Cosentino's Boccalone. Long-established brands like Columbus are still going strong, and producing high-quality, classic salame. 

Back in 2010, Cathy Barrow of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen and Kim Foster of The Yummy Mummy unveiled Charcutepalooza, a year-long blogging event wherein people made recipes from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie. The response was bigger than anyone expected. And then I brought a group to Italy to work with a local norcino to break down a 200 kg pig and turn it into salumi

Ruhlman and Polcyn ended up creating another book, Salumi, focused on the Italian traditions, and then folded much of that material back into a new edition of Charcuterie in 2013

Three San Francisco Bay Area chefs rolled out meat-themed books in the last year: Taylor Boetticher's In the Charcuterie, Ryan Farr's Sausage Making and Jeffrey Weiss' Charcuterìa, the Soul of Spain. All are great resources, but all dig deep on the classics. 

And yet, lest you think there's nothing new under the sun, there's still room for innovation. Chef Jamie Bissonnette enters with something a bit different. (Disclosure: The publishers sent me a copy of the book gratis for review.)

Bissonnette is a firebrand, a relatively young chef who has risen the ranks swiftly, winner of the James Beard Best Chef Award, and now at the helm of two restaurants in New York (Toro, Coppa) and one outpost of Toro in Boston. He's a bearded, bespectacled, heavily inked former vegan turned nose-to-tail cook who listens to punk. In other words, he's my kinda guy. 

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Six Ways to Put Up Corn

Sweet and crunchy corn is best eaten within minutes of harvest, but if you want to keep the last lingering taste of summer through the shortening days, there's a few ways you can put some by.

Frozen Corn, found on PunkDomestics.com
Frozen Corn
Cut off the cob andgiven a quick blanch, sweet corn retains its texture and flavor for months to come. (Image via Girl's Guide to Guns and Butter.)
Corn Salsa, found on PunkDomestics.com
Corn Salsa
Chips dipped in corn salsa benefit from the complementary corny flavor. Whip up a batch to keep fresh, or delve into shelf-stable recipes suitable for canning. (Image via Local Kitchen.)
Corn Relish, found on PunkDomestics.com
Corn Relish
Crunchy and tangy corn relish is a natural for dogs fresh off the grill, but also delicious in nachoes and more. (Image via Foy Update.)
Corn Chutney, found on PunkDomestics.com
Corn Chutney
Fresh corn makes for a tasty chutney, along with yellow wax beans, green tomatoes and golden raisins. (Image via Spectacularly Delicious.)

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