Even the most hardcore DIYer needs a little assist now and then. There are tools that make our work feasible, or at least easier. Or maybe you know someone who's just getting in to the game, and you want to give them a starter kit. No matter what your reasons, this is an excellent season to stock up on the goods that we'll reach for again and again when summer's bounty bursts upon us. Best of all, our pals at FARMcurious are offering a discount to all Punk Domestics readers!Read More >
It's never too late to start canning, and the holidays are the perfect time to share your love of preserving with friends. We've put together a list with some of our favorite canning accoutrements to add to your holiday shopping list. (Disclosure: Affiliate links incuded from which I may make revenue.)
Ball® freshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner
With its efficient design, the Ball freshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner + Multi-cooker is a welcome addition to the home canner's pantry.
Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker
Maybe a little remedial for more experienced jammers, but if you've got someone on your list who's eager to start up as a first-timer, this could be a great tool. And it works -- just see Sean Sullivan's posts for proof.
When Jack Frost comes nipping at your nose, break out the chestnuts. Here's a few ways to use them beyond simply enjoying them by the fireside.
A fantastic present to give someone during these chilly months, you can get away with using a cheaper brandy here so don’t start reaching for that special bottle of Armagnac. From Well Hung Food.
While I've enjoyed the trend of books that integrate food preservation and everyday cookery, I'm a geek at heart, and will always go in for a deep dive on a single topic. Longtime Punk Domestics contributor Amanda Feiffer of Phickle has dug deep indeed, with a colorful, approachable book on fermenting vegetables dubbed, appropriately, Ferment Your Vegetables.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Nicole Easterday of FARMcurious. Aside from being a good friend and loyal colleague, she's inspired me to get ever deeper into the world of fermentation. An avid bacteria farmer herself, she took her passion to market by creating a handy dandy and inexpensive fermentation kit that works with standard wide-mouth mason jars, perfect for small-batch fermenting. Now, with her guidance and the ease of use of these kits, I've always got a thing or ten burbling away in my back room.
The principle is simple: Put your brined food in the jar, screw on the lid, and pop on the water-filled airlock. As CO2 is released, it burps out of the airlock, which in turn prevents oxygen (not to mention particulates, molds and other unwanted bugaboos) from pushing into the jar. Go check out the fermenting set page on FARMcurious to learn more about it. While there, if you feel compelled to do some holiday gift shopping, knock yourself out! In fact, use the code punkdom on checkout for 10% off anything in the store. (If you get a gift or two for yourself, I won't judge.) Then, check out the fermentation kit support page, and see just how easy it is to use these nifty kits.
At two for just $27.95, they're considerably cheaper than other kits on the market, but you know what else is cheap? Free!
I want you to experience the wonder of small-batch home fermentation, and lucky for you, FARMcurious is giving a set away. You want it, don't you? Of course you do. So how do you enter to win? We've got options -- lots of options. You can do any or all of the following things:
The field of excellent DIY and preserving books marches on this year, continuing the trend from 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Many of these authors are colleagues and contemporaries, as well as contributors to the Punk Domestics community. This year's big trend appears to be books that integrate food preservation with everyday cookery. Here's a handful of favorites, ranging from the broad to the specific. (Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for Amazon.com from which I may derive a nominal amount of revenue.)
The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss
The force behind Northwest Edible Life's debut book is a great resource for anyone interested in getting more hands-on with their home life, and introducing more natural ingredients and products into the process.
The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila
An expansion on The Homemade Pantry, Chernila's latest is a meditation on making the kitchen a sane and sensible place from which inspiration flows naturally. There's plenty of preserving in there, but it all ties into a holistic, integrated approach to cooking.
Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque
Simple Bites' blogger has come out with a work that's not just a cookbook; it's a lifebook. It's equal parts Laura Ingalls Wilder and Martha Stewart.
Food Gift Love by Maggie Battista
The woman behind Eat Boutique offers her best suggestions for DIY gifting, including liqueurs, pickles, and much more. Give this to yourself in time to kick off some projects to give away later.
The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How by Andrea Chesman
The successful homestead goes beyond the garden. This follow-up to the hugely successful The Backyard Homestead closes the gap between field and table, with a 360Âº view of all manner of preparing, preserving, and cooking pretty much everything.
The Canning Kitchen by Amy Bronee
From the classics to the more outlandish, Bronee dishes up 101 small-batch recipes for canning preserves, pickles and condiments to enhance meals all year long.
The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson
The South's most esteemed chef focuses on ultra-seasonal fare, with oodles of inspiration for fresh fruits and vegetables, including plenty of ideas for preserving and fermentation. Read my inteview with Chef Acheson.
Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
Japan has a unique preserving culture all its own, using things as commonplace as salt to make cured plums known as umeboshi to vegetables fermented in miso or soy lees. Hachisu's perspective living on a Japanese farm provides insight and inspiration.
Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer
Longtime Punk Domestics contributor Amanda Feifer of Phickle flexes her fermentation muscles, offering up a kaleidoscopic array of ways to turn your veggies into probiotic pickles.
The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher
Unsatisfied with synthetic enzymes and starters, David Asher sought to make cheese in the traditional way, with natural ingredients, following the principles of Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation. From simple kefir to sophisticated cheese aged in jars, this book is a revelation. Read my interview with David Asher.
Kitchen Creamery by Louella Hill
San Francisco's esteemed Milk Maid boils down her expansive knowledge of cheesemaking into an intuitive, engaging tome that will inspire novices and dairy warriors alike to take on home cheesemaking.
Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Strernman Rule
Rule delves into the rich and diverse ways yogurt can be used in the kitchen, offering 115 recipes that incorporate it, such as how it makes baked goods tender, like in a orange and olive oil cake. It also has lucid instructions on how to make your own yogurt, with some good insight on a few different methods for incubation.
Many people enjoy receiving a bottle of a nice liqueur as a holiday gift. When it's handmade, it makes it both delicious and personal. Here's a bunch of our favorite DIY liqueurs perfect for gifting.
I've really enjoyed the trend in the DIY book space away from single-subject and into integrative lifestyle. Kate Payne's delightful duo of The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking and The Hip Girl's Guide to the Kitchen offer simple practices for a natural home. Cathy Barrow's Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry steps outside the basic preserving bible, with recipes in and out of the jar spanning the entire year. All have a permanent place on my bookshelf.
But there's always room for one more. Blogger (and longtime Punk Domestics contributor) Erica Strauss of Northwest Edible Life enters the arena with a tour de force. Her debut book, The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping, serves up a wealth of ideas for maintaining a wholesome, healthy lifestyle year round.
The book kicks off with 100 pages of foundational techniques and practices that equip you with the skills you need, then subsequent sections are orgainzed by projects that can be done throughout the year, and then by specific season. Within each, Strauss has recipes and projects for preserving, cooking, and home and body care.
All the projects are accessible, and indeed enticing. By arming you with some basic knowledge around the mechanics of which natural cleaning agents are good for what, she enables you to have fun with your DIY soaps and cleansers. She brings her chef's sensibility to thinking of recipes as guidelines, offering charts of variations on basic salad dressings, or a "choose-your-own-adventure granola."
Best of all, Strauss' voice is engaging and witty, never haughty. Take, for example, her chipper top tips for food preservation, which helpfully frame the mindset and make preserving easy, practical, and most of all fun. What could be a daunting stack of projects comes off a fun to-do list. For anyone interested in getting more hands-on with their home life, and introducing more natural ingredients and products into the process, this is a fantastic resource indeed.
No other fruit embodies the flavor of fall like cranberries. With their bracing acidity, they form the backbone of all manner of preserved foods, and have applications well beyond the Thanksgiving table. Here's a bunch of ways to use these lovely ruby orbs.
I'm a late comer to jerky. It's not something I ate growing up, and the 16 or so years I spent as a vegetarian were not conducive to jerky consumption. Lately, though, I've become fascinated with it, so when my friend Pamela Braun told me she was working on a book that was all about jerky, my interest was piqued.
While it may seem like a narrow topic, actually jerky has many faces and flavors, and Jerky Everything lays out quite a lot of them. Beef is the gold standard, of course, and the book has dozens of variations on it drawing from a panoply of global flavors. Mexican, Thai, Korean, Cajun and other influences pepper the recipes. But there's also plenty of pork, poultry, seafood, and even a bunch of pretty out-there game options like alligator, boar, and even yak. She's thrown in some fruits and veggies for good measure as well.
Braun's tone is informal yet informative. In the opening section, she lays out an erudite explanation of why jerky is safe to make at home, provided you take certain precautions. While the material is very technical and could come off as wonky, she makes it approachable and understandable. So bust out your dehydrator (or just turn on the oven), and make some delicious dried meat with Pamela Braun's deft guidance.